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Film and History Seminar Series: Teaching Modern South Asian History with Film and Oral History

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The ‘Film and History’ seminar series is meant to highlight the importance of visual culture, and film in particular, to teaching South Asian history. The eight one-hour seminars are aimed at Cambridge University academics, students and researchers of South Asian history who are interested in acquiring and developing media research skills required when exploring the visual dimension of South Asia’s modern history. The series is taught by Dr Annamaria Motrescu, Research Associate at the Centre of South Asian Studies.

The seminars offer a critical overview of how South Asian history and cultural identity have been (mis)represented on film across all genres from amateur films to documentaries, feature and ethnographic films, animation and newsreels. Each seminar explores specific forms of visual narrative, whether official or amateur, in relation to key events and social developments in modern South Asian history. Selected film clips of 1-2min, and sometimes interview excerpts from the Centre of South Asian Studies oral history archive, will form more 50% of the seminar teaching material.

Aims and objectives The ‘Film and History’ seminar series provides training in visual research methods for historical studies and examines the cinematographic constructions of space, culture, gender and race in modern South Asian history. The series covers South Asian history from 1890s onwards and discusses the areas of India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Himalayas. The seminar series inscribes the use of archival visual and aural records within current theoretical, methodological and historical frameworks concerned with key debates and themes in modern South Asian history. The series draws on the often conflicting relation between established historiography and visual culture with its inherent potential for confirming or challenging traditional research resources. The series also expands the debate about traditional means of historical investigation and develops a comparative framework in which the seminar participants compare written documents with cinematographic and oral history records on selected themes and topics.

Each seminar provides access to a wide selection of archival visual material. Films, photographs (occasionally paintings) and also interviews are selected primarily from the Centre of South Asian Studies’ archive as well as from several major British repositories such as the British Film Institute, the Imperial War Museum, the British Library, the British Museum, the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, Images of Empire, Colonial Film and British Pathé.

Course Schedule The seminar series is taught weekly from 16:00 – 17:00 on Tuesday during the second half of Michaelmas Term (1, 15, 22 and 29 November 2011) and Lent Term (23 February and 8, 9 and 15 March 2012). Each seminar is organized thematically and consists of screenings and a question and discussion session at the end.

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