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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Whiteness as Airmindedness: Juan de la Cierva (1923-1925), Film and the Airplane

  • Author(s): Woods Peiró, Eva
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Spanish film culture of the 1920s celebrated the aspirations of technological power and the enjoyment of or anxiety around technology. This chapter historicizes a set of propaganda films made in Spain between 1923 and 1925 about Juan de la Cierva’s invention, the Autogiro, a machine that fused the airplane and helicopter. These short hybrid media artifacts—a coalescence of documentary, actualité, and advertisement—promoted de la Cierva’s invention while also drawing upon and furthering ideas about whiteness and its intimate, if not generative, connection with technology. Balancing theoretical frameworks provided by Paul Virilio and Friedrich Kittler with Richard Dyer and Judy Wajcman’s arguments about the raced and gendered construction of technology, I argue that these cinematic objects, which entertained cinemagoers and served military interests, were deeply saturated with the discourse of whiteness. The implicit assumptions of this race rhetoric, which were built into the material specificity of the airplane, were the control of the Spanish and European-identified race over this conquest of the air and the maintenance of the white viewer-driver-pilot.

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