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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Ecology & the Arts Research Group Seminar: Dr. Andrew Baldwin (Durham), 'Migration and the family form – portrayals of race and whiteness in climate cinema'

11th November 2015, 12:00, A56, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

The moral architecture of climate change discourse is often anchored to the well-being of children and future generations. The well-being of children and future generations is a laudable reason to take climate change seriously, but this kind of moral reason also draws attention to the centrality of survival, reproduction and longevity as key themes in climate change, themes which themselves reach into spaces not normally associated with climate change, in particular those of race and sex. All of these themes - survival, reproduction, longevity, race and sex - find ready expression in climate change cinema and literature all of which, in their own way, are predicated on migration and/or displacement alongside the breakdown of heteronormative gender relations and all, in their own, are structured by narratives that seek to recuperate the heteronormative family unit as the basis for human survival in dystopic contexts. Good examples of this cinematic genre include The Road, The Day After Tomorrow, and Children of Men. This chapter uses these films to trace the interrelated dimensions of race, sex, migration and the family form as a nexus of power relations specific to climate change. But in a world that stands on the threshold of deep transformation, does it make sense to privilege the family as the unit of survival as seems to be the case in these films? Or can survival be imagined differently? This latter question is addressed through an interpretation of Benh Zeitlin’s brilliant science fiction, climate change survivalist film, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

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