Michel Foucault intended the method he called “genealogy” to challenge the linear and rationalizing impulses of historical design. Genealogy was meant to embrace the marginal, accidental, and failed as constitutive of what “was” and “is.” Perhaps it is fitting, then, that a genealogy would explore a subfield fairly obsessed with the value of what is lost, cut, missing, or strays from the path: that of media regulation.

The earliest studies of film censorship were exposés or how-to manuals, including Hollywood's Movie Commandments (1937), written by Hollywood self-regulator Joseph Breen's secretary, Olga Martin.1 First-generation academic studies of film regulation broadly accounted for censorship laws, providing telling examples of enforcement. Neville Hunnings's...

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