The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI) is the world‘s longest-established scholarly association dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology (the study of humankind) in its broadest and most inclusive sense. It has a particular commitment to promoting the public understanding of anthropology, and the contribution of anthropology to public affairs. Central to this commitment, and a core activity of the RAI has been the promotion of visual anthropology (and ethnographic film in particular) as a means of dialogue between academic anthropologists, visual media professionals, and the general public.
As well as organising the biennial Film Festival, the RAI manages a comprehensive ethnographic film library, and a fast-growing film archive with reference copies. Since the mid-1980s, it has run an international film distribution service in order to widen the distribution of ethnographic films within higher and further education. These activities are coordinated by the Film Committee, which is made up of a combination of internationally recognised documentary film-makers and leading academic anthropologists.
Among its other core activities, the RAI publishes two flagship journals, gives awards for outstanding scholarship, organises academic events, such as lectures and workshops, and manages a number of trust funds for research. A flourishing educational outreach programme, which has received national funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Economic and Social Research Council, aims to raise awareness of anthropology among the general public and particularly in pre-University education. The RAI Collection comprises the Institute’s manuscript, archive, photographic and film holdings, now brought together to form a unique integrated resource for research and consultation.
The RAI also publishes the Anthropological Index Online (AIO) is a comprehensive, user-friendly online bibliography of anthropology-related journals held in the Anthropology Library and Research Centre at the British Museum, London, and of films distributed by the RAI. It provides an indispensable service for libraries and for individual researchers, teachers and students of anthropology and archaeology throughout the world.