Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


The potential of documentary moving images to foster democratic exchange has been percolating within media production culture for the last century, and now, with mobile cameras at our fingertips and broadcasts circulating through unpredictable social networks, the documentary impulse is coming into its own as a political force of social change. The exploding reach and power of audio and video are multiplying documentary modes of communication. Once considered an outsider media practice, documentary is finding mass appeal in the allure of moving images, collecting participatory audiences that create meaningful challenges to the social order. Documentary is adept at collecting frames of human experience, challenging those insights, and turning these stories into public knowledge that is palpable for audiences. Generating pathways of exchange between unlikely interlocutors, collective identification forged with documentary discourse constitutes a mode of political agency that is directing energy toward acting in the world. Reflecting experiences of life unfolding before the camera, documentary representations help order social relationships that deepen our public connections and generate collective roots. As digital culture creates new pathways through which information can flow, the connections generated from social change documentary constitute an emerging public commons. Considering the deep ideological divisions that are fracturing U.S. democracy, it is of critical significance to understand how communities negotiate power and difference by way of an expanding documentary commons. Investment in the force of documentary resistance helps cultivate an understanding of political life from the margins, where documentary production practices are a form of survival.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages296
ISBN (Electronic)9780190676254
ISBN (Print)9780190676216, 9780190676223
StatePublished - Sep 13 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • documentary
  • digital culture
  • production culture
  • commons
  • critical media practice
  • social movements
  • rhetoric
  • resistance
  • social change
  • agency
  • collective identification
  • participatory media culture


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