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James, David

Contact Information
USC School of Cinematic Arts

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Phone: (213) 740-2923


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, English
  • M.A., University of Pennsylvania, English
  • M.A., Cambridge University, English Literature
  • B.A., Cambridge University, English Literature

Taking any of David James' courses including History of the International Cinema and Cultural Theory, students have the distinction of learing from a professor who has achieved particular renown as an authority in Asian cinema and avant-garde cinema.

Dr. James has expanded and enriched the cultural scene in Los Angeles, curated countless film programs, worked on museum exhibitions, produced his own film work and published extensively in the arts and popular press, including his latest book The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles.

James’ awards include an NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the USC Associates Award for Creativity in Research.

He is the editor of To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground as well as The Hidden Foundation: Cinema and the Question of Class, and has served on the editorial boards of Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Now Time, and Art Week.

In January 2007, Professor James was named one of two 2007 Academy Film Scholars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  His award comes with a $25,000 grant to write a book on the interaction between rock ’n’ roll and cinema in the United States and United Kingdom. His research will cover the mid-1950s and the “British Invasion” of the 1960s through the eras of country, disco, punk, heavy metal, hip-hop and rap.

Professor James has taught at the Shanghai University of Science & Technology,  the Beijing Film Academy,  as well as the National Taiwan University.

Furthermore, he secured a donation from China Film Inc. and added more than 130 feature films from China and 300 associated Chinese Film posters to the University's archive and library respectively.

Selected Publications:

  • “The Name of a Desire: Recollections of Socialist Realism in East Asian Art Cinema.” Grey Room, 26 (Winter 2006), 72-93.
  • “Art/Film/Art Film: Chihwaseon and its Contexts.” Film Quarterly, 59, 2 (Winter 2005-06), 4-17.

Honors and Awards:

  • Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, 2011-12
  • Academy Film Scholar, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, 2007
  • Associates Award for Creativity in Research, USC, 2006
  • Fellow, Provost’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research, USC, 2003-04
  • Scholar, Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1996-97
  • Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, Scholar-in-Residence
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1989
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers, 1982-83
  • Fellowship to School of Criticism and Theory, University of California at Irvine, 1978
  • Thouron Scholarship to University of Pennsylvania, 1967-70
  • Trevelyan Scholarship to Cambridge University, 1964-67
  • Exhibition to Queens' College, Cambridge University, 1964-66