Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Questions: Frota & Moore


On pg. 264-265,  upon arriving in the Kayapo village, the filmmakers and anthropologists show the Kayapo scenes of news broadcasts from the Raft War and footage of the chief from a neighboring village.  Frota says that from the Kayapo’s reaction to the screening, the logical extension was for the filmmaker’s to hand the Kayapo the camera.  Do you see this as manipulative in order to pursue an objective on the part of the filmmakers and anthropologists (as an [auto]ethnography)?  Frota states that the Navajo film project is different from Mekaron Opoi D’joi because Adair and Worth explained to the Navajo the reasons why the Navajo should make films even though their interest was low.  Is the Mekaron Opoi D’joi project similar to the Navajo project in that the filmmakers came with specific research goals that they wanted to see completed?  Why or why not?

The political role of film is showcased in Frota’s project.  The Kayapo, according to Frota, understood the power of media in a modern Brazilian state.  The chief refers to the camera as a weapon (Moore also references this role: “the imbalance between those behind and those in front of the camera [is] that of its ever allegorized twin, the gun...it was time to hand it over"), one that can help them subvert the dominant control of Brazilians. However, this is not expressed by the chief until the anthropologists and filmmakers screen multiple political, local and metropolitan videos for the Kayapo.  Where does ethnography and politics diverge or meld?  Should outsider anthropologists enter other cultures to help empower them?  Is this a reactionary method in opposition to the participant-observation model of ethnography?

Consider this: “Who are we to keep technology from them? In our society it is all too
commonplace to see "primitive cultures" as a set of survival skills and traditional customs incapable of articulating with current history” (p.269).  This is Frota’s response to the underfunding of the Brazilian state, hindering the Mekaron Opoi D’joi project while the anthropologists/filmmakers were unable to return to the Kayapo villages. This is an interesting statement and I would like to know what the class thinks about it.  Cultures outside of the capitalist states of modern times are often subjugated and exploited.  Not only by labeling them as “developing” or “third world” and taking advantage of their land and resources for the benefit of those in powerful positions, but also by using them as a model of simplicity. The “oh, if only we could go back we would be better off” perspective.  There seems to be a growing view in popular opinion that the “tribal” way is a desirable and perhaps necessary quality to be happy.  Maybe they’re right and maybe not. More importantly this view keeps those who actually might want technology and change from achieving that goal.  Cultural tourism, eco-tourism, and the like directly force the subjugation these peoples. 

How about we also discuss this quote which I found interesting:  “The Kayapo appropriation of the medium of video reaffirms the notion that it is people who make their own history and that in the age of "the global village" one makes history by controlling the media of self-representation” (pg 278).

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