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Ghost workers: contemporary French documentary filmmaking in the global age

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Title: Ghost workers: contemporary French documentary filmmaking in the global age
Author(s): Evrard, Audrey
Director of Research: Flinn, Margaret C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Flinn, Margaret C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Capino, José B.; Mathy, Jean-Philippe; Mortimer, Armine; Schehr, Lawrence
Department / Program: French
Discipline: French
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): French documentary filmmaking globalization ethics labor altermondialisme neoliberalism
Abstract: In recent years, French documentary filmmakers have recorded the impact globalization has had on their society; the corpus presented here gives evidence of a shared effort to question the political and ideological affiliations of a practice largely committed to leftist ideals throughout most of the twentieth century. This dissertation examines the convergence of anti- or alterglobalization sentiments and the documentary turn to ethics in the last twenty years in an effort to reinvent social and political documentary filmmaking as an ethical praxis committed to the reconciliation of individual emancipation and collective responsibility. The demise of workers’ movements and trade unions in the last decades has led filmmakers to explore other modes of subversion of neo-liberal global capitalism, the principal target of contemporary social documentary. These filmmakers have striven to undermine the historical and philosophical legitimacy of the equation of “work” and waged employment. The unemployed, the gleaner, the consumer, and the farmer have been foregrounded as new models of subjective emancipation for the proponents of an altermondialisation. Filmmakers themselves have invested their own bodies in the denunciation of the global expansion of neo-liberalism. This study draws from Michel Foucault’s and Jean-Luc Nancy’s conceptions of ethics and subjectivity in order to account for Luc Moullet’s, Vincent Glenn’s, Agnès Varda’s, Raymond Depardon’s and Jonathan Nossiter’s “embodied knowledge” (as defined by Bill Nichols). First, the dissertation argues that globalization has encouraged filmmakers to expand the doctrinal politics of early militant cinemas into a broader ethical project which consists of probing into the philosophical, social and environmental foundations of a sustainable world democracy. Second, by defining its “politics of location” – another term used by Nichols – through historically polyvalent concepts, such as artisanal savoir-faire, terroir and work, this corpus reinvigorates long-standing national debates and casts new light on old cultural assumptions, especially France’s endless historical opposition between urban modernity and rural conservatism. Finally, contemporary filmmakers shift French cinema’s auteurist claims from elitist inclinations towards a post-national reflection on documentary practice’s unique ability to promote an ethical consciousness and engagement with the world at large.
Issue Date: 2011-08-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26024
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Audrey Evrard
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-08-25
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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