Academic journal article Framework

Introduction: Film Theory in the Age of Neoliberal Globalization

Academic journal article Framework

Introduction: Film Theory in the Age of Neoliberal Globalization

Article excerpt

Recently, I have been reflecting on my responsibility as a historian of film institutions and as a mentor to PhD students in the new age of funding cuts, which, even as they target all parts of higher education, fall disproportionately on the humanities. Like others, I've responded on the everyday level with ad hoc maneuvering. But I've also given a bit of thought to the larger issue of how the way we do research may necessitate further changes in the institutional conditions of knowledge production, as the technostructure and economics of our institutions undergo a massive adjustment to accommodate the forces of a militant neo-liberalism. This special issue, which is dedicated to the horizons of transnational research on film and media theory beyond Eurocentrism, has been formed by the unignorable stresses that condition the approach we are taking: both the personal situation we face in improvising resources and working with PhD students for whom the future looms all too bleakly (which we can easily extrapolate to thousands of academics) and the situation of higher education institutions in North America.

It is usually the case that academic publications ignore the conditions in which they are produced to concentrate on their specific topics. The social form is laid aside in order to explore the scholarly content. In this Introduction, however, I want to touch on the broader intellectual and epistemological stakes of doing transnational research, the way these stakes are manifested in specific approaches that have emerged in the field of film and media studies and in particular film and media theory over the last decade, as all the essays in this dossier will further demonstrate. At the same time, I am concerned here with the institutional conditions in our social reproduction of such knowledge-in particular, in training young scholars who will go on to do academic work. My goal is twofold here: I want to point out viable alternatives to the Eurocentric practices of our scholarly disciplines, meaning not only the objects of our research but also our theoretical paradigms seen as fundamental principles of our intellectual project. With these in mind, I will reflect upon the institutional practices in our field and the conditions under which the production of transnational research could go forward most productively-as well as the way that the current developments in academia are curtailing these very possibilities.

It is evident to everyone in academia today that the terms transnational and interdisciplinary have acquired a certain amount of political and cultural cachet. They appear with monotonous regularity in job descriptions, calls for journal articles and manuscripts, funding agency guidelines, and international policy papers, almost regardless of the discipline. Such indications of institutionalization make many in the academy suspicious of the motives for making scholarly knowledge production less bound to specific geographic entities and disciplines. Many fear that such a move simply masks the downsizing of the university and the gradual loss of academic autonomy by individual departments (whether disciplinary or area-based), and ideologically justifies developments deriving from the greater corporatization of the universities, which has masked itself in various feel-good phrases to disguise an essentially anti-intellectual agenda. The justifiably alarming image of a university with one Department of Transnational Cultural Studies begins to seem less and less unlikely as we watch the administrative reduction of the humanities, which merges all language and literature programs under Modern Languages, and Film Studies, Media Theory, and Cultural Studies into one multifaced amalgam. The gain for the administration is often to reduce new hires and limit the decision-making autonomy of the faculty, especially in the long term, disenfranchising the power of academic laborers in the name of efficiency. This hastens the surrender to the administration of a much larger influence in dictating the areas in which hires can be made and, implicitly, what can be taught and researched. …

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