Erica Carter is professor of German at King’s College, London. She is also the co-founder of the German Screen Studies Network.
Her research interests include German-language cinema, early film theory (especially Béla Balázs), colonial cinema, and aspects of cinematic experience. In view of the current Cinepoetics research on the theorisation of genuine cinematic thinking, Carter’s preliminary work on the colonial distribution of sensory-aesthetic experiences is presently being developed into a collaborative publication to be published in the Cinepoetics Essay Series.
Carter’s diverse publications on German-language cinema and cultural history include How German is She? Postwar West German Reconstruction and the Consuming Woman (1997), Dietrich’s Ghosts: The Sublime and the Beautiful in Third Reich Film (2004), Béla Balázs: Early Film Theory (2010), and the recently published second edition of the German Cinema Book (Bergfelder, Carter & Göktürk, 2020).
Three Quick Questions:
In a few words, can you tell us about your current research interest?
Having worked for many years on German-language cinema and film history, as well as early German-language film theory (especially Béla Balázs), I have recently returned to an earlier interest in questions of cinema, race and Empire. Current interests include a collaborative project with colleagues from the Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art, the Sudan Film Factory, and the filmmaker's family on an open source archive and related publications aiming to restore to international visibility the film oeuvre of exile Sudanese artist-filmmaker Hussein Shariffe. I am also completing an essay, 'White Bodies in Motion,' on white cinemagoing in the late colonial Bahamas. The essay will be published in Mapping the Sensible. Distribution, Inscription, Cinematic Thinking. The volume was commissioned and co-edited by the late and very much-missed Eileen Rositzka; it is scheduled to appear in the de Gruyter Cinepoetics essay series in 2022.
How do you relate the term poiesis to your work?
The term poeisis is especially pertinent to my writing on cinemagoing. My work approaches cinemagoing as an everyday kinetic and kinaesthetic practice that engages the moviegoer in multiple modes of embodied self-fashioning. My Bahamas case study centres in this context on cinemagoing as a practice of racialised becoming amongst white subjects of late Empire. Exploring the variety of activities and experiences that constitute cinemagoing—from navigating urban streets, walking and posing en route to the movies, to self-immersion in filmed worlds—my work considers how an account of the poesis of cinemagoing might open new perspectives on race, cinema and Empire in the postwar moment of decolonisation and Cold War.
Which film or other audiovisual format has resonated with you lately and why?
The film I have most loved recently is Hussein Shariffe's TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING (1979). The film draws on a short story by British-Caribbean writer Jean Rhys, but transposes the story's 1960s narrative into 1970s London. The film is extraordinary on many levels: as a reflection on anti-black racism in 1970s London; as an experimental collage film assembling filmed traces of Empire; as a reminder of African exilic and otherwise transient presences in British cinema—presences that cut across and complicate prevalent narratives of 1970s and '80s Black British film; and as a poetic meditation on the violence and losses, but also the elective communities that shape experiences of migration, diaspora and exile.