POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

ANTH 423, Dr. Maximilian Forte, Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, Concordia University

Films and Videos

The following films were previously shown in this course and are still listed here as highly recommended resources.

“White Man’s Country”—this is Part 1 of 3, in a series of films on colonial and national politics in Kenya—from the filmmakers’ description: “a historical documentary on colonialism in Africa and what it means in human terms. Interviews with Africans and settlers, as well as photographs and documents, are utilized to depict the history of the colonial conquest of Kenya, from the 1890’s to 1950.” [available at VMR]

“Mau Mau”—Part 2 of the series on colonial and national politics in Kenya, from the filmmakers: “MAU MAU deals with the Black African’s struggle to achieve political independence. Newsreel clips of the years 1950-52 are used, in addition to interviews with white settlers and African leaders, to trace the growth of the African resistance movement.” [available at VMR]

“Kenyatta”—while positioned outside of the scheduled topic area, this is the third part in the series on colonial and national politics in Kenya: “The story of Jomo Kenyatta, president of the newly formed Kenya, who became the symbol of the nation as it struggled for freedom and the unity of an independent state. As an African nationalist, he was the central figure in the fight to return land settled by the British to the African people. The film examines the impact of the colonial cultures on African nationalism and peoples, and the influence of the founding fathers after independence was achieved.” [available at VMR]

“The Furiosus” (also titled, “Question of Madness”)—DVD, 52 minutes. This film sits between the topics of various topics scheduled for this course, dealing with an individual, a state of mind, rebellion, colonialism, racism, and national institutions that enforce a system of racial dominance. The story at the centre of this documentary dates to 1966, in apartheid South Africa, and the protagonist is Dimitri Tsafendas, responsible for assassinating Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd. [Webster Library]

To access the following links, either connect on campus, or use your Concordia library card bar code and PIN to login from off campus:

FIRST CONTACT (1983)
This is the classic film of cultural confrontation that is as compelling today as when it was first released over 20 years ago. In 1930, when the Leahy brothers penetrated the interior of New Guinea in search of gold, they carried a movie camera. There is more to this extraordinary film than the footage that was recovered. Fifty years later some of the participants are still alive and vividly recall their unique experience. They were amazed at the artifacts of 20th century life such as tin cans, phonographs and airplanes. When shown their younger, innocent selves in the found footage, they recall the darker side of their relationship with these mysterious beings with devastating weapons. Australian Dan Leahy describes his fear at being outnumbered by primitive looking people with whom he could not speak. He felt he had to dominate them for his own survival and to continue his quest for gold. First Contact is one of those rare films that holds an audience spell-bound. Humor and pathos are combined in this classic story of colonialism, told by the people who were there.

JOE LEAHY’S NEIGHBOURS (1988)
This film is the followup of First Contact. It traces the fortunes of Joe Leahy, the mixed-race son of Australian explorer Michael Leahy, in his uneasy relationship with his tribal neighbors. Joe built his coffee plantation on land bought from the Ganiga in the mid 1970s. European educated, raised in the highlands of Papua, freed by his mixed race from the entanglements of tribal obligation, Joe leads a Western lifestyle governed by individualism and the pursuit of affluence. While Joe may live in Western grandeur, he is still surrounded by his subsistence level Ganiga “neighbors,” who never let him forget the original source of his prosperity. Joe spends much of his waking hours just keeping the lid on things. Filmmakers Connolly and Anderson lived for eighteen continuous months on the edge of Joe’s plantation, in the “no man’s land” between Leahy and the Ganiga. Their lively, non-judgemental narrative eloquently captures the conflicting values of tribalism and capitalism.

THE FIRST CONTACTS (2000)
With the colonization of Brazil’s Mid-West in the 1950s and the construction of the Transamazonica and other highways in the 1970s, whites began to make large-scale contact with Indians, with disastrous results. Epidemics decimated populations of groups such as the Cinta-Larga, with the deaths amounting in some cases to veritable genocide. Groups of Indians were separated from relatives, their land parceled out to settlers under the auspices a colonial mythology that advocated “progress” over the rights of indigenous people. Archive footage shows the “pacification” of the Xavantes People, the Cinta Larga People in Rondônia, and the Parakanas in the south of Pará, and how this catastrophic contact decimated these populations. Even into the year 2000, a FUNAI crew works to find small, still-isolated groups that might be under threat from farmers and prospectors. In this video, the last survivor of an annihilated people refuses to make contact.

FROM HONEY TO ASHES (2006)
In March 2004, one of the world’s last voluntarily isolated groups of hunter-gatherers walked out of the forest in northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers’ bulldozers. They formed a new village with their more settled relatives, where they confronted the complexities of learning how to become “Ayoreo Indians” and more critically, how to survive in a rapidly changing world. This documentary provides an intimate portrait of a divided community four months after this historical event, and their efforts to chart a collective future in a context shaped by deforestation, NGO activity, anthropologists and evangelical Christianity. Self-consciously engaging a history of ethnographic representations and tropes of “first contact,” the reflexive video uses the filmmaker’s narration to reflect on the experiences and confusions of a process that remains ultimately opaque for the “new people,” for their relatives, and for the anthropologist. This film contributes to the visual anthropology of lowland South America by putting a human face to critical questions about “contact,” “indigeneity” and the ways certain narrow ideas of “modernity” continue to be presented as the only options for Native peoples in the Gran Chaco and beyond.

