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Faculty Directory

Cinema Studies

Jonathan Kahana

Jonathan Kahana
Associate Professor

Phone: 212 998 1821

Office: 721 Broadway, Room 628


Intro to Cinema Studies, Adv. Sem. The Essay Film, International Documentary, Cultural Theory and the Documentary, Adv. Sem. Film Sound


B.A., B.F.A, York; M.A., U. of Minnesota; Ph.D., Rutgers.


Students in Cinema Studies will first encounter my teaching in the introductory course for majors, where they will get a sense of my commitment to the close “textual” analysis of film form. And even though I tend to teach against a connoisseurial attitude to film culture (though not necessarily against cinephilia), this course typically includes some of my favorite films: Depression-era musicals from Hollywood, silent comedies and melodramas, political satire from China, Africa, and the Middle East, experimental films by Morgan Fisher and Joyce Wieland, and documentaries shot by Michel Brault and Joan Churchill. Despite the title of the textbook we sometimes use in this course, my primary fascination as both casual viewer and scholar is not with film art per se, but with the social and political qualities of film and other types of talking picture.

These concerns constitute the core of my teaching at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels, and are the object of much of my research over the past several years. The published or forthcoming forms of this research include a book on the politics of American documentary, articles or chapters on Depression cinema and the welfare state, on radical documentary in the 1970s, and on contemporary avant-garde film and video, as well as an edited anthology on the international history of nonfiction film. My latest research focuses on two topics: the historical problem of re-enactment in documentary, docudrama, and art video; and the intersubjective experience of sound and listening in cinema and other public media. Along with my ongoing exploration of the essay film, these topics have in common an interest in the limits and boundaries of cinema and of the disciplines that study it. I currently teach undergraduate and graduate seminars in all of these areas, and I rarely teach the same syllabus twice.

Publications/Research Interests:
Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary (Columbia University Press, 2008); chapters in Contemporary American Cinema, eds. Michael Hammond and Linda Ruth Williams (McGraw-Hill/Open University, 2006) and The Dreams of Interpretation: A Century Down the Royal Road, eds. Catherine Liu, John Mowitt, Thomas Pepper, and Jakki Spicer (University of Minnesota Press, 2007); articles on documentary and avant-garde cinemas, televisual politics, American film culture, and the disciplines of war in Afterimage, Camera Obscura, Film Quarterly, Millennium Film Journal, Social Text, and Surfaces/Les Surfaces; liner notes for DVD of Underground, dir. Emile de Antonio (Image Entertainment, 2008).Recipient of grants and fellowships from: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2004-05); Pennsylvania Department of Education (2002); Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (1998-99); Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1995-96).

Areas of teaching and research interest include: documentary film and media; film and politics; the essay film; American film history; American popular and state modernism; cultural and social theory; media publics; audio culture and sound art; disciplines of listening.