Visual Anthropology

At the SAC, visual documentation has long been a vital tool for conveying the message of cultural difference and diversity to wider audiences. Ranging from the SAC's own early film projects to document ritual practices to its Ethnographic Film Festivals, the SAC has been actively supporting a new generation of anthropologists and filmmakers in their explorations of how the visual can help us better understand cultural identity and social change.

Importantly, a touchstone in all the SAC’s projects has been how to involve and engage local or source communities in the production, interpretation and use of visual cultural resources. This commitment to engagement can be seen in the Images Returning Home project. The project was undertaken between 2007-2011 in collaboration with the Institute for Scientific Film (IWF) to repatriate an archival collection of films and photographs to the source communities in northern Thailand. The commitment to local engagement can also be seen in the Dek Ant project, which trains youth to use visual documentation as a way of getting to know their own communities and to share their stories with a wider public.

In 2012, the SAC organized and hosted a two-week long Visual Anthropology Workshop, with the goal of introducing participants to the principles of ethnographic filmmaking. The workshop included lectures and film screenings that explored the history and development of ethnographic film. Moreover, as part of the program, the participants carried out practical exercises in filming and editing, with the objective of applying their theoretical knowledge in a field setting. The workshop was revisited in 2013 via the Visual Anthropology Screening and Roundtable on Visualizing Culture in ASEAN. Workshop alumni received small grants to make short ethnographic films which were screened and discussed at this seminar, and the event was undertaken in the enduring spirit of exploring how the multi-sensory experience of ethnographic film can be used to bridge cultural divides. The SAC’s Visual Anthropology project will continue to play a vital role in fostering cross-cultural understanding in the ASEAN region though the consideration of issues of visual representation.

For more information about this project, please contact Pimonwan Bunnag (