Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



JACKSON, J. L. (2004), An Ethnographic Filmflam: Giving Gifts, Doing Research, and Videotaping the Native Subject/Object. American Anthropologist, 106: 32–42. doi:


Using the discussion of self-reflexivity as an organizing principle, this article examines how mobilizing digital video technology during fieldwork opens up empirical and theoretical space for reconceptualizing the relationship between anthropologists and informants. Placing the field of visual anthropology into critical conversation with long-standing theoretical arguments about the objectivist limitations of native anthropologists, I argue that the slipperiness of nativity as an anthropological designation helps to provide analytical tools for examining filmmaking as a kind of gift-giving process between native ethnographic filmmakers and the subjects of their films. This article highlights some of the ways in which my own filmic and videographic exploits in Harlem, New York, mark integral connections between seeing and being the proverbial other, probing social exchanges predicated on the usefulness of low-budget digital technology as a means of fostering politically and epistemologically valuable ethnographic collaborations.


Black America, native anthropology, visual anthropology, reflexivity, gifts


Date Posted: 13 December 2011

This document has been peer reviewed.