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Gendered spaces for survival: Citizens and aliens in contemporary European cinema

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The contemporary urban space is dominated by neo-liberism, and represented in European cinema as a hostile environment for the disadvantaged or illegal citizens inhabiting it. The ‘aliens’ penetrating Fortress Europe are forced to find original and secluded routes in the stratified city map, or to blur the borders of their confinement with incursion in the outside world, which can be physical or virtual, however illegal. The aim of this article is to depict the complex relations represented by contemporary European cinema between the policies of globalization, neo-liberist economies and migration flows, as they all clash one against the other within the cityscape. European metropolizes are represented as layered interfaces actively producing the hegemonic narratives, where each subject has to negotiate an impossible position between presence and absence, visibility and invisibility, public and private. In such a scenario, both citizen and human rights are deprived of any value, and the same happens to the idea of political representation. The main activity organized by the institutions is border patrolling, as many films represent surveillance policies and actual raids through the city to detect the ‘aliens’ and remove them from the national territory. In most European films addressing issues of gendered and illegal citizenship, the urban space actively produces the narrative in a symbiotic relation among ethics, politics, the cities and their inhabitants. Access to different and multiple public spaces, and the visual representation of characters and settings, propose a discourse about agency and subalternity, communities and the excess. The fragmented tissue of streets and buildings generate a condition of difficulty or impossibility for the subject to be involved in intimate relations. Even the existing families are taken in the net of the economy of exploitation and consent. In order to survive, the individual has to be part of an original human network, enabling a counterhegemonic pattern for affective, emotional and cultural relations. The subject’s experience depends hence upon her or his abilities to escape or recreate the geometries of vision, gendered gaze and possessive desire usually shaping European cinema.
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Keywords: agency; alienhood; citizenship; ethics; globalization; recognition; urban space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Università Roma Tre

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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