SENKU Seminar with Mike Poltorak

The Healer and the Psychiatrist: The Value of Video, the Efficacy of Spirits, and Social Health in Tonga

In the creative spaces of communication between people from Oceania, researchers and anthropologists of the Pacific has emerged some of the most vital contributions to anthropological and wider debates on reciprocal research, collaborative anthropology, reverse anthropology and research accessibility.  The potential of video and film as research has not been realised, despite a longstanding use in Pacific nations, growing local film productions and key research carried out in Oceania key to the sub-discipline of visual anthropology. 

This presentation is inspired by the vernacular use of video and how anthropological research and anthropologists are valued in Tonga. I explore how the interrogative camera, using video for feedback and dialogue, and attention to the reception of film can establish video research as a vital vehicle of collaborative intervention and epistemologically sensitive mode of raising issues related to national and regional mental health care.

The ethnographic documentary ‘The Healer and the Psychiatrist’ is based on research since 1998 on local and psychiatric provision for mental illness. It seeks to create a dialogue between two emblematic representatives of seemingly contradictory systems of healing on the actions of spirits (tevolo, laumalie ‘uli) in the lives of the living.


Dr Mike Poltorak is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, Canterbury

Published Jan. 14, 2019 10:00 PM - Last modified Oct. 15, 2020 8:41 AM