A journal of films? A journal of films!

A journal of films? A journal of films!

first issue of the journal of anthropological films

For the first time in the history of Visual Anthropology anthropological film can now be published on par with written articles, assessed by peers, and inscribed in international credential systems of academic publication as the Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) has launched this first edition of Journal of Anthropological Films (JAF) published by Bergen Open Access Publishing (BOAP).

Amazeballs! The announcement that the Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) had launched the Journal of Anthropological Films (JAF) really blew me away. When I applied for promotion to associate professor (kinda like tenure here in Taiwan, except that we don’t have tenure) I was made to remove all references to an award winning ethnographic film I had made because only publications subject to blind peer review counted for my promotion application. I have since heard of similar stories from visual anthropologists around the globe. There is a deep irony in the fact that our universities employ us to teach ethnographic filmmaking to the next generation of scholars, perhaps even accepting documentaries as part of an MA thesis (as is allowed at my university) but still won’t accept these works in evaluating our own scholarly output. In addition to providing an important open access platform for publishing ethnographic films, hopefully JAF will also help scholars establish the academic value of their work.

The announcement is also interesting for how it handles both definition of “anthropological film” (something I wrote about recently in a series of three posts on the old site):

JAF publishes films that combine documentation with a narrative and aesthetic convention of cinema to communicate an anthropological understanding of a given cultural and social reality. JAF publishes films that stand alone as a complete scientific publication based on research that explore the relationship between “contemporary anthropological understandings of the world, visual and sensory perception, art and aesthetics, and the ways in which aural and visual media may be used to develop and represent those understandings” to borrow words from Paul Henley…

Because of this definition, with its emphasis on “films that stand alone,” most films are presented without text, except in the case that “it adds productively to the anthropological analysis and in case the peer-reviewers will ask for it.” This is an interesting choice, and probably not one I would have made, but I do think it helps establish the idea that films deserve to be taken seriously as academic texts. After all, if every film was accompanied by a written document it might seem like it was the text that was getting reviewed, not the film itself.

I think this is a really exciting development for the discipline and I’m tempted to submit a film for publication just to see what would happen if I included it in my portfolio when I’m ready to apply for full professorship…

P. Kerim Friedman is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan. His research explores language revitalization efforts among indigenous Taiwanese, looking at the relationship between language ideology, indigeneity, and political economy. An ethnographic filmmaker, he co-produced the Jean Rouch award-winning documentary, ‘Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!’ about a street theater troupe from one of India’s Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs).

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