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Rethinking Work: Intellectual Responses to the 2008 Financial Crisis in French Film and Media

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WORKRETHINK (Rethinking Work: Intellectual Responses to the 2008 Financial Crisis in French Film and Media)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

My project examined cultural and intellectual responses in France to the 2008 global financial crisis. This encompassed conceptualizations of the crisis by French philosophers and economists, (re-)conceptualizations of ideas surrounding the world of work following the crash, and the ways in which French cinema and media have represented and responded to the crash. I divided my research into three overall objectives, which were to research and provide critical accounts of:
1. Recent texts by the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler on the future of work in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis;
2. The work of French economists responding to the crisis, especially Frédéric Lordon and the play he wrote about the crisis;
3. How the world of work and the financial crisis have been represented, discussed and responded to in French fiction, art and documentary films since 2008.
The host institution for the project was the Research Institute on Cinema and the Audio-visual (Institut de recherche sur le cinéma et l’audiovisuel, IRCAV), a research laboratory at the university Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, where cutting-edge academic work on film and media takes place.

My project was conceived in a context in which Europe has witnessed economic crises, financialization, growing inequality and debt, yet also responses to these phenomena in, for example, social movements advocating debt relief and calls for a citizens’ basic income. At the same time, since the 1970s, many traditional forms of work have become increasingly redundant due to technological advances, globalization, and other historical factors. France has been at the forefront of movements trying to respond to these phenomena. The project is important as it addresses the urgent question of how we are to understand one of the fundamental historical events of our time – the 2008 financial crisis – and its significance for the future of France and Europe. The widespread sense that the underlying problems of the economy have not been remedied ten years on from the crisis means that my work could hardly be timelier. The relative obscurity of the financial mechanisms involved means this is an area that tends to remain hidden from public view, and it is an innovation of my project to focus on how these issues have been rendered visible in images.
The main results of the project are three articles I have written (all currently under peer review by major academic journals) and a one-day conference that I organized to galvanise interest on the project topic. When published, the articles will be made available ‘open access’. The conference, ‘La Crise financière de 2008 et ses images en France/The 2008 Financial Crisis and its Images in France’ was held on 8 June 2018 at the Maison de la recherche, Paris, and gathered researchers from across Europe and beyond. During the grant period, I also attended and presented research papers at several international conferences in 2017 and 2018. These events provided me with feedback and helped me to develop a research network for possible future collaboration.
At the same time as the world of economics and financial institutions have never had a greater direct impact on people’s lives, they are notoriously opaque and difficult to render in images. A key innovative aspect of my research is thus the communicability of complex ideas to do with the financial crisis in images (especially film). In order to help the public to appreciate the nature of my research, I organized a film screening and discussion evening in May 2018 at a prominent Parisian cinema on my project topic. This was open not only to academics and students but also the general public.

My project involves interdisciplinary study of evolving and highly topical material on an issue of potentially wide public interest. I hope the publications arising from my project will be of use to scholars working in French, film studies, philosophy, contemporary European history and related fields in the humanities and social sciences as well as interested publics.
Flyer for one-day conference “La Crise financière de 2008 et ses images en France”