Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe


Cinema of double occupancy

Language: English

The cinema of double occupancy has emerged in response to the crisis of the nation-state and the growing significance of multiple and often conflicting allegiances which ‘hyphenated members of [a] nation’ (Elsaesser 2005, 118) experience. In modern Europe, the idea of nation and state are drifting apart. Instead we can observe the formation of other groupings ‘(or senses of belonging) that are either sub-state or supra-state, i.e. that articulate themselves above or below, or next to the nation state’ (Elsaesser 2005, 116). Those who are ‘hyphenated at supra-state level… are the cosmopolitan elites’ who have no strong allegiance to a nation-state, who are globally mobile citizens of the world rather than citizens of one particular nation. Small in number, this small cosmopolitan elite of financiers, businessmen, intellectuals, politicians and artists sets major trends and shapes global decisions and developments. Those hyphenated identities at sub-nation level include immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, ‘who live within their own diasporic communities and closed family or faith circles, cut off from the social fabric at large through lack of familiarity with either language or culture or both. Also sub-nation in their allegiance are sections of the second-generation diaspora who, while sharing the language and possessing the skills to navigate their society, none the less do not feel they have a stake in maintaining the social fabric, sensing themselves to be excluded or knowing themselves to be discriminated against, while also having become estranged from the nation of their parents. In the best of cases, where they have found the spaces that allow them to negotiate difference, they are what might be called hyphenated members of the nation, or hyphenated nationals, meaning that their identity can come from a double occupancy which here functions as a divided allegiance: the nation-state into which they were born, and to the homeland from which (one or both of) their parents came’ (p. 118).

The cinema of double occupancy is a new European cinema, a post-national cinema, shaped and informed by these hyphenated identities and their conflicting allegiances. With regard to the sub-national groupings, Elsaesser suggests that ‘cinema seems to have become the most prominent medium of self-representation and symbolic action that the hyphenated citizens of Europe’s nation states have made their own. Films by Turkish-German directors, by French beur directors [and] by Asian directors in Britain’, to mention but the most prominent groups of filmmakers in the new Europe.


Elsaesser, Thomas (2005), 'Double occupancy and small adjustments: Space, place and policy in the New European Cinema since the 1990s', in: European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 108-130. 

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 02 Aug 2007 • Comment on this term

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