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James Faris (1936 – present) is an American cultural anthropologist and epistemologist who received his PhD from Cambridge University in 1966. He conducted fieldwork in the fishing settlement of Cat Harbour, Newfoundland, among the Nuba of Southeastern Kordofan in the Sudan, and among the Navajo in the American Southwest. His research specializations include cognitive anthropology, art and aesthetics, ritual, social organization and reproduction, anthropological linguistics, and visual anthropology and critical theory and representation. The James Faris Papers, 1960-2014, primarily document his fieldwork with the Nuba peoples of Southeastern Sudan. His papers also include materials related to representation of the Nuba peoples and various controversies in visual anthropology and documentary film that related to Leni Riefenstahl and her filmmaking among the Nuba. During the 1960s Faris was drawn into activism against the Vietnam War while at the University of Connecticut and his papers contain ephemeral materials on radical anthropology and racism from that period. The collection consists of field notes, correspondence, photographs, sound recordings, films (including scripts and transcriptions), videos, book and papers drafts, and news and magazine clippings.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The James Faris papers, 1960-2014, undated, primarily document his field research with the Nuba people in South Sudan. It also includes materials related to Leni Riefenstahl and her work with the Nuba, material regarding racism and activism at the University of Connecticut, and writings and notes. The collection consists of field notes, sound recordings, films, videos, film transcriptions and scripts, correspondence, photographs, book and paper drafts, and clippings.
Faris worked with the Nuba people in Sudan from 1966-1969 and again in the 1970s. His materials document their body art and cultural practices before the Nuba were converted to Islam in the 1980s. Over 800 photographic slides record their agriculture, rituals, dance, and personal art in addition to Faris' extensive field notes.
The James Faris papers are arranged in 4 series: Series 1. Sudan, 1966-2008, undated; Series 2. Materials pertaining to Leni Riefenstahl, 1971-2008; Series 3. University of Connecticut, 1969-1992, undated; Series 4. Writings, conference files, and other materials, 1960-2014, undated.
1936 November 1
Born in Durango, Colorado
B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico
Archaeological field research, New Mexico (6 months)
Ethnological field research, Newfoundland (17 months)
Lecturer, University of Maryland (overseas)
Ph.D. in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Assistant Professor, McGill University
Lecturer, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan
1966-1969, 1977, 1979, 1980
Ethnological field research, Kordofan , Sudan (20 months)
Associate Professor, University of Connecticut
Visiting Professor, University of Khartoum, Khartoum, Sudan
Professor, University of Connecticut
Ethnological field research, New Mexico/Arizona (18 months)
Ethnological field research, Greater Southwest (8 months)
1995 July 1-Present
Emeritus Professor, University of Connecticut
James Chester Faris is an ethnographic anthropologist whose research specializations include social anthropology, social organization and production, cognitive studies, aesthetics and art, population, materialist perspectives, anthropological critique, textuality, anthropological linguistics, and photographic analysis and critique. He completed field research in Newfoundland, Sudan, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Greater Southwest.
Faris was trained at Cambridge as an anthropologist and spent the majority of his academic career teaching at the University of Connecticut. He also spent time as a lecturer and visiting professor at the University of Khartoum in Sudan. In this time he conducted his field research on the Southeast Nuba of Southern Kordofan Province.
Faris became an Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut in 1995 and currently lives in New Mexico.
Katie Duvall and Annie Schweikert
Digitization and preparation of sound recordings for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund
Paper materials and sound recordings belonging to the NAA were processed by Katie Duvall. Film and sound materials transferred to the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA/NAFC) were processed and integrated into this finding aid by Annie Schweikert.
Where legible, material titles were transcribed verbatim, otherwise they were derived or enhanced by the archivists for clarity.
Processed and encoded by Katie Duvall and Annie Schweikert, March 2017.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by James Faris in 2016.
Film, video, and related sound materials have been transferred to the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA/NAFC), accession number 2017-004, but are described in this finding aid in Series 1.5 (Films and related materials).
- 1968. "Some aspects of clanship & descent amongst the Nuba of South-Eastern Kordofan".
Sudan Notes and Records. 49: 45-57.
- 1969. "Some cultural consideration of duolineal descent organization".
Ethnology. 8: 243-254.
- 1972. "Southeastern Nuba age organisation". Essays in Sudan Ethnography; Pres. to E. Evans-Pritchard / Ed. by I. Cunnison and W. James. 1-30.
Nuba personal art. London: Duckworth.
- 1978. "The productive basis of aesthetic traditions: some African examples".
Art in Society : Studies in Style, Culture and Aesthetics. 317-339.
- 1983. "From form to content in the structural study of aesthetic systems". Structure and Cognition in Art / Edited by Dorothy K. Washburn. 90-112.
Art/artifact: on the museum and anthropology. Current Anthropology. 29 (5): 775-779.
- 1988. "Significance of differences in the male and female personal art of the Southeast Nuba". Marks of Civilization : Artistic Transformations of the Human Body / Edited by Arnold Rubin. 29-40.
Southeast Nuba social relations. Aachen: Alano, Edition Herodot.
- 1992. "Photography, power and the southern Nuba". Anthropology and Photography 1860-1920 / Edited by Elizabeth Edwards. 211-217.
- 2006. "Leni Riefenstahl and the Nuba peoples of Kordofan province, Sudan".
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 13 (1): 95-97.
- 2007. "Photographic encounters: Leni Riefenstahl in Africa".
Critical Intervention: Journal of African Art History and Visual. (1): 136-146.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Conditions Governing Access
The James Faris papers are open for research.
Access to the James Faris papers requires an appointment.
James Faris papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746