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MacDonald Reviews Where the Roads All End


Scott MacDonald
Scott MacDonald

A book review by Professor of Art History Scott MacDonald was recently published online by Documentary magazine, a publication of the International Documentary Association.

MacDonald said Where the Roads All End: Photography and Anthropology in the Kalahari by Ilisa Barbash (Cambridge: Peabody Museum/Harvard University Press, 2017) documents and interprets hundreds of photographs taken during several meetings of the Marshall family with !Kung tribespeople over a period of 10 years.

In 1951, Laurence Marshall and his family traveled to Windhoek, South West Africa (now Namibia), to begin a desert expedition intended to be educational and exciting for them, and useful for others. Among the products of the expedition were several films by budding filmmaker John Marshall and some 40,000 photos of the family’s experiences in the Kalahari.

In his review of Where the Roads All End, MacDonald wrote that the book provides a context for “the canonical ethnographic films that John Marshall shot in and around Nyae Nyae.” He said the book is “carefully and complexly designed so that hundreds of black-and-white and color photographs are seen within a chronologically organized series of essays that escort the reader through the family’s evolving understanding of the changes that were occurring in Nyae Nyae.

“Barbash contextualizes the family’s expeditions within the larger history of depictions of native peoples and by a detailed exploration of how the Marshall photographs have been used during the 70 years since they were taken,” MacDonald concluded.

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