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Ethical Engagement with Movies

Response to Carl Plantinga's Screen Stories

Cynthia Freeland

In Screen Stories, Carl Plantinga concedes that films have considerable power to manipulate our emotions, attitudes, and even action tendencies. Still, he believes that film viewers do consciously engage in various types of cognition and judgment, and thus he argues that they can resist films’ manipulations. The “engaged critic” he calls for can assist in assessing how films create and convey their moral messages. I raise some questions about the account Plantinga gives of how both character engagement and narrative structures contribute to filmic manipulation. First, I note that there is an unresolved active/passive tension in his picture of film viewers. Second, I suggest that his treatment of narrative paradigm scenarios does not offer a strong enough account of the specifically filmic aspects of screen stories and how they differ from literary stories. And finally, I raise some questions about his ideal of the ethically engaged film critic and the social role to be played by such a critic.

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Fragile Transfers

Index Insurance and the Global Circuits of Climate Risks in Senegal

Sara Angeli Aguiton

In recent years, Senegal’s developed a program of index insurance to cover farmers from economic losses due to drought. I investigate this emerging market in light of Jane Guyer’s question: “What is a ‘risk’ as a transacted ‘thing’?” To grasp the social practices required to make “rainfall deficit” a transferable risk, I explore the climate and market infrastructure that brings it into existence and follows actors who function as brokers allowing the risk to circulate from Senegalese fields to the global reinsurance industry. I show that the strategies set up to convince farmers to integrate a green and rational capitalist management of climate risks are very fragile, and the index insurance program only endures because it is embedded in the broader political economy of rural development based on debt and international aid.

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Ted Nannicelli

This issue of Projections features an impressive diversity of research questions and research methods. In our first article, Timothy Justus investigates the question of how film music represents meaning from three distinct methodological perspectives—music theory, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Following a model of naturalized aesthetics proposed by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture (see the book symposium in Projections 12.2), Justus argues for the importance of “triangulating” the methods and approaches of each field—more generally, of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences. Our second article, by Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini, and András Bálint Kovács, also explores the effects fostered by a specific formal device of cinema—in this case, shot-scale. And again, distinct research methods are put to complementary use. Raz and colleagues’ starting point is a desire to empirically test a hypothesis advanced by art historians Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin. To do this, they apply a machine-learning model to neurological data supplied by a set of fMRI scans. Methodology is the explicit topic of our third article, by Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Juri-Petri Valtanen, and Pertti Saariluoma, who outline a new mixed (qualitative and quantitative) method approach to the study of how feature films elicit viewer interest.

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Hesitant Recognition

Toward a Crop Ontology among Sugar Beet Farmers in Western Poland

Dong Ju Kim

In response to climate change, sustainability has become the keyword for exploring alternative ways of cultivation in different parts of the world. However, local farmers still understand these sustainable alternatives in terms of soil nutrients and their absorption by crops. I examine how sugar beet farmers in western Poland read the condition of crops and field conditions, and accordingly try to cope with agricultural droughts in spring and early summer. While they maintain a practical position that is extremely inductivist, they simultaneously allow for symbolic, indexical meanings. These meanings of farming practices are multilayered and evoke relationships, local histories, and traditions. The farmers accept the reality of climate change only hesitantly, and their aspiration of gaining recognition in Europe has only started to penetrate the multilayered indexical meanings of farming practices.

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P. Sven Arvidson

According to philosopher Paul Woodruff, reverent awe is a feeling of being limited or dwarfed by something larger than the human, usually accompanied by feelings of respect for fellow human beings. Drawing from Jean-Paul Sartre’s early philosophy, this article responds positively to the title question, showing how reverent awe is in bad faith yet is similar to anguish, and unique with respect to both. Especially remarkable in reverent awe is the feeling of connectedness to humankind. In section two, building on this section one framework of how Sartrean consciousness can be reverent, the article explores how being-in-itself (l’être-en-soi) can be an object of reverent awe.

