Annotation: Ginsburg, Faye. 1995. The Parallax Effect

Ginsburg, Faye. 1995. The Parallax Effect: The Impact of Aboriginal Media on Ethnographic Film. Visual Anthropology Review, 11(2): 64–76.

Ethnographic filmmakers are no longer in the same position as in the 1970s, when they were behind the camera filming the indigenous communities as their object. In these times of burgeoning indigenous media, the point is not to necessarily embrace the perspective used in indigenous media, but to “at least recognize it, acknowledge it, take it into account, be ready to be transformed by it” (64). The author suggests for indigenous media and ethnographic film to be seen in relation to each other. Indigenous media productions can contribute to the refining of the ethnographic project to represent, mediate, and understand culture and cultural differences (65). Ginsburg uses as a metaphor the term “parallax effect” (from the fields of astronomy and optics) to suggest that the new perspectives introduced by the indigenous peoples offer “slightly different angles of vision” (65). Through works such as those made by Aboriginal Australians (e.g. satirical film Babakiueria, 1986; television series for Aboriginal children Manyu-Wana,etc), anthropologists and the wider audience are able to “see” other viewpoints through which “culture is produced, contested, mediated, and reimagined” (73). Indigenous media also shares the ethnographic film genre’s interest in identity construction and assertion of political position. The production of indigenous media itself points to how the Aborigines’ “skills at collective self-production through narrative and ceremonial performance are engaged in innovative ways that are both indigenous and intercultural” (72). An example given is Coniston Story (1984), where the filming process was organized to mirror the structure of a religious ritual. As Ginsburg suggests, indigenous media will help the ethnographic genre realign its long outdated paradigm “built on the assumption of culture as a stable and bounded object, and documentary representation as restricted to realist illusion” (73).


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