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Master Cultural and Social Anthropology: Visual Anthropology (track)

Cultural and Social Anthropology: Visual Anthropology (track)

What becomes of anthropology when it is practiced in other media than the written word like photography or film? And what becomes of film and photography when they have anthropological pretensions? The visual anthropology track enables you to explore the possibilities of camera-based research.

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As anthropologists you will do fieldwork for three months on a topic (and in a locale) of your choice. Yet the primary material you will bring home from the field will be visual. How this visual material can be made to speak to anthropological debates about your research topic is what you will discover. This track requires a critical engagement with the expressive powers of still and moving images and sound; a willingness to experiment; and a thorough understanding of anthropology as a practice of mediation.

Ethnografic fieldwork

Long-term immersion in a fieldwork site, which implies the re-socialization of the researcher in other people's life worlds, is the hallmark of all anthropological research. This is no different for visual anthropologists. On the contrary, the best work in visual anthropology is grounded in the trust, intimacy and tacit knowledge that comes with 'deep hanging out'. Students will therefore conduct ethnographic fieldwork, and will develop their research plans together with students who have opted for text-based research. We deem this important, as a visual anthropology should at all times be in dialog with other modes of doing anthropology, and should not be peripheral to the discipline as a whole.

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Photo by Mattijs van de Port

Reinvent the medium

Although the track stands on the shoulders of a long and rich tradition of visual anthropology, in Amsterdam we take the liberty to depart from the received wisdoms of (ethnographic) film-making and photography. The programme encourages students to creatively explore how new assemblages of words, images, sounds and silences might articulate anthropologically relevant knowledge. One might say that we ask students to 'reinvent' the medium so as to make it speak to their particular research projects. The development of a new audio-visual vocabulary, that breaks into existing media formats, and seeks to re-sensitize numbed audiences in our media saturated societies, is one of the underlying agendas of this program.It requires that student enter the program with a solid knowledge of the technical know-how of film and photography.

Written reflection

The results of experimentation with audio-visual media are always critically assessed -- "theorized" -- so as to come to a better understanding of the potential of camera-based research in anthropology. This is to say that in Amsterdam, filmmaking and photography never cease to be an intellectual effort, and visual anthropologists will be reading and writing during the course, familiarizing themselves with debates relevant to their particular research topic and setting, as well as with current discussions in the domain of visual anthropology. The visual anthropology that will be produced during the master will always entail a written reflection on the many choices that were made during 'the making of' the visual productions.

Other specialisation track and MA

Next to this track in Cultural and Social Anthropology, there is another English-language specialisation track and the regular Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology:​

Cultural and Social Anthropology: Applied Anthropology (track)

Master Cultural and Social Anthropology

Key facts

Cultural and Social Anthropology: Visual Anthropology (track)
Degree programme MSc Cultural and Social Anthropology
Mode Full-time
Credits 60 ECTS, 12 months
Language of instruction English
Starts in February
CROHO code 66614