Disciplining the diasporic audience: discourses on audiences of Turkish and Indian films in Antwerp (Belgium)

TitleDisciplining the diasporic audience: discourses on audiences of Turkish and Indian films in Antwerp (Belgium)
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Smets, K., I. Vandevelde, P. Meers, R. Vande Winkel, and S. Van Bauwel
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Antwerp, Belgium
Section or WGAudience Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeAUDS3a
Slot Code (Keyword)AUDS3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleTranslating Audiences
Submission ID5215

For Panel 5209 titled: Translating "Audiences," Provincializing the West.
Our presentation will discuss the findings of an elaborate, four-year project on diasporic film cultures in the city of Antwerp (Belgium). Since 2004 and 2007 respectively, Turkish and Indian films have been screened at a regular basis in the local multiplex theatre. These films are almost exclusively attended by a diasporic audience, hence creating a situation where ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ film-viewing conventions meet in a public setting. In this presentation we will specifically address the question how these diasporic film-going practices alter our understanding of audiences as social and discursive constructs. We will reveal the density of discursive meanings, ambiguities and polemics that are part and parcel of diasporic film culture by looking at the discursive constructions of ‘the diasporic audience’ by industry actors (such as exhibitors and distributors) as well as audience members. The findings are based on analyses of 31 interviews with industry experts and 29 interviews with a varied sample of people of the Turkish and Indian communities in Antwerp. Moreover, extensive fieldwork was conducted during film screenings in order to grasp the social dynamics of these screenings. Next to some more general findings of the project, we will specifically focus on three conclusions with regards to audience and reception research. First, we uncover diverging discourses on social viewing conventions. ‘Western’ viewing conventions are being contested by members of the audience and film-going is recognized as a community-building practice. Second, hybrid viewing conventions are recognized, inviting us to reconsider essentialist conceptualizations of audiences. Third, we distinguished a great tension between the industry’s effort to ‘discipline’ the diasporic audience and the resistant viewing conventions as expressed by audience members. In our conclusion we will reflect on how these findings are useful for the theoretical and methodological set-up of future audience projects, both in diasporic and other contexts.

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