CFP: Panel on "Documenting the Child"

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Visible Evidence XVIII (Documentary Conference) New York University August 11-14, 2011
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Call for Abstracts
Proposed Panel on "Documenting the Child"
Visible Evidence XVIII
New York University August 11-14, 2011

***Deadline Extended to January 8***


The figure of the child uncertainly indicates the representational limit of both fiction and non-fiction film. A vast array of critical discourses, ranging from philosophy, anthropology, psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, legal studies, human rights, and sociology cast the child as an entity that exists outside or before language, culture, or society. In this way, the Western cultural construction of the child as "pre-cultural" seems to forge a curious kinship with visual media, which continue to be associated with notions of indexicality, mimeticism, immediacy, direct documentation, and transparency, despite the existence of a rich body of documentary and film theory that insists that these are textual or affective effects. The consequences of this kinship between the child and visual media are particularly pressing for documentary practices—if the "casting" of children in fiction films seems to invest fabulation with an inexplicable aura of documentary veracity, as argued by Lisa Cartwright (2008) and Poonam Arora (1994), then the lure of referentiality represented by children in documentary genres that themselves lay claim to questionable truths requires urgent theorization.

This panel therefore invites proposals for papers that take up this problematic in relation to questions of the document, broadly conceived. Inquiries that engage approaches or texts that challenge the schema outlined above—particularly in relation to the areas suggested below—would be of particular interest:

* Representations of children in humanitarian advocacy media (topics might include the use of documentary media for child "empowerment"; children as producers of documentary media, eg: Human Rights Watch's Youth Producing Change series)
* Representations of the child/childhood in scientific documentation (topics might include questions of biopolitics and statistics; the use of non-representational media such as x-rays, sonograms, scans, etc.)
* The relationship between children, mimeticism, and mimetic technologies
* Documentary representations of "gifted" children (eg: My Kid Could Paint That)
* Non-western documentary approaches to childhood
* Longitudinal documentary (eg: the Up! Series)
* Documentation of facilitated communication involving disabled children
* Queerness and childhood (topics might include the anti-social turn against reproductive futurism in queer theory (eg: Lee Edelman) in relation to documentary media; the relationship between childhood, futurity, and documentary witnessing, eg: Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project; etc.)
* The use of documentary images of children in pro-life/pro-choice campaigns

Please send 250-300 word abstracts to Pooja Rangan, Brown University ( by January 8th, 5PM. Panelists will be notified of their status by the end of the day on January 8th.

Thanks in advance for the opportunity to consider your work.