In this workshop, we will articulate and explore the manifestation of carceral systems and ideologies in a selection of popular non-fiction media texts and forms, and consider the formal and rhetorical approaches that make up works of “abolition media.” Our interventions are mobilized by our belief that carceral logics permeate (often invisibly) nearly every aspect of the contemporary non-fiction media landscape, and that in order to resist this hegemonic force we must enlist an abolitionist framework in both the analysis and creation of non-fiction media. In approaching this work, we understand abolition as an active process rather than a metaphor, as a “visionary project,” to quote participants Pooja Rangan and Brett Story, concerned with “social transformation” rather than social reform. Through the lens of this shared understanding, the workshop will grapple with fundamental questions regarding the analysis and creation of non-fiction media through an abolitionist framework.
What constitutes an abolitionist reading of a work of documentary or non-fiction media? How does such a reading make legible the embedded carceral ideologies operating in these works? And conversely, what constitutes a work of abolition media? What are some formal and methodological approaches to producing media that operates outside of and against carceral systems and logics? While situated in relation to the American carceral state and its genealogical connection to the American slave system — this workshop also invites people working and thinking outside of the American context, to consider the ways in which carceral logics and institutions are articulated with state power and violence in other international contexts, and how they might be resisted through the production of abolition media.
Brett Story is a filmmaker and writer based out of Toronto. She is the director of the films The Prison in Twelve Landscapes and The Hottest August, and author of the book Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power Across Neoliberal America. She is Assistant Professor of Image Arts at Ryerson University and her work has received support from the Sundance Institute and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Pooja Rangan is a scholar and writer based in Amherst College, where she is Associate Professor of English and Film and Media Studies. Her work revolves around documentary politics and ethics. She is author of the award-winning book Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary and is currently completing her second book, Audibilities: On Documentary Listening as an ACLS Burkhardt fellow.
Alex Johnston is a documentarian, media maker, and scholar. His award-winning work, including the films Evidence of the Evidence and NOW! AGAIN!, have screened at a wide range of venues, such as the Berlinale, AFI, London Short Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, and the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center, a convalescent home for retired hard rock and coal miners in Raton, New Mexico. He is an editor of the radical online media journal NOW! A Journal of Urgent Praxis, (NOW-Journal.com) and is an assistant professor of film at Seattle University.
Paige Sarlin is a filmmaker, scholar, and political activist. Her first film, The Last Slide Projector, premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2007. Her manuscript entitled Interview Work: A Genealogy of a Documentary Form is forthcoming. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Study at University at Buffalo, SUNY.