on June 3, 2022
Published on April 15, 2022 Updated on January 20, 2023

The New European Cinema of Precarity

Temenuga Trifonova picture
Temenuga Trifonova picture

‘Precarity’ has become one of the buzz words in studies of neoliberalism’s restructuring of the global economy and of the entire human sensorium. Originally signifying a social condition linked to poverty, precarity has come to refer to the rise in flexible and precarious forms of labour, the reduction of welfare state provisions, the suppression of unions, and the association of migration with illegality. Described by Lauren Berlant (2011) as the dominant structure and experience of the present moment, ‘precarity’ refers to the experience of a new generation of Europeans who find themselves unable to rely on the type of employment opportunities, economic security, and social benefits that previous generations might have been guaranteed. The urgent need for an in-depth study of the cinema of precarity cannot be overstated, especially in our current circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply illuminated the extent to which precarity has already become ingrained in our lives as a result of forty years of structural adjustment policies that have affected the ‘precarious multitude’, which now includes ‘the new coronavirus poor,’ newly unemployed citizens, furloughed workers, people on medical leave etc. The value of precarity as an analytical concept lies in the way it allows us to bring together concrete, situated experiences of insecurity and vulnerability—and their cinematic representations—with larger social and political debates about the psychological and physical effects of neoliberalism and the possibilities for resistance to it.

Given the long history of socially engaged European cinema the aim of this one-day conference is to explore the stylistic features of the new European cinema of precarity and the political and social values embodied in it. How does the new cinema of precarity conceive class in relation to race, religion, sexuality, and gender? What ethical questions does the new cinema of precarity raise? Lauren Berlant analyzes post-Fordist affect in terms of what she calls ‘cruel optimism’, a new ‘adjustment strategy’ to the increasing precariousness of life under neoliberalism, which is no longer perceived as a crisis since crisis itself has become mundane. What ‘adjustment strategies’ does the new European cinema of precarity dramatize, and are they inherently politically regressive, as Berlant seems to suggest? Where does the new European cinema of precarity locate the possibility for social and political transformation—in a particular class, in fighting for a particular good/cause, or in a particular political stance?

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Practical information:

  • Date: 3 June 2022 from 09:00 to 17:30
  • The hybrid conference is organised in person at the Auditorium of MIR in Neuville-sur-Oise and remotely on Zoom.
  • To attend the remote conference, please connect to Zoom: https://cyu-fr.zoom.us/j/96496803354
  • Meeting ID: 964 9680 3354

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