Film History and “Cartographic Anxiety”

Giorgio Avezzu'

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


The cartographic paradigm has strongly shaped the discourse of cinema history, even if a ‘global’ framework is now preferred to a ‘national’ one. Recent film history and criticism (notably the “world cinema” approach advocated by Dudley Andrew, among others) have often recommended an all-encompassing view over global cinema production and circulation, promoting the virtues of a “distant reading”, similar to the one that Franco Moretti has proposed for literary history. That is a perspective able to give a sense of the interconnection of the elements (i.e. films, cultures, economies), their relations, shapes, patterns and structures, also in the form of graphs, maps (even GIS) and trees. However, a similar kind of approach to the study of the contemporary mediascape is connected with the ideologies (and aesthetics) of globalization and it is also subtly theoretical, even when it does not declare it; at least because, etymologically, theory always involves a scopic regime, a particular way of seeing – namely, it is a way of “holding the world at a distance”. This very same global framework supported by recent film history and its Apollonian point of view also defined the “intellectual position of the geographer” (C. Jacob), as historians of cartography have frequently pointed out. Still, in the age of the “crisis of the cartographic reason” (F. Farinelli), every intention of projecting a logical order from above, or of conceiving the world(cinema)-as-exhibition (to paraphrase Timothy Mitchell), must be subjected to critical scrutiny. At the same time, it should be exposed the persistence of a historicist and teleological Western master narrative aiming at filling all the blank spaces on the world cinema map (the mapping of the Nigerian video industry is a typical example). In his Geographical Imaginations Derek Gregory discusses the “cartographic anxiety” as the theoretical disorientation caused by the emergence of new difficulties about the geographical representability of the contemporary world system, about its regimes of truth and the effectiveness of its configurations of knowledge and power. The persistence of the cartographic paradigm in contemporary cinema history is probably linked to a similar anxiety. On the one hand, it originates from a sort of osmosis between “cartographic cinema” and “cartography of cinema”: in other words, the possibility to represent the (whole) world that made cinema a geographical medium (as it has been observed since 1914 by Herman Häfker and until Teresa Castro’s 2011 book) is unconsciously allegorized by the possibility of film history and criticism to represent cinema as the world. Therefore, a cartographic paradigm – as well as the insistence on new “realist” tendencies spanning the globe – can be explained by considering the threat posed by digital production to the referentiality of cinema. On the other hand, a similar symptomatic reading can relate the success of this cartographic preoccupation of cinema history to an anxiety concerning the mappability of informal (and digital) distribution and the invisibility of its flows and networks (recently narrated by Ramon Lobato). The cartographic anxiety of cinema history can be therefore considered as connected to peculiar problems of representation and authority that contemporary culture – and contemporary cinema – encounter while trying to grasp the whole picture of the world in order to master it intellectually.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAt the Borders of (Film) History: Temporality, Archaeology, Theories
EditorA Beltrame, G Fidotta, A Mariani
Numero di pagine8
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015


  • Cartographic Anxiety
  • Film History


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