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Plenary 2

Why This? Why Now? or Is There Still ‘No Other Way To Tell It’?

Derek Paget (Reading)

In Anglophone culture, there has been a kind of millennial turn t documentary forms. In the arts in which I take particular interest, this has meant ‘intergeneric hybridisation’ (Corner 2000) in television; a plethora of ‘Based on a True Story’ film narratives both for theatrical release and for TV movies/mini-series; and the triumphant Return of Documentary Theatre. Increasingly, the Witness is the Protagonist of the Age, suffering and reporting the failures of national public agencies (especially those with duties of care) and international political will. Using the following sub-heads – and proceeding always from the personal to the political – I will explore the New Global Samizdat:

1. How – and why – I got interested in docu-art

2. A Short History of Documentary

3. Millennial Internationalism – the 1990s and beyond

4. Witness-Art in the First-Person Century

5. In Mean Times, Who’re Ya Gonna Call?

‘Everyday Stories of Global Capitalism: Towards an Aesthetic Turn in IPE’

James Brassett (Warwick) 

Recent years have seen a rise in popularity of anti-capitalist film. Titles like The Corporation, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Shock Doctrine have crossed over from standard social movement audiences to academia and, with differing success, mainstream circulation. On the one hand, such films perform an important educational function, indeed The Corporation was explicitly designed with pedagogy in mind, where concepts like property, commodifcation and creative destruction are used and developed in ‘everyday contexts’, e.g. house purchases and/or overseas military activity. On the other hand, they also partake in what might be described as the political economy of critique; that is the marketability, profitability, and branding of certain lines of critical argument. Corporations such as Amazon, HBO, and Fox have been content to fund, distribute and otherwise support these documentaries (even when directly critical of their own practices). In this sense, everyday stories of global capitalism have become an important aspect of ‘its’ very performance, fostering reflexivity and a capacity for normative (re)production. However, this form of documentary has received surprisingly little attention within either ‘critical IPE’ or the emerging work on cultural political economy. Despite a growing sensitivity to the importance of everyday capitalist social relations embodied in, say, government programs on share ownership, financial literacy, or credit scoring, somewhat less attention has been given to the inculcation of market knowledge, albeit critical and reflexive, through film. At a broad level, it can be argued that the concept of performativity has been understood primarily in terms of economic/financial practices and knowledge, rather than aesthetics and representation, a trend that carries both empirical and theoretical problems. This paper therefore proposes to develop an aesthetic approach to IPE that focuses on the performance of market knowledge through documentary films. It questions how concepts of the ‘market’, ‘the global’ and ‘the event’ are (re)produced, and how they might be challenged, undermined, or resisted.