COUNTER-NARRATIVES, CLASS POLITICS AND METROPOLITAN DYSTOPIAS: Representations of Globalization in Maelstrom, Waydowntown and la Moitie Gauche Du Frigo

By Longfellow, Brenda | Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

COUNTER-NARRATIVES, CLASS POLITICS AND METROPOLITAN DYSTOPIAS: Representations of Globalization in Maelstrom, Waydowntown and la Moitie Gauche Du Frigo


Longfellow, Brenda, Canadian Journal of Film Studies


Resume: En portant une attention particuliere a Maelstrom, l'auteure considere trois films canadiens qui abordent la problematique de l'experience metropolitaine de la mondialisation pour re-imaginer la ville en termes de traditions architecturales et du libre mouvement des capitaux. Dans ces uvres, la ville devient une dystopie de fonctionnalisme redondant et anonyme. Ses habitants appartiennent a une ethnie uniforme, homogene, blanche, tous des col-blancs proletarises dans la vingtaine ou debut de la trentaine. Sa texture emotive est une melancolie generalisee explicitement issue de l'impacte du capital sur la vie de tous les jours.

The metropolis is, above all, a myth, a tale...an allegory; in particular it represents the allegory of the crisis of modernity.... To go beyond these bleak stories of exile and that grey, rainy country of the anguished soul, is to establish a sense of being at home in the city, and to make of tradition a space of transformation rather than the scene of a cheerless destiny.1

While an enormously disputed and internally differentiated body of literature, theories of globalization provide a resonant framework for reading contemporary Canadian cinema as a field shaped by international flows of money, textual influence and ideologies as much as by national determinations. There is, perhaps, no better place to begin than with Arjun Appadurai who has devised an expansive model that encompasses the cross-border flow and social integration of transnational "ethnoscapes," "mediascapes," "technoscapes," "financescapes," and "ideoscapes."2 For Appadurai, this broad-dimensional approach to globalization necessitates a deep rethinking of issues of mediation and causation beyond economist approaches that privilege transnational corporate capital as the single most crucial vector in considering globalization. According to Appadurai, flows of capital, technology, immigrants, and ideas are not, "coeval, convergent, isomorphic or spatially consistent. They are...in relations of disjuncture...[and] have different speeds, axes, points of origin and termination."3 Appadurai's enormously influential model allows us to theorize the incomplete, uneven, mutually contradictory histories of globalization in Canada. Separating the economic from the socio-political in relation to their discrepant histories of development might go someways toward explaining the continuous vivacity of regional and sub-national cultural identities in Canada (Quebec and first nation communal formations being the paramount examples) against the backdrop of accelerated continental economic integration and American domination of mass media consumption.

In addition to Appadurai, Saskia Sassen provides a clear alternative to thinking globalization as a single integrated or unified conceptual scheme. Sassen suggests shifting analysis from the conventional global/national axis to a consideration of how globalization is actualized in concrete, localized assumptions about globalization, which stress the hyper-mobility of capital or the immateriality of the information economy, Sassen places a renewed emphasis on concrete location and place by arguing that even information economies require substantial, site-specific infrastructures and agglomerations of population. Introducing sub-national groupings like cities into an analysis of globalization not only adds concrete specificity but allows for a consideration of the way in which economic globalization impacts on everyday life, in particular, on the lives of marginal subjects: "women, immigrants, people of colour, whose political sense of self and identities are not necessarily embedded in the nation or the national community."4

Sassen's approach goes well beyond the consistent and often consistently banal evocation of the local as a situated or essentially resistant counter-ballast to the homogenizing and imperializing flows of global corporate influence. Reorienting the analysis of globalization from the macro to the micro involves a focused consideration of the specific places where the everyday reality of globalization is performed, felt, and resisted by embodied subjects. …

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