This article explores the miracles and ex-votos (votive offerings) associated with the Ta' Pinu shrine on Gozo, Malta's northernmost island. Drawing from ethnographic data, analysis of various personal accounts, and observations of people's interactions with the bricolage of Ta' Pinu ex-votos, I seek to show that Gozitans perform a highly personal yet ritualised form of empathy in the context of miracle worship. The miracles associated with Ta' Pinu are thus seemingly 'contagious' and meaningful, because they elicit existential connections and reflections on the nature of supplication and Gozitan social relations.
Ritualised Empathy on the Doorstep of Heaven
Empathy and Projection in the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool
Silke Arnold-de Simine
The moving image has become ubiquitous in museums that deal with traumatic, violent, and difficult histories and could be described as "memorial museums." This article investigates exhibition practices in the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, in which large-scale video installations provide evocative recreations of traumatic experiences that are designed to unsettle and disturb visitors, providing them with a visceral and vicarious experience that calls for witnessing and "empathic unsettlement." It also queries the assumption that the capacity for empathy forms the basis for responsible moral agency, and whether museums aiming to encourage social responsibility should rely on such technologies.
Memory and the Museum in Argentina and Chile
This article compares two recently inaugurated museums dedicated to the period of dictatorial terror and repression in the Southern Cone: the Museum of Memory and Human Rights at Santiago, Chile (opened in 2009), and the Museum of Memory at Rosario, Argentina (2010). Both museums invoke in their very names the "memorial museum" as a new mode of exhibitionary remembrance of traumatic events from the past. They seek to sidestep the detachment and "objectivity" that has traditionally characterized historical museum displays in favor of soliciting active, performative empathy from visitors. Neither of the two institutions, however, complies entirely with the memorial museum's formal characteristics; rather, they reintroduce modern museographical languages of history and art, thus also challenging the emergent "global canon" of memorial museum aesthetics.
Murray Smith’s plea for a “cooperative naturalism” that adopts a “triangulational” approach to issues in film studies is both timely and well-defended. I raise three concerns, however: one is external, relating to this strategy’s limitations, and two are internal, relating to Smith’s application of the strategy. While triangulation seems appropriate when we ask about the nature of film experience, other philosophical questions about film have an ineliminable normative dimension that triangulation cannot address. Empirically informed philosophical reflection upon the arts must be “moderately pessimistic” in recognizing this fact. The internal concerns relate to Smith’s claims about the value and neurological basis of cinematic empathy. First, while empathy plays a central role in film experience, I argue that its neurological underpinnings fail to support the epistemic value he ascribes to it. Second, I question Smith’s reliance, in triangulating, upon the work of the Parma school on “mirror neurons.”
Reflections on an InSite Teaching Program
This article reports on a continuing professional development program run by the Imperial War Museum in London for educators involved in teaching about European memories. On the basis of two sites visited in Hungary which were elements of the educational program, the Memorial Shoes on the Danube Promenade and the Memento Statue Park, this article suggests that Alison Landsberg's concept of prosthetic memory can be applied to these sculptural monuments. It explores the political potential of empathy in transmitting diverse European pasts and of mapping individual performative responses to less familiar cultural contexts.
Between Movies and Mind, Affective Neuroscience, and the Philosophy of Film
Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture makes a significant contribution to cognitive film theory and philosophical aesthetics, expanding the conceptual tools of film analysis to include perspectives from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Smith probes assumptions about how cinema affects spectators by examining aspects of experience and neurophysiological responses that are unavailable to conscious, systematic reflection. This article interrogates Smith’s account of emotion, empathy, and imagination in cinematic representation and film spectatorship, placing his work in dialogue with other recent interventions in the fields of cinema studies and embodied cognition. Smith’s contribution to understanding the role of emotion in screen studies is vital, and when read in conjunction with recent publications by Carl Plantinga and Mark Johnson on ethical engagement and the moral imagination, this new work constitutes a notable advance in film theory.
Gal Raz and Talma Hendler
This article reviews significant developments in affective neuroscience suggesting a refinement of the contemporary theoretical discourse on cinematic empathy. Accumulating evidence in the field points to a philogeneticontogenetic-neural boundary separating empathic processes driven by either cognitive or somato-visceral representations of others. Additional evidence suggests that these processes are linked with parasympathetically driven mitigation and proactive sympathetic arousal. It presents empirical findings from a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) film viewing study, which are in line with this theoretical distinction. The findings are discussed in a proposed cinematographic framework of a general dichotomy between eso (inward-directed) and para (side by side with)—dramatic cinematic factors impinging on visceral representations of real-time occurrences or cognitive representations of another's mind, respectively. It demonstrates the significance of this dichotomy in elucidating the unsettling emotional experience elicited by Michael Haneke's Amour.
Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism
Naomi J. Andrews
During the 1830s and 1840s, romantic socialists in France wrote about three subjugated groups in the French empire: metropolitan workers, slaves in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies, and Algerian civilians. Although these three groups ostensibly shared similar conditions of deprivation and violent treatment at the hands of the French state, socialists depicted them in importantly different terms, with the effect of humanizing workers and slaves, while dehumanizing the Algerians suffering French conquest and colonization. This article explores these presentations and examines the way they worked together to champion the socialist priority, the emergent working classes of the July Monarchy, and to indirectly endorse the settler colonial project in Algeria.
This article seeks to prompt a reevaluation of the efficacy of mainstream fiction films to convey liberalism's political and ethical values. First, it challenges still-influential Marxist claims about counter-cinema and distanciation, then it deplores the influence of contemporary irony and postmodernism. The article proceeds to enumerate the characteristics of “a cinema of engagement”; for example, moving us to empathy—even empathetic anger—rather than distancing us or making us feel superiority; manifesting a level gaze; analyzing structures of power; basing scripts on real events; employing both the realist and melodramatic modes; and inspiring viewers to work against social injustice. It invokes the theories of liberal philosophers, literary scholars, cognitive scientists, and psychologists, and draws supporting evidence from a close reading of The Insider (1999).
I will argue that the ambition to provide a naturalized aesthetics of film in Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture is not fully matched by the actual explanatory work done. This is because it converges too much on the emotional engagement with character at the expense of other features of film. I will make three related points to back up my claim. I will argue (1) that Smith does not adequately capture in what ways the phenomenon of seeing-in, introduced early in the book, could explain our complex engagement with moving images; (2) that because of this oversight he also misconstrues the role of the mirror neuron system in our engagement with filmic scenes; and (3) that an account of embodied seeing-in could be a remedy for the above. In order to demonstrate the latter point, I will show how such an account could contribute to the analysis of a central sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) that Smith also discusses.