American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


(Re)Presentation: An Affective Exploration of Ethnographic Documentary Film Production

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Thomas Mascaro (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Marcus Sherrell (Committee Member)


This dissertation uses various theories of affect to re-interpret and re-present the idea of ethnographic documentary film production through the lens of cultural studies. I put forth a more experimental understanding of production that examines the ways in which self-other relations inform the producer of the film, the process of filmmaking, and the product that is the film. Using my own experience filming an ethnographic documentary in Haiti as a case study, I examine the construction of my perspective as a producer, significant moments and encounters that informed the process of making a documentary, and the feedback from a viewing of the documentary. I employ a combination of methods to narrate the conjuncture of documentary film production, using a retrospective analysis of personal narrative as well as elements of autoethnography to construct a critically reflexive analysis of this case. Through this analysis, I connect significant moments that make up the conjuncture of documentary film production and put them in conversation with my own subjectivity through the language of affect theory.

This study incorporates my identities as a therapist, an educator, a nonprofit executive, a documentary filmmaker, and a scholar. In thinking deeply about my production process through this dissertation, I was able to identify ways in which I could make a better, more ethical documentary in the future. Ultimately, I conclude that an affective understanding of ethnographic documentary filmmaking can help producers--especially amateur ones--become more ethically accountable for the material consequences of encounters with the other that filmmaking facilitates for both those filming and those being filmed.