Section 002 / Class # 24352
This course concerns film and media representations of colonial history and its present-day sequels. More specifically, it is devoted to the filmic representation and performance of the inter-related issues of conquest, colonialism, race, and indigeneity as apprehended in a number of different countries. The term media is here meant to refer to a wide spectrum of audio-visual-digital media including feature films, documentaries, TV series, music videos, standup comedy, critical remixes, and internet parodies. The course will see media not as mere illustration of intellectual trends and positions, but as active and productive interventions and a way of seeing these issues in themselves.
The methodology of the course will be comparative, transnational, and transmediatic, constantly counterpointing colonial and decolonial representations and performances.The larger purpose of the course is to transnationalize debates that are too often seen through a narrow US-American frame. The course assumes that debates about colonialism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, indigenous genocide, discrimination, stereotypes, and affirmative action are all transnational in nature and scope; they are not exclusive to the United States, and they did not start in the 21st century; they go at least as far back as 1492 and the Conquest of the Americas.
Whatever our background, and whether we know it or not, we have all been impacted in some way by the social stratifications and cultural differences rooted in these longer histories. The course will examine key concepts such as: Indigeneity, Conquest Doctrine, Eurocentrism, White Supremacy, Colonialist Discourse, Intersectionality, Third Cinema, and Indigenous Media. What do these terms mean? What is the relation between them? How does their meaning vary from country to country? What is their relevance to the media and its representations of history?
The course will focus especially on media treatments of these issues in Brazil (and to a lesser extent Spanish-speaking Latin America), France, North Africa, and the U.K, while also touching briefly on Aboriginal Australia, India and other sites, always against a comparative backdrop with the U.S. What are the commonalities and the differences between these diverse situations, both in terms of the debates themselves and in turns of the media, how are they related to colonialism, and how do they shed light on the situation in the U.S? What can we learn from the social attitudes and artistic practices of these other societies? How have the societies from which we come been marked by colonialism and racism? How are “race” and colonialism seen differently in Brazil, the US, France, and India? How do stereotypes vary around the world? Why is the theme of racial chameleonism and metamorphosis – for example, blackface, redface, “white Indians” and the like -– so ubiquitous in the popular culture of the Atlantic world? Apart from the specific national zones “covered” in the course, students are encouraged to make the course their own by bringing in other zones or related issues of interest, whether connected to their own background or not.
If history is “that which hurts,” it is also “that which inspires,” that which edifies and clear our minds through Art and Activist engagement. The course in this sense combines critique and celebration, critique of colonialist institutions and the celebration of artistic creativity. Contemporary critical media does not only take the form of indispensible features like 12 Years a Slave or 13th; it also takes the form of parody, satire, music, remixes, and commentary to be found in figures like Charlie Hill, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Amber Ruffin, the 1491s, and Porta dos Fundos in Brazil, which offer a popular critical pedagogy that entertains while criticizing.
The course will also host visitors with special expertise in these issues. The guests include anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, a celebrated scholar on indigenous Media; Amalia Cordova, curator of Latin American, Latinx, and Indigenous media at the Smithsonian in Washington; Leo Cortana, a doctoral candidate and filmmaker who has a rich experience and analysis of racism as lived in France, Brazil, and the U.S; Native American Dine (Navajo) scholar/filmmaker Teresa Montoya who will show her film Doing Good for the Sheep; and Filmmaker/scholar Nerve Macaspac will talk about indigeneity and race in the Phillipines. The course will feature fiction films like Bolain’s Even the Rain, Bouchareb’s Hors-la-Loi, and Karim Ainouz’s Madame Satan, documentaries like Ava Duvernay’s 13th and Joel Zito Araujo’s Negation of Brazil, along with myriad clips, short films, music videos, remix parodies and the like. The readings will bear on antic-colonialism, postcolonialism, intersectionality, and indigeneity.
Robert Stam is the author of a number of books on topics related to the course, notably Tropical Multiculturalism; A Comparative History of Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture (1997), and with Ella Shohat, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (1994, new edition 2014) and Race in Translation: Culture Wars around the Postcolonial Atlantic (2012). His Indigeneity and the Decolonizing Gaze: Transational “Indians,” Media Aesthetics, and Social Theory is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press.