Taking Bourdieu to the Movies: Understanding Cinema as a Spatial and Embodied Practice

Cochrane, Berry (2013). Taking Bourdieu to the Movies: Understanding Cinema as a Spatial and Embodied Practice. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f126


This thesis employs in situ research at two cinemas in London with women who attend matinees for the over-60s to think through the nature of cinema as practice. It combines interview and observation data to explore how what we do at the cinema works to co-constitute particular modes and spatialities of cinema, and coproduce films. The analysis is informed by debates in geography, film and cinema studies, and gerontology - all read through an engagement with Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977, 1990) theory of practice. Cinema is also understood as a public space with which collective identities are pre-reflexively formed among the audience members through the body, suggesting an understanding of ‘old age’ as an emergent and heterogeneous but nevertheless enduring social identity. As such, this thesis argues for an understanding of cinema as a spatial and embodied practice that constitutes and is constituted by the film on the screen, the bodies of the audience and the spaces of viewing. This emphasis on practice attempts to build on the strengths in existing literature by moving beyond decontextualised studies of both films and audiences common to much academic writing on cinema by exploring the politics of representation, theories of embodied spectatorship, and the geography of films in the moment of viewing. In doing so, the thesis suggests that we develop a ‘cinematic habitus’ across life and that this in part shapes the film we experience in the moment of practice. It suggests that the spaces of cinema - both on and off the screen - are co-constituted not just by different practices, but different practicing bodies. In the specific research context this suggests the constitution of a new space of ageing appropriate to the mode of generation enacted by participants. As such, the understanding of cinema as practice offers a methodological and theoretical contribution to existing understandings of film and audiences by acknowledging cinema’s embodied spatio-temporalities in practice. It concludes by proposing a geography of cinema that pays attention to the co-constitutive interaction between the material spaces of viewing, the film on screen and the embodied audiences.

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