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Revis(it)ing personal, theoretical and national histories: A critical review-essay of Encountering Modernity: Twentieth Century South African Cinemas with an interview with Keyan G. Tomaselli

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Keyan G. Tomaselli's book Encountering Modernity: Twentieth Century South African Cinemas (Rozenberg UNISA Press, 2006) is an effective and incisive summary of the various theories, ideas and analytical frames that have characterized how Tomaselli has continued to approach the study of South African cinemas throughout a period of 25 years. Not content to merely provide readers with a collection of previously published writings, Tomaselli has extensively revised and reworked the essays and book chapters contained in this collection as a means to (re)write South Africa into modernity and provide South African cinema with a history, resulting in a theoretical undertaking that is part intellectual autobiography and part critical attempt to frame South African cinemas in African historical, narrative and theoretical terms. It is indeed within these lines blurring the conceptual and epistemological tension between the concepts of historicity, modernity and autobiography if not subjectivity that we formulate our critical analysis of this review-essay. This review-essay includes two main sections. First, we critically look at the ways in which Tomaselli writes and rewrites theoretical articulation making possible his analyses of South African cinema. Second, we engage in a short dialogue with him, asking him to clarify some of the conceptual tensions we found in his book.

Keywords: South African cinema; South African history; discourse; historiography and modernity; ideology; representation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Ottawa. 2: Carleton University.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film. 
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