This seminar will focus on twelve experimental documentary films as critical texts that situate, theorize, and decolonize representations of disaster. What the films share is an insistence that struggles for social and environmental justice are deeply entangled and thus require "new figures and tactics" (Povinelli). We will consider how representation is composed from choices made at two levels: aesthetic forms and specialized languages articulated through the camera and editing software; and political calls for accountability and embodied, embedded, inherited praxis. We will unpack how the medium of film alters and stylizes engagements between subjects positioned behind, in front of, prior to, and after the camera frames, records, and plays back images and sounds.
The films will take us to more-than-human worlds, questioning how we engage with species and landscapes, history and technology, power and language. A partial list of characters includes wild bees in Hawaii (Swarm Season, Christman 2019); steel mines in Mongolia (Behemoth, Liang 2015); colonial waters in Tierra del Fuego (Pearl Button, Guzman 2015); shepherds in Montana (Sweetgrass, Barbash and Castaing-Taylor 2010); farmers in Thailand (Agrarian Utopia, Raksasad 2009); and stray cats in Istanbul (Kedi, Torun 2016). As companions to the films, we will read essays from post/decolonial media/science studies, visual anthropology, and environmental humanities.