Modern Culture and Media, Brown University (2012), Ph.D.
Modern Culture and Media, Brown University (2008), M.A.
Oberlin College (2006), B.A.
My research begins with documentary, but opens onto larger questions regarding power, difference, and the human.
I am the author of Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary (Duke University Press, 2017). This book uses participatory documentary to tease out the implications of documentary’s founding humanitarian ethic: giving a voice to the voiceless. I focus on contemporary instances in which documentary serves as a humanizing prosthesis for marginalized subjects, from slum children in India to Katrina survivors, autistic individuals, and even animals. The book asks how fantasies of humanity and alterity fuel the humanitarian impulse in documentary, and particularly its investments in the rhetoric of immediacy.
I have also written about topics such as racism and postcoloniality, immaterial child labor, animal art, seriousness in documentary, and Indian cinema in a number of journals, books, and anthologies such as Camera Obscura, differences, World Picture, and Film Quarterly. A selected list of my publications appears below, and a full list can be seen on my website.
My current research focuses on the accented voice, examining the relationship between listening, the audible evidence of difference, and documentary’s vocal conventions. Publications related to this project include "The Skin of the Voice: Acousmatic Illusions, Ventriloquial Listening" (forthcoming in the anthology Sound Objects co-edited by Rey Chow and James Steintrager), and my introduction to a forthcoming special issue of the journal Discourse on "Documentary Audibilities" that I co-edited with Genevieve Yue.
My teaching spans the areas of media studies and critical theory, with a special focus on documentary and discourses of otherness, such as childhood, ethnicity, animality, and disability. My classes are often organized around a central question or contradiction, such as: “Why does documentary take itself so seriously?” or “Do children need our protection, or do we need protection from children?” I often find that provocations such as these open up revealing insights regarding contemporary media forms and the flows of power in our postmodern climate.
At Amherst College, I regularly teach seminar classes on “The Documentary Impulse,” The Confession: Theory and Practice” and “Having a Voice: Theories of Voice and Documentary.” I will also be regularly offering “Foundations and Integrations in Film and Media Studies” (a co-taught course emphasizing the integration of critical and creative practices) and “Coming to Terms: Media” (a course introducing critical keywords and frameworks for the study of media). Before coming to Amherst, I taught at the New School in New York, where, in addition to courses on confessional media and documentary, I developed classes on topics such as humanitarian intervention, ethnographic film, and the sexuality of children. I expect to offer versions of these classes at Amherst, as well as additional courses on race, media, and sound in the coming years!
In Fall 2018 I will be teaching “The Documentary Impulse” and a First Year Seminar called “The Queerness of Children.” In Spring 2019 I will be teaching "Foundations and Integrations in Film and Media Studies” with Prof. Adam Levine and an upper level Seminar on "Foucault and Media."
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“Audibilities: Voice and Listening in the Penumbra of Documentary: An Introduction,” Discourse 39, no. 3, Special Issue on Documentary Audibilities, edited by Pooja Rangan and Genevieve Yue (Fall 2017): 279-291.
More information, including further publications, honors, forthcoming talks, and curriculum vitae, is available at poojarangan.com.