Anthropologist and filmmaker Asen Balikci has been an innovator in the field of ethnographic film and film in education for decades. Born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1929, he was educated in francophone Switzerland, and went on to study at Columbia University with Margaret Mead and others, where he earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology.
From 1957 to 1965 Balikci conducted fieldwork with the Netsilik Eskimos of the Canadian Arctic Coast, resulting in the Netsilik Eskimo film series (1968), subsequently broadcast by a multitude of international television stations, and its companion volume on traditional Eskimo life. From 1963 to 1966 he was a senior scientist in the (Hu)mans: A Course of Study Program. The field of human ecology in arctic and arid zones, already present in the Netsilik Eskimo films, appears again in Sons of Haji Omar, a much regarded study of nomadism and rural life among Pashtoon pastoralists in Afghanistan, in collaboration with Timothy Asch and Patsy Asch.
From 1989 to 1991 Dr. Balikci made a number of field trips to Siberia where he was principle investigator for Chronicle of Sireniki, an ethnographic film on the Bering Strait Eskimos of Eastern Siberia (1989), and initiated a program for teaching visual anthropology centered on the Khazim River Ostyak of Western Siberia. From 1992 until 1998 he worked on a research project on inter-ethnic relations in Southwest Bulgaria, and on the culture of poverty in post-socialist Bulgaria, while teaching visual anthropology in multicultural settings.
In Bulgaria, Balikci conducted two visual ethnography training seminars for village boys and girls, the first entitled Balkan Portraits, concerning Bulgarian Muslims and the second devoted to the Bulgarian Gypsies, entitled Gypsy Portraits. His films on Bulgaria include A Month In The Life of Epthim D. (2003), and two films on the Pomak (Bulgarian Muslims), entitled Pomak Portraits – the first on Pomak Women, the second on Pomak Men. Most recently, he has contributed to a film describing the prevailing ideological confusion among Balkan Muslims, which is entitled Muslim Labyrinths.
Balikci is the author of numerous publications in English, French, and Bulgarian, which center on the topics of the ethnography of the peoples of the Arctic Coast, pastoralism in general, and visual anthropology. He was co-chairman of the Program in Ethnographic Film (PIEF), from 1966-1968, chairman of the Commission on Visual Anthropology, from 1983-1993, associate editor of Visual Anthropology (1986-1993), and editor of CVA Review (1986-1993).
Among various academic positions Balikci held a chair as a professor of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal from which he retired in 1994. When he retired from his academic post, he moved back to his home country of Bulgaria to apply his media skills to facilitate communication and education both inside and outside the country.
- The Netsilik Eskimo
- (Hu)mans: A Course of Study
- Extensive video interview with Asen Balikci about his life and work in anthropology (2004)
- “Eskimos and “Hippie-Yippee Philosophy”: An interview with Asen Balikci – Savage Minds (2005)