Mr David MacDougall

Honorary Professor, Research School of Humanities & the Arts
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Cinema Studies 190201
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Postcolonial Studies 200211
  • Sociology Of Education 160809
  • Film, Television And Digital Media 1902

Research interests


Visual Anthropology

Social Anthropology

Ethnographic Film

Cinema Studies & Documentary Cinema

Anthropology of Childhood

Pastoralist Societies


David MacDougall is a maker of documentary and ethnographic films and writer on cinema.  He was educated at Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles.  His first feature-length film, To Live With Herds, filmed in Uganda, won the Grand Prix Venezia Genti at the Venice Film Festival in 1972.  He and his wife Judith MacDougall then produced the “Turkana Conversations” trilogy of films on semi-nomadic camel herders of northwestern Kenya. Of these, Lorang’s Way won the Prize of Cinéma du Réel in Paris in 1979, The Wedding Camels the Film Prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1980, and A Wife among Wives the Prix du Festival Jean Rouch (Bilan du Film Ethnographique) in 1982. With Judith MacDougall, he co-directed a dozen films on indigenous communities in Australia and, in 1991, a film on local photographers in an Indian hill town, Photo Wallahs. In 1993 he made Tempus de Baristas, on goat herders in the mountains of Sardinia. In 1997 he began a film study of the Doon School in northern India, resulting in Doon School Chronicles (2000) and four other films: With Morning Hearts (2001), Karam in Jaipur (2001), The New Boys (2003), and The Age of Reason (2004). He went on to film at Rishi Valley School, a progressive, co-educational boarding school in South India where he produced SchoolScapes (2007) and, together with Judith, Awareness (2010). Gandhi’s Children (2008), his study of a shelter for homeless children in New Delhi, won the Astra Film Festival Grand Prize and a "Best Documentary Feature Film" nomination at the Asia Pacific Film Awards in 2009. His latest films include Arnav at Six (2012) and Under the Palace Wall (2014). Since 2011 he has directed the "Childhood and Modernity" Project, conducting video workshops with children in different parts of India.  Twelve of the films produced by children in the project are presented in the DVD, The Child's Eye (2018) . MacDougall writes regularly on documentary and ethnographic cinema and is the author of three books: Transcultural Cinema (Princeton University Press, 1998), The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography, and the Senses (Princeton, 2006), and The Looking Machine: Essays on Cinema, Anthropology and Documentary Filmmaking (Manchester University Press, 2019).  He is presently Honorary Professor at the Research School of Humanities & the Arts, The Australian National University, Canberra.

Researcher's projects

Current Projects:

Childhood and Modernity: Indian Children's Perspectives 

Digital Restoration of the "Turkana Conversations" trilogy 

Previous Projects:

Visual Research in Social Aesthetics  (a study of institutions for children in India)

Reconsidering visual anthropology: Towards a theoretical framework for anthropological visual research (a study of a traditional boarding school in northern India)

Pastoralists of Sardinia

Local Photography in India

Indigenous Communities in Australia

The Turkana of Northwest Kenya

The Jie of Northeast Uganda




Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  18 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers