Nadica Denic | Cinematic Ethics of Migration: Auto-Ethnographic Migrant Perspectives in Contemporary Documentary

Nadica Denic | Cinematic Ethics of Migration: Auto-Ethnographic Migrant Perspectives in Contemporary Documentary | Supervisors: prof. dr. Patricia Pisters and dr. Carolyn Birdsall | November 2019 – November 2023 | nadica.denic[at]hotmail.com

Despite the hypervisibility of migrants in the mainstream media, their voices are largely silenced and are not offered an equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion on migration in Europe that directly concerns them. While migrant voices might not have been equally acknowledged in the public sphere, recent years have seen a rise in documentary practices in which migrants document their experience of migration. This research aims to explore how auto-ethnographic migrant perspectives in documentary, as a unique window into how migrants imagine and negotiate their position in Europe, offer a layered understanding of the experience of migration. It does by building on affect theory and film-ethics, which allow a study of the aspirations behind migratory movements and the tensions that arise when those aspirations prove difficult to reach, as well as how these personal narratives open a possibility for an ethical cinematic experience of migration. Furthermore, a methodological combination of audio-visual analysis and media ethnography will disclose how formal and narrative innovations of auto-ethnographic migrant perspectives fit into the broader documentary landscape. The project focuses on a selection of five case studies that offer insight into different stages of migration and distinguish themselves through formal innovation by, among others, utilizing digital mobile media, virtual reality, docufiction and multi-linear narration. The goal of this research is to elucidate how migrants’ use of a variety of media to critically position themselves in the pressing debate on migration in Europe rethinks the ethics of mainstream migrant representation and offers new forms of ethical cinematic experience and social engagement.

Main research questions of the project are as following:

1) How does contemporary auto-ethnographic documentary rethink the discourse of migration in Europe?

2) What kind of aesthetic and narrative strategies do they employ to communicate the affective structure of the experience of migration and the migrant identity?

3) How do migrant perspectives in documentary advance a new form of ethical cinematic experience and social engagement?