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Visual Anthropology in Sardinia


Silvio Carta

Visual Anthropology in Sardinia explores the technique, style and methodology of documentary films about Sardinia, investigating how such films construct different experiences and identities, and reflecting on the advantages of the medium of documentary film over written ethnographic texts.
Following a discussion of theoretical developments in the area of visual anthropology in the twentieth century, the author turns to case studies of documentary filmmaking related to Sardinia from the fascist era onwards, offering a survey of the particular and somewhat peculiar filmic ethnographic discourse established in relation to Sardinia, which has been constructed to a large extent as an ‘Other’ to peninsular Italy. The subject is a complex one, ranging across the fields of film studies, anthropology, literary and cultural studies and, to some extent, philosophy. The book enriches scholarship not only on the cultural construction of Sardinia in the popular, political and intellectual imaginary and in its relation to Italy, but also on visual epistemologies and the ethics and practice of ethnographic filmmaking.
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Chapter 1: Documentary Film and Observational Cinema in Sardinia


← xiv | 1 → CHAPTER 1

This book is specifically devoted to the largely under-researched area of documentary cinema in Sardinia. One of its aims is to redress the scholarly marginalisation of Sardinian documentaries and to introduce a little known subject area to an academic audience. Sardinian documentaries have not received critical attention in English scholarship and have received almost none in Italian. The limited body of work undertaken so far has been mainly by non-academics. Historically, this lack of attention has to do with the classification of documentary film as a minor subset of Italian cinema and, more specifically, the limited circulation and commercial availability of Sardinian documentaries.

It may be helpful to clarify at the outset what this study intends to accomplish by stating what it does not. The aim is not to write Sardinia’s documentary film history or to assess the relationship between Sardinia’s documentary films and Italian film history within a socio-historical perspective. Neither does the study purport to offer an encyclopaedic catalogue of Sardinian documentary cinema. The ultimate goal is to provide an overview of the development of documentary film in Sardinia, and to situate a certain kind of ethnographic cinema in Sardinia (observational, in particular) within the broad contemporary context of postmodern anthropological inquiry, while simultaneously highlighting the innovations and potential of this kind of cinema.1 This study is anything but a reception study providing some kind of sociological analysis of film audiences. Its principal ← 1 | 2 → concern is the interpretation of...

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