Chapter: “We Are The Poors!”: Gutiérrez on Buñuel and the Problem of Christian Charity, for Film and Liberation Theology (Routledge 2024).
In his foundational 1971 text A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation, Gustavo Gutiérrez engages, almost in passing, with Luis Buñuel’s 1959 film Nazarín. Gutiérrez outlines his initial reading of the film, aligned to his first viewing, and then a radically revised reading of the film, aligned to his second viewing. The essential difference in these readings centres on the perceived selflessness of acts of charity on the part of the clerical protagonist of the film. The revised reading suggests that Buñuel’s critical position is that charity is not at all selfless. It is, rather, merely the standard expectation of giving alms, a task readily fulfilled and one that, in that way in which it dodges the need to question why such charity is necessary, abrogates the need for emotion and thought on the part of the alms-giver. For Gutiérrez, in a snippet of close textual reading, the alms-giving is seen to dehumanise the cleric: he acts as if devoid of emotion or thought, so that charitable good works can be described as an inhuman condition. The true Nazarin would see distress as symptomatic of a wider ill, and not something that can be effectively relieved through charity. To see charity as an end in itself is merely to accommodate structural societal ills, and ensure that those in distress, and seeking help, will remain in distress and in need. In this, the prematurely halted structural / theological development of the Catholic Church is apparent.
This argument goes to the heart of Liberation Theology. Gutiérrez and Buñuel then understand the matter of saintliness as in conflict with the two areas of the institution of the Catholic church: firstly, tending to the poor (over currying favour with the rich); secondly, the concept of charity in itself. Nazarín works to critique the counterproductive condition of good works. This is unusual for Buñuel, who more typically turned to the psychology of sin as evidence of Catholic conditioning and repressions, as per The Exterminating Angel, Simon of the Desert, and The Milky Way.
This proposed chapter will outline, explore and expand Gutiérrez’s reading of Nazarín in the context of A Theology of Liberation, and consider these lessons as pertinent to neoliberal times: to what extent is the “good Samaritan” now needed and championed by global capital? To what extent is “charity” a form of finessing the hollowing out of the state structures that once supported the poorest? Is the same way that we can talk of “green-washing”, can we now talk of “alms-washing”?
Article: ’90s “It Girls”: Britpop at the Postfeminist Intermezzo
Abstract: From the perspective of a consideration of the few female-fronted Britpop groups, the Britpop genre of music, and its moment of popularity in the mid/late-1990s, created spaces for more compelling articulations of existential matters than were to be found in standard Britpop fare. And those articulations, this article argues, are most appropriately read as arising from a moment of feminist thought in transition: a premature “victory”, under the sign of postfeminism, in which the struggles of Second Wave feminists could be seen to have delivered equality. And this results in an encroaching and contested sense of an entry into maturity, and a loss of youth. The groups examined in this article – Elastica, Echobelly and particularly Sleeper – articulate something of the lived condition of postfeminism, and a sense of its concerns and uncertainties (emotional, ethical, existential) in this shortlived period. This consideration additionally tracks this development in the movement from the “wild child” “It Girl” of the early 1990s, through the figure of the ladette (which found a resonance in female-fronted Britpop groups), and thereafter to the emergence of a sexualised celebrity feminism, under the sign of Third Wave feminism.
To be published in the Journal of Feminist Scholarship in 2023.
Chapter: World’s End: Punk Films from London and New York, 1977-1984
Abstract: This chapter discusses films set in London and New York from the late 1970s to the early 1980s that can be considered to be allied to a punk sensibility. Their chief characteristics are considered in relation to two factions. Firstly, in respect to an idea of an endemic alienation which, unlike the alienation understood to determine previous periods of film-making about youthful rebels, seems without the possibility of exit or alleviation. This “no future” is in contrast to the optimism detected in films allied with disco. Secondly, in respect to an idea of liminal spaces, arising from uses and repurposings of semi-abandoned inner-city areas. An essential diverge is explored: that New York punk cinema more typically suggests the beginnings of a regeneration and cultural renaissance, with London punk cinema seems uniformly downbeat.
To be published in the Oxford Handbook of Punk and Post-Punk, ed. George McKay, Gina Arnold; Oxford University Press, 2023.
Online available now: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190859565.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780190859565-e-11
Adult Themes: British Cinema and the “X” Rating in the Long 1960s. Co-edited with Christopher Weedman (Middle Tennessee State University) and Anne Etienne (University College, Cork), for publication Summer 2023 by Bloomsbury Academic.
Diva: Feminism and Fierceness from Pop to Hip-Hop. Co-edited with Kirsty Fairclough (School of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University), Shara Rambarran (University of Brighton) and Nicole Hodges Persley (University of Kansas), for publication Summer 2023 by Bloomsbury Academic.
Article: Deep Groove: Jah Wobble and Post-Punk Sonics
A consideration of Jah Wobble’s bass playing, in relation to Public Image Ltd (Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols group), and especially the “Metal Box” album. My contention is that this playing represents the melding of reggae/dub cultures, and soundsystem sonics, with punk in a way that was promised during the punk/reggae phase (of Bob Marley’s “Punky Reggae Party”), but didn’t seem to materialise. At the same time, Wobble’s bass reorganises and restructures punk music (even to the extent of the unique packaging and innovative mixing of “Metal Box”), and so becomes the foundation for the shift from punk to post-punk in the early 1980s. Wobble seems to have allowed Lydon to intervene across affective soundscapes — splitting the bombastic “total noise” of punk into different layers of music, at times interacting and at times counterpointed: Lydon’s lyrics and delivery, Keith Levine’s industrial-style guitar playing, Wobble’s dub rumblings. The chapter will also look to the group Steel Leg (Wobble and Levine with Don Letts on vocals), and Wobble’s first solo album, as well as the PiL promo videos, and Wobble’s bizarre and unnerving presence in them.
Article: Prosecution for the Witness: Towards a Juridical Cinema with Fellini’s “City of Women”.
(Video and PowerPoint of my presentation on this research currently under the “News” section, further to the 2021 Fellini conference at the University of Rome)