Chavez Behind the Camera

New Media and American LiteratureA guest post by Emily Dings, Managing Editor of American Literature.

As a new biopic about Cesar Chavez arrives in theaters just in time for Cesar Chavez Day, a collaboration between American Literature and Scalar (a multimedia authoring and publishing web platform developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture) draws our attention to Chavez’s own interest in film as a revolutionary technology for farm-worker activism. Curtis Marez’s Scalar project “Cesar Chavez’s Video Collection” is part of American Literature’s special issue on New Media and American Literature (December 2013, 85:4). Comprising a traditional print volume and four open-access digital projects, the issue is the first collaboration of its kind for the journal.

Read an excerpt:

The fact that technology has been both an object and means of farm-worker media making has encouraged self-reflexive strategic efforts to transform postwar visual culture. Farm-worker unions did not simply change what audiences saw, but instead attempted to alter how they saw agribusiness, intervening in the hierarchical relations of looking that structured the agribusiness-dominated mediascape, and instead promoting new kinds of activist spectatorship among farm workers and their supporters. This project thus focuses on struggles over technology in general and visual technologies in particular, including moving picture cameras, video cameras and players, and computer screens. 

 “Cesar Chavez’s Video Collection” is an offshoot of Marez’s book Speculative Technologies: Migrant Workers and the Hidden History of New Media (forthcoming, Duke University Press), and is available on the Scalar platform here.

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