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The Ethnic Turn: Studies in Political Cinema from Brazil and the United States, 1960-2002

Skvirsky, Salome (2010) The Ethnic Turn: Studies in Political Cinema from Brazil and the United States, 1960-2002. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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What makes political cinema political? It used to be that the category of political cinema was understood to designate a body of work with a very determinate political orientation. When Comolli and Narboni wrote about political cinema in the late 1960s, they were writing about a cinematic practice defined by its opposition to the capitalist status quo and aiming at the transformation of the social world. But as Marxism has suffered a crisis over the last decades, so has the concept of a political cinema, which has since lost its specificity. I claim that since the late sixties there has been a shift in ideas and practices concerning political cinema: a class-oriented, anti-capitalist conception of politics has given way to a conception of politics that is primarily, though not exclusively, identity-oriented. I call this shift the ethnic turn in political cinema. The ethnic turn has not received much critical scrutiny from film scholars. It tends to be taken for granted as an advance in our thinking about society and a triumph in the fight against racism and Eurocentrism. The aim of my dissertation is to challenge this complacency by asking how ethnicity is constructed—by whom, to the exclusion of what, for what purpose, and why now.Using case studies from Brazil and the United States, I examine the uses of racial and ethnic representation in explicitly political film over the last half century. Both nation-states have inherited a comparable history of African slavery, indigenous genocide, and formidable European immigration. But so far, there has been little comparative work examining the ways in which explicitly political films in these two countries have tried to make sense of racial oppression, how these representations have changed over time, and what those changes indicate about the shifting terms of both national and global debates over increasing social inequality. My dissertation addresses this lacuna.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Skvirsky, Salomesas136@pitt.eduSAS136
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLandy, Mariamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Committee Member Lowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.eduALOWEN
Committee MemberBeverley, Johnbrq@pitt.eduBRQ
Committee MemberMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.eduNMAJUMDA
Committee MemberPuri, Shalinispuri@pitt.eduSPURI
Date: 29 January 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 31 August 2009
Approval Date: 29 January 2010
Submission Date: 30 September 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Latin American Cinema; political cinema; Quilombo; Race and Latin American Cinema; slavery and cinema; Third Cinema
Other ID:, etd-09302009-173153
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:50


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