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Moving Images Against The Current: The Aesthetics and Geopolitics of (Im)mobility in Contemporary Europe

  • Author(s): Bayraktar, Nilgun;
  • Advisor(s): Jackson, Shannon;
  • et al.

This dissertation investigates the historical and contemporary tensions around mobility and identity in Europe since WWII, with particular emphasis on their contemporary configurations. Drawing on recent theories of migrant and diasporic cinema, moving image art, and mobility studies, I provide close and historically situated readings of films, videos, and installations within a larger geographic and historical scope of European migration that encompasses the Middle East and Africa. The films and videos I study establish a non-Western countergeography of Europe that has produced multiple "others" in its constant efforts to recompose its borders and identity. They address psychological and sociological processes of integration and cultural syncretism as well as discrimination and racism against minorities and migrants. Although the geopolitical focus of my dissertation is Europe, the works I analyze challenge territorially bounded conceptions of identity and culture. They extend representation to socially disenfranchised groups such as undocumented migrants by narrating multiple, and often times perilous, forms of travel and border-crossing from migrants' perspective. With attention not only to the shifting political and geographic borders of Europe but also to the shifting institutional and aesthetic borders of cinema, these works likewise invoke a powerful cinematic-countergeography that investigates the changing terrains of cinema and contemporary art.

The first chapter, on The Edge of Heaven (2007) by Fatih Akin and Countess Sophia Hatun (1997) by Ayse Polat, focuses on second-generation Turkish German labor migrants and analyzes the cinematic production of heterogeneous diasporic spaces and subjects that transcend binaries of host-home or migrant-citizen. My second chapter, on Hidden (2005) by Michael Haneke and Exiles (2004) by Tony Gatlif, discusses the second-generation North African migrants in France and the violent history of French colonization of Algeria in relation to contemporary (postcolonial) French society. The third chapter, on the site-specific video installation Küba (2004) by Kutlug Ataman, focuses on the counter-stereotypical representation of migration in relation to the multichannel installation format as well as traditional forms of political cinema. The fourth and fifth chapters, on the video essay Sudeuropa (2005-7) by Raphael Cuomo and Maria Iorio and the video installation Sahara Chronicle (2006-9) by Ursula Biemann, respectively, examine the relationship between "illegal" migration and the creation of new borderlands in Southern Europe and North, West, and sub-Saharan Africa.

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