Independent Publishers Group Logo

Sign up today...
for featured pop culture and science reads, books for kids and teens,special offers, bestsellers, and more, in your inbox!

Select topics of interest:
Breaking the Spell
Breaking the Spell

Breaking the Spell

A History of Anarchist Filmmakers, Videotape Guerrillas, and Digital Ninjas


480 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper, PDF, EPUB, Mobipocket

Trade Paper, $26.95 (US $26.95) (CA $31.95)

Publication Date: May 2017

ISBN 9781629632339

Rights: WOR X UK & EUR

PM Press (May 2017)


eBook Editions Available

Will it work on my eReader?
Price: $26.95


Breaking the Spell offers the first full-length study that charts the historical trajectory of anarchist-inflected video activism from the late 1960s to the present. Video plays an increasingly important role among activists in the growing global resistance against neoliberal capitalism. As a result, alternative media production becomes a central location where new collective forms of subjectivity can be created to challenge aspects of neoliberalism. Chris Robé's book fills in historical gaps by bringing to light unexplored video activist groups like the Cascadia Forest Defenders, eco-video activists from Eugene, Oregon; Mobile Voices, Latino day laborers harnessing cell phone technology to combat racism and police harassment in Los Angeles; and Outta Your Backpack Media, indigenous youth from the Southwest who use video to celebrate their culture and fight against marginalization. This groundbreaking study also deepens our understanding of more well-researched movements like AIDS video activism, Paper Tiger Television, and Indymedia by situating them within a longer history and wider context of radical video activism.


"A great read for scholars, activists, and media makers alike, Breaking the Spell attends closely to the hard questions of media activism: the role of violence, aesthetics, media literacy, and access within social justice movements and their media." —Alexandra Juhasz, media activist and author, AIDS TV: Identity, Community and Alternative Video, Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video and Learning from YouTube

"Breaking the Spell is a highly readable history of U.S. activism against neoliberal capitalism from the perspective of 'Anarchist Filmmakers, Videotape Guerrillas, and Digital Ninjas,' the subtitle of the book. Based on ninety interviews, careful readings of hundreds of videos, and his own participant observation, Robé links the development of better-known video makers such as Video Freex, Paper Tiger Television, ActUp and Indymedia with activist media-makers among key protest movements, such as the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit, Oregon's Cascadia Forest Defenders, the day workers of Voces Mobiles/Mobile Voices in Los Angeles, and the indigenous youth in Out of Your Backpack Media. Underscored by significant tensions of class, race/ethnicity, and gender among the groups and the videos discussed, Robé traces the continuing concerns with radical horizontalism in the making of media and of collective organizing against the state and capitalist institutions. Drawing on autonomist Marxist theory, the profiles clearly demonstrate how media making has become integral to all forms of anti-capitalist mobilizing, as well as to the formation of new collective subjectivities and cultures." —Dorothy Kidd, Professor and Chair, Department of Media Studies, University of San Francisco

"'Anarchist-inflected', which hovers in stasis as the book's ideological criteria for identifying video-making as anarchist, is keyed to three tenets – 'consensus decision-making, nonhierarchical structures, and direct-action tactics'." —Allan Antliff, Anarchist Studies

"Robé analyzes the genre of subversive video with an unwavering passion." —Michael Simmons, High Times

"Breaking the Spell is a gift to anyone who makes or is interested in radical cinema. By examining the historical context in which the films were produced, by speaking to those making them, and by not pulling any punches in his criticisms of the ways they are made, Robé gives us detailed picture of those who came before us." —Franklin Lopez, Fifth Estate

"Breaking the Spell is a book that documentary, mass communications, and social movement scholars will find useful for research and teaching. It crafts a throughline across a variety of oppositional media groups often discussed as separate entities across a sprawling half-century period of political struggles in the United States and Canada." —Patricia R. Zimmermann, Jump Cut?

Author Biography

Chris Robé is an associate professor in Film and Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He has published essays on radical media in journals like Jump Cut, Rethinking Marxism, and Journal of Film and Video and written a monograph titled Left of Hollywood: Cinema, Modernism, and the Emergence of U.S. Radical Film Culture. He is also a frequent contributor to the online journal PopMatters.