“On Not Narrating the History of Feminism and Film” poses two questions: What happened to women in the early silent film industries, and why don't we know about them? While the author and others have addressed the first question elsewhere at recent international conferences and in publication, the second remains largely unanswered and is taken up here. It is specific to the field of feminism and film and media studies, where in the 1970s moment of feminist film theory, the powerful paradigm of “no women” or woman as “absent” could be taken as either theoretical or empirical. The question arises as to how to write a narrative account given earlier prohibitions against narrative and empirical work, even when that very kind of work has discovered evidence of women working in significant roles in early film industries worldwide.
On Not Narrating the History of Feminism and Film
Jane M. Gaines is a professor of film at Columbia University and the author of two award-winning books, Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law (University of North Carolina Press, 1991) and Fire and Desire: Mixed-Race Movies in the Silent Era (University of Chicago Press, 2001). For the forthcoming Pink-Slipped: What Happened to the Women in the Silent Motion Picture Industries? she was awarded a Film Scholars Grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Gaines has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the National Humanities Center. She continues to write on the history of intellectual property (with implications for contemporary piracies), documentary theory, and costume and the body, and recently has taken up a critique of the “historical turn” in the field. Columbia University Libraries recently published the international collaborative online Women Film Pioneers Project (wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu), an innovation of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. With Francesco Casetti, Gaines is co-chair of the Permanent Seminar on the Histories of Film Theories.
Jane M. Gaines; On Not Narrating the History of Feminism and Film. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2016; 2 (2): 6–31. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.2.6
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