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Documentary Studies Scholarly Interest Group (Founded 2011)
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Mission Statement: SCMS Documentary Studies Interest Group

Developments in media studies over the last twenty years have demonstrated a dramatic increase in attention paid to documentary issues (historical, theoretical, and/or aesthetic). Such a critical mass has been energized by trends within academia (publications and conferences) as well as without (by virtue of the incorporation of documentary into countless festival programs, its heightened visibility on television, as well as the frequency with which nonfiction films gain access to movie theaters). As evidenced by the growing number of panels addressing documentary issues at the annual SCMS conference, documentary studies has developed into an increasingly vital arena of academic inquiry, one that is both trans-disciplinary and transnational in character.

In short, the establishment of a Documentary Studies Interest Group within the Society for Cinema and Media Studies is an inductive response to the proliferation of panels and workshops addressing documentary issues in the context of film and media studies.

Broad theoretical and practical concerns with the registration of reality in the moving image have been a staple of film studies and often – whether explicitly or implicitly – dovetail with documentary concerns. Furthermore, concerns with the "document” and questions of the real have also been central to the fields of television studies and digital media. Considering both the increase of interest among SCMS membership as well as the ease with which documentary can be situated within media studies more broadly, the time is ripe for the establishment of a documentary studies interest group within SCMS. Such a move would both formalize and legitimize documentary issues within media studies more broadly and serve as a site for SCMS members to mobilize around common interests.

Specifically, the primary mission of the documentary studies interest group centers on two initiatives:

1) To provide a forum within SCMS in which documentary scholars can share their research (ideas and materials) and organize panels/workshops for the annual conference;

2) To schedule a yearly meeting at the SCMS conference where we can gather to formulate more specific programs and plans.

SCMS Documentary Studies Interest Group – Goals and Objectives

1) To work with the Executive Committee and each year’s Conference Program Committee as a source of documentary-related expertise;

2) To support Cinema Journal and other publications and to encourage their inclusion of documentary-related scholarship;

3) To work in concert with other SCMS groups, such as the various caucuses and interest groups, and to bring a documentary-specific orientation to such ongoing SCMS issues as preservation of and access to archival materials, particularly in light of the need to explore more thoroughly overlooked ephemeral and orphan films;

4) To take on special projects, such as specially-designated panels, joint conferences, plenary participation, or workshops;

5) To set up a documentary studies website, which can eventually serve as a resource for documentary scholars;

6) To encourage international membership and participation in SCMS for documentary scholars in other countries;

7) To address and consider persistent ethical problems relating to the representation of reality, from the vantage points of both scholars and producers;

8) To explore the definition of documentary studies itself as a field, including the relationship of documentary to an array of new media technologies; the interconnections between documentary and experimental media as well as other hybrid media forms;

9) To acknowledge and support the important work that is being done in documentary studies; to work towards establishing relationships with media industry personnel, critics and reviewers, and policy groups; to work with and address the concerns of documentary filmmakers.


BY-LAWS - DRAFT January 20, 2011

  1. All members of the Documentary Studies Interest Group (DSIG) must be members in good standing of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS).

  2. Official business meetings will be held once a year during and at the location of that year’s SCMS conference.

  3. Two members of the DSIG will serve as co-chairs for four year terms.
    2a. The co-chairs will be elected at the first official meeting of the DSIG, either at the 2012 SCMS conference in Boston or at the 2013 SCMS conference in Chicago.
    2b. It is the responsibility of the co-chairs to create and maintain as necessary a listserv or mailing list to facilitate communication between and among DSIG membership.
    2c. Each year the co-chairs will have the responsibility to request from the Program Committee an official meeting space and meeting time at the annual SCMS conference for the DSIG to meet.
    2d. The co-chairs will also have the responsibility to request appropriate funds to support DSIG programming at the conference.
    2e. Annual official business meetings of the DSIG will be moderated by the co-chairs on a rotating basis (i.e., Chairperson 1 at the DSIG’s first annual meeting, Chairperson 2 at the second annual meeting, Chairperson 1 at the third annual meeting).
    2f. At every fourth annual business meeting, two new co-chairs will be elected and serve out terms as described in 2a-2d.

  4. For the purposes of conducting business at annual meetings, a quorum shall exist when fifty percent of the membership attending that year’s SCMS conference is in attendance at the announced DSIG meeting.

  5. Any member of the DSIG may make a proposal regarding the DSIG or its activities.
    5a. Members must forward to the co-chairs all proposals prior to placing the proposal before the DSIG membership. It is the responsibility and duty of the co-chairs to then forward all proposals to membership. However, no approval by either or both co-chairs is required for proposals to be advanced to membership.
    5b. Proposals addressing programming during annual conferences, DSIG social events or functions may be advanced and voted on via e-mail. When forwarded to the membership, proposals should specify the time period—agreed upon by the co-chairs and proposing member(s)—in which members should register their votes.
    5c. Votes on proposals described in 5b are valid when at least fifty percent of the membership has voted within the time period specified in the proposal. A simple majority is all that is needed for the proposal to pass.
    5d. Proposals altering these by-laws, including deletions, additions or amendments, may also be advanced and voted on via e-mail. The time period for voting on these proposals is not to be less than three weeks.
    5e. Votes on proposals described in 5d are valid when at least seventy five percent of the membership has voted within the time period specified in the proposal. Proposals described in 5d require a two thirds majority to pass.
    5f. Within the voting time period specified in each proposal, members may debate the merits of any proposal as much as they like.
    5g. Members may vote only once on any proposal. Members are thus encouraged to carefully consider any and all arguments regarding a proposal before voting.
    5h. Co-chairs may vote and offer debate on any and all proposals. However, their arguments and votes will not carry any greater weight than any other member’s arguments and votes.

View members' group page/Join Now >

CONTACT: (current as of 11/6/19)

Laurel Ahnert

Linnea Hussein

Allison Ross (Graduate Student Representative)

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Society for Cinema and Media Studies
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