Wondrous difference - cinema, anthropology, and turn-of-the-century visual culture.

By: Griffiths, Alison.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York; Chichester : Columbia University Press, 2001Description: 528p, ill.ISBN: 0231116977.Subject(s): Social Groups - Gender, Class and Race | Ethnological museums and collections | Indigenous peoples in motion pictures | History | Motion pictures in ethnologyDDC classification: 305.8GRI
Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due Barcode Item holds
Standard Loan Book Standard Loan Book AUB Library
Book 305.8 GRI (Browse shelf) Available 034731
Total holds: 0

Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The ethical and ideological implications of cross-cultural image-making continue to stir debate among anthropologists, film scholars, and museum professionals. This innovative book focuses on the contested origins of ethnographic film from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s, vividly depicting the dynamic visual culture of the period as it collided with the emerging discipline of anthropology and the new technology of motion pictures. Featuring more than 100 illustrations, the book examines museums of natural history, world's fairs, scientific and popular photography, and the early filmmaking efforts of anthropologists and commercial producers to investigate how cinema came to assume the role of mediator of cultural difference at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Part I Precinema and Ethnographic Representation
  • 1 Life Groups and the Modern Museum Spectator
  • 2 Science and Spectacle: Visualizing the Other at the World's Fair
  • 3 Knowledge and Visuality in Nineteenth-Century Anthropology
  • Part II Early Ethnographic Film in Science and Popular Culture
  • 4 The Ethnographic Cinema of Alfred Cort Haddon and Walter Baldwin Spencer
  • 5 "The World Within Your Reach": Popular Cinema and Ethnographic Representation
  • Part III First Steps: The Museum and Early Filmmakers
  • 6 Early Ethnographic Film at the American Museum of Natural History
  • 7 Finding a Home for Cinema in Ethnography: The First Generation of Anthropologist-Filmmakers in America
  • 8 Conclusion: The Legacy of Early Ethnographic Film

Reviews provided by Syndetics


A significant contribution to knowledge about methods of recording and presenting visual culture of non-Western peoples in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wondrous Difference discusses representations of the Other in museum life groups, world's fair spectacles, and photographic images. Griffiths (communication studies, Baruch College, CUNY) argues that these are forerunners of ethnographic film (a term she admits was not invented then) and introduces readers to early ethnographic filmmakers and their works. She notes tensions between scientific record and popular spectacle, anthropologists disinterested in filming for research (with notable exceptions), and logistical problems of field filmmaking. Written originally as a PhD dissertation, the book contains myriad facts and repetitious discussions, lengthy footnotes, a chronological filmography, and an extensive bibliography. Unlike social scientist George Stocking, whose histories of anthropology explore events in terms of the times in which they occurred, Griffiths adopts what Stocking calls "Whiggish history," interrogating the past in terms of a more knowledgeable present. This methodology results in conjecture when data is lacking and in a critique of what was not the case--rather than a deeper understanding of what was--in early ethnographic visual culture. For large academic collections serving upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. J. L. Erdman Columbia College Chicago