Plenary Keynote Lecture

Jaimey Fisher is Professor of German and Cinema & Digital Media at the University of California, Davis, where he is also Director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute.  Prof. Fisher is the author of two books: Christian Petzold (2013) and Disciplining Germany: Youth, Reeducation, and Reconstruction after the Second World War (2007). He has also edited or co-edited four books, including on film (Generic Histories of German Cinema: Genre and its Deviations [2013], and Collapse of the Conventional: German Cinema and its Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century [2010, with Brad Prager]) as well as on literature and theory (Spatial Turns: Space, Place, and Mobility in German Literary and Visual Culture [2010, with Barbara Mennel] and Critical Theory: Current State and Future Prospects [2001, with Peter Uwe Hohendahl]).  He has also published over 30 articles and book chapters, including in the journals New German Critique, Seminar, Iris, Senses of Cinema, and Cineaste, among others. Currently, he is completing a study of the history of the German war film and editing a volume on the Berlin School and world cinema (with Marco Abel). He was Assistant Professor at Tulane University before arriving at UC Davis, and served, for the University of California Education Abroad Program, as the UC EAP Founding Faculty Director (2013-15) in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Lund.

Dr. Fisher will be giving the following presentation:

"Democracy Emergent? Genre, Espionage, and Cold-War Subjectivities in the 1950s German War Film"

  • At the Hilton Downtown Lexington
  • On Friday, April 21st @ 5:30 PM in the Main Ballroom
  • Shuttle services will be provided from the UK campus to the lecture
  • Food and beverages will be available following the talk, including a cash bar

​Abstract

This presentation concerns the astounding transformation of Germany from a thoroughly militarized and mobilized nation under the Nazis to a democratically inclined postwar polity with the citizens to support it.  The presentation suggests that culture, in particular popular genres, can help track these kinds of thoroughgoing socio-cultural shifts and the remade subjectivities produced by them.  During the 1950s, West-German cinema was largely a cinema of genres, and the era’s second most popular genre were war films. Somewhat surprising, given the widespread suffering and destruction the war had wrought, these films nostalgically revisited the war experience, while also deliberately negotiating the rapid remilitarization of postwar West Germany.

In this remapping mobilization of the Cold War, the presentation examines a revealing, late-genre hybridity of the war film, namely, the nesting within it of the emergent post-war espionage genre. Films like The Fox from Paris (1957) and Rommel calls Cairo (1958/59) help unfold a novel form of soldierly subjectivity fitting their Cold-War moment. These war-spy films explore the foreign city with a tourist gaze that exploits the war-time travel pleasures while also forging a new, topologically driven subjectivity fitting the democratically-minded postwar period. The earlier scaling of soldier-unit-nation falls away in favor of what David Harvey has termed the (individual) body as strategy of accumulation. The topological, urban subjectivity underscores the ever-changing spaces of the genre, here manifesting the sort of networked flows that Manuel Castells has sketched in the postwar city.