Visual Psychological Anthropology: A Vignette and Prospectus

  • Robert Lemelson
  • Annie Tucker
Part of the Culture, Mind, and Society book series (CMAS)


The chapter proposes that ethnographic film can be a meaningful method in psychological anthropology, specifically recommending adapting the technique of person-centered ethnography to visual psychological anthropology (VPA). VPA can be used to create films that are character-focused, affective, and experience near, rendering internal and intersubjective worlds in a culturally contextualized manner. VPA can faithfully depict the subjective experience of mental illness specifically by de-emphasizing diagnosis and symptomatology in favor of emotion and character development. Calling upon the six-part Afflictions series, the first documentary series about mental illness in the developing world, as an example of VPA, the chapter introduces the films to be discussed throughout the book: The Bird Dancer, Kites and Monsters, Family Victim, Ritual Burdens, Memory of My Face, and Shadows and Illuminations.


Psychological Anthropology Ethnographic Film Bird Dancer Mental Illness Lemelson 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Lemelson
    • 1
  • Annie Tucker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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