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Title: New constructions of house and home in contemporary Argentine and Chilean cinema (2005-2015)
Author: Merchant, Paul Rumney
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 9294
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the potential of domestic space to act as the ground for new forms of community and sociability in Argentine and Chilean films from the early twenty-first century. It thus tracks a shift in the political treatment of the home in Southern Cone cinema, away from allegorical affirmations of the family, and towards a reflection on film’s ability to both delineate and disrupt lived spaces. In the works examined, the displacement of attention from human subjects to the material environment defamiliarises the domestic sphere and complicates its relation to the nation. The house thus does not act as ‘a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability’ (Bachelard), but rather as a medium through which identities are challenged and reformed. This anxiety about domestic space demands, I argue, a renewal of the deconstructive frameworks often deployed in studies of Latin American culture (Moreiras, Williams). The thesis turns to new materialist theories, among others, as a supplement to deconstructive thinking, and argues that theorisations of cinema’s political agency must be informed by social, economic and urban histories. The prominence of suburban settings moreover encourages a nuancing of the ontological links often invoked between cinema, the house, and the city. The first section of the thesis rethinks two concepts closely linked to the home: memory and modernity. Analysing documentary and essay films, Chapter 1 suggests some political limitations to the figure of the fragment which dominates scholarly discussion of memory in Latin America. Chapter 2 studies films which explore the inclusions and exclusions created by modernist domestic architecture. The second section focuses on two human figures found on the threshold of the home: the domestic worker and the guest. Chapter 3 analyses unorthodox representations of domestic work, and explores how new materialist approaches can enhance readings of the political potential of ‘art cinema’. Finally, in Chapter 4 I examine films depicting household visitors that upset urban class divisions, and question the possibility of ‘domestic cosmopolitanism’ (Nava 2006) in contemporary Latin America. My comparative analysis of these films explores a rupture between physical dwelling and imagined home that points towards new political practices in a neoliberal, post-dictatorship context.
Supervisor: Page, Joanna Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Argentina ; Chile ; domestic space ; cinema ; house ; home ; community ; politics ; documentary ; memory ; cosmopolitanism ; Latin America ; art cinema ; film studies