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Shimmering Screens

Making Media in an Aboriginal Community

2006
Author:

Jennifer Deger

Shimmering Screens

Reconsiders the interplay between aboriginal communities and media

A rich ethnographic study, Shimmering Screens examines the productive, and sometimes problematic, conjunctions of technology, culture, and imagination in contemporary Yolngu life. Jennifer Deger offers a new perspective to ongoing debates regarding “media imperialism.” Reconsidering assumptions about the links between representation, power, and “the gaze,” she proposes the possibility of a more mutual relationship between subject, image, and viewer.

Shimmering Screens builds on the dismaying discovery that Aboriginal media is not 'resistant' after all. Jennifer Deger constructs a relationship between passionate and sophisticated ethnography and deftly handled philosophy in a spiral-shaped argument, exquisite and organic.

Laura Marks, Simon Fraser University

How does the introduction of modern media influence a community? How does technology coexist with tradition? How do reality and imagination converge in the creation of documentary? Jennifer Deger addresses these questions in her compelling study of one aboriginal community’s relationship with media.

Deger spent several years working with the Yolngu community in Gapuwiyak, a remote Aboriginal community in Australia, both as an ethnographic researcher and as a collaborator in the production of media. Shimmering Screens explores the place of technology in Gapuwiyak through discussions about the influence of mainstream television, the changing role of photography in mortuary ceremonies, and the making of local radio and video. A rich ethnographic study, this book examines the productive, and sometimes problematic, conjunctions of technology, culture, and imagination in contemporary Yolngu life.

Deger offers a new perspective to ongoing debates regarding “media imperialism.” Reconsidering established assumptions about the links between representation, power, and “the gaze,” she proposes the possibility of a more culturally specific and, ultimately, a more mutual relationship between subject, image, and viewer.

Shimmering Screens

Jennifer Deger is a research fellow in anthropology, Macquarie University, Australia.

Shimmering Screens

Shimmering Screens builds on the dismaying discovery that Aboriginal media is not 'resistant' after all. Jennifer Deger constructs a relationship between passionate and sophisticated ethnography and deftly handled philosophy in a spiral-shaped argument, exquisite and organic.

Laura Marks, Simon Fraser University

Organized as a spiral-shaped flow, Jennifer Deger’s ethnography explores the way in which the small community of Gapuwiyak engages with photography, video and audio recordings in the context of the Broadcasting in Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS) program. It also describes, with profound sentiment and methodological sophistication, the dialogue, and frequent misunderstandings, of Western Yolngu knowledge systems, epitomized by Deger and Bangana Wunungmurra’s collaboration and friendship. A remarkable aspect of Shimmering Screens is the way in which Deger not only discusses but meditates Yolngu mimesis. This is achieved by means of a narrative that weaves theory and fieldwork descriptions, personal insights and ethnographic observations. If at times this shimmering effect is dazzling, it nevertheless facilitates the understanding of Yolngu ontological and phenomenological systems.

Media International Australia

Shimmering Screens is at the leading edge of a disciplinary paradigm shift. Deger conveys a deeply sensitive understanding of the power of images.

Leonardo

Shimmering Screens makes a valuable contribution to the field of visual anthropology, showing the value of an ethnography of visual forms of communication. But it is ultimately much more than this: it is a profoundly moving book.

The Australian Journal of Anthropology

Jennifer Deger has written a brilliant book . . . If anthropology in recent years has questioned the possibility of continuing to write conventional ethnographies, then Deger’s monograph achieves a new model for the 21st century.

Australian Aboriginal Studies

Deger’s work is very engaging and at times intensely personal. The personal and individualized nature of her narrative is fitting. This book is an exciting step in critical analyses of the relationships between people, technologies, media, and the production of identities. It should prove to be of great value for geographers, particularly those concerned with current discourses in the complex and problematic nature of dynamic cultural identities, and their interrelationships with the production and consumption of media.

Journal of Cultural Geography

The book is beautifully written in a remarkably honest self-reflexive style, skillfully combining ethnographic research and philosophy in an analysis of a diverse range of media, including photography, radio and video.

Studies in Documentary Film

Deger’s exploration of multiple media forms is a welcome departure from indigenous media scholars’s tendency to embed themselves in the challenges or potential of a single medium.

Anthropological Quarterly

Shimmering Screens is one book that offers a rich, multilayered understanding of media, technology, perception, imagination, and culture.

International Journal of Communication

Shimmering Screens

Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue

Introduction

1 Culture and Complicities: An Indigenous Media Research Project
2 (In)Visible Difference: Framing Questions of Culture, Media, and Technology
3 Tuning In: Mediated Imaginaries and Problems of Deafness and Forgetting
4 On the “Mimetic Faculty” and the Refractions of Culture
5 Taking Pictures: Media Technologies and a Yolngu Politics of Presencing
6 Flowers and Photographs: Death, Memory, and Techno Mimetics
7 Technology, Techne, and Yolngu Videomaking
8 Shimmering Verisimilitudes: Making Video, Managing Images, Manifesting Truths
9 Worlding a Yolngu World: Radiant Visions and the Flash of Recognition

Conclusion

Notes
Glossary
Bibliography

Index