Extraterritorial Life at the Age of Precarity: Double Occupancy and Parapraxis in Tharlo [2015] and Transit [2018]: First Annual Thomas Elsaesser Memorial Lecture

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


"In Extraterritoriality [2019], I argue that “we are all extraterritorial, only that we may not feel it.” Most lives today, which often occupy––and are occupied by––sociopolitically precarious positions, are by default extraterritorial. They are doubly occupied––and doubly ostracized––by conflicting sovereign authorities, political powers, and culturo-linguistic forces that seek to claim them. And these forces make such claim by, ironically, banishing them outside of their terrains. How do contemporary filmmakers who care about such double occupancy and extraterritoriality by using the cinema as an image-consciousness (embodied experience) to enable new opportunities to achieve a reimagination of politics?

This Lecture is inspired by my conversation with Thomas Elsaesser in New York last year. In this conversation, Elsaesser was interested in the renewed pertinence of double occupancy in European cinema under our current sociopolitical conditions, and how the concept itself is best reconfigured via a reexamination of contemporary cinemas in the Tibetan-Sinophone spheres. Such a revision, for Elsaesser, needs to be conducted in a way both specific to the historical and political positions of these regions, and relationally sharable and communicable among precarious lives across these communities. In my talk, I use an analytical strategy proposed by Elsaesser, parapraxis (Freudian slip: the failure to perform as the performance of failure), to scrutinize two films: Tharlo [2015] by Tibetan filmmaker who works in Beijing Pema Tseden, and Transit [2018] by German filmmaker Christian Petzold. I argue that both films fail to provide a solution for sociopolitically desubjectivized lives to regain their agency and subjectivity. Yet, by performing such failure, they both enable us to imagine how politics can be re-understood outside the binaries of subjectivity/desubjectivity, individuality/deindividuation, and agent/patient."
Period20 Nov 2020
Held atColumbia University, United States, New York