Postcolonial theory and the faciality machine
Smith, Jo T. (Joanne Therese)
This thesis examines theories of colonial stereotypes and spectatorship as they circulate in postcolonial film and media theory. Conventional approaches to the repetitive and easily reproduced characteristics of the colonial stereotype measure and evaluate the image according to a prior ideal colonial subject. The thesis argues that this method replicates the dialectical divide between the image (as representation) and the empirical "real" that the stereotype fails to encompass and that it subsequently neglects the discursive nature of colonial identity. It is precisely this gap between the image (as representation) and the empirical "real" (that the stereotype fails to encompass) that constitutes a leap from the particular to the general. In these accounts, the concept of cultural difference (including racial and sexual differences) remains static, ahistorical and formed in dialectical opposition to a normative paradigm of subjectivity derived from colonialist discourse. This thesis approaches the colonial stereotype from another direction. It examines how particular expressions of the racial and sexual stereotype that emerge in canonical and contemporary cinema, and in cultural spaces beyond cinema, transform the ideal and general concepts of spectatorship and cultural difference. Drawing upon Gilles Deleuze's work on cinema and his theory of the relationship between difference and repetition, the thesis discusses the paradoxical force of colonial stereotypes that express the repetitive logic of habitual recognition and the differential forces of time. The thesis develops Deleuze's writings on the cinematic close-up and his work with Felix Guattari to deploy the conceptual framework of Faciality which describes the simultaneous forces of difference and repetition expressed in the colonial stereotype. Faciality is treated as both a synecdochical concept and a partial object in order to trace the paradoxical force of the stereotype. As a synecdochical concept, Faciality expresses the representational powers of the human face as a communication device par excellence, and as the most highly coded and semiotically dense part of the human body. This treatment abstracts the singularity of the closeup and places it in automatic relation to the film as a totality, or to a prior ideal. Chapter One traces the dominance of this automatic reflex, or habitual form of recognition through the camera obscura model of perception that dominates postcolonial theories of the racial and sexual stereotype. Chapter Two re-reads two canonical film texts (The Birth of a Nation and Touch of Evil) in light of postcolonial theories of-hybridity and Jonathan Crary's counter-narrative of cinema spectatorship. Chapter Three discusses Gilles Deleuze's writings on the deterritorialising powers of the cinematic close-up in relation to two contemporary repetitions of images of Oriental femininity from Double Happiness and Irma Vep. Throughout this thesis, the concept of Faciality develops a theory of spectatorship that examines the simultaneous process of inscription and reterritorialisation that occurs in the repetition of the stereotype, as well as describing the potential deterritorialising effects of these repetitions that affirm the differential and future-oriented forces of time. Chapter Four develops these dual forces as a cultural politics of Faciality that examines how the bicultural model of politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand can be approached as an immanent form of cultural difference. The chapter examines this bicultural-becoming through a discussion of the figure of the Dusky Maiden stereotype in the mock documentary Velvet Dreams. The thesis concludes that by approaching the colonial stereotype as a paradoxical force of difference and repetition and by apprehending cinema as a logic of relations the act of spectatorship becomes a productive assemblage which presents the possibility of thinking from the viewpoint of immanent difference.
Advisor: Jutel, Thierry; Prentice, Chris
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Media, Film and Communication Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis