LIBERAL MEDIA IN THE LONG AMERICAN CENTURY
Dr. Lee Grieveson
I am interested in this paper in exploring how a focus on “non-theatrical” films sponsored, produced, and distributed by corporations and states can help us examine the way film played a role in the establishment and sustenance of a transnational liberal political economy that was established in the early years of the twentieth century and entrenched by mid-century. One quick example of this: in the early 1920s, the Bureau of Public Roads within the Department of Agriculture of the U.S. government sponsored a series of films exploring the possibility of a Pan-American highway that would facilitate economic relations between the U.S. and Central and South America. Such a focus can suggest new strategies for the discipline. Certainly that is partly about the need for interdisciplinary histories. It also though prompts some reflections on the purposes of scholarly work on film and/as mass media. I argue that the history of this expansive non-theatrical cinema needs to be stitched back in to political and economic histories, and that doing so will better enable us to see how film became important to the practices of “propaganda” and “public relations” that helped shape the political and economic landscape of the modern world. I draw my examples principally from films produced by the British and American states and American corporations in the interwar years.
Dr. Lee Grieveson is Reader in Film Studies and Director of the Graduate Programme in Film Studies at UCL. He is the author also of Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early Twentieth Century America (University of California Press, 2004), and co-editor of several volumes, including most recently Inventing Film Studies (Duke University Press, 2008, with Haidee Wasson), Empire and Film (British Film Institute, 2011) and Film and the End of Empire (British Film Institute, 2011, both with Colin MacCabe).