REMINDER: Media Fields Journal Issue 3: Documentary & Space

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Media Fields Journal [Department of Film and Media Studies, UCSB]

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REMINDER: Call for Submissions:


Submission Deadline: February 15, 2011.

This issue of Media Fields Journal demonstrates the central importance of spatiality for documentary studies. Documentary strives to understand the sociocultural world, and space is integral to that understanding. There has been a "spatial turn" in fields such as critical geography, feminist studies, anthropology, and film and media studies—manifest in the work of Nick Couldry, James Ferguson, Henri Lefebvre, Doreen Massey, and Anna McCarthy amongst others. With this issue, we ask: how can we draw on theories of space to rethink documentary? We invite contributors working in and on different regions and from a variety of critical positions to construct conceptual frameworks that bring together documentary and space. We welcome work that considers a wide range of objects and practices as they relate to documentary, including media installations, music videos, media ethnography, video essays and other multimedia interventions.

Documentary cinema is known for its social importance, its personal and political narrative impact, its pedagogical role, and its artistic and historical value. We are interested in how the insertion of "space" into these potentialities inflects the way documentary is thought of as a genre, form, and mode of production. Driven to represent social realities, documentary filmmakers often transgress boundaries—social, ethical, physical, geographical etc.—in order to foreground aspects of cultural and institutional spaces that might otherwise go unseen, ignored, and undervalued. At the same time, documentaries can also reaffirm and reify these boundaries or create new ones. In a world characterized by shifting rural and urban landscapes, and increasing translocal and transnational circuits and flows of capital and labor, documentary films connect places and publics that exist in different space-times. The techniques and practices through which documentaries produce space at different scales of self, domesticity, local, national and global have inspired the exploration we undertake in this issue.

Changes in technology and industrial organization have arguably altered documentary production practice and reconfigured the possible modes of distribution and exhibition. These changes have enabled mediated coverage of unfolding events from multiple perspectives and locations, fostered novel communities of participatory producer-consumers, and rendered the already indistinct boundaries between amateur and professional even more fuzzy. Such shifts raise questions not only about what documentary is, but also about how we think of space in documentary, as well as how documentary works in and on space.

We seek a wide range of engaged and imaginative works (medium–length essays of 1500–2500 words, digital art projects, audio/video interviews) that might investigate but not limit themselves to the following questions and approaches:

1) Are there limits to where documentarians or ethnographers can go, spaces they cannot enter, or boundaries they cannot cross? How do documentaries address filmmakers, subjects, and audiences as "outsiders" and "insiders"?

2) How do the bodies of documentary subjects work as reminders of another (off-screen) space? How can filmed bodies, in their out-of-place-ness, speak to locations and times despite their not being pictured? How do self-documentary/auto-ethnographic projects work to intertwine and embody subjectivity and space?

3) What is the relationship between pictorial space, referential space, and constructed space in documentaries? What are the stakes of collapsing these spaces in documentary and documentary studies?

4) How do naming, voice-over, music, and the soundtrack mix layers of sound to work with and against visual spaces in order to situate documentary spectators?

5) How do multi-sited documentaries create "transplace" alliances and negotiate "polylocality"? In an era characterized by global power relations, how has documentary cinema contributed to un-mappings and re-mappings of geopolitical asymmetries shaped by and shaping globalization?

6) How do travel and environmental documentaries, with their potential to capture journeys, driftings, moorings, explorations, and discoveries reconfigure epistemologies and ontologies of places and spaces?

7) What alternative exhibition sites and distribution circuits exist or have existed for documentary films in recent years? How are they regulated and facilitated in different regional, national, and cultural contexts by censorship policies, mobile technologies, piracy etc?

8) In thinking of testimonies, archives, and futures, how does documentary's recording, reenactment, and fabrication of stories and events relate to remembered, imagined, and hypothetical space-times?

9) What new spaces of representation and surveillance have opened up with Reality TV shows that borrow the documentary look and aesthetics and are produced and shown in different cultural and economic settings?

10) How can we think of documentary space in relation to online and gaming environments?

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit

Feel free to contact issue co-editors, Ryan Bowles and Rahul Mukherjee, with proposals and inquiries. Email submissions, proposals, and inquiries to