Royal Holloway Conference Abstracts Monday 18th April 2016

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Dr Jordana Blejmar is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the School of the Arts at the University of Liverpool. She was previously a Research Associate for the AHRC-funded project Latin(o) American Digital Art and a University Teacher at Liverpool, as well as a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London. Originally a literature graduate from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, she was awarded an MPhil and a PhD (as a Gates Scholar) at the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the steering committee of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (London). She has curated art exhibitions in Buenos Aires, Liverpool and Paris. Her research focuses on the material culture of childhood, ludic art and playful memories of trauma in Latin America. She is the co-editor (with Natalia Fortuny and Luis García) of Instantáneas de la memoria: Fotografía y dictadura en Argentina y América Latina (2013, Libraria), of a special issue on Latin American postmemories (with N. Fortuny,Journal of Romance Studies, 2013) and of a special issue on contemporary Argentine poetry (with Ben Bollig,Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, in press). She is also currently completing the manuscript Playful Memories: The Autofictional Turn in Post-Dictatorship Argentina.

Libidinal Circuits: Childhood migration North and South”, Stephi Hemelryk Donald (University of New South Wales)

Here Donald considers a sub set of the overall theme, that of forced removal. She discusses what she terms the libidinal circuits of forced migration, whence children are moved from place to place without their consent, are part and parcel of a psychologically powerful but essentially amoral cycle of mobility that sits, like the letter on the mantelpiece, in full view of perpetrators and victims. Libidinal circuits (derived as an idea from Lyotard’s understanding of flows and investment): motivated by desire, capital and opportunity, fuel the traffic of humanity between north to south, and south to north. To explain how such circuits also have the effect of layering history and creating heterotopic memories for the children and their inheritors, she draws on the French historian Max Silverman’s concept, palimpsestic memory. The television series, ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ (1992), tells the story of two children sent from Liverpool to Australia as part of the Homing Children forced migration of the poor, that started in the mid 17th century and continued until the 1970s. It charts the inexorability of disadvantage, violent loss, and loneliness for women and children who have insufficient means of support in the eyes of the State, but whose value is counted in terms of their bodies, as workers and as colonial subjects and occupiers. ‘Once my Mother’ (2014) is Sophia Turkiewicz’s account of her own migration as a baby from a Zambian refugee camp, and that of her Mother from Eastern Europe via Zambia (where Sophia was born) to Australia, and is equally harrowing. Both films take children North to South and South to South. Some have their parents with them, some travel alone. The point of both stories is the lifetime of effort required to break the libidinal circuit of colonial desire (whether that be the British Empire or the combined violence of the Soviet regime and the Nazi war machine in the 1940s) and discover the unraveling truth of their own biographical stake in such paradoxically mobile and restricted historical space.
Professor Stephanie Hemelryk Donald is Head of the School of the Arts at the University of Liverpool. She was ARC Professorial Future Fellow at the University of New South Wales (2012- ), where she remains Distinguished Professor at the iCinema Research Centre. She is a film scholar specialising in childhood, China and comparative world cinemas. She has previously held a Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship at the University of Leeds. Since 1995 she has published fourteen research books, over thirty book chapters in academic refereed collections as well as twenty-three refereed journal articles. Professor Hemelryk-Donald has worked on the intersection of film, childhood and politics since commencing her doctoral research in 1993. She wrote the first English language book on childhood in Chinese film (2005), which discussed the relationship between ideal childhoods and national identity, emotionality and film, and the new consumption habits of Chinese children in the early twentieth century. Her current work on the migrant child in film connects explicitly to the network and she involves a team of PhDs and film-makers with expertise in participatory video, guerrilla film-making, and film studies in the network. Her experience as a researcher, a supervisor, and an academic manager, and her long involvement in intellectual pursuits are central to the project.

Beiqing sentiments and Left-behind children in compassionate cinema”, Zitong Qiu (NIT, Ningbo)

An extensive internal rural-to-urban migration occurs in China with the nation’s rapid economic growth over the past decade. As a consequence of this prominent social transformation, children of migrants are largely left 'behind' under the care of relatives, and largely exposed to problems pertinent to healthcare, compulsory education, emotional and psychological well-being in rural areas. There is a fundamental lack of research into the representation of left-behind children in cinema and literature in general. In attempt to fill in this gap, this paper examines left-behind children in three Chinese films: Left-behind children (liushou haizi, 2008), Bus fare (Chefei, 2009), and Gift from the heaven (tiantang de liwu, 2010). It suggests that the representation of left-behind children in Chinese cinema combines two similar melodramatic narrative traditions which are very common in popular television dramas: kuqing (bitter emotion) narration (Kong, 2014) and beiqing (misery) narration. Kuqing/beiqing's affective mechanisms ultimately position left-behind children as object of public compassion within a moral enclave, leaving the structural violence and rural-urban division underpinning their condition unquestioned. In the films, Individual’s virtues of compassion and love ultimately provide the solution to the predicament faced by left-behind children as a specific social group, which further reinforces the left-behind children within the moral discourse. This paper argues that exemplified in these three films, cinema about left-behind children exposes the nature of compassionate media and its significant problematic in contemporary China.
Zitong Qiu is Associate Professor and member of the Huallywood Film Research Center, School of Media and Design, Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University.
The Female Adolescent Body as Trope for the Spanish Nation in 1980: La isla mínima/ Marshland (Rodríguez 2015)”, Sarah Wright (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Alberto Rodríguez’s stylish noir thriller La isla minima (Marshland) swept the boards at the Spanish Goyas in 2015. Set in the Guadalquivir wetlands of Spain’s ‘deep south’, it is a crime drama (similarities have been drawn to HBO’s True Detective) featuring two cops who are investigating the brutal torture and murder of several teenaged women. In its drawing out of issues of brutality and corruption, the film arguably puts paid to the succession of films featuring wide-eyed children who are conduits for the (often nostalgic) exploration of questions of historical memory and the trauma of the Franco regime who took power after the Spanish Civil War. La isla minima (Marshland) is set in 1980, on the cusp of the Transition to Democracy. This paper will explore the ways that the female adolescent body becomes a trope for the Spanish nation in ways that offer a new direction for the engagement of cinema with questions of Spanish historical memory.
Dr Sarah Wright is Reader in Hispanic Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has an established international reputation in the fields of Spanish theatre, cinema and cultural studies. Dr Wright has published three monographs, one coedited book and various articles. Her most recent book is The Child in Spanish Cinema (Manchester University Press, 2013). Whilst the child is a persistent motif in the cinema of Spain, this is the first book to offer an in-depth analysis of the figure of the child. It draws on recent research in film theory, children’s geographies and memory studies to present a focus on the child and memory in connection with the horrors of Spain’s recent past. Dr Wright is working closely with Professors Wilson and Hemelryk Donald to define the intellectual questions at the heart of the Leverhulme project ‘Childhood and Nation in World Cinema’. Dr Wright brings experience in the coordination of postgraduate events, work with schools and teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Céline Sciamma’s sisters”, Emma Wilson (University of Cambridge)

