ASA14 Decennial: Anthropology and Enlightenment

Film programme

A film programme ran parallel to the panel sessions on Saturday 21 June and Sunday 22 June. All film sessions took place in the Lecture Theatre of the Symposium Hall.

Saturday 21 June

‘The truth of memory and the fiction of history’: the politics of representation at the interface of anthropology, art and film making

Recent anthropological works have argued that standard anthropological accounts can be inadequate to engage with contemporary socio-economic and political transformations. In questioning standard ethnographic practices, anthropologists have started to explore the relationship between facts and fictions, between truth and representation, and between individual and collaborative or collective projects. These new strands at the convergence between art, anthropology, history, film making and literature raise important issues concerning the limits of the production and representation of anthropological knowledge.

This session aimed to engage with these debates by presenting three films that in different ways responded to many of the wider conference themes.

The screenings were followed by roundtable discussions of experts and question and answer sessions.

09:00 Welcome and introduction: Mattia Fumanti and Chris Hewlett

09:05 Screening: Spectres – 2011 – Sven Augustijnen

In this film essay, the artist presents a controversial view of Belgian colonial history. However, the questions raised by Augustijnen go beyond national colonial events. How does a country or an individual deal with a colonial past? How does a nation process the suffering it has inflicted, dubious political acts or moral bankruptcy? Who is guilty or admits to guilt, and what are they guilty of?

Spectres focuses on one of the darkest pages in the colonial history of the Belgian Congo, around 1960, in the style of a documentary thriller set to the music of Bach’s St. John’s Passion. Augustijnen follows Jacques Brassinne de La Buissière, a French-speaking Belgian who is now 82 years old and who was a high-ranking official when the prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered in 1961. Brassinne conducted a personal investigation into the truth of this murder for thirty years. With his delicate psychological portrait, Augustijnen shows how the friction between personal involvement and an objective writing of history, between fact and fiction, truth and conviction, wholly obscures the question of guilt which arises.

10:50 Break

(Please note that no refreshments will be served in the Symposium Hall during this break. Refreshments will be served in the reception of the Quincentenary Building from 10:30 to 11:00.)

11:00 Roundtable discussion on Spectres

Speakers were Laura Major, PhD Student in Social Anthropology, The University of Edinburgh and Dr Naomi Haynes, Chancellor's fellow in Social Anthropology, The University of Edinburgh.

11:30 End of session on Spectres

11:35 Screening: Despite the Sun – 1986 – Mark Saunders

In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operation, News International, publishers of the Sun and the Sunday Times, from Fleet Street to Wapping in East London. Over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries were sacked in one day.

‘Despite the Sun’ is an investigation into the year-long dispute, which shook the print industry. Produced from the point of view of the residents and print workers, the camera records the effects on residents harassed by the police and Murdoch's lorries as well as cavalry-like charges of police horses on the picket lines. Vital questions are raised about the ownership and control of the media, access to it, the organisation of work and the impact of the so-called 'new technology'.

One of the first camcorder activist tapes, ‘Despite the Sun’ sold over 400 copies and was (thankfully) 'bootlegged' by the picketers and sold on the picket lines. This is an important historical account of a dispute that will resonate for many years to come, and one that was almost totally ignored by the media.

Film maker Mark Saunders was present at the screening.

12:25 Short discussion with Mark Saunders

12:45 Lunch break

14:00 Screening: The Truth Lies in Rostock – 1993 – Mark Saunders and Siobhan Cleary

August 1992, Lichtenhagen estate, Rostock, former East Germany. Police withdrew as fascists petrol bomb a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped.

Using material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds.

Film maker Mark Saunders was present at the screening.

15:20 Discussion with Mark Saunders

15:50 End of programme/break before plenary sessions

(Please note that no refreshments will be served in the Symposium Hall during this break. Refreshments will be served in the reception of the Quincentenary Building from 15:30 to 16:00.)

Sunday 22 June

Knowledge in pieces: a slide show

Richard Baxstrom and Lotte Hoek

Film has a privileged yet haunted relationship to the very notion of enlightenment in the modern era. Called up to provide documentary evidence, film invariably exceeds and falls short of this potential. As we move towards new understandings of indexicality and the archive, this privileged relationship has itself become destabilized.

Our slide show explores the contemporary relation between film, evidence and knowledge. Rather than a series of discrete film screenings, in this magic lantern lecture we ask and illustrate how film produces knowledge as it lives beyond the screen and moves through spaces of public culture, collective memory, clinical practice or the space of the (ethnographic) archive. Our curation of varied film artifacts and screening practices has two aims. First, the slide show presents a range of visual materials that reflect the diversity of what constitutes a film artifact within anthropology as well as the unpredictability of its potential circulations. Second, we experiment with exhibition formats to interrogate how these artifacts can feature at a gathering of anthropological experts. The resulting programme simultaneously displays and destabilizes what it means to be ‘enlightened’ in the age of the cinematic image.

The slide show has a singular presentational style that incorporates both timed screenings of complete films as well as running process films, clinical films, raw archival footage and other fragmentary film artifacts.

09:00 Berikaoba, and other selections from the Georgian National Museum, followed by Memory Objects, Memory Dialogues (Alyssa Grossman, Selena Kimball, dir. 2011)

10:30 Break

11:00 One of the Mad Ones (Philip Singer, dir., 2011)

12:30 Lunch break

14:00 Little Grandfather (Joey Frank, Charlotte Kidd, Wilmot Kidd, Dustin Yellin, dirs., 2012)

15:30 End of programme

Among other items shown are celluloid and digital clips from the informal archives of Bangladeshi cinema, and Netley State Hospital clinical films regarding war neurosis (USA circa 1918).