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August 2003, Week 2


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David Whiteman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Aug 2003 16:51:19 -0400
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Panel on Documenting Documentary Impact: Theories, Concepts,

Co-chairs:  Barbara Abrash (New York University) and David Whiteman
(University of South Carolina)

We are organizing a panel for Visible Evidence XI, which will be held
in Bristol, England, December 16-19, 2003
(  If you are
interested, please send an abstract by August 20, 2003 to
[log in to unmask]


This panel brings together academics and practitioners to assess our
current understanding of the social impact of documentary film and video
and to move this research forward by evaluating appropriate theories,
concepts, and measurement strategies. Makers of social issue
documentaries seek to foster social change, and recent research has
focused on how evidence of social impact can be theorized and evaluated.
For example, scholars have examined the effect of "Well-Founded
Fear" (Camerini and Robertson) on immigration and human rights
policy, the role of "The Uprising of '34" (Stoney and Helfand) in
labor organizing, the impact of "Not in Our Town" (O'Neil and
Miller) on community responses to hate crimes, the use of "It's
Elementary" (Chasnoff and Cohen) in campaigns to include gay and
lesbian issues in school curricula, and the use of strategic videos as
tools for organizing. Of particular interest are questions of political
efficacy: How do documentaries circulate within "issue networks" of
activists, analysts, and policy makers? In what ways do they affect the
mobilization and status of activist groups and individual citizens? What
impact do they have on the agenda for and the substance of policy
deliberations? What are the most successful models of interaction
between activists and makers? What criteria are useful in assessing


Visible Evidence is a peripatetic international and interdisciplinary
conference on the role of film and video as witness and voice of social
reality, which encompasses a wide range of cultural, political, social,
historical, ethnographic and pedagogical questions and perspectives from
fields such as anthropology, architecture, art history, ethnic studies,
gay and lesbian studies, history, journalism, law, medicine, political
science, sociology, urban studies and women's studies. First held at
Duke University in 1993, subsequent editions have been held at the
University of Southern California, Harvard and then Cardiff, before
returning to the USA, followed by editions in Utrecht (2000), Brisbane
(2001) and Marseilles (2002). There is an associated series of books
published by Duke University Press.

Conference panels are typically devoted to topics such as IMAGE,
SCIENCE; NEW FORMS, NEW IMPLEMENTS. The conference has established the
format of a single stream of around 15 panels over four days, augmented
by separate screenings with invited film makers, generally (but not
exclusively) from the host country. The conference seeks to expand
beyond a purely academic schema and make links with filmmakers, curators
and producers, in order to engage in debates on contemporary documentary
practice and to explore the space between the perspectives of scholars
and cultural producers and promoters.

The Eleventh edition will be convened by Bristol Docs (School of
Cultural Studies at the University of the West of England) with
University of Bristol Dept. of Drama (Theatre, Film, Television) and
hosted by the Watershed Media Centre. Evening screenings will be curated
by Bristol Docs, Vertigo Magazine and DocHouse, reflecting the recent
growth of interest in the UK and abroad in both the production and
exhibition of independent documentary.


David Whiteman
Project on Documentary Film and Social Change
Department of Political Science
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC  29208
E-mail:  [log in to unmask]
Phone:  803-777-4548
FAX:    803-777-8255

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite