Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Documentary Radicality

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Documentary Radicality

Article excerpt

Résumé: Les photographies du « Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire » (1911) de New York, qui circulaient sous forme de pastels diascopiques, et les images animées des travailleurs de la « Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company » (1904), produites par l'American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, permettent de repenser le cinéma radical selon le concept de la « radicalisation » dérridienne. L'auteur va au-delà de C.S. Peirce, et le contourne, pour identifier dans le documentaire radical une indexicalité marxiste qui suggère que ce qui a été perdu au niveau de la connexion indexicale la causalité - depuis l'arrivée des médias digitaux existe toujours dans la théorie de la production sociale de l'oeuvre qui est liée à sa temporalité historico-matérielle.

In Specters of Marx, Jacques Derrida's reflections on the end of Marxism, he asks, "But what does 'to radicalize' mean?" He goes on: "It is not, by a long shot, the best word. It does indicate a movement of going further, of course, and of not stopping. But that is the limit of its pertinence.... The point would be not to progress still further into the depths of radicality...while taking a step in the same direction." Derrida, it would seem, is cautioning against going down the same road again. But while he doesn't want us to proceed in the same old way into the "depths of radicality," he returns again and again to what he calls the "spirit of Marx," a spirit that still haunts the globe.1 The specter's "hauntology," its coming back, going, and coming back again, would seem to do with the historical "déjà vu," the repetition of the moment at the beginning of the 1950s, or, a second "end of communism."2 He is implicated, we are implicated as the "heirs of Marx and Marxism," our legacy not only a project but a "promise," and not only a philosophical project.3 Beyond the performance of the "radicalization" or the radical critique, that is, beyond deconstruction, which Derrida sees as a radicalization of Marxism itself, the spirit of Marx is there in the reminder of that part of the project which is the production of events, that is, "new effective forms of action, practice, organization."4

Further, in Derrida, and to get closer to our topic, this momentous second end of communism has also been coincident with and is thus seemingly one among other "ends of things," whether the "end of history," the "end of ideologies," or the "end of the great emancipatory discourses." But, he goes on, these are ends that should remind us of what it is that has not been ended. Why proclaim these ends, he says, when there is still no end of world suffering? In a surprisingly passionate passage, Derrida implores us to leave off celebrating these ends, and instead, "Let us never neglect this obvious microscopic fact, made up of numerous singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, never have so many men, women, and children been subjugated, starved, or exterminated on the earth."5 Let us not. Neither let us miss the connection Derrida makes between the end of the emancipatory discourses and the multiplication of sites of suffering, the effect of the termination of the one seen in the proliferation of the other. But this intimation of consequence relies on a crucial reverse causal connection, a connection that could only be made in the light of the historical legacy of Marxism as not only "answering" the plight of the downtrodden but as a theory providing the analytical answer as well as the antidote-socialism.

Perhaps then Derrida's call to "never neglect" is a tribute to the resilience of the Marxist lightning narrative of social transformation, which goes something like this: material conditions cause consciousness change causes social rebellion causes society changed. And yet this theory of social transformation needs constant reassessment. In the following, we will want to know if "radicalize," although not, as Derrida thinks, the best word for whatever it is that happens, has something to do with the relation between the great Marxist emancipatory discourses and the "obvious microscopic fact" composed of "sites of suffering. …

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