This essay provides an overview of recent anthropological work on the relationship between racial thought and the visual technologies of photography and film. I argue that anthropologists have moved away from a concern with representation per se in favor of the more complex discursive and political landscapes opened up by the concepts of media and the archive. My review of this work focuses on the affective register of suspicion that has surrounded both visual methods and the idea of race in anthropology. Whereas this suspicion has led some to dismiss visual technologies as inherently racializing or objectifying, I argue that it is possible to reclaim suspicion as a productive site for rethinking the particular forms of presence, uncertainty, and contingency that characterize both ethnographic and visual accounts of the world. I begin by discussing recent work on the photographic archive, early fieldwork photography, and the subsequent move in the 1960s and 1970s from still photography to film and video within the emergent subfield of visual anthropology. Finally, I consider how more recent work on the problem of race in favor of descriptive accounts of mediascapes.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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