HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in French, on the Belgian explorer, ethnographer and visual anthropologist Robert de Wavrin.

Moderbacher, Christine & Grace Winter, 2023. “La vie et l’œuvre du Marquis Robert de Wavrin, un des premiers anthropologues visuels”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL BEROSE: article2908.html

Born into a noble family from Belgian Flanders, Robert de Wavrin (1888–1971) was an explorer, ethnographer and visual anthropologist who spent most of his life in Latin America. Financially independent (thanks to the family fortune from coal mines), he lived in Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. His first contacts with Amerindian populations, around 1915, led him to join learned societies of geography and anthropology in Brussels and Paris, where his empirical observations were appreciated in line with the theoretical views of the time. From his first trip, he used photography to illustrate the Indigenous way of life, which he actually shared. He was soon introduced to the film camera and, from 1919 onwards, visually recorded the daily life of various communities. His 2,000 photographs and four films represent an important contribution to the history of visual anthropology. He is also the author of 14 books and numerous articles.

In this pioneering article, Moderbacher and Winter trace the life and work of Wavrin, with a focus on his film work as a contribution to the history of visual anthropology. Although fragments of his work are known to some researchers in South America, Wavrin is almost entirely absent from historical studies and largely forgotten in the anthropological and Americanist fields. Although his work cannot be studied outside the colonial context of this discipline and the legacy of Eurocentrism, according to Moderbacher and Winter his visual contribution provides remarkable historical insights and deserves the attention of researchers.

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