The scholar as activist: Postcolonial feminist film practice as a tool for social development, empowerment and resistance

DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2018.1537042
Author(s): Subeshini MoodleyDepartment of Media & Communication, South Africa


This article explores the concept of the “scholar as activist” in the context of postcolonial feminist film practice, and the successes and shortcomings of a research design conceptualised to explore the potential that self-reflexive filmmaking offers to articulate the narratives of South African Hindu women (and other suppressed groups). My point of departure was a strong sense of the misrecognition of my own identity as a South African Hindu woman of Indian descent, in stereotypical representations of Hindu women in mainstream film. South African Hindu women, and suppressed groups by extension, have stories that need to be told. The question emerged of how such stories could be told through the medium of film. Could the interface between the medium of self-reflexive film, the academic filmmaker and the narratives of South African Hindu women translate into meaningful social action that would offer a platform for resistance to mainstream (mis)representations? A critical reflection on my initial filmmaking process, and an analysis of the film text itself, illustrated that as an academic with various platforms of expression at my disposal, I had assumed a superficial similarity to and yet privileged position over those whose story I attempted to tell. How then could women use self-reflexive filmmaking to tell their own stories that resist limited mainstream gendered representations and reclaim their own identities? In a play between an academic register and an overtly self-reflexive narrative style, I thus explicate the organic process of developing a revised methodological approach for the postcolonial “scholar as activist”.

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