Céline Sciamma’s films have been scintillating for their intense feeling, intimacy, and close apprehension of sensuous existence. In films about girl protagonists Sciamma has explored a full stretch of feelings of love and hurt. Her films variously show vulnerability, pain, rapture and tenderness. This is felt with peculiar energy in the filming of intimate contact between sisters in Tomboy (2011) and in Girlhood (2014). Sciamma traces sister ties as part of a wider engagement with girls’ experiences of friendship and desire. Tomboy has been important politically as a film mobilizing questions about gender and in these terms it has been introduced into the school curriculum in France. Girlhood is opening questions about the experience of girls in the banlieue. This paper argues that crucially involved in the films’ radical impact, and in explorations of girlhood more broadly in contemporary French culture, is attention to sensation and affect, to love, connection, nakedness and raw feeling. Sciamma is interested in representing emotional transitions and in offering plural images of girlhood. In relations between sisters we see girls of different ages involved with one another, physically connected. We see girls as feeling, social subjects. The modes of love and vulnerability in these relations, their negotiation, their involvement in the very modes of filmmaking, are seen as key to Sciamma’s attention to the politics of girlhood.
Professor Emma Wilson is currently Professor of French Literature and the Visual Arts at the University of Cambridge. A scholar of film and the visual arts, since 1996, she has published seven research monographs on French literature, French visual culture and international cinema. In Cinema’s Missing Children (Wallflower Press, 2003), Wilson looked at the figure of the child lost or endangered and at its place in the cinematic imagination, arguing that the child has eclipsed the image of the lady that vanishes. She was concerned in particular with issues of innocence, nostalgia and loss, exploring the emotions gathered in the image of the missing child across first-world and Western cultures. Professor Wilson brings to the Network the particular impact of her research in areas of feminist and queer theory as they relate to children in cinema.

The Child as Victim and Creator of Postnational Affiliations In Diasporic European Cinema

Daniela Berghahn (Professor of Film Studies, Royal Holloway)
In this paper I will explore the figure of the child in diasporic European cinema, tracing two prominent themes: the death of the child and the child’s ability to create elective familial bonds that disavow the significance of natural kinship. Drawing on Marianne Hirsch’s (1999) discussion of children in Holocaust films, I propose that the vulnerable child who dies as a result of hazardous migratory journeys (Journey of Hope) and honour killings (When We Leave) invites multiple projections and identifications and functions as a powerful melodramatic device. Based on the premise that the family serves as a trope of national belonging, I will examine how children form voluntary affiliations with surrogate fathers (Tour Abroad, Couscous, West is West, Monsieur Ibrahim) that call the legitimacy of the traditional patriarchal family into question and, by implication, advocate the notion of post-national belonging (Hollinger 2000), based on consent rather than descent.
Daniela Berghahn is Professor of Film Studies in the Media Arts Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has widely published on post-war German cinema, the relationship between film, history and cultural memory and transnational cinema. Her extensive work on migrant and diasporic cinema in Europe has been supported by the AHRC and is documented on the websites and Her publications include Head-On (BFI Film Classics 2015), Far-Flung Families in Film: The Diasporic Family in Contemporary European Cinema (Edinburgh UP, 2013), European Cinema in Motion: Migrant and Diasporic Film in Contemporary Europe (co-edited with Claudia Sternberg, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany (Manchester UP, 2005). She is currently developing a research project that explores the decentered exotic in contemporary transnational cinema. 

Screening of Catherine Grant's video-essay about the work of Annette Kuhn:  Interplay: (Re)Finding and (Re)Framing Cinematic Experience: Film Space and the Child's World followed by a dialogue between Catherine Grant and Annette Kuhn

For more see:
Catherine Grant teaches Film Studies at the University of Sussex. She has published widely on theories and practices of film authorship and intertextuality, and has edited volumes on world cinema, Latin American cinema, digital film and media studies, and the audiovisual essay. A relatively early proponent and practitioner of the online short video form (her work includes numerous audiovisual studies of cinematic children/childhood), she is founding co-editor of [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies. This new peer-reviewed publication was awarded the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award of Distinction for 2015.
Annette Kuhn is Emeritus Professor in Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London, a Fellow of the British Academy and a former editor of the journal Screen. Her recent books include Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies (2012, co-written with Guy Westwell) and Little Madnesses: Winnicott, Transitional Phenomena and Cultural Experience (2013). Current interests centre around film history, cinema memory and the cinematic experience.

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