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Cinema and Decolonization: Rethinking Incarceration, Immigration, and the Police(d) State in the Post Civil Rights Era

  • Author(s): Ekanayake, Aruna
  • Advisor(s): Noriega, Chon A.
  • et al.

In this dissertation I consider how independent cinema of the post civil rights era represents and negotiates tropes of internal colonialism in the United States. Though earlier filmmakers address issues related to domestic subjugation, a subset of films made by marginalized-identity filmmakers from the post civil rights era stand out because they work to expose socio-political elements of a period where the subjugation of marginalized-identity citizens and residents within the United States continues in varying and often veiled ways in spite of new civil rights legislation. The outward and sometimes legalized racism that preceded civil rights movement in America was reformed only to make way for a deeper seeded legal infrastructure of apartheid and exploitation stemming from three main staples of coloniality: incarceration, immigration control, and a police(d) state. In three chapters I conduct a phenomenological analysis of several films that directly and indirectly address tropes of internal colonization in the United States. I begin my analysis by considering the cinematic rendering of prison and home as interchangeable in the context of internal coloniality. I follow by considering the border-breaching / border-making practice of colonization, a practice that informs my interrogation of issues regarding, migration, autochthonous agency, and ethnographic filmmaking. I conclude with a look at films that seek to outline tactics for resisting the indoctrination or policing inherent in coloniality; and through this analysis I argue that at the root of resistance arising from the cinema is the affectuality of the marginalized-identity spectator—which I set out to define in an effort intervene in classical film theory, though not as an offshoot theory, but as a parallel and constant component of film theory in the service of the marginalized-identity filmmaker and spectator.

Colonialism is not a bygone phenomenon. It persists, mutates with time, and adapts to resistance. Internal colonialism describes the practice of coloniality within a nation. American Cinema of the 1970s often narrates themes related to internal colonialism—similar to the Latin American movement of Third Cinema—and so imagines hypothetical onscreen tactics for the decolonization of cultural citizens as well.

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