Monthly Archives: April 2013

BFC/A’s Jordache Ellapen Receives SSRC Fellowship

The Black Film Center/Archive congratulates our Research Assistant Jordache Ellapen, a Ph.D. student in the Department of American Studies at Indiana University, on his receipt of a Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) through the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

The Social Science Research Council is an independent non-profit international organization that works with practitioners, policymakers, scholars, and researchers in the fields of conflict and peace building, development and social change, the public sphere, knowledge and learning, and strengthening global social science. To foster innovative and original research, each year the SSRC offers 12 DPDF Fellowships to doctoral students constructing compelling research proposals in five fields.  As Jordache explained: “The description of the particular field, Postcolonial identities and Decolonial Struggles: Creolization and Colored Cosmopolitanism, is what appealed to me. Although my research is more broadly cultural studies-based, the questions I seek to explore through this research fit within this field description.”


Research Assistant Jordache Ellapen at the Black Film Center/Archive, April 2013.

Postcolonial identities and Decolonial Struggles: Creolization and Colored Cosmopolitanism seeks to investigate the development of cross-racial identities and cross-cultural national linkages between twentieth century struggles against domination. Drawing on a range of disciplines from Sociology and Geography to Ethnomusicology and Philosophy, the field hopes to examine how the movements and settlement of people, concepts, and ideas reveal the persistent reconfiguration of socio-cultural identities and borders.  Jordache hopes in particular to “push the boundaries of identity politics in the post-apartheid context, by provocatively troubling the category black, asking us to rethink blackness within the South African context, and thinking what implications this may have for blackness on a more global level.”  His research focuses on “race and critical race theory in the postcolony beyond the black/white binary” and will include the creation of “an archive that promises to be rich with material, and exciting to audiences across disciplines,” comprised of “visual cultural objects that range from short and feature-length films, photography, election campaign posters and fine art exhibitions.”

The funding provided by the DPDF Fellowship will allow Jordache to more fully explore these critical and thought-provoking research questions by attending two SSRC workshops and conducting individual exploratory research.  Over the summer, Jordache will travel to South Africa where he will be engaged in various research activities. “There are two archives that I will visit; The Cullen Library at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Center at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in Durban. I will also interview some South African artists of Indian origin [and] conduct some ethnographic research by observing and taking note of certain predominantly Indian areas in Johannesburg and Tongaat.” The Spring and Fall workshops (May 28-June 2 in Coventry, England/September 18-22 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) will be led by Gurminder Bhambra, Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick and Nico Slate, Assistant History Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. While both workshops will help Jordache refine his research questions and expose his own work to a larger body of research literature, the Fall workshop will also draw on Jordache’s forthcoming summer experiences to enhance his research proposal.

~Ardea Smith

BFC/A Awarded 2013 NEH Grant

The Black Film Center/Archive has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities 2013 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to support the program, “Representing Early Black Film Artifacts as Material Evidence in Digital Contexts.”

In November 2013, project director Brian Graney and lead scholar Michael T. Martin will convene an interdisciplinary group of scholars, moving image archivists, and library professionals for a two-day conference and workshop to discuss the new methodologies and questions emerging through recent scholarship in early black-audience film studies and their broader application to other marginalized media cultures with rich histories of material practice. 

Of the hundreds of black-audience films produced since 1905—most notably by Oscar Micheaux—only a small percentage of original film prints are known to exist.  Those that survive are found in fragmentary form or in markedly different versions.  In a 2011 article in Film History, Jacqueline Stewart proposed a challenging new avenue for this area of study by identifying unmined evidentiary value in what “we can learn from the singularity of each print…and what any existing print might teach us about the circulation, exhibition, and content of movies in this under-documented film culture.  Indeed, when we think of each print as a unique artifact, we are encouraged to reconsider what we think of as a film’s ‘content.’”

This letter from a distributor in the field indicates some of physical modifications a Race Film print might endure over the course of a run.  From the Richard E. Norman Collection, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University.

This letter from a distributor in the field indicates some of the modifications a print might endure over the course of a run. From the Richard E. Norman Collection, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University.

Reconsidering how we define the content of a film print to encompass all of its physical characteristics, markings, and structures as a material artifact introduces important questions bearing on how film is represented as a digital object: How can we amend current best practices for digitization of motion picture film which by design omit or obscure physical attributes of the original artifact? What tools might be turned to unconventional uses in representing film artifacts digitally for close examination and study? And how might this representation of film as object offer a conceptual bridge for integrating audiovisual media within a wider network of related visual and textual documentation?


Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, is scheduled to present the keynote address. Other invited conference participants include:

·         Matthew Bernstein (Emory University)

·         Allyson Field (UCLA)

·         Terri Francis (Yale University)

·         Jan-Christopher Horak (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

·         Leah Kerr (Independent archivist)

·         Barbara Tepa Lupack (Independent scholar)

·         Mike Mashon (Library of Congress, Moving Image Section)

·         Charlene Regester (UNC – Chapel Hill)

·         Jacqueline Stewart (Northwestern University)

·         Dana White (Emory University)

 Indiana University faculty and staff contributing to the conference and workshop program include:

 ·        Cara Caddoo (American Studies)

·         William Cowan (IU Libraries Software Development)

·         Barbara Klinger (Communication & Culture)

·         Rachael Stoeltje (IU Libraries Film Archive)

·         Gregory Waller (Communication & Culture)

·         John A. Walsh (Library and Information Science)

 The conference and keynote presentation will be held on Friday, November 15, at the Indiana University Cinema; the workshop will be held on Saturday, November 16, at the Black Film Center/Archive.  For more information, contact Brian Graney at or 812-855-6041.


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National Endowment for the Humanities Support

The Regeneration Conference has been made possible in part by a major  grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.