Ethnographic film and video on hybrid television: Learning from the content, style, and distribution of popular ethnographic documentaries.
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Academic ethnographers have been utilizing film, and more recently video, for a variety of research purposes including the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data. But ethnographic film and video are not the exclusive domain of university-based ethnographers or professionally-trained ethnographic researchers. More and more ethnographic films and video documentaries are nowadays produced by filmmakers who aren’t necessarily interested in utilizing their work to advance anthropological, sociological, or other disciplines’ theoretical or substantive agendas. Interestingly, these documentaries often garner wider distribution and larger audiences than ethnographic films and videos made by academics, leading us to question the identity of ethnographic documentary and the potential of this genre to both advance ethnological knowledge and the socio-cultural imagination. In this paper I examine this phenomenon focusing on non-academic wide-distribution ethnographic documentaries available on cable and satellite TV, Netflix, and iTunes, reflecting on their content, style, distribution strategies, and their status as social scientific ethnographic representations.
The definitive version of record is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0891241614538665
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