Boston Cinema/Media Seminar & Lit@MIT presents
The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor
Thursday, December 10th 2020
6:00pm – 8:00pm EST/5:00pm – 7:00pm CST
Presenter: Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky
Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies at The University of Chicago.
Respondent: Codruța Morari
Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies & French at Wellesley College.
This talk is based on Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky’s recently published book, The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor (Duke UP, 2020).
From IKEA assembly guides and “hands and pans” cooking videos on social media to Mister Roger’s classic factory tours, representations of the step-by-step fabrications of objects and food are ubiquitous in popular media. The book sets out to introduce and systematically theorize an unrecognized transmedial genre: the process genre. The process genre is characterized by the special, often mesmerizing way it organizes the representation of processes. The represented processes are typically processes of production—both artisanal and industrial— and, crucially, they are represented as having a chronologically ordered series of steps with a clearly identifiable beginning, middle, and end. The book argues that while the process genre’s first exemplars emerge in the early modern period in the domain of how-to manuals, technical machine drawings, and what E. H. Gombrich called “pictorial instructions,” it is in the medium of cinema that the process genre achieves its most impressive and characteristic results. Across the history of cinema, the process film is well-represented in the catalogues of overlapping categories—in particular, the industrial film, the educational film, the ethnographic film. The Process Genre proposes that the broader cultural significance of the process genre is in its formal approach to the representation of labor, which—regardless of the actual kind of labor depicted (often industrial production)—it casts as skilled and artisanal. The centrality of work and labor to the process genre means that its exemplars are often staking out ideological positions—from across the political spectrum—on the meaning of labor in human life.
Launched in 2015, the Boston Cinema/Media Seminar is a meeting of film and media scholars from the many colleges and universities in the greater Boston area. Drawing from the pool of local scholars across the Boston area’s many institutions as well as scholars visiting or in residence here, it runs along similar lines to seminars in other communities with high concentrations of scholars spread out across many institutions, bringing them together and encouraging a sense of community of people who work in related fields. Based on models such as the Chicago Film Seminar and the Columbia University Seminars, each meeting features a speaker who gives a substantial presentation of her or his work, followed by a formal response by an invited respondent, followed by discussion among the whole group, followed by dinner and further, informal discussion.
The benefits of having a seminar like this are manifold. Graduate students and scholars at the area’s colleges and universities–many of whom have only a handful of colleagues working in a related field at their home institutions–profit from access to a community of scholars beyond their own school. Further, they hear the most recent work in the field and have an opportunity to shape it as it develops. Speakers gain access to a subset of the audience their work is most interested in reaching, and the discussion that ensues allows engagement with the prevailing concerns of cinema and media studies for everyone. The seminar capitalizes on having a critical mass of brilliant people working in cinema and media studies in the area and provides an outlet and a forum for the development of their common interests.
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Dec 10, 2020 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.