BARRACKS MAN (1994):
This film deals with the issue of mandatory military service in Switzerland. For four months, from February to May 1990, filmmaker Jacqueline Veuve and her team filmed a platoon engaged in basic training at Colombier, Switzerland. Having previously filmed recruitment, Veuve was now allowed to document exercises, inspections and rest breaks. Although she interviewed the entire platoon on several occasions, the film focusses on five recruits from different parts of French-speaking Switzerland, each with a different background and a unique opinion on serving in the military. Time is also spent on the superior officers; the Colonel, the Major, the platoon-leader, and a Corporal. The recruits’ remarks underline problems concerning not only the army, but life in general, including unemployment, drugs and the many changes going on in the world today.

DEMOCRACIA INDIGENA (2000):
This film examines the indigenous rights revolution sweeping Mexico through the municipal elections in Huehuetla, Puebla. In 1989, the Huehuetla Totonacs formed the Organizacion Independiente Totonaca (OIT), and joined in an electoral alliance with the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD). For ten years the OIT and the PRD carried out a non-violent revolution. The visible signs of this Totonac renaissance are the health clinics, schools, roads, drinking water and electricity available to everyone for the first time. But the real change is in the new self-confidence and pride of the Totonacs themselves. The camera follows Cruz Garcia, an “expatriate” Totonac, as he returns to his community. Opening with the PRD electoral campaign, Cruz meets with the Totonac mayor and council, visits rural projects, talks with his Totonac family and neighbors, with the parish priest, and with the mestizo (non-Indian) mayoral candidate of the opposition PRI. With Cruz, we watch the voting, the vote counting, and the stunning 3:00 a.m. victory celebration. The film concludes with an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of this powerful example of democracy in action.

INSIDE THE KHMER ROUGE (1990):
Inside the Khmer Rouge takes an in-depth look at the history, domination, and current status of the Khmer Rouge (a Communist regime) in Cambodia. The film features revealing interviews with soldiers of both the modern Khmer Rouge and those who fight in opposition. A comprehensive timeline of the regime’s five-year occupation in Cambodia is dissected and includes a review of key individuals, ideologies, and locations where devastation hit hardest. Following this, the film takes a look at the effects on the Cambodian citizens upon the retraction of Vietnamese forces. Inside the Khmer Rouge continues to investigate the current tactics the modern Khmer Rouge implement and their attempts to persuade followers in order to rebuild and expand their regime. Oppositely, local forces or “jungle soldiers” discuss their devices for assuring the destruction and atrocities once caused by the Khmer Rouge never happen again.

RETURN TO YEAR ZERO? (1989):
Return to Year Zero? focuses on Cambodia as the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge (a Communist regime) approaches. As the Vietnamese prepare to pull out of the country after its 10-year stay to help secure and rebuild Cambodia, a high level of uncertainty and danger remains. The film takes a look into the villages and urban areas of Cambodia, drawing parallels to life during the Khmer Rouge and in the present. With streets once desolate and terror overgrown, Cambodia has finally begun to revitalize, as business and life return. Danger still remains, however, as threats of remaining Pol Pot supporters loom and landmines still exist in the quiet, rural fields, injuring innocent civilians daily. Return to Year Zero? features interviews with those most effected by the Khmer Rouge and its fallout, and delve into shared concerns of citizens as they struggle between rebuilding their lives in Cambodia or fleeing the country in search for a new sense of security. Weaved into this distressing story are images of a country filled with breathtaking landscapes, a culture featuring dance and the arts, and an in-depth look at a society that still stands tall.

WASHINGTON/PERU: WE AIN’T WINNING! (1992):
In Washington/Peru: We Ain’t Winning!, producer David Feingold and director Shari Robertson investigate the situation in Peru in the early 1990s – a case that, according to one U.S. congressman, “defies all description and solution.” Internal conflict rages between the government and Shining Path communist guerillas, while the United States military attempts to eradicate coca production in the countryside. Congressional hearings raise the question of who is winning the “War on Drugs.” Accurate measurements of cocaine production are non-existent, and drug traffickers have moved crops into remote areas to avoid interference. Meanwhile, interviews with peasant farmers show that growing coca is their only viable economic option. Shining Path guerillas provide protection to farmers while trying to gain power in urban areas through frightening acts of violence. President Fujimori depends heavily on a military police force guilty of human rights violations. Congress wonders how exactly the United States should be involved, while Andean peasants suffer persecution and extreme poverty.

FREE ACCESS VIDEOS

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Anthropologist Janine Wedel, on the Shadow Elite, Pt. 1

Anthropologist Janine Wedel, on the Shadow Elite, Pt. 2

Janine Wedel talks about the Shadow Elite

SOME MASS RELEASES OF RELEVANCE

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