Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Through Navajo Eyes

I watched Through Navajo Eyes before reading the assigned articles and had a lot of questions that, for the most part, were answered by the readings. I thought the films were beautiful and like Maureen wondered why silent black and white film was chosen as it gives the films a certain feel that I think needs to be taken into account when looking at them as autoethnographic.

I think they were incredible to watch because of their beauty but also because of each film was so different from the next. They made me want to give everyone a video camera and see what they could come up with. For instance, "Intrepid Shadows" stood out to me as the most abstract of the five(I think there were five... two on one tape?) films. I don't think in it makes sense in any way to argue that these five films constitute a complete ethnography of the Navajo people, but I think it is probably better to think of anthropological studies as just pieces or small recordings from a culture rather than subscribing to the camp of attempting to understand an entire people by interpreting a two month visit with them.

I also thought the question of what can fall under the canopy of autoethnographic was in interesting one. As Pooja wrote, according to Mary Louise Pratt...
"if ethnographic texts are a means by which Europeans represent to themselves their (usually subjugated) others, autoethnographic texts are those the others construct in response to or in dialogue with those metropolitan representations."

I think that these films may be an example of the beginnings of autoethnography, but that's such a tricky thing to really define. How can these texts ever really be autoethnographic? Through Navajo Eyes was a project that was conceived by ethnographers and carried out by them. Even their involvement in teaching the Navajo people involved in the project to use video cameras can be seen as problematic. I think it may have been Daniella who mentioned in class during one of our discussions that problem of technology in autoethnography. Unless two cultures who were matched technologically trade autoethnographies it's hard to really call the films essentially comissioned by Western anthropologists autoethnographies.

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