1986 / 52 minutes

Directed by
André Singer
Country of production
United Kingdom
Strangers Abroad

Central Television’s major documentary series looks at the first anthropologists to stop ‘armchair theorising’ and go out to live among the peoples who so interested them. The six part series was filmed all over the world, from the frozen Canadian Arctic to the dry outback of Australia, from New Guinea to India, Africa to the South Pacific.The programme makers retraced the steps of the pioneering anthropologists in those countries and, by following the life story of each scholar, they reveal how social anthropology has contributed to our lives.. The series begins by following in the footstep of the British scientist Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer. It shows his work with the Australian Aborigines — who had, up until then, been regarded as a step in the evolutionary ladder between Neolithic men and the ‘civilised’ Victorian. Spencer went to Australia in 1887 as Professor of Biology at Melbourne University. While there he was invited to join the Horn expedition, an ambitious project to explore Australia’s still largely unknown interior. At Alice Springs, Spencer met Frank J. Gillen, the operator of the telegraphic station and an initiated elder of the Aranda tribe. It was Gillen’s special place in Aboriginal society that enabled Spencer to document the world of this ancient and complex culture through books, glass-plate photographs, wax cylinder recordings and some of the earliest cine films shot outside Europe. Spencer and Gillen made several expeditions together; the data they collected fueled the theories of anthropologists around the world. Some of their film was used in the programme.

Language and subtitles
English with English Subtitles
History of Anthropology

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