The Implied Who: Recognition Attempts in Post-Colonial Films

What is the social function of a film? My analysis takes a normative approach to answer this question by redeploying Hegelian theories of recognition and intersubjectivity produced by Frantz Fanon, Francis Fukayama, and Nancy Fraser. I argue that embodied affective histories (which constitute the habitus) seek to be validated and recognized at the level of the individual, the collective group identity, and the nation-state. Films constitute attempts at recognition within what I understand as the global Bourdieusian field of cinema through means of semiotic communication. The films analyzed in this project Le Joli Mai (1963), Le Petit Soldat (1963), The Battle of Algiers (1966), La Haine (1995), and Cache (2005) each deal with the French decolonization of Algeria in some capacity. Therefore, by taking anthropologist Sol Worth’s argument that cinema must be analyzed not only for the film but for the uses of the film within a given context, the films will be examined as symbolic attempts to establish personal, cultural, and national self-esteem at the dawn of the post-colonial era. For these reasons, I invoke Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of adressivity, or the dialogical relation that texts create between sender and audience in order to sociologically analyze the intended audience. I believe that an important dimension of film production, or any production for that matter, is lost by bracketing off artistic intentionality and communication. Films are made for audiences, who are not imagined in a void, but projected by the filmmaker.