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Chapter 8

Anthropology 2272F/G Chapter 8: The Camera and the House Article

Course Code
ANTH 2272F/G
Sherry Larkin

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The Caera ad the House: The “eiotis of New Guiea Tree-houses i Gloal Visual
Treehouse images are more foundationally representations of the culture of photograph
makers and viewers than of the culture of the house dwellers
The Treehouse as Other House in Global Culture
To most people in industrialized countries, any dwelling built by its own occupants
ithout sa luer, etal fasteers, ad durale roofig is a istae of the other
There are more specific axes on which treehouses depart from normal house form
o Oe is the otheress of hildhood; i their eleatio ad sall size, hildre’s
treehouses simultaneously mimic adult domestic space and signal liberation
from adult structures of authority and diminished imagination
o Treehouses are also iconic of the otherness of nature, and of reintegrating
humans into it
The idea of Korowai treehouses is that they are defensive structures, iconic of the
savage brutality of life beyond civilization
Korowai do not practice slavery or set fire to dwellings while people are inside
Overrepresentation of Abnormally Tall Houses
Photographic overrepresentation of exceptionally high dwellings
The main houses Korowai build are built on topped tree trunk foundations
Korowai also commonly build dwellings that stand about three feet above ground or
that are not elevated at all
Foreigers’ iagig of these tall houses is out of proportio ith their atual presee
on the landscape
Only one in fifty is a canopy-level dwelling
Overrepresentation of canopy-leel delligs highlights that foreigers’ photograph is
a system of its own
The Earlier Boom in New Guinea Treehouse Imaging
New Guinea was linked to treehouses in fiction and in fabricated travel narratives
before images of actually encountered dwellings began to circulate
The core meaning of treehouse images in this period was not their apparent
documentary truth, rather their basic meaning was the mythic idea of racial and
evolutionary savagery, connoted by the house form
On What A Camera Does Not See
Production and reception of Korowai treehouse images today continues the long
tradition of selecting and projecting this house form as an anti-type to houses of urban
Photographic practices have created a visual of New Guinea as a land of extraordinarily
tall houses, and New Guineans thus as people who are the opposite of metropolitan
One major element in Korowai understanding of houses that is little registered in
foreigers’ photograph is soial relatios. Koroai eperiee house space sensorily as
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