The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Telling Their Own Stories: Indigenous Film as Critical Identity Discourse

William Lempert

Over the past century, anthropologists have claimed primary authority regarding authentic filmic representations of indigenous peoples. The emergence of indigenous films since the 1980s - well as changes within the discipline - have challenged the ethical grounding of such ethnographic representations of the “other.” Unlike the emphasis of ethnographic filmmakers on cultural explanation, many indigenous filmmakers currently engage a critical identity discourse that effectively addresses the complex historical and contemporary contexts of indigenous peoples. This paper contrasts Dustinn Craig’s (White Mountain Apache) experimental film, 4 Wheel War Pony, with anthropologist Jerry Leach’s Trobriand Cricket in order to demonstrate how indigenous and ethnographic films can differ strikingly in their treatment of similar subject matter. With complex hybrid subject positions, indigenous filmmakers are often well positioned to critically engage the most challenging issues facing native communities today. These films also highlight limitations of disciplinary notions of the insider­–outsider distinction, ethnographic holism, and objectivity in visual anthropology.

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 1, Vol. 32, 2012, pp 23 - 32

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