Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture after 1945

Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture after 1945

Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture after 1945

Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture after 1945

Synopsis

After World War II, U.S. documentarians engaged in a rigorous rethinking of established documentary practices and histories. Responding to the tumultuous transformations of the postwar era--the atomic age, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the emergence of the environmental movement, immigration and refugee crises, student activism, the globalization of labor, and the financial collapse of 2008--documentary makers increasingly reconceived reality as the site of social conflict and saw their work as instrumental to struggles for justice. Examining a wide range of forms and media, including sound recording, narrative journalism, drawing, photography, film, and video, this book is a daring interdisciplinary study of documentary culture and practice from 1945 to the present. Essays by leading scholars across disciplines collectively explore the activist impulse of documentarians who not only record reality but also challenge their audiences to take part in reality's remaking.
In addition to the editors, the volume's contributors include Michael Mark Cohen, Grace Elizabeth Hale, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Jonathan Kahana, Leigh Raiford, Rebecca M. Schreiber, Noah Tsika, Laura Wexler, and Daniel Worden.

Excerpt

During the post–World War ii period, a wide range of practitioners remade documentary expression in an effort to respond to a contemporary landscape that was, in the moment of its unfolding, both urgent and bewildering. Confronting in turn the atrocities of World War ii, the social rebellions of the 1960s, and the inequalities of globalization, documentarians engaged in a rigorous rethinking of established practices and ideals. While they remained committed to portraying the world accurately and in realistic detail, they often did so in order to argue for its transformation and, by extension, to imagine alternatives to the conditions they recorded. They reconceived reality as the site of political conflict and collaboration, and documentation as instrumental to anti-institutional struggles for justice. At the same time, they understood that collective survival necessitated speculation—imaginings not tethered by observed detail—that might prefigure new forms of community and relatedness.

Our volume explores some of the signal developments in the field of documentary practice in the United States after 1945, with a particular emphasis on documentary activism and the formal innovation it engendered. We focus on documentary work that is committed to acting on the world it records and to activating audiences as participants in the making of that world. We argue for a broad conception of documentary that encompasses the varied, formally self-conscious experiments of postwar documentary: across a range of media and a sweep of some seventy years, we find practitioners—journalists and photographers, filmmakers and psychiatrists, professors and students—committed to documentary as a means of what Elaine Scarry calls “world-making.” the documentarians represented in this volume build on and experiment with earlier modes and traditions as they explore the agency of documentary in unanticipated conditions and, in the process, create new and visionary forms of aesthetic, social, and cog-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.