Playlists: Cinematic Anthropology






PAUL SHANKMAN (University of Colorado, Boulder)

This visual playlist is an eclectic mix of one documentary that pushes the envelope of the genre, two that examine climate change in the Pacific, two that are historical remembrances of the civil rights era, and one cult movie that is a guilty pleasure.

LAUREN BERLANT (University of Chicago)

Here is a list that isn’t curated except by the metric of recency. I hope that the impulse toward taste-curation that might be implied here will not here be implied. I have been sitting with these for work and have learned a lot from them over the years, and recently, etc. Their resonance with the present moment will be pretty clear, I think, which happened accidentally and unfortunately, as well as fortunately.

STEVEN ROBINS (Stellenbosch University)

CHARLES HIRSCHKIND (University of California, Berkeley)

A cinematic introduction to the discipline of anthropology:

ANAND PANDIAN (Johns Hopkins University)

Everything these days looks and feels so much like cinema—what to do for footing in the midst of this slippery stream of images?

Plastic Earth, the Movie

So you’re trawling the feed like you always do when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done, and you notice something else making the rounds about the world’s troubles, a tale of “plastiglomerates” washing up on the beaches of Hawaii, composed of molten plastic and volcanic rock (1). Ever more baroque reasons to worry over the fate of this earth, you think to yourself, the flickering life of this “Great Ball on Which We Live” (2). There was a time when everyone thought such images would suffice to set things right, a bit of perspective, like all of us sailing together on a small blue marble through the vastness of space (3). Now, it’s more like that movie you once saw, the one where Sam Rockwell plays a helium miner stranded on the moon—now, it’s the earth itself that feels so far from reach (4). You remember that fable by Calvino, the one where the earth passes so close to its lunar companion that people could lean out with buckets to scoop the fermented milk pooling in its craters (5). Islands grown from taro-wrapped bundles, stones that whirl with the spirits of the dead, bones laid out as pipestem corals—you wonder what it would take to grasp the plastic promise of such myths once again (6).

  1. Corcoran, Patricia L., Charles J. Moore, Kelly Jazvac. 2014. “An Anthropogenic Marker Horizon in the Future Rock Record.” GSA Today 24, no. 6: 4–8.

  2. Agee, James, and Walker Evans. 2001. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Originally published in 1941.

  3. Poole, Robert. 2008. Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

  4. Jones, Duncan, director. 2009. Moon. Culver City: Stage 6 Films.

  5. Calvino, Italo. 1968. Cosmicomics. New York: Harcourt.

  6. Leenhardt, Maurice. 1979. Do Kamo: Person and Myth in the Melanesian World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.