Dr James Harvey
Lecturer in Film
I am interested in the increasingly diverse modes of moving image making as a mode of responding to – and instigating – social and political change. As such, my work focuses on the politics and aesthetics of contemporary film broadly, with a particular interest in artists’ film, art cinema and documentary. These themes formed the basis of my PhD research and my first monograph, Jacques Rancière and the Politics of Art Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). Engaging with the influential post-Marxist philosopher’s writings, this book adopts an aesthetic definition of politics and applies it to the work of geographically diverse, art filmmakers (Jafar Panahi, Pablo Larraín, Charlie Kaufman, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and John Akomfrah). Built around the dual categories of ‘a cinema of politics’ and ‘a politics of cinema’, this book probes the potentialities and limits of art cinema – as a historical domain that persists in diverse forms, today – as a mode of political engagement.
Following the publication of the Rancière book – and motivated by the global rise of populist nationalism – I edited the collection, Nationalism in Contemporary Western European Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). This text brings together scholars in national cinema studies, exploring recurrent thematic and stylistic features of 21st century western European cinema, and analysing the ways in which film responds to mounting tensions and increasing hostilities to difference. Nationalism in Contemporary Western European Cinema was awarded ‘Honourable Mention’ at the 2019 British Association for Film, Television and Screen Studies awards. I have also published chapters in edited collections and articles in peer-reviewed journals, including New Review of Film and Television Studies, NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, Studies in European Cinema and New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Cinema.
I am currently writing the first monograph on the films of celebrated artist-filmmaker, John Akomfrah (which is contracted to Bloomsbury/BFI Publishing for publication in 2022). This book analyses the full breadth of Akomfrah’s output, positioning the films initially in relation to the racial politics and emergent black British arts scene of the 1980s, and providing a theoretical engagement with Akomfrah’s core aesthetic concerns since (stemming from his ‘philosophy of montage’ and ‘critical archive’ practice).
John Akomfrah, London: Bloomsbury/BFI Publishing, 2022
Nationalism in Contemporary Western European Cinema, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018 (awarded ‘Honourable Mention’, BAFTSS 2019)
Jacques Rancière and the Politics of Art Cinema, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018 (4*, World-leading, REF 2021)
Selected articles and book chapters
‘Interrogating Surplus Liveness: Girls, Tricky’, The Films of Steve McQueen, edited by Thomas Austin (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2023)
‘Peripeteia and Vertigo Sea: political ecologies of migration’, John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea, edited by Nuria Homs and Gloria Domenech (Barcelona: Fundacio Antoni Tapies, 2021)
‘Spaces of Intervention: Politics, Aesthetics and Archives in the films of John Akomfrah’, Black Film/British Cinema 2, edited by Clive Nwonka and Anamik Saha (London: ICA Books/Goldsmiths Press, 2020)
‘Surfaces in Jackie: Representing Crisis and the Crisis of Representation’, The Cinema of Pablo Larraín, edited by Laura Hatry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020).
‘Engaged Observationalism: Forming Publics in the Gallery Film’, Dossier on the European Crisis, Studies in European Cinema, edited by Angelos Koutsourakis, 16, No. 3, 2019, pp. 232-249.
‘The Undeniable Pleasures of Tabu’s Return’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 14, No. 2, 2017.
‘Democratic Ambivalence in Post Mortem‘, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Volume 26, Number 1, 2017.
‘Conflicted Selves: The Humanist Cinema of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 14, No. 2, 2016, pp. 249-67.
‘Disputing Rossellini: Three French Perspectives’, NECSUS: European Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Autumn 2014. Available online: https://necsus-ejms.org/disputing-rossellini-three-french-perspectives/.