Cinema Regarding Nations: Re-imagining Armenian, Kurdish, and Palestinian national identity in film
This thesis examines how film contributes to the collection of visual images and narratives that enable a community to imagine itself as a nation. It focuses on three such communities, the Armenians, the Kurds, and the Palestinians, who have been, or remain, stateless. It argues that, in the face of external threats, stateless nations and their diasporas require repeated re-imagining to ensure their continued existence. A starting point for the study is that cinema is an important site for this re-imagining in the way that it continually highlights concerns with national identity.
Using a diverse collection of film in each case, the analysis identifies national themes, key symbols, and formal structures employed by film-makers to depict these nations. The films are categorised by means of the concept of “cinema regarding nations”, that is they are specifically about the respective nations. Through this categorisation, the thesis contributes to national cinema studies by facilitating the critical examination of a body of work which otherwise is fragmented.
The study is comparative and uses a combination of textual and contextual analysis that enables the films from each case to be related to their political and social circumstances. The cases represent nations with arguably widely different origins, from the “historic” Armenians to the more “modern” Palestinians. Thus, the thesis also contributes to the debate in studies of national identity and nationalism between those who argue the nation is a modern political invention and those who argue that cultural roots are essential for the formation and persistence of nations. It reveals the relationship of the historical processes of nation formation and the persistence of national identity over time to their representation in film.