Tadashi Yanai: "Anthropology of Images, between Flashbacks and Flash-forwards"

Departmental Seminar Series features Tadashi Yanai, Professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology, University of Tokyo.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!


In this seminar I would like to discuss some of the essential ideas of the book I published in Japan last year, An Anthropology of Images. My intention, however, is not so much to explain my book as to open up a space to freely reimagine what anthropology was and will be, both as a discipline and as each anthropologist actually practice it. I think "image" -meaning here, simply, "that which appears to us" as Bergson defined it- is a fruitful idea that liberates us from our conventional emphasis on "culture" and "society" and pay equal attention to other spheres of experience. This, by the way, doesn't mean to turn our back to the discipline's past. In fact, I would like to show how Malinowski himself -as well as Flaherty, in a sense- was a pioneer of anthropology of images; how that sort of anthropology was later developed by great ethnographic filmmakers like Rouch and Gardner; and how recent discussions on anthropology of nature, initiated by Latour, Descola and Viveiros de Castro, are not unrelated to it. I would also like to suggest some possible lines of flash-forward that may, I hope, resonate somehow with other lines of flash-forward among the participants.

Research profile

Professor Tadashi Yanai is a cultural anthropologist, trained in Tokyo. Professor Yanai’s first field sites were indigenous societies in Peru and Chile, and rural Spain. His ideas has been inspired by these field experiences (especially, the oral culture of the Mapuche of Chile), by philosophical thinking of Deleuze and Spinoza, by "cinéma direct" of Jean Rouch and Pierre Perrault, and by the Brazilian "Video in the Villages" movement.

Professor Yanai’s work include anthropology of media and image, proposed here not as a subfield of sociocultural anthropology but as a new kind of anthropology of Nature, which embraces classic and contemporary anthropologies, text and image-based medias, everyday life and ontological concerns.

In recent years Professor Yanai has given graduate courses related with Media and Image, South American Indigenous Societies, Frederick Wiseman's films, Michel Foucault's writings, Anthropology of Art, Anthropology of Place, Ethnographic Fieldwork, etc.

Professor Yanai’s publications include “An Anthropology of Images”, published in April 2018. The objective of this book is to reinvent theoretical framework of "sociocultural" anthropology in a rather unorthodox –he admit it- but coherent way, and to make, from this perspective, a broad survey of anthropology's past (during the 20th century), its present (since 1990s) and its future possibilities. Tadashi Yanai's Virtual Office

Published Dec. 14, 2018 10:43 AM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 3:36 PM