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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Arts in Society

AMMI colloquium - GUIDO KIRSTEN (Filmuniversität Potsdam-Babelsberg): "Studying the Cinema of Precarity (and Beyond): Scenes of 'Social Shame'"

When:Tu 11-10-2022 18:00 - 20:00
Where:Exposition room, Harmonie building
colorful AMMI colloquium programme poster

This guest lecture is part of the Arts, Media and Moving Images research colloquium of the Research Centre for Arts in Society.

For more information, contact Julian Hanich: j.hanich


Over the last decades, precarity – the insecurity of living conditions – has become a widespread phenomenon in Western societies. Already in 1998, Pierre Bourdieu famously claimed that ‘precarity is everywhere now’. Since then, it appears to have increased even further. Unsurprisingly, a ‘cinema of precarity’ has emerged at the same time: a corpus of films that capture the feeling of economic and existential uncertainty and its underlying causes. The term ‘cinema of precarity’ was introduced in 2011 by the late Lauren Berlant in reference to films by Laurent Cantet and the Dardenne brothers, with an emphasis on form and affect. In his talk, Guido Kirsten will discuss Berlant’s concept regarding three points: the strong tie between the ‘cinema of precarity’ and the notion of ‘cruel optimism’; the auteurism of Berlant’s notion; and her ‘affective formalism’. In order to broaden the concept and to allow for a greater variety of film styles and genres dealing with precarity, Kirsten develops a new definition. Drawing on one of Berlant’s examples, a scene from Human Resources (Laurent Cantet, 1999), he will then analyze audiovisual configurations of social shame and propose a distinction between ‘class shame’ and ‘poverty shame’. Discussing the latter, he will expand the field both to older films such as Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, 1952) and to the contemporary TV-series Maid (Netflix, 2021).

About the speaker

Dr Guido Kirsten is the principal investigator of the Emmy Noether Research Group ‘Cinematic Discourses of Deprivation: Analyzing the Representation of Precarity and Exclusion in European Fiction Film and Documentary’ at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Potsdam). He is the author of books on cinematic realism (2013) and on the notion of découpage (2022). Together with Margrit Tröhler he edited Christian Metz and the Codes of Cinema (2018). With his collaborators Hanna Prenzel and Elisa Cuter, Kirsten published Precarity in European Film: Depictions and Discourses (2022) as the first volume of the new book series ‘Film, Class, Society’ at De Gruyter.