Configuring the Demos: Cinema and Democracy
01 January 2023 to 30 April 2023
Cinema has been called a quintessentially democratic form of art and culture by thinkers ranging from Alain Badiou to Miriam Hansen and Ashis Rajadhyaksha. Cinema is a popular art, perhaps the popular art of modernity par excellence. Ever since (Western) art has become detached from its ceremonial connection to power and become autonomous around 1800, the arts have struggled to position themselves in relation to the spheres of politics and power, oscillating between pure aesthetics and explicitly political art. The cinema is inherently political in a different sense: It creates a space for the configuration of the demos, the new source of power in the modern age of democracy. The audience in cinema is anonymous and fluid, and in front of the screen everyone is equal. And on the screen, everyone’s story can be told, and everyone can (potentially) be a star. But with a view to society, the democracy of cinema remains largely aspirational. Rajadhyaksha, for instance, argues that the cinema is the only place where the goals of the Indian constitution, i.e. the Deweyan democractic endosmosis which transcends all differences of caste, religion and ethnicity, ever became a reality.
At the same time, a look at the larger world map of cinema appears to suggest that there is connection between democracy and the flourishing of cinema as a popular art form and industry. India remains both the largest democracy in the worl and the most important film producing nation in the world. South Korea, in its final transition to democracy in the late 1997, liberated the film industry and became one of the most significant exporters of film (and music) in Asia.
This project takes a closer look at both the aspirational aspect and the institutional dynamics of the relationship between cinema and democracy by focusing on cinema as primary site for the configuration of the democractic demos.
Vinzenz Hediger is professor of cinema studies at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, where he directs the Graduate Resarch Training Program “Konfigurationen des Films” (www.konfigurationen-des-films.de). He is a co-speaker of “ConTrust – Trust in Conflict”, an interdisciplinary research initiative in the Normative Orders research center at Goethe University. He is a co-founder of NECS – European Network of Cinema and Media Studies and the founding editor of the Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft (www.zfmedienwissenschaft.de).