Stalking the cannibals: photographic behaviour on the Sepik River

Catherine Palmer, Jo-Anne Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Outwardly Dennis O'Rourke's film, Cannibal Tours, is just another travel documentary, but to categorize it thus is to misunderstand its significance. `Straight' readings of the film present it as an example of the negative impacts of tourism or as a commentary on touristic encounters with the exotic. We part company from such readings because they largely ignore the filmmaker's art, the role of O'Rourke in constructing the film's narrative. O'Rourke employs the ubiquitous camera to present his critique of a western mindset that continues to be fascinated by the primitive Other. Our discussion focuses on both the filmmaker's art and the lure of the primitive as an oneiric exercise for western tourists. Specifically, we explore the role of the camera in constructing the relationship between modernity and the pre-modern Other. Overall, then, this discussion represents a journey through the mind of O'Rourke, a journey into his framing of tourism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-106
Number of pages24
JournalTourist Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • film
  • Papua New Guinea
  • photography
  • primitive Other
  • subjectivity


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