Stephen Charbonneau

Stephen Charbonneau


Phone: (561) 297-3856

Pronouns: He/Him

Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies, University of California, LA
M.A. in Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick
B.A. in Cinema Studies and Politics, New York University

Areas of Expertise
Documentary Studies, Nontheatrical Film, Media Activism, Participatory Media and Co-Creation, New Media, and Canadian Studies.

Charbonneau's research specialization is the history and theory of documentary media, which has been the focus of his upper-division offerings (cross listed with our degree program in Multimedia Journalism).

He is interested in a wide range of postwar documentary media practices approached through the lenses of participation, collaboration, everyday life, and social change.

Charbonneau's first book, Projecting Race: Postwar America, Civil Rights, and Documentary Film (Wallflower/Columbia University Press, 2016) , teased the interests mentioned earliers, out of a historical and critical inquiry into race-based, nontheatrical and anthropological filmmaking in the postwar era, from the late forties to the late sixties. The research for this book was supported by external funding from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, International Council for Canadian Studies, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship. This support also enabled him to pursue the necessary research at six different archives in both the United States and Canada as well as conduct oral history interviews with filmmakers such as Colin Low. His research for this book contributed to the preservation of more than thirty films and related documents at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Chicano Studies Research Center. 

Charbonneau's second book, InsUrgent Media: A Media Activism Reader (Indiana University Press, 2020) , is an anthology he co-edited with Chris Robé, a leading scholar of radical media. InsUrgent Media aims to elevate considerations of activist media within film and media studies as well as offer a model of critical engagement that endorses a humanistic lens that nevertheless elevates the ties that bind theory, practice, and history. The book is specifically organized around three sections on understudied radical media histories, Indigenous media practices, as well as communitarian and grassroots media in the Americas and Asia. Contributors include Angela Aguayo, Tanya Goldman, Dorothy Kidd, John Downing, Alexandra Juhasz, and Sam Feder (director of Netflix’s documentary on transgender representation, Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, 2020). 

Since the publication of InsUrgent Media, he has continued to publish on participatory filmmaking and social change. This includes a co-edited issue of Screening the Past (no. 45, 2020, with Lawrence Webb and Joshua Gleich) on Haskell Wexler’s classic film, Medium Cool (1969). My work on this issue included writing the introduction (“The Afterlives of Medium Cool”) as well as an article (“We Have a Visitor: Boundary-Crossings and White Allyship in Haskell Wexler’s The Bus and Medium Cool”). The issue was later featured on the Criterion Collection’s Daily Blog (1/8/21), “New Issues for a New Year” ( 

Charbonneau has also cultivated an undergraduate research cluster in digital documentary practices over the last four years based around a special topics course offering in the area. Several students have pursued critical practices afterwards in the form of independent studies and undergraduate research projects, such as the generation of a podcast ( “Tea and Robots” ) that highlights the work of FAU’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Lab as well as the production of an undergraduate research thesis on autobiographical gaming, “ Autobiographical Video Games: Essayistic, Independent, and Empathetic” (which won third place at our university’s 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium).

Teaching and advising these students on digital documentary projects opened new research trajectories for Charbonneau, such as his contribution to Thomas Waugh and Brandon Arroyo’s recent collection, I Confess: Constructing the Sexual Self in the Internet Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019), entitled, “ Playing Confession: Gaming, Autobiography, and the Elusive Self. ” This essay sustains Charbonneau's earlier queries into troubled modes of participation by showcasing the playful, radical, and elusive ways that interactivity is at varying points secured, withheld, and even mocked in a pair of “indie” video games, Anna Anthropy’s dys4ia (2012) and Sam Barlow’s Her Story (2015). 

These curricular and research investments into the “digital turn” in documentary media are shaping his current research projects, which include a book chapter on the use of evidentiary video during the second impeachment of Donald Trump (“ False Specters of the Political: Revisitation, Digital Documentary Vernacular, and Post-Political Governance ”) and a commissioned study of historic newsfilm covering the civil rights movement in South Florida for the Journal of e-Media Studies (“ Insurgent Leisure, Aquatic Angst: Newsfilm, Civil Rights and the Coastal Imaginary” ).

This newsfilm footage has been recently digitized by the Miami-based Wolfson Archives (or the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives) and Charbonneau is taking this opportunity to not only discuss the Civil Rights-related content in this archive, but to also ask important metahistorical questions about the gaps in the archive itself and the way that these and other inequities are both entrenched and foregrounded by archival digitization, continually pushing representations of communities of color into the background. The historiographic questions raised by this project will be further explored in my current book project, Archival Tides: Civil Rights, Digital Newsfilm, and Fugitive Imaginaries.

Recent Publications

  • Books
    InsUrgent Media from the Front: A Media Activism Reader (co-edited with Chris Robé). Indiana University Press, 2020.

    Projecting Race: Postwar America, Civil Rights, and Documentary Film. Wallflower Press/Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • Edited Journal
    Co-Editor with Lawrence Webb and Joshua Gleich, Dossier on Medium Cool, Screening the Past, no. 45 (2020). * Featured in the Criterion Collection’s Daily Blog (1/8/21), “New Issues for a New Year”:
  • Journal Articles/Book Chapters
    “Searching for a Digital Documentary Vernacular: Floridian Lives, Possibility Spaces, and the Labless Lab,” Teaching and Learning Documentary Cinema for the 21st Century. CILECT 21st Century Books Project. Forthcoming.

    “Insurgent Leisure, Aquatic Angst: Newsfilm, Civil Rights and the Coastal Imaginary,” Journal of e-Media Studies. Invited Contribution (2022).

    “Fifty Years Later: The Afterlives of Medium Cool (1969).” Screening the Past, no. 45 (2020).

    “We Have a Visitor: Boundary-Crossings and White Allyship in Haskell Wexler’s The Bus (1963) and Medium Cool (1969).” Screening the Past, no. 45 (2020).


FIL 3803: Film Theory
FIL 6807: Film Theory and Criticism
Film Appreciation
Traditions of Documentary Film Digital Documentary

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