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Impossible Subjects: Racial Politics, Citizenship, and Spatial Mobility in Chilean Cinema of Late Neoliberalism (2011-2020)



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Del Valle Casals, Sandra 


Impossible Subjects: Racial Politics, Citizenship, and Spatial Mobility in Chilean Cinema of Late Neoliberalism (2011–2020)

Sandra del Valle Casals

This thesis explores contemporary entanglements of racial and class politics as portrayed in Chilean films of the past decade (2011-2020). In Chile, the collapse of race into class has meant that the power of racial politics in articulating regimes of social difference has often been overlooked. However, the films analyzed here show the convoluted way in which race and nation have historically been interwoven, determining the exercise of citizenship. My analysis approaches racial frameworks in film as ways of representing (Hall, Dyer, Ahmed) that reproduce or challenge hegemonies of difference based on physical appearance as one of the main markers. In addition, the study proposes a dialogue between critical race perspectives and theories of space and urban geography, in order to discuss the spatial dimension of racial difference. The works examined indicate that spatial boundaries have been shaped by racialized ideas of progress and modernity: racial distinctions are created and reinforced through the space racialized bodies can inhabit and where they can belong. Thus, the status of Otherness in the films under discussion is framed by spatial (im)mobility. Moreover, the films also highlight that exclusion under late neoliberalism in Chile remains interwoven with paradigms of difference and the historical nation’s project of belonging, putting into question claims of the market’s neutrality and the depoliticization of neoliberal systems. I suggest that the Other embodies the figure of impossible subject which describes their condition of impossible belonging, both to the racial regime of the nation and to the neoliberal narrative underscoring the so-called Chilean economic miracle. I contend that the films under discussion, inserted as they are within the aegis of neoliberal cultural production, reveal important continuities and contrasts regarding the treatment of neoliberalism with respect to other movements and periods in Chilean filmmaking since the 1990s. In particular, they reflect cinematic responses to “late neoliberalism” in Chile. Borrowed from Donatella della Porta and others (2017), this term is used to define the character of neoliberal arrangements in the Great Recession across Europe as well as related reactions of discontent: late neoliberalism in Chile is similarly marked by the upsurge since 2011 of collective demands to address social inequality and precarity. Nevertheless, this engagement with neoliberal politics is not without contradiction, since it not only replicates the entrenchment of individualist subjectivity through the filmic form in the representation of the figures of the Other, but also denotes the continuation of the politics of global insertion in the international film market through the transnational legibility of the film. The inspection of this intricate relationship through the lens of transnational film studies indicates that the transnational character of this cinema is nonetheless still strongly undergirded by national identities and historical context, even if it has, as a market strategy, been adapted to fit into the world film industry.





Page, Joanna


Chile, Cinema, Critical race studies, Citizenship, Latin America, Film Studies


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge