skip to content


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


CS7: Cinema and the Political

This paper is available for the academic year 2022-23 at Part II.

This comparative paper aims to explore pressing political, aesthetic, theoretical and historical questions regarding the nature of cinematic representation. Examining fiction, documentary, mainstream and experimental moving image practice, from 1945 onwards, the paper will engage with a range of issues such as gender and sexuality, race, labour, capitalism, digitality, biopolitics and ecologies. It will address topics including trauma and historical memory, decolonisation (particularly Third Cinema in its Latin American and African iterations), political filmmaking in various contexts (Black, feminist, queer, trans), cinematic representations of AIDS/HIV, and contemporary explorations of identity, disability, precarity and crisis.

The scope of the paper is global. While the major language areas covered will be French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and English, students are encouraged to adopt a global, comparative approach that explores such material alongside cinemas in other languages.


The paper is divided into six key topics:

  1. Trauma and decolonisation
  2. Gender and sexuality
  3. Labour and class
  4. Migration and Diaspora
  5. Cinema of crisis
  6. Reframing worlds.

The paper begins with two introductory lectures: one on the history of political cinema, and one on the relation between film theory and politics.

There is a list of suggested (rather than prescribed) films for each topic. Information on the topics, films and suggested reading can be found in the reading list (on Moodle, requires Raven login).

Preparatory reading: 

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958)

Nico Baumbach, Cinema/Politics/Philosophy (2018)

Robin Blaetz, Women’s Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks (2007)

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (2008 [2000])

Jean-Louis Comolli and Jean Narboni, ‘Cinema/Ideology/Criticism’ (1969)

Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 197576, trans. D. Macey, ed. M. Bertani and A. Fontana (2003)

Rosalind Galt and Karl Schoonover, Queer Cinema in the World (2016)

Lee Grieveson, Cinema and the Wealth of Nations: Media, Capital, and the Liberal World System (2017)

bell hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation (2015 [1992])

Laura U. Marks, Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image (2015)

Karl Marx, ‘The Labour Process’, in Capital, Vol. I, trans. Ben Fowkes (1990), pp. 283-292.

Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics (2019)

Robert McRuer (ed), ‘Cripping Cinema and Media Studies’, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, 58:4 (Summer 2019),

Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures (1989)

Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway (eds), Screening Nature: Cinema Beyond the Human (2013)

Aníbal Quijano, ‘Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality’, in Mignolo and Escobar (eds), Globalization and the Decolonial Option (2010), pp. 22-32.

Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (2004)

Steven Shaviro, Post Cinematic Affect (2010)

Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (1994)

Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, ‘Towards a Third Cinema’ (1970)

Eliza Steinbock, Shimmering Images: Trans Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Change (2019)

Linda Zerilli, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom (2005)


Teaching and learning: 

The paper will be taught through a combination of lectures and supervisions. Students will usually work with one supervisor across the year.

For the CS7 Moodle site, please see here (will require Raven sign-in)



The examination paper will be divided into six sections, according to the six topics taught. Students must answer three essays drawn from different sections. Each answer should be comparative across at least two different language areas (which may include English).

The paper encourages a global, comparative approach. Scripts as a whole should be comparative across at least two national contexts and/or language areas (excluding English). Students writing about European film are encouraged to bring this material into contact with cinemas beyond Europe. This guidance also applies to Optional Dissertations.

A specimen examination paper can be found here.


Course Contacts: 
Dr Laura McMahon