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Documentary Resistance

Social Change and Participatory Media

Angela J. Aguayo

Publication Date - 13 September 2019

ISBN: 9780190676223

296 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock


Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media offers a new approach to understanding the networked capacity of documentary media to create public commons areas, crafting connections between unlikely interlocutors. In this process communities invest in the exchange of documentary moving image discourse around politics and social change. This book advances a new argument suggesting that documentary's capacity for social change is found in its ability to establish forms of collective identification and political agency capable of producing and sustaining activist media cultures. It advances the creation of a conceptual, theoretical, and historical space in which documentary and social change can be examined, drawing upon research in cinema, media, and communication studies as well as cultural theory to explore how political ideas move into participatory action. This book takes a distinctive approach, understanding how struggles for social justice are located, reflected, and represented on the documentary screen, but also in pre- and post-production processes. To address this living history, this project includes over sixty unpublished field interviews with documentary filmmakers, critics, funders, activists, and distributors.


  • Includes previously unpublished interviews with a wide range of industry professionals
  • Includes undocumented filmmakers, bringing them into the canon of documentary
  • Argues that documentary's capacity for social change is found in its ability to establish forms of collective identification and political agency

About the Author(s)

Angela J. Aguayo is Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Culture at Southern Illinois University. She is scholar and media maker whose practice reflects an interdisciplinary approach to documentary, media studies, rhetoric, and critical cultural theory. Her most recent work is focused on agency, collective identification and participatory media cultures, investigating the possibilities for documentary to engage the process of social change. She is also an award winning writer, director and producer of mutiple documentary shorts utilized in community engagement campaigns as well as screening at festivals and museums around the world.


"An extraordinary trove of social justice documentaries receive passionate discussion in this far-sighted work. Scrutinizing work on everything from abortion to police violence, Aguayo pursues her case for a new understanding of what it means to achieve social impact. She shows how a multitude of voices ring out across the country in ways our mainstream media simply does not hear." -- Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary, 3rd Edition, and Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary

"With clarity, panache, power, and urgency, Documentary Resistance forcefully and unconditionally intervenes into a discipline absorbed with the neoliberalism of auteurs and aesthetics. It unfurls a trenchant historical and political probe into documentary agency, collective identities, and social change across a wide range of documentary modes engaging labor, reproductive rights, and the racialization of police brutality. Compelling and field-redefining, Aguayo argues that the political materialities and micro-practices of production cultures and media circulation across emerging technologies and platforms can open up spaces for empathy, community-building, and a documentary public commons. Documentary Resistance resolutely insists social movements confronting injustice constitute the necessary starting point for documentary theories and practices." -- Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ithaca College

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1: Introduction: Documentary Resistance
    Chapter 2: A Critical History of Documentary and Participatory Media Culture(s)
    Chapter 3: Documentary Goes Popular: The Rise of Digital Media Cultures
    Chapter 4: Laboring Under Documentary: Collective Identification and the Collapse of the American Working Class
    Chapter 5: Subjugated Histories as Affective Resistance: Abortion Documentaries as Botched Political Subjectivity
    Chapter 6: Street Tapes as the People's History of Unjustified Police Force
    Chapter 7: Conclusion: The Documentary Commons and Conditions of Resistance