Accepted Paper:

Critical Pedagogy and Nonfiction Worldbuilding in Documentary Media Poetics  
Eric Coombs Esmail (University of Colorado Boulder)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from experiences teaching and learning documentary media, I explore the documentary impulse as a poetic imperative and a site for critical pedagogy. Beyond mere commentary on actuality, I argue that documentary poetics is an ethical praxis directly constitutive of the world itself.

Paper long abstract:

Documentary Media Poetics forms at the intersection of art, social sciences, and pedagogy. Conceived as a course by Daniel Boord in Film Studies, it is now the cornerstone of the documentary concentration in Critical Media Practices at the University of Colorado Boulder. Documentary media frequently fill gaps in curricula, but they are primarily used as reportage or evidence rather than arts practices with constitutive power. Explicitly pedagogical, Documentary Media Poetics combines theoretical and historical inquiry with production, framed by key concepts in documentary poetry, media of truth, technologies of representation, and ethics.

Throughout the course, these mutually reinforcing modes of thinking unfold across complex ideas to reveal the poetic imperative in the documentary impulse as a creative navigation of values, and of what Paolo Freire termed praxis and the production of conscientizaĆ§Ć£o. To this end, documentary media are not used as supplements to the material, but as responsive actions that are constiutive of the material itself. This in turn allows us to use documentary media as tools for acting upon structures that produce our realities, for challenging them, and for making new formations. Documentary Media Poetics become more than journalistic commentary or historical record; they build the world.

As a student of Boord and having taken this class as an undergraduate, I now teach it myself. I offer my experiences of learning and teaching Documentary Media Poetics as a case study for the constitutive power of nonfiction arts practices, for awakening our critical consciousness, and for building a better world.

Panel P24
Encountering reality as crisis: documentary, ethnographic media and education
  Session 1