Past Talks & More

Alan O’LearyProtesting Stereotypes from The Battle of Algiers to Beyoncé Knowles

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In this engaging talk by film scholar Alan O’Leary, explore the use of cultural stereotypes in depictions of protest, both in postcolonial filmmaking and in popular culture at large.

The talk begins with Gillo Pontecorvo’s influential 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, a harrowing look at the Algerian struggle for independence from French occupation in the 1950s. Paradoxically, the film uses Orientalist stereotypes—in this case, visual and conceptual clichés about North African women—to celebrate the Algerian struggle against the French colonizer. What does the gendered portrayal of nationalist struggle tell us about stereotypes and protest more broadly?

To answer this question, we’ll reconsider postcolonial ideas of hybrid culture and what scholar Homi Bhabha calls “the third space” in relation to theories of difference and the exotic, including Charles Forsdick’s study of Victor Segalen. We’ll also examine the so-called “banlieue cinema” in France (such as the 1995 film La haine), as well as more recent material like Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade (2016) and Kendall Jenner’s reviled Pepsi commercial. In the course of the lecture, “protesting stereotypes” will take on a double meaning: the protest against stereotypes—the attempt by those “subject” to stereotyping, colonization, and oppression to assert themselves—but also stereotypes of protest, where imagery of activism becomes commodified and clichéd.

Dr. Alan O’Leary is professor of film and cultural studies and director of research and innovation in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Societies at the University of Leeds, UK. He’s the author of two books, Fenomenologia del cinepanettone (Rubbettino, 2013) and Tragedia all’italiana: Italian Cinema and Italian Terrorisms, 1970–2010 (Peter Lang, 2011), with a third one about The Battle of Algiers (Mimesis International).

Cosponsored by Ohio State’s Film Studies Program.

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Past Talks & More

Alan O’LearyProtesting Stereotypes from The Battle of Algiers to Beyoncé Knowles