Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von (1909-1995)*

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf introduces ‘Trading Societies of Western Nepal’ (1976)

An Austrian anthropologist and from 1951 to 1976, Chair of Asian Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf shot some 50-60 hours of silent 16mm footage, mostly in India and Nepal, at various points between  1940 and 1973.

The early footage is in black and white, but already by the 1950s, he was also using colour film. In addition to the films that he made in South Asia, Fürer-Haimendorf also shot footage during visits in the 1960s to the Philippines, New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Mexico. He also made many hours of audio recordings to accompany his films.

Between 1959 and 1972, Fürer-Haimendorf collaborated with the BBC producer Brian Branston to make four films for broadcast based primarily on the material that he himself had filmed on various expeditions in India and Nepal, almost invariably accompanied by his wife Betty, who appears in most of these films. He also edited two free-standing films of his own. All these films are listed on the South Asia page here. However, the great majority of his footage was shot for research purposes and/or to support teaching and seminars, and was rarely, if ever, shown to wider audiences. Much of it was edited in no more than a preliminary fashion.

Among leading anthropologists of his generation in the English-speaking world, Fürer-Haimendorf was by far the most prolific maker of ethnographic films, though this is not widely recognised since so little of his work was distributed. This situation has been to some extent remedied by Alan Macfarlane, one of Fürer-Haimendorf’s last doctoral students, who has put up a large selection of his films as a YouTube playlist. This can be accessed via Macfarlane’s ayabaya website here.

A filmic tribute to Christoph and Betty Fürer-Haimendorf  by Mark Turin can be seen here

Texts : Turin 1997, Macfarlane 2010