Montage and ethnicity : experimental film practice and editing in the documentation of the Gujarati Indian community in Wales

  • Aparna Sharna

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research, Montage and Ethnicity: Experimental Film Practice and Editing in the Documentation of the Gujarati Indian Community in Wales, posits montage practice involving a polyphonic film structure as relevant for documentation of ethnic subjects; and it explicates the implication of cultural context in montage techniques such as juxtaposition, thus countering the socio-cultural indifference and universalism implied by definitions of montage as an editing technique, alternative to mainstream cinema conventions. The submission includes an experimental film surrounding an ethnic subject: the Gujarati Indian community in Cardiff, which has been developed by combining filmmaking with ethnographic methods. The thesis of this submission articulates the conversations between montage and ethnography that extend conventional understandings of both practices. Ethnography emphasises cultural context in film practice; and polyphonic montage stresses ethnographically informed documentation beyond cultural description, intervening by disassembling ethnic constructs as homogenous or unitary.

    Deriving from the ethnographic imperative, the thesis includes revisitations of early montage practice, in particular the theorisations of Sergei M Eisenstein, alongside discussion of montage deployments in third world cultural practice to posit an intercultural claim in montage that gets obscured in discussions emphasising it as a modernist practice differing from the conventions and coda of cinematic realism. On this basis, it is argued that the move to equate the discourses of realism and modernism in the cinema with formal codes - a tendency that characterised classical film theory and later political modernism, is reductive. The intercultural claim evidenced in montage practice from the third world combines a critical stance against the categories of tradition and nation - derived from the thought of Rabindranath Tagore. The implication of this is that ethnicity gets reflected as a site of multiple and competing historico-cultural and social inscriptions. This complicates the binarisms of power accompanying historical movements such as colonialism. Montage practice in this submission emerges as an intellectual project that challenges binaries linked to the operations of hegemony and dominance pertaining to culture and cinema.
    Date of Award2007
    Original languageEnglish


    • motion pictures
    • editing
    • montage

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