It may look like a video of how to make the Korean dish kimbap, but to the students in Professor Livia Stone’s anthropology class, it is a cultural representation of the world.
Young people today would be hard-pressed to remember a world without YouTube. Stone employs that familiarity to help students explore how film, photography, and media reflect and impact culture, society, and politics with the class Media and Visual Anthropology.
“Students learn through media. They learn ideas—such as what it means to be an American, what it is to be a certain gender—through the media,” said Stone. “There is a relationship between identity and the media.”
Students in the course examine the intersections of visual media and anthropology, and create their own projects based on a theme. One year’s theme looked at identity through food. Along with the lesson in kimbap, student Tunde Okoli’s explored how Africans living in Normal viewed food.
Other topics have included race, class, and sexuality. “When interviewing people, it is a requirement that it is someone the students don’t know well,” said Stone. “This gives the student a more independent view when approaching the interview.”
This fall, the students have the option to work in a collaboration with the Department of Agriculture. “The projects will be video ‘portraits’ of farmers,” said Stone, who noted the work is part of a cross-disciplinary research project titled “Challenges Facing Farmers in Central Illinois.”
Find more of the visual anthropology videos and projects on their YouTube channel.