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1983 (USA)  »

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Faces of Culture is an excellent introduction to anthropology and ethnography.
3 November 2007 | by See all my reviews

I consider it my my good fortune to have grown up in Glenview, IL, where we were close to Oakton Community College, where each week, on their local cable access TV station they would broadcast the college tele-course, Faces of Culture (FoC). Nevermind that I was in Jr. high or high school at the time, of all the PBS show I absorbed from that time and place, this series stood out from the rest.

The opening sequence for FoC sets the tone for a trip through places and the people around the world who live there. Along the way we meet many inspiring people such as; the Yanomamo of the Amazon, (as studied by Napolean Shagnon), the earth divers of Papa New Ginea, or the paraders of New Orleans. Beliefs, customs, traditions, ceremonies, and images from around the globe are studied and presented to the viewer.

Even though the scientists in the program share their theories on culture, it ultimately becomes the viewer's responsibility to process and interpret the evidence. Within each show, the camera is often backed up or turned around on the ethnographers to reveal the culture of science and the anthropology themselves.

Now in 2007, some of the footage may seem dated, but in consideration of the subject matter, a contemporary viewing is still educational. Many of these people, cultures, and places may not have changed much in the last quarter of a century or so. Or in the case of the Innuits of Alaska and Artic regions, it would be interesting to see how their efforts to increase the use of their indigenous language have faired.

Despite the seamlessness of it's impact, anthropology and ethnography have had profound impacts on the modern West. The "Reality TV" genre, developed as a kind of off-shoot from ethnographic footage. In 2007, the TV shows a show like the Discovery Channel's "Last One Standing" continues the modernization (or post-modernization, if you will) of exchange between ethnographers and peoples of cultures studied. FoC provides us with an in-depth introductory resource into the fields of anthropology and ethnography, the study of people and culture.

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