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Watson Authors Book on Radical Documentary and Global Crises

Ryan Watson, Ph.D.

Ryan Watson, Ph.D., associate professor of film and media studies at Misericordia University, authored the book, "Radical Documentary and Global Crises: Militant Evidence in the Digital Age," published by Indiana University Press. 

The 254-page book, released October 5, focuses on what Watson has named "militant evidence," when independent filmmakers, activists, and average citizens document the struggle for rights, representation, and revolution, they instrumentalize video images by advocating for a particular outcome. 

In "Radical Documentary and Global Crises," Watson focuses on instances of extreme conflict, such as the Iraq War, the occupation of Palestine, the war in Syria, mass incarceration in the U.S., and children of the Congo being forced into military service. Under these conditions, artists and activists aspire to document, archive, witness, and testify to the crimes being committed. 

The result is a set of practices that turn documentary media toward a commitment to feature and privilege the media made by the people living through the terror. This footage is then combined with new digitally archived images, stories, and testimonials to impact specific social and political situations.

"Radical Documentary and Global Crises" re-orients definitions of what a documentary is, how it functions, how it circulates, and how its effect is measured, arguing that militant evidence has the power to expose, to amass, and to adjudicate.

"Militant evidence is a direct reference to the Rodney King video captured with a camcorder back in 1991 and the idea of visible evidence that arose from that within documentary studies. Now there are cameras everywhere; an ordinary citizen can capture events simply using their cell phone. Despite this, people are still victims of state violence even though cameras are everywhere: from cell phones to police body cameras to security cameras to government satellites," said Dr. Watson. 

Dr. Watson goes on to explain, "militant evidence can be a tool for social justice and justice in general when used properly. The book draws on work in the fields of human rights, law, political and critical theory, and the long, international historical development of the radical documentary film. I hope the book opens up conversations about documentary images as forceful, evidence-based images that can counter state violence if used strategically."

A resident of Scranton, Dr. Watson joined the faculty of Misericordia University in 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., an M.A. in humanities from the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, and received his doctorate in film studies from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. 

"Radical Documentary and Global Crises" is available to order in paperback, hardcover and E-book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other outlets.