Documentary Studies Grants Awarded to Faculty for Research and Course Development

Headshots of Duke faculty grant recipients.
Top row: Trina Jones, Geovanny Martinez, Jenny Lion, Christopher Ouma, Khwezi Mkhize; middle row: Adam Rosenblatt, Raquel Salvatella de Prada, Martin Smith, Javier Wallace: bottom row: Augustus Wendell, Victoria Szabo, Joshua Gibson, Jingqiu Guan

A growing number of Duke faculty are engaging with documentary studies, broadly conceived. To support the expansion of scholarly and artistic communities across campus, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) invited grant applications from faculty to 1) seed new research undertakings and 2) develop new or redesigned undergraduate courses.

The selected proposals will enable CDS to incorporate new approaches and perspectives into its scholarly activities and enrich the offerings available to undergraduates. All recipients will participate in a workshop during the 2024-25 academic year and produce a report on their use of funds and supported activities.

2024-25 Research Seed Grants in Documentary Studies

Awards of up to $10,000 will be deposited in faculty discretionary accounts for use toward travel, equipment and/or student research assistance.

Trina Jones, Jerome M. Culp Distinguished Professor of Law, and Geovanny Martinez, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke Law School

Oral History Project, Center On Law, Race & Policy

Jerome M. Culp, Jr. became the first tenured professor of color at Duke Law in 1989. He was a prolific scholar, internationally known for his work on race and the law. In his honor, the Center on Law, Race & Policy (CLRP) plans to establish and annually host the Jerome M. Culp, Jr. Critical Theory Lecture. CLRP will conduct an oral history project documenting Professor Culp’s life, work, impact and legacy.

Jenny Lion, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Experimental Documentary Video

This project is one of a series of video installation and cinematic works that explore landscape and sustained observation at sites of historical resonance.

Christopher Ouma, Associate Professor of English, and Khwezi Mkhize, Assistant Professor of African & African American Studies

Black Archival Imagination: The Hugh Exton Photographic Museum

This project seeks to retrieve, document and examine an archive of photographs in Polokwane, South Africa. Not yet made available to the broader public, the Hugh Exton Photographic Museum contains around 23,000 glass and plastic negatives of photographs documenting social life in Polokwane between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries. This project aims to work with the archive to create conditions for digitalization, documentary purposes, and an exhibition and book.

Adam Rosenblatt, Associate Professor of the Practice in International Comparative Studies and Cultural Anthropology

Graphic Ethnography and Mass Graves in Northern Uganda

Rosenblatt will join a team of cultural and forensic anthropologists in a decade-plus investigation into how communities in northern Uganda are still impacted by mass graves and missing persons after decades-long conflict in the region. Through ethnographic drawings and comics, he will share the team’s findings with rural communities where literacy is limited and create intimate representations of the research process. In demonstrating the combination of scholarly research with graphic narrative methods, this project models future programming for faculty and students at Duke in graphic ethnography, graphic medicine and comics-based research.

Raquel Salvatella de Prada, Associate Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

BIOTA: Past, Present and Future

This project explores the impacts of climate change, human activity and invasive species on global ecosystems. Now expanded to cover North Carolina and other locations, the project investigates threats facing species like the red wolf, the Carolina northern flying squirrel or the red-cockaded woodpecker. Featuring mixed media prints and augmented reality, the exhibit will educate viewers about various threats while inspiring hope and guiding them to making a positive impact.

Martin Smith, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Education, and Javier Wallace, Postdoctoral Associate, African & African American Studies

Documentary on C.B. Claiborne

This film explores the role of sports at Duke through the story of Claudius (C.B.) Claiborne, the university’s first Black student-athlete. It delves into the transformation of Duke Men’s Basketball, once racially segregated, and highlights Claiborne’s activism during the U.S. civil rights movement and Black power era, including his participation in the Allen Building takeover and his stance against hair regulations, contrasting it with players’ experiences today.

Augustus Wendell, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, and Victoria Szabo, Research Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Documenting Racialized Infrastructure in Durham, NC

Highway infrastructure projects dominated U.S. urban centers in the mid-20th century. The decisions surrounding route planning and the associated land clearance largely targeted communities of color. Durham’s thriving Hayti district was subject to this treatment in the late 1950s and 1960s. This project seeks to gather oral histories from aging members of the Hayti community who lived through that time. These witness memories will be cataloged and made available to through a searchable web-based interface.

2024-25 Course Development Grants in Documentary Studies

Awards of $5,000 (for individuals) or $7,500 (for pairs) will be deposited in faculty discretionary accounts; funds may be deployed toward summer salary. In addition, up to $2,500 is available to pay graduate students for related course development and planning work.

Joshua Gibson, Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

The Nature Film: History and Practice

This new course will create an interdisciplinary cross-pollination between Duke students in the sciences and the arts by tracing the genealogy of the nature film from scientific “animal locomotion studies” of the 19th century to the proliferation of viewing options today. Through hands-on exercises, readings and production assignments, students will also explore the established narrative conventions and cinematographic techniques that have been employed in these films that make the nature film more a form of entertainment, than a realistic representation of the natural world itself.

Jingqiu Guan, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Dance

Dance Film: Documentary Aesthetics in Dance-Moving Image Practice

This new course combines theoretical inquiries with production experiences to explore the intersection of documentary aesthetics and dance filmmaking. Students will be introduced to a range of documentary practices and their histories and theories. Through hands-on exercises, students will experiment with various ways of incorporating documentary elements into their movement-centered experimental films. The course highlights the interdisciplinary aspect of dance and media production and explores how this creative practice can effectively engage with social issues and cultural memories.

Jenny Lion, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Representing the Real: Documentary and Other Fictions

This new course explores experimental approaches to representing “the real.” The dilemmas, contradictions and imaginative possibilities of documentary practices are a starting point for an examination of historic film/video works that use formally inventive strategies to rethink, represent, interrogate or affect reality. Students will engage in conceptually-focused video production processes exploring how images may or may not act as evidence, the complex power relations between maker, subject and viewer, and flow between ethnographic practices and forms of colonialism. Students may engage in collaborative and individual practice-based research through film, video, sound and/or photography.