Title

Contemplating imperialism: early film reenactments of the South African War

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-19-2022

Publication Title

Early Popular Visual Culture

Keywords

Early Cinema, Imperialism, South African War, Reenactment, Modernity

ISSN

1746-0654

Abstract

This essay examines the differences between American and British modernity around the turn of the twentieth century. The author argues that American modernity tended to paradoxically embrace what was considered premodern, while British modernity sought to more clearly dichotomize what was perceived as rural primitivity and civil British modernity. To elucidate these ideological differences, theories of modernity and antimodernity are addressed in tandem with close textual analyses of early film reenactments of the South African War (1899–1902). While British film reenactments of the South African War tended to reify British imperialism, American films were often ideologically ambivalent, thus providing more of an opportunity for American exhibitors and audiences to contemplate and discern British imperialism for themselves. This study also explores theoretical questions related to reenactment and simulated reality, specifically how British filmmakers, unlike American filmmakers, constructed a clear distinction between civility and primitivity as real.

ORCID ID

0000-0002-8839-6454

DOI

10.1080/17460654.2022.2157301

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