Assistant Professor Peter Alilunas returned to his alma mater to teach media studies this fall. Alilunas earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan where he then spent a year teaching screen arts and cultures.
Did you ever think you would be back to teach at the University of Oregon?
I always hoped I would be back. As an undergraduate in the English department, I knew I wanted to work in academia, and I hoped I would eventually return to the UO. Like anybody who wants to be a professor knows, it’s a long shot to go where you want – you go where the job is. I hoped that a job would become available here, but I didn’t think it would ever happen. And then it did, so I applied and was interviewed, came out here on a visit, crossed my fingers and got the job.
What is your favorite thing about the UO/Eugene?
I grew up in Northern Idaho, and moved to Eugene for the first time about 20 years ago. I lived here for a long time before I was a student, so I’ve always thought of Eugene as home. I love everything about it – the nature, the city, the community, the university, Portland, the distance to the coast – everything. I’m very happy to be back.
Tell us about your research – the history of the adult film industry as it transitioned from celluloid to home video in the late 1970s.
It’s a very interesting moment in media history when pornography moved from the public movie theater to private homes with the introduction of the VCR. This relatively simple technology transformed a billion-dollar industry on a scale that no other industry has undergone. When I started this research almost 10 years ago, I did so because no historians or scholars were thinking about this huge moment in home-video history when pornography went from a public event to a private one. People didn’t look at that or study it, which I thought was a major oversight that needed to be corrected. There was a gap in the research, so I seized it.
How will your background and experiences strengthen the SOJC?
To say that I study pornography is another way to say that I study cultural regulation. The story of pornography is the story of the law. It’s very tricky, because the industry exists on the margins of being legal and illegal at the same time. Along with studying that particular subject, I’ve also become an expert in the history of American regulation of media. What I think I bring to the SOJC is an understanding of how all media are regulated, the laws around regulation, and the way that culture regulates expression – pornographic and otherwise. Pornography is just a great example of an extreme, but all media can be regulated the same way.
The SOJC is built on the fundamentals of ethics, innovation and action. How do you think you will embody these ideals while you are here?
My work is based around ethics in many different ways and around studying what that word means. My research as a historian looks into the history of practices related to that. Innovation, now that’s an interesting one. I am a historian, so I mostly look back. But what’s exciting about that is the fact that we have so much access to history, now in ways that we didn’t have before, thanks to new digital technologies. I’m hoping my research can be innovative in that regard. And I’m all about action – constant work, constant publishing, teaching, new research, helping students reach their goals. That’s the job.
If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing?
I love this job. This is the career that I have always wanted, but if I had to do something else, I think I would be a carpenter. My hobby is woodworking. I love doing it, but I’m really, really terrible. That’s an example of a good hobby. You should have a hobby that you’re not great at, because then you can always keep getting better.
What is your advice to SOJC students?
My advice to SOJC students is to explore as many things as you can on campus. A university is a great place to find and try new things and to meet new people. The years you’re in college are a unique opportunity to figure out new things about yourself. Push for new ideas and try things outside of your comfort zone, and explore a lot different things. You never know at the end of your four or five years where you’ll be.
Written by Katie MacLean ’15