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Spaces, territories and imagination in films about or from the past

Espacios, territorios e imaginación en películas sobre/del pasado

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Published on Friday, March 15, 2019


Call for papers for the thematic issue “Spaces, Territories and Imagination in Films about or from the Past”. The articles selected for the issue should contribute to the debates and reflections over space, territories and the way they are conceptualized and imagined in films that represent the past or historical films. This thematic issuewill be published in Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos Journal and is coordinated by Paz Escobar (Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, Argentina) and Claudia Bossay (ICEI, Universidad de Chile, Chile).



“It seems that our bars, our offices, our furnished housing,our stations and our factories imprison us, without any hope. Then came cinema and exploded this prison world with the dynamite of the split second. Now we can set off on journeys of adventure among its disperse debris.”

Walter Benjamin. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, 1936.

As poetically expressed by the German philosopher, film places us in an unprecedented spatial-temporal relationship. Film -though already preceded by architecture- has helped to historically redefine the subjects’ relationship with everyday space. Furthermore, in film, space has an almost temporal character, and to some degree,time has a spatial character (Hauser, 1969). This way, an audiovisual presentation or representation of space becomes dynamic and acquires the characteristics of the composed historical time. AsEdward Said proposes, the ideas and symbolic productions about places that we have/construct are effective mediations of spaces, a clipping. At the same time, they are a perspective that not only contains individual affective expressions, but also ideological and political ones. This necessarily influences the visualization of historical periods in cinema. Then, how do we imagine the past in terms of the spaces exposed in audiovisual productions, which are travelled and inhabited by the subjects-characters of their narrations?

When we consider history, or more specifically different historiographical modes, we tend to avoid space unless something specific to them affects the narration. However, when the reflection is audiovisual form, space reappears as essential and unavoidable; visual and even tactile. Presenting the locations for the action and narration is one of the creator conditions of visual, and especially cinematographic, imagery. The specific coordinates/strategies of those (re)presentations is what transforms these locations into landscape (a portion of space that appears natural based on a distanced observation), space (biophysical environment on which the territory is historically built), territory (constant articulation between the space and the social relationships that happen in it) or place (lived space, the daily horizon that has a sense of identity and belonging). Thus, a film analysis that asks about the configuration and representation of time necessarily requires an exploration of the representing procedures for space because both are part of the same set(Bajtin, 1989; Aumont, 1992).

In Latin America, the hegemonic representations of its history -especially those regarding the processes for conquering or forming the national states- have imposed an image-idea of space as something “natural”, as a landscape free from human intervention. At the same time, space becomes fundamental in historical narrations because the main characters fight over it in order to incorporate it into the “civilization”, “culture” or urbanity. The space intervened by humans then becomes social and turns into a product, also social. In other words, in audiovisual texts that refer to more recent periods of our history, space appears as territory, that is: as a social and historical construction that has legal, social, affective, cultural and identity dimensions. But what happens with films that expose the territorialisation strategies? How do they unfold in the space of the struggles to impose different political-economic projects?

If film and social sciences understand and interpret, in their own way, the reality of which they are part, to what extent is film a part of and debates the same problems addressed by contemporary social theories? More specifically, how do various stylistic and scenographic strategies become references that suggest different notions and times about space? Can these references be associated with conflicting conceptualizations developed by social sciences such as space, territory, region, landscape and place? This can be complemented by what Karl Schlögel (2007) highlighted as the importance of the spatial dimension in shaping a modern idea of nation, which has become established both in fictional works and documentaries about the continent’s new and modern metropoles.

In short, and as Henri Lefebvre suggests, each period creates its own social spaces, and it is therefore possible to distinguish different historical moments based on the spatial constructions (1992). This conceptual framework enables the following questions that give rise to this justification: how does Latin American cinema or cinema about Latin America that represents the past, capture, represent and imagine these spatial constructions? How do fictional and documentary films navigate the American continent represented at different times and its subsequent spatial-territorial modifications? Which cartographies are built by the films? To which spaces do the narrations direct us? What are the identities and signs announced by the geographies? Which topologies and toponymies take over the screens? Which meanings and interpretations about the identities of those places are built by these imaginary geographies? Thus, the audiovisual analysis allows us to account not only for the visibility regimes, but also for invisibilities and the different ways of conceiving/feeling/disputing/representing the sense of territory of our American continent.

With these questions in mind, we call for articles that reflect on representations of regions, spaces, territories and places, either real or imaginary, crossed by migrations or imagined by the main characters, urban or rural, in films that reflect on the continent’s past. We are interested in setting up a dialogue between works about films or other audiovisual productions that postulate a vision about a specific historical time or process while also building or disseminating certain imaginary geographies and cartographies.

For the dossier


Aumont, Jacques (1992). La imagen, Barcelona: Paidós.

Bajtín, Mijaíl (1989 [1975]). Teoría y estética de la novela, Barcelona: Taurus.

Benjamin, Walter (1994 [1936]). “La obra de arte en la época de su reproductividad técnica” en: Discursos interrumpidos, Madrid: Planeta- Agostini.

Hauser, Arnold (1969) Introducción a la Historia del Arte, Madrid: Guadarrama.

Lefebvre, Henri (1992) La producción del espacio. Oxford: Blackwell.

Said, Edward, (1979) “Imaginative Geography and Its Representations: Orientalizing the Oriental.” Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

Schlögel, Karl (2007) En el espacio leemos el tiempo. Sobre Historia de la civilización y Geopolítica, Madrid: Siruela.

Soja, Edward (1996). Thirdspace: Jorneys to Los Angeles and other real-andimagines places. Oxford: Blackwell.


  • Tuesday, April 30, 2019


  • space, territory, imagination, film


  • Paz Escobar
    courriel : escobar [dot] pax [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Claudia Bossay
    courriel : claudia [dot] bossay [at] uchile [dot] cl

Information source

  • Karine Penalba
    courriel : karine [dot] penalba [at] ehess [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

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« Spaces, territories and imagination in films about or from the past », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, March 15, 2019,

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