Director, Program in Film Studies
My teaching and research interests are broadly concerned with the intersection of political culture and cinema. My first book, Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Reeducation of Postwar Germany offers a political theory of film in U.S. Occupied Germany following World War II. Here a provisional American government literally projected democratic fantasies in the form of Hollywood films onto the defeated nation for the sake of its citizens' democratic rehabilitation. I read the German and American film culture in the occupied territory through the theatrical touchstone of occupation mimicry and the performative force of American liberalism.
My second co-authored book with Justus Nieland is Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization . We argue that noir is not a uniquely American form, and that it may be one of the most internationally recognized and produced genres because it so compellingly and darkly dramatizes (without resolving) the tension between local longings and global forces such as war, displacement, global capitalism, Americanization, decolonization, and military occupation. In addition to these texts, I have authored essays on film and cultural politics appearing in such journals as Film History, Cultural Critique, Journal of Visual Culture, Cinema Journal. I co-edited a special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review on "The Cultures of Occupation" which advanced a research agenda of comparative occupation studies. I also serve as co-editor of the Contemporary Film Directors series for University of Illinois Press.
I have recently begun a new research project provisionally titled Cinema and the Inhospitable World. Thinking past sentimental or nostalgic arguments for preservation (whereby we save what we love), I am interested in how we mobilize concern for unlovable, unknowable, and inhospitable environments as depicted in slapstick comedies, exploration films, and contemporary cinema of ecological displacement. If the promise of universal hospitality among humans presumes a life-sustaining environment, what are the implications of ecological inhospitality? What role might cinema and film theory play in challenging our presumed right to occupy and populate the world? The first two essays related to this project appear in Discourse and Modernism/Modernity.