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Practice and Prospect of Visual Anthropology in Bangladesh
The focuses of this article are two dimensional: One is how to read visuals and another is how to make visuals. Do we ever question the images in the Introductory Anthropology text or in any ethnographic write-up about why these visuals have been taken and what was the reason behind? Do we ever read between the lines? How do we take all pictures taken by Malinowski or Margaret Mead as given or the freeze of time and reality of a particular society? What are the politics behind representing certain picture and hide others?
Anthropologists use visual since long before with their ethnographic write-up and research, but cannot it be other way round? Visuals can be the main data source for a research, while write-up is only relay or anchorage for the images for communication. Anthropologists can make documentary using multimedia methods; this can be an effective means to represent something to the wider audience regardless their formal literacy. It is argued that anthropologist should use photographic technique from the very beginning till the end of the research. It is necessary to build rapport with the research people.
Not only ethnographic study of primitive society how to mainstream visual anthropology through pictorial statement should also be one of the purposes for. Should we call it visual anthropology or visual data and illustrated anthropology? The answers needs digression from the core issue which I will try to initiate in another endeavor.
However, to talk about the current practices of visual anthropology in Bangladesh, South Asian Institute of Photography (Pathshala) teaches photography in which visual anthropology is taught as part of the course. It is commendable that this institute is taking visual anthropology in its curriculum. At the Dhaka University, visual communication is taught as a course of the students of NOMA Regional Masters in Journalism, Media and Communication. Recently, Jahangirnagar University has included visual anthropology in its course in its masters program. At the Independent University of Bangladesh a course on visual anthropology is taught under the course named 'Communication and Cultural Politics'.
Visual Anthropology/Visual Culture /Visual Communication
Visual Anthropology needs to create an interdisciplinary and culturally diverse framework within which to bring historical, social, and political analysis of images. Visual media can convey form of knowledge that writing cannot. Theory and observation in the field comes even closer with the depiction of visual media. The importance of ethnographic film should be in the forefront. Ethnographic film informs, interpret any culture in a vibrant manner. Visual media link textual argument and image. Visual Anthropology mainly deals with ethnographic photography, films, video, photography and new media.
The Society for Visual Anthropology recommends that academic evaluators seeking to determine the scholarly significance of visual works consider whether the relevant product should be categorized as: 1) research footage and documentation that adds to the historical and/or ethnographic record, or is used for further analysis (such as linguistics, dance and art); 2) ethnographic media that contributes to theoretical debate and development; 3) innovations in new media forms; 4) media designed to enhance teaching; 5) media produced for television broadcast and other forms of mass communication; 6) applied media made with and/or for the benefit of a particular community, government or business.
Visual Culture is comparatively a broader course partly mixed with Anthropology, Art History, critical theory, philosophy. "Visual Culture" goes by a variety of names at different institutions, including Visual and Critical Studies, Visual and Cultural Studies, and Visual Studies.
Visual communication is a form of communication with form of effect. It explores the idea that a visual message with text has a greater power to inform, educate or persuade a person. It is communication by presenting information through visual form. It deals with non-verbal communication to disseminate information such as gesture, posture, body language, video and images. In wider sense it deals with visual representational politics.
Issues of Visual Anthropology
As such, visual anthropology is in the nascent stage in Bangladesh. But, gradually it has been a part of academic curriculum in different universities of the country. The following issues could be addressed in the course of visual anthropology.
-Ethnographic film/Documentary film making
-Feature film and cultural documents
-Photography and visual anthropology
-Objective reality and visual anthropology: where the rhetoric lies?
-Storytelling documentary and ethnography of the particulars
-Visual anthropology and longitudinal research
-Marginal culture and visual anthropology
-Anthropology, multimedia and internet
-New media, hyper media and visual anthropology
-Visual culture, postmodernity and identity
-Screenwriting, story writing and visual anthropology
-Visual culture and otherness
-Film and photographic theory
-Popular culture and visual anthropology
-Counterculture and visual anthropology
-Visual anthropology and media anthropology
-Applied visual anthropology
-Visual anthropology and media production methods
-Research by using digital camera, movie camera, audio recorder
-Shooting, editing of a 30 minute documentary film
-Photo-story, photo-documentary, photo-essay, video documentary
Besides these, questions should be asked in about how anthropological research can be effective with the mélange of visual media.How visual research methodologies could be used in academic thesis and monograph. How to take/make a photo? How to read a photo? How to increase visual literacy in the society? Visual anthropology will try to find some powerful answer to these questions. Actually visual image can overcome the bar of illiteracy which is a major concern for a country like Bangladesh at this moment.
Even at the micro level, how does one find kinship in visual anthropology? It can provide lots of evidence through analyzing own family album, photo, wedding photo or the like. The reading of still photography can be another interesting agenda for visual Anthropology.