Paul Henley

Paul Henley


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Education and training: I studied for a BA (Hons) in Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge, 1969-1973, including 1971-1972 as an anthropological field assistant at the Laboratorio de Antropología of the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), Caracas. This was followed by a PhD, also at Cambridge, 1974-1979, based on fieldwork amongst the Panare (E'ñepa) of southern Venezuela, supervised by Professor J.A. (John) Barnes. I also studied at the National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, 1984-1987, graduating as director-cameraman. I subsequently worked as a freelance film-maker for UK television as well as pursuing an academic career.

Academic posts: In 1987, I was appointed as the first Director of the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology and simultaneously as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. I was also Director of the University Media Centre, 1989-1993. I became Professor of Visual Anthropology in 2001.

In January 2014, I stood down as Director of the Granada Centre in order to take up a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. Under the general title The Silent Time Machine, this project consisted of an investigation of early ethnographic film, with particular reference to Brazil and France. It came to an end in February 2018. I have begun to publish the results in academic journals (see recent publications list) and am in the course of producing a website that will provide a ready means of access to many of these early films as well as to my analyses of them. Although this website is already substantial, it remains a work-in-progress which I am aiming to complete by the end of 2020. In its current provisional form, it can be consulted at

At the end of July 2017, I took 80% retirement, but continue to publish academically and to offer occasional workshops, lectures and editing tuition in the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. I am also active in international networks associated with etehnographic film and visual anthropology : among other relatively recent activities, I gave a series of lectures in China in November 2018. 

I am also active editorially : with Andrew Irving, I am the co-editor of a new series of monographs to be published by Manchester University Press under the general title 'Anthropology, Creative Practice and Ethnography'. The aim of this series is to provide a new forum for authors and practitioners from across the digital humanities and social sciences to explore the rapidly developing opportunities offered by visual, acoustic and textual media for generating ethnographic understandings of social, cultural and political life.

Previous positions: Lecturer, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford, 1979-1980; Junior Research Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1980-1983; Film Training Fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1984-1986.

Professional associations: Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Film Committee 1988-2018 (Chair, 1993-1998); Director, RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, 1990, 1992, 2007, 2017.

Film festival juries: Bilan du Film Ethnographique/ Festival International Jean Rouch, Musée de L'Homme, Paris (1991, Chair 2006, 2007, 2017); Sibiu International Ethnographic Film Festival, Romania (Chair, 1996); Nuoro International Ethnological Film Festival, Sardinia (2002); Espiello Muestra de Documental Etnográfico, Huesca, Spain (2010, Chair 2014 )

Research interests

Specific research interests:

  • History, theory and practice of ethnographic documentary film-making
  • Indigenous societies of Amazonia and adjacent regions of lowland South America

Current research projects:

  • Rurality, landscape and memory in southern Tuscany (film project)

External positions

Honorary Director,15th RAI Film Festival (Bristol 2017), The Royal Anthropological Institute

15 Jan 20161 Apr 2017


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