MDES GU4637 Cinema and Colonialism

D. Mukherjee

What is the relation between cinema and colonialism? This seminar in Columbia’s ‘Global Core’ approaches cinema as a dynamic historical agent that aided, negotiated, refracted, and contested the mechanisms and meanings of colonialism in South Asia. We will study cinema as technology, as industry, and as cultural form, paying attention to questions of film finance, on-screen representation, production infrastructures, circuits of distribution, and sites of exhibition. We will watch films made by British ethnographers, Indian expats, Hollywood orientalists, and South Asian nationalists to study how film served as a key weapon of imperial propaganda as well as anticolonial resistance. From orientalist films that constructed the colony as exotic and dangerous, to the spatial uses of Indian films to reinforce race inequalities in the diaspora (eg. East Africa), cinema was deeply imbricated with colonial strategies of racial, gendered, and caste-based othering. This is a history of cinema as a history of empire; where cinema is not only a text to be read but a cultural, industrial, and social network of power relations.