Visual anthropology, Art, Ritual, Performance, Religion, India, Vietnam


I am the director of our graduate and undergraduate tracks in the anthropology of visual communication, and of our visual communication media lab. I have been involved in interpreting culture on film and video for the past thirty years. I have been educated at St. Stephens College, Delhi, India, where I received a BA in English Literature (1968); the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I received an MVS (1983); and Harvard University, where I received a PhD (1991). 

I have produced, directed, filmed and edited over fifteen well-received ethnographic films which illustrate the cultures of India, the USA and Vietnam and speak to various issues in visual anthropology. My films A Zenana and Tragada Bhavai: A Rural Theater Troupe of Gujarat (1981), Bharvad Predicament and Journey with Ganapati (1983), Forgotten Headhunters and Apatani Sacrifice (1978), Whose Paintings? (1995), Morning with Asch (1997), Conversation with a Collector: Dialogue with a Docent (1998), Close Encounters of No Kind (2002), ShaktiMa no Veh (2006), The Last Rites of the Honourable Mr. Rai (2009), and Rejuvenating the Land, Uniting the People (2009) have been seen by national and international audiences. Information about several of my films is available from Documentary Educational Resources

My written publications address issues of art and anthropology, nomadism, religious worship, indigenous interpretations of local culture, ethnographic filmmaking and its reception, photography, Hindu marriage, Rajput ideology and politics and Vietnamese rituals. My research is concerned with the interpretation of culture on various audio, visual and audio-visual media. In addition, I am concerned with visual ethnographers, their biographies and their practice. 

At the present time I am working on several ethnographic films that address themes of transhumance, Hindu domestic worship, Rajput ideology and biography. Much of this material has been gathered and structured in collaborations with Temple graduate students (Bruce Broce, Mathew Durrington, Joseph Gonzales, Susanne Kempf, Robert Lazarsky, Milton Machuca, Carey Million, Elizabeth Noznesky, Sam Pack, Lindsey Powell) and undergraduate students (Richard Cousins, Ronn Asch, Alethea Carbaugh, Rhett Grumbkow, Katey Mangels, Lauren Semmel, Keith Marchiafava, Travis Doyle) in field research and media lab participation in the USA, India and Vietnam, and in collaboration with individuals and institutions in these countries. 

I am the director of the Temple University Summer Program in India. The program is intended for undergraduates and graduate students alike and is designed to introduce them to an unfamiliar culture in a nurturing environment.

Selected Publications

Written texts

  • 1984. "Bharvad Predicament". With Rakhi Jhala in Cultural Survival Quarterly's 'Nomads stopped in their tracks' issue. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp 35-38 - 1987.
  • "Perceptions of the Self and the Other in Visual Anthropology". With Rakhi Roy in Portrayal of People: Essays on Visual Anthropology in India. New Delhi: Anthropological Survey of India. pp 1-20 - 1987.
  • "An examination of the need and potential for Visual Anthropology in India." With Rakhi Roy inPortrayal of People: Essays on Visual Anthropology in India. New Delhi: Anthropological Survey of India. pp 75-99 - 1989.
  • "Videography as indigenous text and local commodity: the ethical dilemma in representing my people", Anthropologia Visualis, Montreal, Canada.
  • 1991. Film Review of Robert Gottlieb’s film Circles-Cycles Kathak Dance for Ethnomusicology vol. 35. no. 2 pp 311-312. 1993.
  • "Power and the Portrait: the Influence of the Ruling Elite on the Visual text in Western India". Visual Anthropology Vol. 6 . 171-188. Harwood Academic Publishers. 1994.
  • Book review of Peter Loizos's book Innovation in Ethnographic Film for the American Anthropologistvol. 96 pp 982 - 984 1995.
  • Book Review of Sunil Jannah's book Tribals of India for Visual Anthropology Review vol. 11 no. 2 pp 61-64 1996.
  • The Unintended Audience: An Assessment of Yanomami Culture through the Viewing of Ethnographic Films by the Multi-caste Dhrangadhra Audience of Western India', for the volume The Construction of the Viewer: Media and the Anthropology of the Audience. Forlaget Intervention Press. pp 207-228 - 1996.
  • 'Avatar, Technicolor and the "Lucky": Aesthetic Choice and Innovation in western India' in the Journal of Popular Culture vol. 29:1 pp 71-93. - 1997.
  • "Some speculations on the Concept of Indic Frontality prompted by questions on Portraiture," inVisual Anthropology vol. 9:2. - 1997.
  • Guide to Visual Anthropology: Review of 52 Ethnographic Films. Wadsworth Academic Press. - 1998.
  • "Shaping Gujarati Cinema: Recognizing the New in Traditional Cultures," in Visual Anthropology vol. 11 pp 373 -385.  2000a.
  • "Picture Postcards as Complex Texts: The View from Within an Indian Esthetic and Historical Tradition" in Visual Anthropology vol. 13 pp 257-277. - 2000b.
  • "Puja, Pujari and Prabhu: Religious worship in the Hindu Home," in Visual Anthropology vol. 13 pp 103-128. - 2001.
  • "An exploration of Rajputai and 'Maan' in the Rajput imagination". In Rajasthan in the New Millennium Religion, Culture, History, Society, Polity and Economy. Jaipur: Institute of Rajasthan Studies Press. - 2004.
  • 'In a time of Fear and Terror: Seeing, Assessing, Assisting, Understanding and Living the Reality and Consequences of Disaster'. In Sarah Pink (ed.), Applied Visual Anthropology, special volume in Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 20, no. 1, pp 60-71. - 2006.
  • 'Journey with Ganesh: telling stories of objects acting in the world and as being acted upon in the world', in South Asian Popular Culture Journal, vol 4, no 1, pp 35-49. - 2007.
  • 'From Privy Purse to Global Purse: Maharaja Gaj Singh’s Role in the Marketing of Heritage and Philanthropy'. In Carol Henderson and Maxine Weisgrau (eds.), Raj Rhapsodies: Tourism, Heritage and the Seduction of History. Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Hants, UK pp 141-157. - 2009.
  • 'Tragada Bhavai contribution to the making of Hindu identity in Saurastra', in Popular Culture in a Globalised India, K.M. Gokulsing & W. Dissanayake (eds.) New York: Routledge pp. 69-81. Artwork: - Rann Walk Ocean and Breathings - Breathings (photographs)