Lecture Abstract:This paper will explore two recent films – Deepa Dhanraj’s We Have not Come here to Die (2019) and Payal Kapadia’s Night of Knowing Nothing (2021) to reflect further on the many modes of labor entailed in the making of a documentary film where a filmmaker is compelled by events to gather footage without any clear outcome in mind. Dhanraj and Kapadia both say they were forced to make these films to somehow document the student protests that were roiling the length and breadth of India in 2016-17 and the harsh responses to them by authoritarian state actors. Both Dhanraj and Kapadia perform the work of documenting these protests but this work of accumulation – enabled by digital technology – elicits other forms of ethical, aesthetic and political labor that transform these found footage into films that reflects not only on the events but more broadly on the media ecology the film is a part of. I will conclude by suggesting that the labor of reflection is a propensity of feminist mediawork that has distinct genealogies in the epistemological debates that characterized womens’ movements in India.
The concept of Inter-imperiality comes from Laura Doyle’s book Inter-Imperiality: Vying Empires, Gendered Labor and the Literary Arts of Alliance (Duke, 2020) and while Doyle is a literary historian, the concept provides an interesting opening to think about the work of power, resistance, negotiation and alliance in the past and present and to ask how cultural work is informed by the geopolitics of inter-imperiality at macro and micro levels. If spaces are traversed by multiple imperial formations that are political, economic, social and cultural, how are these vectors scaled at the level of the everyday to position subjects and how, in turn, does relationality and the labor of care entailed therein sustain communities and shield them from the predations of vying empires? How has/does cultural work functionin an inter-imperial world order – what are its horizons and limits, challenges and potentialities? How might this concept generate thinking through concepts such as de-imperialization and decoloniality?
We will read from Doyle and some other writing around this concept.
Sangita Gopal is Director of the Center for the Women and Society at the University of Oregon and an associate professor of Cinema at University of Oregon. She is author of Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and coeditor of Intermedia in South Asia: The Fourth Screen (Routledge, 2012), and of Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Film Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). She is completing a book on feminist mediawork in India in the 1970s entitled Mixed Media: Film, Feminism and Gendered Labor and beginning work on a monograph on the careers of James Ivory, Ismail Merchant and Ruth Jhabvala entitled Transnational Film Production and the Social Network. Her recent articles have appeared in Feminist Media History, Cultural Critique, and Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.