e²mc

evolving ecological media culture(s)


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Eco-trauma & the eco-image

These are further notes on Chapter 6 of EMI

1. Trauma and the eco-image

One of the themes of this chapter is the connection between films about ecological disaster — real, imagined, or potential (future disaster) — and films about other forms of cultural or historical trauma.

How can film represent traumatic events? What if the trauma is as fundamental and collective as the end of the conditions of life as we know it, which is what happens in devastating disasters? What if the events have not yet taken place, but are only imagined as a possibility on the horizon? Continue reading


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Mappings, becomings, eco-trauma & the Real

The second week of the animality and “biomorphism” chapter (chapter 5) moved us into an exploration of human-animal interactions and human “becomings-animal.” A screening of Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” (discussed extensively in the chapter) was supplemented by bits and pieces from “Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” Robinson Devor’s unusual documentary “Zoo” (which you can watch in full here), and several others.

Now we move into the home stretch of the course. Chapter 6 is intended as the culmination of the book’s several strands, so it would be useful to recap things as we move into it. The first section of the chapter does just that for the main theoretical apparatus of the book (notably, the three “morphisms” and the three moments of the film experience). Beyond that, however, are the various mappings provided in the preceding three chapters.

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Letting the devil make his own movie

The class went on a field trip to see The Act of Killing last week, which fit our reading of Chapter 4 of Ecologies of the Moving Image better than I could have planned. (That’s the chapter that deals with “anthropomorphism,” that is, the “becomings-human” — or “becoming-subjective” — within the world of a film.)

The Act of Killing is Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary about the perpetrators of the mass murders committed by the Suharto regime’s paramilitary death squads in mid-1960s Indonesia. The filmmakers interview some of the worst of the perpetrators and — controversially — invite them to re-enact the killings for the camera, filming these scenes in the style of their favorite film genres. This interplay between mass murder and Hollywood movies — gangsters, westerns, and musicals — is a focus of the film.

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Anthropomorphism (EMI chapter 4)

What Chapter 3 did with the world (and, specifically, nature), Chapter 4 does with people (and, specifically, their relation to nature). In particular, it deals with contrasts between a normative, “modern” (western, industrial) relationship to nature and a non-normative one: non-western, pre-modern, “primitive,” and all those other characterizations that carry so much baggage in the modern creation narrative.

(“We ‘moderns’ are what we are because we . . . [ascended from, descended from, evolved out of, transgressed, superseded, conquered, etc.] this more . . . [primitive, natural, better, worse, etc.] way of being.”)

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EMI Week 1

The following notes are reading notes provided to students in an upper-level undergraduate course entitled “Ecopolitics and the Cinema.” The course name is a little outdated, as the course has evolved in the direction of an ecophilosophical exploration of cinema, but a new title has not yet been approved.

As an Environmental Studies course, it is tailored to students majoring in interdisciplinary environmental studies. Concepts from other disciplines — such as philosophy, film or cultural studies, and others — are introduced and explained more carefully than they would be in other disciplinary contexts.

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Ecologies of the Moving Image online course

I’ve begun teaching a course on film and ecology and using my book Ecologies of the Moving Image as the main text.

Since the topic is related to the theme of this blog, and since I’ll be creating reading guides and posting links to film clips and related materials for my students, I thought I might as well share those publicly here.

The first materials from the course will go up later this week on this blog. They’ll continue on a more-or-less weekly basis, at least until further notice.

The book can be ordered online from the publisher for $36.75 Canadian, or from Amazon for $42 U.S. Alternatively, you can request that your local or institutional library order a copy from the publisher.

The tentative course syllabus is here, but the scheduling will be a little off (later online than in the classroom version) and screenings may change a little from what’s listed there. I will try to add links to films or clips that may be available open access. (And help will be graciously accepted; use the “Comments” field for any given week.) Otherwise, you can view things on Netflix, Amazon, or whatever other place you may get your videos/DVDs. (Public libraries are especially recommended!)

More soon.