Jean Rouch, 'ciné-trance' and 'anthropologiepartagée' (Shared Anthropology)

By Prof. Dr. Dirk J. Njiland - Keynote speaker

Jean Rouch developed during the practice of ethnographic filming several working methods. Mostly later he labeled these concepts, or took over labels invented by others. An orienting study seems to indicate that these respectively are: "participant camera" (practice 1949-1957-/article 1968; 1962 De Heusch), "analyse and synthese" (1949-1951-/1968), "feedback" (1953-/1968), "analyse à posteriori" (1953-/1968), "sharing anthropology" (1953-/1975), "audiovisual countergift" (1953-/1975), "cine-pleasure" (1946-1953-/1981), "psycho- or sociodrame" (1957-1959-/1968; Moreno 1922, De Heusch 1962), "film de fiction" (1953-/1980), "filmed autobiography" (1957-/1980), "direct cinema" (1961-/1975; Drew and Leacock 1960?), "cine-truth" (1961-/1971; in relation with cinémavérité, see also Morin and Vertov), "walking camera" (1961-1971-/1962; plan séquence, sequence shot, editing-in-the-camera, see also Michel Brault), and "cine-trance" (1971/1973).
With this frame of reference, and thus a historical approach, we will look how Jean Rouch tried to bridge the gap between people with another culture and himself. And also how he, with the resulting films and texts, bridged gaps between the public and the way of life of these people. One of Rouch's specific forms of participation as a filmmaker was his 'ciné-trance' which one can see splendidly in his film "TourouetBitti: les tambours d'avant" (1971, 12 min.) and is described clearly by him in an article. Important is also Rouch's notion about 'anthropologiepartagée' (shared anthropologie). In 1953, he projected his film 'Bataillesur le grand fleuve' (1952, 33 min.) to the Sorko, the subjects of the film. It became clear to him that the Sorko could understand his vision (in images but also sounds) on their activities, and could reflect and correct on it. With a written text such feedback is impossible.
Mostly Rouch participated and collaborated with his subjects, giving them sometimes real initiative, but didn't exchange his camera with them. However, when he became director in 1961 of the Institut de Recherche en Sciences Humaines in Niamey, he started there a cinematographic centre where also Africans had opportunities to make films (see later VARAN).
Finally, we will try to contextualiseRouch, also with Griaule and Claudine de France. Especially De France has worked out an outstanding analysis of activities and ethnographic filmmaking in space and time.


Dirk Njiland was born in 1938, The Hague, The Netherlands. Studied Cultural Anthropology and Film at the National University of Utrecht (1961-1967). Followed in 1967/68 one year of special training in Ethnographic Film Making in Paris, École des HautesÉtudes, Ve Section, under the supervision of Jean Rouch. From 1971 till 1999 he held a position as Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Cultural and Social Studies, National University of Leiden, The Netherlands, on research and education in the utilization and functioning of audio-visual media in anthropological research and documentation (nonverbal communication, visual anthropology). His main interest is in the representation of ritual and the relation between acting, emotional experience and visual perception. In 1989 he did his PhD. On the use of the feed-back interview technique to elicit the point of view of the participants of ritual performance as represented in the award winning film “Tobelo Marriage” (1985, in co-operation with Joe D.M. Platenkamp). In 1990-1991 he co-directed a documentary about Jean Rouch and his friends (Rouch’s gang 1993) on the making of Madame l’Eauch together with Philo Bregstein and SteffMeyknecht. In 1994 he made a video production on the yeatlyNewar festival of Indrayani in Kathmandu. 1998 'Sacrifice of Serpents, The festival of Indrayani' (108 min., Nepal, with Bert van den Hoek and BalGopalShrestha).2007 Multimedia DVD ' Ashes of life; the annual rituals of Laboya, Sumba, Indonesia' (with Daniel Geirnaerts and Erik de Maaker).

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