Open call for the journal Aniki: Entangled Histories of Cinema and Anthropology

Jul 22, 2021 | Highlights

Entangled Histories of Cinema and Anthropology

Deadline: 15 January 2022

Cinema in anthropology, anthropology in cinema: reality/ fiction; truth/ creativity; realism/ subjectivism; evidence/ poiesis? These and other categorical oppositions could be used to artificially sustain an unsustainable dichotomy: science-art. A lot has been said and written about the long-standing relationship between cinema and anthropology, which has called into question a more idealized than real, useful and effective divide. This relationship dates back to the very beginning of cinema, matching anthropology’s quasi-institutional formation. Should we not consider the first images of the Lumière brothers as anthropological films? Or look at Alfred Haddon’s sequence, shot in the Torres Strait (1898), as a fiction film? What about Jean Rouch’s films? How entangled are they with the history of cinema? And what of the crude documentary reality of Vittorio De Sica’s work? More recently, coming from a long tradition in Portuguese ethnofiction film, Pedro Costa has been proposing a hybrid genre in which Cape-Verdean people are transformed into cinematic characters. Many other examples could be mentioned to illustrate how unstable, but also prolific, the relationship between cinema and anthropology has been. With this call for papers, we invite authors to look back on those two entangled histories – the history of cinema and the history of (visual) anthropology. The pertinence of recovering and unpacking this history is also justified by the new perspectives that have emerged on the concepts of evidence, objectivity, representation and the role of truth in anthropological knowledge – just as cinema, documentary and the industry of images (and sounds) have been reinvented by new languages and new conceptual, methodological and ethical challenges. Sudden quests for realism, facticity and truth (e.g. as a response to post-truth trends both in science and in fiction) tend to reflect on epistemological-artistic film solutions applied to ethnography or anthropology. Therefore, considering that anthropology and cinema have benefited from each other (though not always in a harmonious way), and that each has contributed to the other, we invite papers on the manifold contributions of cinema to anthropology and anthropology to cinema. Such a wide scope opens room to a multitude of argumentative proposals that may choose to focus on past or present creations and case studies. Nevertheless, by glossing the title of Don Alan Pennebaker’s film on Bob Dylan (1967), we are especially keen on having authors ‘look back’ on classic films and early documentaries in search of a history that is yet to be revealed. We are particularly (but not exclusively) interested in Portuguese-language films that can be discussed in relation to ethnographic practices and anthropological objects and theories. Articles may include the discussion of filmmakers themselves – their intentions, options, thoughts and (personal and collective) projects.

Suggested topics:

– The ethnographic virtues and potential of classic fiction films;
– new readings of classic documentaries and ‘old masters’ (e.g. Robert Flaherty, John Grierson, Jean Rouch, António Campos);
– contributions of anthropological filmmaking to cinema’s formal and narrative dimensions;
– essayistic and (auto)biographical trends in ethnographic film;
– technological developments and their impacts on narrative structures;
– author’s lives, works and legacies (to cinema and anthropology);
– the ethics of representation and authorship;
– the circulation of formal, stylistic and narrative innovations between ethnographic and fiction films (e.g. direct cinema, digital cinema);
– the participation/ involvement of non-actors (e.g. playing themselves);
– realistic settings, true stories, authenticity and the construction of ‘the real’;
– the Portuguese ethnofiction film tradition: continuity and change.


This special issue is guest-edited by Catarina Alves Costa (CRIA — NOVA FCSH) and Humberto Martins (CRIA — UMinho / UTAD).

Catarina Alves Costa is a filmmaker and a visual anthropologist. She has directed films since 1992, won various international prizes and published different works on documentary and ethnographic films. Currently an assistant professor in Visual Culture at the Department of Anthropology of Nova University, in Lisbon, and a researcher at the Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA), she has worked at the Ethnographic Museum, in Lisbon, with film archives, and collaborated with different post-graduation studies abroad, such as: Barcelona (Spain), São Paulo University (Brazil) and Mexico City. Recently, she has worked as a scientific researcher for a collection of the Portuguese Cinémathèque on the African ethnographic films directed by ethnologist Margot Dias, in the 1950s.

Humberto Martins is assistant professor at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. Master in Visual Anthropology and Doctor in Social Anthropology (with use of visual media), both from the University of Manchester, he has been a curator in many ethnographic film festivals and film screenings. He has published widely on visual anthropology and the use of images in anthropology, one of his main research interests,. He has also directed two ethnographic films.

The deadline for submitting original and complete articles is 15 January 2022.

All submissions received within the deadline will undergo a selection process (by the editors), followed by blind peer review (by external reviewers). The texts must have between 6000 and 8000 words and include a title, an abstract of up to 300 words and a maximum of 6 keywords in Portuguese and English (and Spanish, if that is the language of the text).

Before submitting your full article, please check the Section Policies, the Instructions for Authors, and the Peer Review Policy here.

To submit a proposal, click here.

For inquiries, please contact:


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