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Title: Technology, labor, and mediation in Egyptian film production
Author: El Khachab, Chihab
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 8919
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the way in which imponderable problems are mediated in the everyday work of commercial film production in Egypt. By 'imponderable problem', I mean a working problem encountered in an extended production process whereby the individual worker, in the present, cannot account for all courses of action leading onto the process's expected outcome. I argue that workers in film production can never entirely solve this kind of problem: they 'mediate' it. They rely on various assumptions and material mediators to break this overall imponderability into a series of contingent tasks, thereby modifying the expected outcome. I situate this mediation in the wider context of the contemporary Egyptian film industry, with its interpersonal mode of interaction, its labor hierarchy, its socio-technical process of production, and its technological implements. This thesis analyzes three imponderable problems in particular: how to coordinate a shooting day; how to visualize the film; and how to anticipate the audience's composition and reaction. The overall argument is situated within media anthropology, where media production tends to be examined as a 'social' phenomenon inscribed on an invisible technological substratum, without exploring the material implications of everyday technological objects in a temporally extended process of production. This literature, moreover, tends to be inattentive to the gap between the way in which the film unfolds and the way in which social agents involved in its making anticipate this unfolding. This thesis, by contrast, considers how Egyptian filmmakers try to anticipate the future of their activity. In addition to being an ethnographic account of the Egyptian film industry, this thesis contributes to the anthropological literature on media production by exploring how workers concretely mediate between the present and the near-/far-future.
Supervisor: Armbrust, Walter ; Banks, Marcus Sponsor: Social Sciences Research Council of Canada ; School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Middle Eastern Studies ; Anthropology ; Film Studies ; Labor ; Egypt ; Film industry ; Cinema ; Uncertainty ; Technology