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Performing Arts Documentary

Reclaiming Popular Documentary

by (author) Christie Milliken & Steve F. Anderson

contributions by Ezra Winton, Patricia Aufderheide, Zoë Druick, Devon Coutts, Sabiha Ahmad Khan, Anthony Kinik, Michael Brendan Baker, Allison de Fren, Jonathan Kahana, Shilyh Warren, S. Topiary Landberg, Landon Palmer, Dylan Nelson, Alexandra Juhasz, Rick Prelinger & George S. Larke-Walsh

Indiana University Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2021
Documentary, Media Studies, Popular Culture
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2021
    List Price

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The documentary has achieved rising popularity over the past two decades thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Despite this, documentary studies still tends to favor works that appeal primarily to specialists and scholars.

Reclaiming Popular Documentary reverses this long-standing tendency by showing that documentaries can be—and are—made for mainstream or commercial audiences. Editors Christie Milliken and Steve Anderson, who consider popular documentary to be a subfield of documentary studies, embrace an expanded definition of popular to acknowledge the many evolving forms of documentary, such as branded entertainment, fictional hybrids, and works with audience participation. Together, these essays address emerging documentary forms—including web-docs, virtual reality, immersive journalism, viral media, interactive docs, and video-on-demand—and offer the critical tools viewers need to analyze contemporary documentaries and consider how they are persuaded by and represented in documentary media.

By combining perspectives of scholars and makers, Reclaiming Popular Documentary brings new understandings and international perspectives to familiar texts using critical models that will engage media scholars and fans alike.

About the authors

Christie Milliken's profile page

Steve F. Anderson's profile page

Ezra Winton is Assistant Professor, Communication Studies (Precarious/Visiting) at Concordia University. His writing, teaching, research and curatorial practice engage in representational politics, screen ethics and media curation/circulation. He is currently finishing his monograph on Hot Docs, Buying in to Doing Good (MQUP).

Ezra Winton's profile page

Patricia Aufderheide's profile page


Zo? Druick teaches media studies, popular culture, and cultural theory in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. Her publications include Projecting Canada: Government Policy and Documentary Film at the National Film Board (2007) and articles on documentary and educational film and cultural policy in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Canadian Journal of Communication, and Topia.

Aspa Kotsopoulos is Senior Policy Analyst, Television Policy and Applications, Broadcasting, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). She has taught at Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Victoria. She has published a number of articles on television and film in a variety of journals and essay collections.


Zoë Druick's profile page

Devon Coutts' profile page

Sabiha Ahmad Khan's profile page

Anthony Kinik's profile page

Michael Brendan Baker's profile page

Allison de Fren's profile page

Jonathan Kahana's profile page

Shilyh Warren's profile page

S. Topiary Landberg's profile page

Landon Palmer's profile page

Dylan Nelson's profile page

Alexandra Juhasz's profile page

Rick Prelinger's profile page

George S. Larke-Walsh's profile page


  • Winner, Ray and Pat Browne Culture Award - Bests Critically Edited Volume
  • Winner, Best Edited Collection in Popular and American Culture

Editorial Reviews

More and more often I encounter first-year students who arrive at college and tell me right away that they love documentaries—thanks, I believe, to the rising popularity of the form on streaming sites like Netflix. . . . They and many, many viewers are consuming just the kinds of popular documentary texts that this collection addresses.

Jennifer Malkowski, author of Dying in Full Detail: Morality and Digital Documentary

Anderson and Milliken's book is no less than a groundbreaking study. Its exclusive focus on popular documentaries digs an alternative route next to the lane of popular fiction.

Ohad Landesman, Tel Aviv University

Milliken and Anderson's excellent volume on "popular" documentary is both a long time coming and absolutely rooted in this moment in the history of documentary media.  The volume fills an almost shocking gap in scholarly writing on popular documentary—especially given the value documentary studies places on its connection with the political—and it does so as the stakes of shared knowledge of the world have never been higher.  Together, the chapters in this volume compellingly explore a range of documentary media forms while always interrogating what the "popular" actually entails.

Josh Malitsky, author of A Companion to Documentary Film History

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