Visual Anthropology, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

This paper examines a number of films to analyze the effect of visual anthropology.  A number of questions addressed place the ideology of anthropology into context.  The concept being to explore photography as a suitable research method, hence the relationship of performance to function.  The paper addresses how well visual anthropology is a measure of research and how photography is an important means of conveying messages.

Life and Debt (2003)

Life and Debt was a documentary style film produced by Stephanie Black in 2003.  The film focused upon the world economic situation and the impact that this has on developing countries like that of Jamaica. The objective being to show how world financial crisis and economics affects the lives of ordinary people.  The difference in wealth shown by the affluent tourists that visit the Island; as compared to the poor classes and poverty that exists in Jamaica.

It illustrates how the Government signed up for a loan debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) owing to a lack of viable economic alternatives.  This draws parallels with other countries like Greece who faced similar circumstances.  In 1977, Jamaica owed $4.5 billion to the IMF.  Jamaica treated in a throwback to the days of the colonies where the people are a cheap source of labour, primarily in the textile industry where they produced substandard work.

The IMF looks towards improved financial and economic management to those given loans.  Jamaica has failed in this perspective owing to Government corruption, higher levels of unemployment, increased violence, increased crime rates, substandard hospitals and poor levels of literacy. All of these further widening the gap between the rich and poor people on the Island.

The intended audience of the film is the international community aimed at increasing awareness on the state of borrowing and money lending by corrupt Governments illustrating a profound impact on people’s lives.  This situation compounded in developing countries where there already exist high rates of crime and poverty.  The movie puts forward the concept that injection of capital is not always the right answer in order to resolve the financial and economic woes of a country.  This is specifically so where the Governments of that country are believed to be either incompetent or corrupt. (Black)

Brother’s Keeper (1992)

This documentary film by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky is a murder trial of one Delbert Ward, Delbert being the oldest of four brothers.  The story examines the aspects of the murder trial of Delbert who was part of a semi-literate family of farmers that were living together in an isolated community.  The murder of William saw Delbert .arrested because of a medical examiners autopsy. Upon subsequent interrogation by the police, Delbert waived his rights and signed a confession of the second-degree murder.  The film suggests that Delbert is mentally retarded and not competent to sign a confession and that he may have simply caved in under duress and pressure from the police interrogation team.

The film also examines the fact that William was terminally ill at the time and alludes to a possible mercy killing.  The film goes on to show how the residents of Munnsville in New York State went to support the cause of Delbert despite him being a social outcast.  In this sense, the film tries to present a sense of community and fair play. The film hints on the treatment of the mentally retarded and illiterate people of society;  demonstrating how they may fall prey to the police,  in terms of getting an easy conviction and resolution to a specific criminal act.

In simplistic terms, the story is about two echelons of society.  The affluent members of society protected by the law and the bottom end of society, the poor and mentally retarded treated as social outcasts.  The film depicts the love of the brothers for one another and their strong sense of community.  The impact of the film strives to make people more aware of individual humanity and frailty and the potential exploitation of the mentally retarded people rejected by society.  The film has a serious overtone and arouses the emotions of those watching it in terms of justice, sense of fair play and understanding the dangers of bigotry and stereotyping.  Bigotry is much more concerned with the attitudes that one section of society has with another. It contains both elements of prejudice and intolerance.  Psychologists have described prejudice as negative intergroup attitude.  In essence, this has three components that relate to conditioning in the human brain.  These traits determine the level of prejudicial status. (McKenna)

 Roger and Me (1989)

This documentary style film made by Michael Moore in 1989, details the closure of the General Motors plant at Flint in Michigan. The film focuses upon Moore’s attempts to get an interview with the CEO of General Motors, Roger Smith.  The film demonstrates Moore’s journalistic inquiries with autoworkers of General Motors and their hatred of the CEO who had fired 30,000 workers in the Flint area.  They accused the CEO of killing off jobs for American Citizens and moving these jobs to cheap employment plants in Mexico purely to improve profitability and returns to the shareholders.  The CEO lacked recognition of the Flint workers whose families had supported GM for generations.  As such, they saw this as a betrayal by the CEO of the firm but equally his reluctance to talk about this matter or discuss it. Moore is equally unable to get an interview with the CEO so he starts his investigative inquiry by talking to those workers laid off.  This includes an assembly line worker who had a nervous breakdown and subsequently suffered mental illness problems.

Ultimately, Moore gets to confront Smith but demonstrates a complete act of deniability about the problems of GM, the laid off workers and the decay of Flint.  He refused to go back to Flint and witness firsthand how the town had slid into a crime-ridden society of people forced into poverty by the loss of their jobs.

The film attempts to depict the role of corporate responsibility to society and the profound impact that betrayal of such responsibility has upon the community and citizens of that community.  The concept that work and jobs has to be about more than simple financial economics i.e. profitability and return on investment to the shareholders. There is a moral responsibility to the community and society.  The concept of moving business to other countries purely on the grounds of cheap labour considered both unethical and morally reprehensible. It is an abdication of the CEO unable to see the larger picture and purely focused upon the satisfaction of the needs of the shareholders by driving up profits regardless of the consequences of the social impacts.

