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Ruins and Riots: Transnational Currents in Mexican Cinema

Strayer, Kirsten Amy (2010) Ruins and Riots: Transnational Currents in Mexican Cinema. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The dissertation examines 1950s, 60s, and 70s Mexican émigré cinema through aesthetic and political strategies that critically reassess national cinematic self-representation. I discuss multiple factors, including film texts, modes of production, immigration policies, historical discourses and cinematic scholarship in order to understand particular shifts in the images of Mexican national identity. While Mexican cinema's "Golden Age" (approx. 1935-55) is characterized by consistent and regularized images of Mexico's nationhood, I argue that the mid-twentieth century texts undermine homogeneous images of its national body. I explore the works of several émigré filmmakers as case studies that demonstrate how intellectual projects and mobile aesthetic strategies are produced from positions of exile. These films give rise to alternative political and social filmmaking practices other than dominant nationalist visual universes. For instance, I show that the films' grotesque and surrealist predilections emerge from different national traditions and act as palimpsests without homogenizing their differences. While these modes utilize divergent intellectual and artistic forms, they simultaneously bring to the forefront tensions and discontinuities among national traditions that cannot be readily reconciled. In so doing, they fragment earlier "Golden Age" figurations of the Mexican people, particularly dominant tropes of rural and urban identities. I illustrate how these national traditions are in dialogue with the transatlantic influences that inform and underlie the émigré films of the era. By exploring their affinities to such avant-garde theoretical traditions as the theater of the absurd and popular European forms such as the Italian western, I contend that these works attempt to redefine national spectacle by seeking to map international practices onto regional mythologies, topographies and institutions. These films undermine myths of the nation-state that saturate Mexican cinema and popular culture, including notions of post-revolutionary popular unity and official modes of historical narration. I argue that mid-twentieth century filmmaking aptly illustrates contradictory political, social, and aesthetic impulses at work in the twentieth-century. In examining this era of filmmaking, I show how it anticipates contemporary Mexican cinema's reliance on exiled and dissident filmmakers (e.g. Guillermo del Toro and Arturo Ripstein) and their migratory artistic practices that participate in twenty-first century cultural and political thinking.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Strayer, Kirsten Amykis12@pitt.eduKIS12
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Committee MemberLowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.eduALOWEN
Committee MemberBeverlay, Johnbrq@pitt.eduBRQ
Committee MemberFischer, Lucylfischer@pitt.eduLFISCHER
Date: 29 January 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 11 September 2009
Approval Date: 29 January 2010
Submission Date: 2 December 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: exile; transnational; film studies; Mexico
Other ID:, etd-12022009-193003
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:52


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