immediations

Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary (Duke University Press, 2017) is my first book. It is based on my doctoral dissertation, which was awarded the Marie J. Langlois Outstanding Dissertation Prize from Brown University in 2012. 

The book is now available for sale through Duke University Press: dukeupress.edu/immediations and on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2r6HjOn 

Immediations examines participatory humanitarian interventions that equip disenfranchised subjects—from the children of sex workers in India to Hurricane Katrina victims, autistic individuals, and endangered elephants in Thailand—with documentary media as a means of immediate self-empowerment. The book traces the ethic of urgency that connects the humanitarian principle of saving lives with documentary, as a media form that privileges immediacy over the aesthetics and politics of representation.

I argue that the tropes of documentary immediacy through which these disenfranchised subjects evidence their humanity and agency reveals a coercive aspect to the humanitarian impulse in documentary—one that underwrites a variety of debates regarding otherness, from child labor, to political asylum, disability rights, and animal welfare. When marginalized subjects draw on these tropes to claim their privileges, their acts of resistance center the very concept of humanity from which they are excluded.

Over the course of four chapters, I work against the cultural and medial logic of the documentary tropes that I call “immediations,” to show how humanitarian subjects routinely defuse and refuse the humanitarian ethic of immediacy. Through an engagement with their speculative acts, I evolve a variety of concepts—such as “immaterial child labor,” “bare liveness,” the “autistic counter-voice” and “medial surrender”—that map the coordinates of a minoritarian ethic of participatory documentary practice.

Condensed versions of two book chapters from Immediations have been published in the journals Camera Obscura and differences, as “Immaterial Child Labor: Media Advocacy, Autoethnography, and the case of Born Into Brothels,” Camera Obscura 25.3 75 (2011): 142-177, and “Humane-itarian Interventions.” differences 24.1 (2013): 104-136.