Documentary Film and Social Criticism
Join us in the sociology department for a new discussion series, where documentary film meets social theory and criticism.
Cinema Politica is an international network that circulates excellent documentaries about important social problems like economic inequality, global warming, art and resistance, aid and development, refugees, precarity, gentrification, trans rights, surveillance, police brutality, racism and environmental justice.
We invite you to come see the documentaries, and then join us a week later for a discussion about related ideas in social theory and criticism that help extend and deepen our understanding of the issues. We will be exploring different ways to document and illustrate ideas and concepts and creating a website as a resource for further work in the area.Watch social documentaries and talk about social theory - that’s the idea. Get informed about the world and learn concepts and ideas that help us understand and change it.
Social theory and criticism discussion group
Film Screening: Thursday, November 2nd, 7:30pm A1046, Arts Building, MUN
Discussion Group: Wednesday, November 15th, 1PM, A4049 ( Sociology Seminar Room)
Readings: See links below
Description of Film:
Our next film is ‘A Prison in Twelve Landscapes’. This documentary has received a lot of recognition for its visual style and original treatment of the theme of the prison’s effect on the wider social world. In a series of 12 vignettes, it shows the involvement of the prison in local economies, the relation of prisoners and loved ones back home and the extension of its techniques of control into the wider social world. The film raises questions about how the prison has helped shape the world outside it.
Read more about it here: https://www.prisonlandscapes.com/
A week after the film on Wednesday, November 8th at 1pm we will meet in the sociology seminar room, A4049 to discuss ideas from social theory related to these themes.
We will be discussing Michel Foucault’s ideas about the nature of power, discipline and security. We will also have a look at Gilles Deleuze’s brief essay on ‘Control Societies’ that takes Foucault’s ideas in new directions.
Here are some suggested readings. You can read any or all of them, or look around the library and internet for other sources. I have listed some easily accessible introductory readings and some more demanding pieces. I will offer a brief 10 minute introduction tying the film to the ideas and then hope to take up a related open discussion that pursues the ideas in more detail.
1. Gary Gutting
Foucault: A Very Short Introduction
Chapter 8: Crime ad Punishment
Available online at Mun Library:
Gutting’s essay is an easy to read introduction to central ideas in Michael Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power. You will see that Foucault is not a ‘criminologist’ and is not interested in the prison per se, but in the way that techniques of power and subjection that develop in the prison migrate out into the order social world, and into other institutions like hospitals, schools, universities etc.
Security, Territory, Population, chp. 1
This is from a series of lectures given in the mid 1970’s at around the time when Discipline and Punish was written. It develops important distinctions between the mechanisms of law, discipline and security and the specific kinds of power and control each involves.
Available at: http://www.generation-online.org/p/fp_foucault14.htm
3. Michel Foucault: ‘The Subject and Power’
This is an excellent summary of the central ideas in Foucault’s theory of power and subjection. It shows what distinguishes his approach to the study of power from other common frames of reference, like politcal economy or semiotics. It offers important clarifications and distinctions among domination, exploitation and subjection.
4. Gilles Deleuze
‘Post Script on the Society of Control’
In this late essay, Deleuze tries to extend Foucault’s analysis of disciplinary power beyond the physical enclosures of disciplinary society into into the new world of passwords, passcodes, electric monitoring, etc. Physical enclosures of early modern ‘disciplinary’ societies are being replaced by new more sophisticated mechanisms of analyzing, tracking and controlling populations.
5. Rap Genius annotation to Deleuze’ essay ( featuring Michael Hardt)
This is an ongoing collaborative effect at the site Rap Genius.
It asks scholar to comment on and annotate lines from a text, in this case the ‘PostScript’ essay by Deleuze. Have a look at whats been added and offer your own comments, if you like.
Three easy steps:
1) Come see Migrant Dreams at 7 pm, in A-1043 on September 26.
2) Download some things to read at :
3) Join us a week later to discuss 'precarity', the new sense of insecurity about the future that is redefining many people's access to work, rights, food, and protection from violence, among other things.
For the first meeting we will have two sessions:
Tuesday at 7pm in A2071 and a second Wednesday, October 4 at 1pm. In A3020 .Please come to which ever best suits your schedule.
Readings for October4- 5th:
This week we will be discussing the social concept of ‘precarity’ - a new sense of insecurity about the future that is redefining many people's access to work, rights, food, and protection from violence, among other things. Read or browse through any combination of the following readings. These articles and essays show how the concept of ‘precarity’ illuminates different parts of our social world. Some of the readings are more challenging than others. All are illuminating in one way or another.
1) Start here for a selection of short articles that describe precarity and some of the ways it is changing our world. The essays in this reading are short, easy to read pieces that introduce the idea:
2) Zigmunt Bauman’s essay is a little more challenging. It describes the ‘precariat’ (those living precarious lives ) as a kind of underclass. It raises the question of whether a shared sense of insecurity is the basis of a new sense of collective unity and political agency.
3) This essay is still more challenging to read but offers important clarifications and distinctions about kinds of precarity, and the relation of precartiy and precariousness. It asks whether precarity is now the exception or the norm.
4) Judith Butler’s essay shows that precarity rests on a sense of vulnerability and dependence on others. This ‘relational’ quality of precarity challenges the ‘possessive individualism’ that often informs our relation to our bodies, selves, identity and sexuality. Butler’s essay gives you a sense of the theoretical complexity of the idea and how it can be used to create new kinds of social critique.