Intelligence Work The Politics of American Documentary

ISBN-10: 0231142072

ISBN-13: 9780231142076

Edition: 2008

Authors: Jonathan Kahana

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From its conception at the crossroads of cinematic entertainment and social science, American documentary has invented ways to understand the problems of modernity, capturing new varieties of social interaction and political conviction in everyday life. From slums to boardrooms, from cornfields and coal mines to cell blocks and convention halls, documentary collects the evidence of American experience, then it delivers these facts to a public sphere, where they give substance to the social imaginary and lend force to political movements from reform to revolution. Intelligence Workexplores the history and theory of this politics of truth. Covering several decades of American culture, Intelligence Workestablishes a new genealogy of American social documentary, proposing a fresh critical approach to the aesthetic and political issues of nonfiction cinema and media. Jonathan Kahana argues that the use of documentary film by itinerant intellectuals, government agencies, political movements, and community groups constitutes a national-public form of culture, one that challenges the traditional oppositions between official and vernacular speech; between high art and popular culture; and between academic knowledge and common sense. Through meticulous research and nuanced readings, Kahana demonstrates how documentary serves as a cultural laboratory in the thought and practice of American democracy. Each chapter examines a different topic of documentary and the political forms associated with it: class and the Depression-era left; agricultural reform and the New Deal state; prisons and the New Left; counter-cultural campaigns against the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars; and the presidency, television, and a paranoid style of government. Placing iconic images and the work of celebrated filmmakers (Joris Ivens, Fredrick Wiseman, Emile de Antonio, Errol Morris, and Michael Moore) next to overlooked and rediscovered productions, Intelligence Work proves the remarkable pliability of documentary's function for American popular intelligence.
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Book details

List price: $32.00
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 7/7/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 432
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.342
Language: English

Jonathan Kahana is assistant professor of cinema studies at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

List of Illustration
Introduction: The Intelligence Work of Documentary: Publics, Politics, Intellectuals
The Sentiment of Trust: The Documentary Front and the New Deal
National Fabric: Authorship, Textuality, and the Documentary Front
Voice-Over, Allegory, and the Pastoral in New Deal Documentary
Lyrical Tirades: New Documentary and the New Left
Revolutionary Sounds: Listening to Radical Documentary
Documentary Counterpublics: Filming Prison
The Public Sphere of Suspicion: Documentary in the New Obscurity
The Vision Thing: Documentary, Television, and the Accidental Power of the President
Tense Times: Documentary Aporias; Or, the Public Sphere of Suspicion
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