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Imagining Alternative Spaces

Re-searching Sexualized Violence with Indigenous Girls in Canada

Anna Chadwick

“Sisters Rising” is an Indigenous-led, community-based research study focused on Indigenous teachings related to sovereignty and gender wellbeing. In this article, I reflect on the outcomes of re-searching sexualized violence with Indigenous girls involved with “Sisters Rising” in remote communities in northern British Columbia, Canada. Through an emergent methodology that draws from Indigenous and borderland feminisms to conduct arts- and land-based workshops with girls and community members, I seek to unsettle my relationships to the communities with which I work, and the land on which I work. I look to arts-based methods and witnessing to disrupt traditional hegemonic discourses of settler colonialism. I reflect on how (re)storying spaces requires witnessing that incorporates (self-)critical engagement that destabilizes certainty. This position is a critical space in which to unsettle conceptual and physical geographies and envision alternative spaces where Indigenous girls are seen and heard with dignity and respect.

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Jason Gendler

Teacher. Mentor. Dissertation committee member. Advocate. Colleague. Friend. These are the many roles that Ed Branigan filled in my life over the eleven-plus years I was privileged to know him. However, merely listing these roles does not really do justice to his impact on me, because it leaves out the kindness, generosity, wit, and enthusiasm that he always had in store for me in all of our interactions, be they post-lecture dinners together in Santa Barbara, movie marathons at his house in Oak Park, California, or, as was more and more common over the last few years, e-mail messages.

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Marlene Laruelle

Russia is unique on the circumpolar landscape in that indigenous communities constitute only a small percentage of its Arctic population. Whereas they represent 80 percent of Greenland’s population, 50 percent of Canada’s, 20 percent of Alaska’s, and 15 percent of Norway’s Arctic regions, they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Arctic Russia. Although indigenous peoples have a more solid demography than Russians and have therefore seen their share of the Arctic population slowly increase over the past two decades, their rights remain fragile. Moscow does not consider the Arctic to have a specific status due to the presence of indigenous peoples, and its reading of the region is still very much shaped by the imperial past, the memory of an easy conquest (osvoenie) of territories deemed “unpopulated,” and the exploitation of the region’s subsoil resources.

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Indigenous Urbanization in Russia's Arctic

The Case of Nenets Autonomous Region

Marya Rozanova

This article presents the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the ongoing urbanization of the Nenets indigenous communities (“communities-in-transition”) in the Nenets Autonomous Region. Focusing on the preconditions for “indigenous flight” from traditional rural settlements to urban areas, the article analyzes key indicators—demographics, language proficiency, education level, and occupational sector, as well as social cohesion, interethnic relations, and political inclusion in the larger urban context—to describe the adaptation and integration processes of these new city dwellers. Based on the fieldwork in the region, the article also presents individual life strategies and career choices of indigenous youth and describes the role of gender in indigenous urbanization.

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Introduction

Agri-cultures in the Anthropocene

Martin Skrydstrup and Hyun-Gwi Park

Today when we think about climate change and Greenland, we do not think about agriculture, but of the melting ice. Perhaps the most evocative articulation of this connection was made in December 2015, when Paris was hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21. At this event, artist Olafur Elisasson and geologist Minik Rosing exhibited their art installation Ice Watch at the Place du Pantheon: a circle of icebergs with a circumference of twenty meters, which resembled a watch ticking and/or a compass providing orientation for the world’s leaders in the palm of Paris. The ice had been transported by tugboat from the harbor of Nuuk—Greenland’s capital—to France. The captain of the tugboat was Kuupik Kleist, former prime minister of Greenland, who was quoted saying: “Ninety per cent of our country is covered by ice. It is a great part of our national identity. We follow the international discussion, of course, but to every Greenlander, just by looking out the window at home, it is obvious that something dramatic is happening” (Zarin 2015).