Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

S. Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Weisman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Gayles, Ph.D.


film, audience, semiotics, representation, media


The postmodern critique has effectively called on anthropologists to reevaluate ethnographic authority when representing others. However, what is often found lacking in this criticism is an exploration of the ways in which audiences interpret anthropological knowledge. One crucial area that can be easily researched is audience reception of film in introductory anthropology classes. As professors of anthropology increasingly rely on film for illustrating anthropological concepts, we must have an understanding of how this medium is interpreted by student audiences. Film's ability to convey complex information without additional contextualization has yet to be substantiated and previous research has indicated that visual communication's messages may easily be misinterpreted by audiences. Furthermore, there is evidence that films, if used improperly, may perpetuate students' negative impressions of cultures other than their own. Finally, any research into audience reception of film in the classroom must consider the factors outside the class that shape an audience's interpretations of films. The research presented in this thesis looks at the use of film in teaching introductory classes at USF. The goal is to connect the students' interpretations of films to the contextual factors of the classroom as well as considering the larger influence that the surrounding media culture in everyday life has on the interpretation of film in the classroom. In this way, the research strives to offer recommendations that may improve the effectiveness of using film when teaching introductory anthropology classes.