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Diane Negra MRIA: Film Studies and Screen Culture

28 September 2020

At the heart of Professor Negra's work is a desire to understand how we articulate and challenge collective beliefs, ideals and values through media fictions.

Diane Negra MRIA, Professor of Film Studies and Screen Culture, University College Dublin

At the heart of my work is a desire to understand how we articulate and challenge collective beliefs, ideals and values through media fictions. My research in media studies, cultural studies and gender studies encompasses a wide variety of media forms, often analysing the interrelations between film, television and digital media.

I have long been fascinated by the fantasies of Europe that proliferate in American culture and by the functions that European nationalities and ethnicities have been made to serve in the US imaginary. My first two books, Off-white Hollywood: American culture and ethnic female stardom and A feminist reader in early cinema, reflect efforts to understand this relationship and particularly Hollywood’s history of constructing and selling ethnic-tinged female stars to a global public.

As a pre-eminent form of ‘off-whiteness’, Irishness has long occupied a particular place in the American imaginary. In The Irish in us: Irishness, performativity and popular culture I analyse how this dynamic functioned during the Celtic Tiger years. In a new project, Modalities of Irishness, I revisit and update some of this work to consider who models and claims Irishness now, and for what ends, in an era marked by conspicuous and pervasive inequality alongside the ‘platforming’ of selfhood on social media.

Another strand of my work deals with gender and representation in terms both of the history of female representation by the culture industries and of up-to-the-minute questions about how ‘postfeminism’ operates to negotiate a cultural scene in which claims of feminist victories are squared with abundant evidence of gender recidivism. I took up these questions in What a girl wants? Fantasizing the reclamation of self in postfeminism, in Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture and in Gendering the recession: media and culture in an age of austerity. Amidst sweeping changes in gender norms and the public status of feminism, I am currently completing two further volumes, which will be published in 2021: Imagining ‘We’ in the age of ‘I’: romance and social bonding in contemporary culture and Anti-feminisms in media culture.

Although most of my work focuses on contemporary media culture, I continue to engage with the silent and classical Hollywood eras and have just completed a monograph on the film that Alfred Hitchcock considered his best, the overlooked and brilliant Shadow of a doubt.

While my work has long been guided by a strong sense of the links between media history and theory and the importance of the study of representation within cultural, social and ideological contexts, an increasing concern for me in recent years has been with the way in which film, television and new media forms mediate tensions between democratic rhetorics of equality and the lived experience of the majority of citizens. In this vein, in books such as Old and new media after Katrina and Extreme weather and global media, I have turned toward the representation of climate change and disaster.

Much of my recent and upcoming research addresses public affective cultures in various ways. The aesthetics and affects of cuteness analysed the rise of cuteness as a major mode of cultural pleasure and consolation. In a less sanguine register, my work is increasingly animated by a sense of concern about the ways that neoliberal technologisation is diminishing our common humanity. I have just started to explore this in research focusing on what it means to be a customer in an era of deregulation and the elimination of antitrust enforcement and broadly declining norms/expectations of accountability, and I expect to continue this work in the next few years.

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