Reading animation through the eyes of anthropology

Authors: Callus, P.

Conference: ACUB Animation Symposium

Dates: 30 March 2010


The talk aims to present an argument for why anthropology could provide animation theory with a new set of paradigms, and how it can be drawn upon when reading animation. It will utilize supporting examples of Sub-Saharan animations (Bazzoli 2003) to promote the benefits of a cross-disciplinary approach to reading animation. Whilst animation literature is now circulating within academic contexts, presenting animation as a study worthy of debate and reflection within popular culture and the arts (Buchan 2006), this literature remains largely self-referential in its uses of Western ideologies and theories. This talk will illustrate how anthropology can serve to warn the academic of the trappings of a belief in the centrality of Western thought (Said 1985). It will evidence, through the use of examples, how images are circulated, negotiated and understood on different terms within a local context. Animators that live within a post-colonial condition still wrestle with the tensions of making images that are freely self-driven versus those made to accommodate the Western expectation of an exotic equivalent that fits into the hegemonic myths surrounding the African continent (Oguibe 2004, Mudimbe 1992, Picton 1992). Anthropology frequently discusses the ideas surrounding the complicity of the West in creating and supporting a relationship of power and necessary difference, in order to assert its own standing as one of an authority on the subject. Judgments of taste and quality are made against a yard stick which the West holds up to the rest. As a consequence, it is easy to forget that aesthetic dimensions of taste are culturally distinct to different people, that the metaphors that circulate within narrative are also distinct, and that what we deem to be of merit and value does not always reflect all conditions (Kulick, Willson, 1994). This EurAm emphasis can belie the understanding of Sub-Saharan African animations as they would circulate and be engaged with on local terms.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Paula Callus