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The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA)’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015 was awarded to Thomas Dustin Blakely. He received his PhD from Northwestern University in 1981 and was a founding member of the SVA, serving as its President and its representative on the American Anthropological Association Executive Board in 1986 and 1987. He has done six years of ethnographic fieldwork (including 60,000 photographs, hundreds of research films and audio recordings) in Central Africa among Báhêmbá in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is the organizer and master of ceremony of the Visual Research Conference from its inception in 1985 through the present time. Blakely provides a collegial setting for these Conferences that has inspired and assisted students and professionals for the last 30 years. The presentations are works-in-progress, and many of them have subsequently been published (Scherer 2012). No one has been more dedicated to the teaching of visual anthropology than Blakely. His nurturing of students where he is currently teaching at Albright College and the Berks Campus of Penn State University (where he won the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006) and previously at Brigham Young University and Temple University, is evidence of this dedication. He has published works in visual semiotics, proxemics and gesture; ethnographic photography and film; religion in Africa; and African arts and performance. His contributions to SVA have also included serving several times each as AAA Program Chair for SVA, as juror for the SVA Film Festival and SVA Anthropology Newsletter editor, as well as publishing a directory of visual anthropologists’ research and filmmaking, which includes a valuable history of the predecessors of the society.

Tom Blakely and anthropologist Zoe Bray, with the portrait she painted at the Chicago AAA meetings in November 2013 during a several-day Ethnographic Terminalia gallery encounter entitled: “The Ethnographic Process of Portrait Painting”. Photograph by Rachel Topham.

Tom Blakely and anthropologist Zoe Bray, with the portrait she painted at the 2013 AAA Meeting during a several-day Ethnographic Terminalia gallery encounter entitled, “The Ethnographic Process of Portrait Painting”. Photo courtesy Rachel Topham

Selected works:

  • Blakely, Thomas D. and Pamela A.R. Blakely, 1989. Directory of Visual Anthropology. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association/Society for Visual Anthropology.
  • Blakely, Thomas D., Walter E A van Beek, Dennis L Thomson, eds. 1994. Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression. London: James Currey, Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.
  • Blakely, Thomas D. and Joan Swayze Williams, eds. 1995, Anthropological Excellence in Film: Ten Years of Award Winners in the SVA/AAA Film and Video Festival. Arlington, Virginia: Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association.
  • Heider, Karl. G., Pamela A.R. Blakely, Thomas D. Blakely, Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology through film, 4th edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson, 2007.
  • Scherer, Joanna 2012. “The Society for Visual Anthropology’s Visual Research Conference: The First Twenty-Four Years (1985-2008). Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 28 (2), Fall.

NOTE: This article originally should have appeared as a print column for July/August AN News column. It somehow fell through the cracks and as co-contributing editor, I apologize to the column’s author, Joanna C. Scherer, as well as recipient Thomas D. Blakely and the SVA membership for this oversight. Jennifer Reynolds.

Cite as: Scherer, Joanna C. 2018. “Thomas D. Blakely, Lifetime Achievement Award 2015.” Anthropology News website, November 1, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.846

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