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24 September 2014
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BBC FOUR Autumn 2006
Tom Harrisson

BBC FOUR Autumn 2006

Anthropology Season


In the 18th and 19th centuries, as Europeans penetrated further and further into some of the most inaccessible parts of the globe, they encountered peoples who seemed to turn everything they thought they knew about human behaviour upside down.


Here were communities who loved and married, fed and fought, lived and died in ways very different to anything that European explorers had ever seen before.


From their attempts to make sense of what they had seen – and to help them understand the nature of what it means to be human – the idea of anthropology was born.


"The science of man", as anthropology was dubbed, had its heyday in the first 50 years of the 20th century.


It was hugely influential, as new information about how other communities organised themselves was translated back into the West, where it provided a blueprint for changing traditional behaviour under the argument of returning to a more "natural" or "free" way of doing things.


But in recent years, many of the assumptions that underpinned the work of key anthropologists have been questioned by new research.


Wider questions have been asked about whether it is possible – or indeed morally desirable – for the observation of one group of humans by another to ever be anything other than subjective; whether indeed a "science of mankind" can ever be possible...


BBC FOUR's season tells the story of some of the great names of anthropology's past, and raises some penetrating questions about its future.


Tom Harrisson – The Barefoot Anthropologist


Anthropology has always attracted more than its fair share of larger-than-life characters, and Tom Harrisson was one of the very largest.


Best known as the man who invented Mass Observation, he was also a guerrilla fighter, a pioneering documentary-maker, and the man credited with re-introducing head-hunting back into Borneo.


Sir David Attenborough, who knew Harrison well, narrates this film about a great British eccentric, public school rebel and university drop-out who changed the way we thought about other peoples and ourselves.


A BBC production.


Tales From The Jungle – Carlos Castaneda And The Shaman


Carlos Castaneda rose to fame after the publication of his book, The Teachings Of Don Juan.


The book is based on his anthropological fieldwork in the Mexican desert in the Sixties with a Yaqui Indian shaman, whom he called Don Juan.


The Teachings Of Don Juan was an instant success for Castaneda, persuading thousands of Americans to set off for Mexico in search of drugs, nirvana and enlightenment.


Castaneda was dubbed the "grandfather of the New Age movement" by Time magazine and awarded a doctorate in anthropology from UCLA.


But an investigative journalist claimed Castaneda had faked his fieldwork and that Don Juan was merely a figment of his imagination.


This film investigates the controversy that surrounded Castaneda's book and explores the practices of today's Yaqui Indians with Dr David Shorter, who has spent the last decade working among them in Mexico.


A BBC production.

Margaret Mead and the Samoans 
Margaret Mead And The Samoans


Tales From The Jungle – Margaret Mead And The Samoans


Exploring the work of Margaret Mead, this film investigates the 12 months Mead spent with the Samoans in the Twenties.


Her resulting book, Coming Of Age In Samoa, had a huge impact on Western culture.


Mead believed cultures like the Samoans could teach people how to live in harmony. Her book depicts a society of free love – devoid of jealousy and teenage turmoil.


But, decades later, her work was criticised as being tainted by her romantic views and strong belief in liberal values.


Tales From The Jungle examines whether Mead's study was merely misinterpretation and romantic wishful thinking.


A BBC production.

First Contact
First Contact


First Contact


Adventurous and high-paying tourists are being offered the chance to make "first contact" with some of the world's last remaining uncontacted tribes.


First contact with the outside world usually spells disaster for genuine uncontacted tribes.


Presented by Mark Anstice, an experienced expedition leader and author of a book also called First Contact, this film looks at the complex issues surrounding the ethics of first contact and meets the people involved.


An Indus Films production.

Malinowski And The Trobriand Islanders
Malinowski And The Trobriand Islanders


Tales From The Jungle – Malinowski And The Trobriand Islanders


This film examines the work of Bronislaw Malinowski, often revered as the founding father of modern anthropology.


Malinowski famously "went native", intending to live among the mysterious tribes of the Trobriand Islands in the Pacific Ocean for 12 months.


However, the outbreak of the First World War forced him to stay for four years and the resulting work he produced was seen as pioneering.


Some 25 years after his death, his newly-published diaries revealed that he actually reviled the islanders and dismissed them as backward savages.


The revelation rocked the reputation of both Malinowski and anthropology itself.


This film returns to the islands to explore Malinowski's story and its legacy.


A BBC production.






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