The intended audience here is for Governments, CEO’s and the workers.

The question arises as to whether the CEO is a moral person and prescribes to a personal and corporate code of ethics.  A. morale person shows a sense of personal ethical standards living within the confines of the law and religion.  This means respecting the rights of others and being equitable in your affairs with people.  Success often is born from opposite morale values like bending the legal framework to your own advantage (manipulative) and disregarding the rights or concerns of others putting your own self-interests first.  Obtaining personal ethics is really to define who you are as a person i.e. one of substance and integrity or self-centered and manipulative.  .  It is good to be competitive provided you retain a sense of personal balance and you do not become obsessive about it. Life offers many other facets that are equally rewarding, nurses being an example of people who find a great deal of satisfaction by helping others whilst retaining a healthy ambition to succeed at their job.  (TV Guide)

The Fast Runner (2001)

This film directed by Zacharias Kunuk produced in 2001.  It tells the story some centuries back of the Canadian arctic.  The story focuses upon Atuat the son of the leader of the tribe.  Atuat loves Atanarjuat, wants to marry her, and eventually succeeds. This to the disdain of Puja, her sister, who also wanted to marry Atyuat.  This causes terrible tribal rivalry and ultimately Puja seeks a terrible revenge on Atanarjuat.

The film focuses upon the old concepts of love and revenge and tribal rivalry.   The film has similarities to another film made about the Inuit tribes called Nannook of the North. This was a silent documentary film made in 1922 and focused upon the life and love of living in the Arctic.  Robert J. Flaherty who studied the life of the native Inuit tribes and the ethnography of the people made the film.  In 1989, the USA selected the film as being of historical importance for preservation in the national archives.

The film followed the daily lives of an Inuit family coping with survival in the Arctic lands of Northern Quebec. Flaherty gained an interest in the Inuit people whilst working for the Hudson Bay Company in Northern Quebec.  He used a Bell and Howell Camera together with a portable range of equipment that allowed him to move with the family. He spent over a year filming Eskimo life. The film became controversial in the sense that critics felt much of the action in the film was opposed to depicting real life events.

Marriage being a social contract, primarily because the issues that are involved extend beyond the concerns of purely the particular individuals.  The children of the married couples are the future generations of which the whole society depends.  In essence, the termination of the marriage contract is either a legal consideration or by death.  In marriages that are more modern parties often seek legal contract terms that protect their financial assets i.e. in the event of separation or divorce.  Love and marriage in tribal contexts have been more perceived as a sense of honour and bonding between different members of a family.   Each has very different perceptions on the role of women and marriage.  Whilst this is generally accepted, there seems little persuasive argument geared towards the different stages of evolution of the individual societies discussed.  For example, countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries that practice extreme Islamic Law are still practicing medieval traditions that are alien to modern western democracies. (Isuma)

Harlan County USA (1976)

A feature length film made by Barbara Kopple. This documenting a coal miners’ strike in the state of Kentucky. An excellent documentary film based upon the intimate dealing of the subject matter and people in the film.  The time of “bloody Harlan” describes the fierce battles that took place between the miners and the Coal companies in Kentucky during 1931.  This involved various shoot-outs between the miners and the police resulting in a number of dead and injured people. Despite some improvements, things have stayed pretty much the same in Harlan County with a declining population, reducing rate of childbirth and poorly educated people living in an environment of poverty.  The state of housing and social conditions remains amongst the poorest in the USA.

The mines also have a high rate of serious accidents with questions over health and safety requirements in the workplace. Pay scales in Harlan County were extremely poor and ran below the average of miners working in other jurisdictions in the USA.  The film really paints the social divide between the poor working classes that have to work hard for meagre pay as opposed to the rich coal-mining corporations that see the miners as a cheap source of labour   exploited.

Essentially all business organisations have reward systems for their employees. Without these, being in place the employees would not complete their job functions. Executives tend to regard this as compensation but in reality, it extends far beyond the simple concept of pay. Modern organizations tend to view reward in terms of a strategic framework and this considers the overall vision and mission of the organization. For example, how will the business be successful and as such how the people that drive the business for reward and incentive As such this rests upon a number of different perspectives i.e. Financial, Sociological, Psychological, Environmental, Hygiene etc. This falling within the general concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. (1MDB)

Works Cited

1MDB. Harlan County USA. 15 7 2012. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074605/. 15 7 2012.

Black, Stephanie. Life and Debt. 15 7 2012. http://www.documentarytube.com/life-and-debt-jamaica. 15 7 2012.

Isuma, Igoolik. The Fast Runner. 2007. http://www.isuma.tv/atanarjuat. 15 7 2012.

MCKENNA, KRISTINE. The truth behind Brothers Keeper. 11 2 1993. http://articles.latimes.com/1993-02-11/entertainment/ca-1629_1_joe-berlinger. 15 7 2012.

TV Guide. Roger and Me. 15 7 2012. http://movies.tvguide.com/roger/review/132487. 15 7 2012.

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