IAMCR: Communication, Technology and Human Dignity
7-11 July 2019 Madrid
Giving Voice to the Past. Methodological Challenges to Comparative Histories of Cinema Audiences.
Lies Van de Vijver (Ghent University), Daniela Treveri Gennari (Oxford Brookes University) and Pierluigi Ercole (De Montfort University)
For the study of cinema as a cultural practice, historical research into the experiences of audiences is a quintessential area of investigation. Giving voice and visibility to film spectators is a bottom up approach, which contributes to an in-depth analysis of the spatial and social conditions of the cinematic experience (Kuhn 2002).
Our research aims to move beyond the particularism of local and national cinema histories. We intend to explore – through a more systematic comparative approach – the cross-national voices of film audiences in seven European countries (Biltereyst & Meers, 2016). Drawing from the AHRC-funded research ‘European Cinema Audiences’ this paper examines the linguistic, cultural, political and ideological challenges of a comparative oral history approach. Using several different theoretical perspectives (Bornat 2013; Koleva, Coleman and Bornat 2013; Keightley and Pickering 2013; Steen Mangen 2013) on the complexity of working with memory across national and linguistic barriers, we propose new methodological recommendations while outlining the importance of transnational and transcultural perspectives for memory studies today. The issues of language and translation of oral history; the danger of losing the cultural specificity and the intention of finding shared grounds across different countries will be some of the concerns raised and explored within the context of our paper.
Our audience is the last surviving generation for which going to the cinema was the only way to experience movies. Therefore, capturing their voice and their memories, giving visibility to their personal experiences, and comparing their narratives will provide a vital contribution to the understanding of the transnational history of European film culture. A total of 140 video-interviews on their memories of going to the movies in the 1950shave been conducted in seven languages in the cities of Ghent (Belgium), Bari (Italy), Leicester (Great Britain), Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Brno (Czech Republic), Magdeburg (Germany), and Gothenburg (Sweden) with respondents born between 1925 and 1945. This unprecedented project – which combines oral history, an online repository created with local and national archives across the seven cities, and programming data for 3 full years – will attempt to make use of innovative digital tools and methodologies to become a model for comparative work of this kind.
Biltereyst, Daniel, Richard Maltby & Philippe Meers (2019) The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Bornat, Joanna (2013) ‘Oral History and Remembering’, in Keightley, Emily & Michael Pickering (eds.) Research Methods for Memory Studies. Edinburgh University Press.
Coleman, Peter, Daniela Koleva and Joanna Bornat (eds) Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the Secular and Religious in Eastern and Western Europe. Ashgate Publishing.
Hantrais, Linda and Steen Mangen (2013) Cross-National Research Methodology and Practice. Routledge.
Kuhn, Annette (2002) Dreaming of Fred and Ginger. Cinema and Cultural Memory. NUY Press.
Pickering, Michael and Emily Keightley (2013) ‘Communities of Memory and the Problem of Transmission’, European Journal of Cultural Studies 16(1):115-131.