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About the SVA

About the Society for Visual Anthropology, 2017 from Kate Hennessy on Vimeo.


The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) is a section of the American Anthropological Association. We promote the study of visual representation and media. Both research methods and teaching strategies fall within the scope of the society. SVA members are involved in all aspects of production, dissemination, and analysis of visual forms. Works in film, video, photography, and computer-based multimedia explore signification, perception, and communication-in-context, as well as a multitude of other anthropological and ethnographic themes.

Founded in 1984, the Society for Visual Anthropology promotes the use of images for the description, analysis, communication and interpretation of human [and sometimes nonhuman) behavior. Members have interests in all visual aspects of culture, including art, architecture and material artifacts, as well as kinesics, proxemics and related forms of body motion communication (e.g. gesture, emotion, dance, sign language).

The Society encourages the use of media, including still photography, film, video and non-camera generated images, in the recording of ethnographic, archaeological and other anthropological genres. Members examine how aspects of culture can be pictorially/visually interpreted and expressed, and how images can be understood as artifacts of culture. Historical photographs, in particular, are seen as a source of ethnographic data, expanding our horizons beyond the reach of memory culture. The society also supports the study of indigenous media and their grounding in personal, social, cultural and ideological contexts, and how anthropological productions can be exhibited and used more effectively in classrooms, museums and television.

SVA acts as an advocate for visual representation. A resolution promoting the use of visual media to satisfy tenure and promotion requirements was sponsored and written by the SVA and accepted by the AAA. To see the full text of the resolution, click here: svaresolution2002.pdf

The Society for Visual Anthropology offers a core focus for all of anthropology. We welcome contributions from linguists and archaeologists, as well as physical and cultural anthropologists. Come join us.

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