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Dr. Maja Figge

Research Project

Entangled Modernisms. Transnational Film Relations between Western Europe and India and The Emergence of Modern Cinema (1947–1975)

Putting forth the argument that the concept of modern film has to be reconsidered as the result of transnational and cross-cultural entanglements of film practices and aesthetics, the research project aims to make a significant contribution to the „provincializing“ of European film theory and history from a postcolonial perspective (Chakrabarty 2000). Although interdisciplinary in its scope – bringing together theoretical and methodological considerations of media archeology, film studies, history of knowledge –, it takes up the perspective of a postcolonial approach to cinema studies, which is concerned with the ongoing movements and relations between West-Europe and the rest of the world (Chow 2012). Instead of discussing the transnational relations between West-European and Indian cinema in the first decades after independence (1947–1975) in terms of one-sided influence in either direction, it takes the films produced in India by West-European auteurs during this time of profound change as a starting point for the reconstruction of these mutual encounters. By looking at the aesthetic practices, the films themselves as well as the critical reception and theoretical debate in India and Western Europe the project aims to show that the emergence of the ‘new’ (new film aesthetics, new film theory) needs to be considered as effect of these entanglements. In result, cinematic modernism as well as its theorization is not only de-centered but comes into view as a cosmopolitan project.


Since 2017, Maja Figge has been a postdoctoral researcher at the DFG Research Training Group “Knowledge in the Arts” at the University of the Arts Berlin (UdK Berlin). From August to October 2019 she was a visiting scholar at the Program in Literature, Duke University (Durham, USA) and in the academic year 2017/18 she was appointed guest professor for „media theories“ at the University of Art and Design Linz (Austria). Before joining the Research Training Group, she worked as a research associate at the Institute for History and Theory of Design (UdK Berlin) as well as at the Institute for Art and Visual Culture of Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg. She further has taught at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Rosa Meyreder College in Vienna, and University of Vienna. She co-curated the exhbition Moving On. Boundary Acts—Strategies of Anti-Racist Action (Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, 2005); is co-editor of Scham und Schuld: Gender(sub)texte der Shoah (Shame and guilt: gender (sub)texts of the Shoah), with Konstanze Hanitzsch and Nadine Teuber (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2010) and Black Diaspora in Germany. Schwarze Diaspora in Deutschland, with BDG Network (Münster: edition Assemblage 2018); and author of Deutschsein (wieder-)herstellen: Weißsein und Männlichkeit im bundesdeutschen Kino der fünfziger Jahre ([Re]-Establishing Germanness: whiteness and masculinity in West-German film of the nineteen-fifties) (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015). Her work focuses on Gender, Race and Medien, Critical Whiteness Studies, Postcolonial (Media-)Theory, cinematic memory politics and political feelings, film and history, German and transnational Cinema, cinematic modernism. She is a member of the DFG-Young Scholars Network “Black Diaspora and Germany”, of Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft e.V. (since 2017 as part of the steering commitee) and of the editorial board of Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft (


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