Vancouver Institute for Social Research: Nicole Shukin

December 1, 2014

The Vancouver Institute for Social Research (VISR) is an independent, para-academic, graduate-level, theory-based free school that began in Feb. 2013. Our intent is to move beyond the borders of the traditional university and to open up a more accessible platform in the city for the engaged discussion of critical theory.


The Institute’s third session, which will be organized around the theme of “Aesthetics and Politics,” will be held from Sept – Dec, 2014. Once a week on Monday evenings from 7-9 pm at the Or Gallery (555 Hamilton Street), we will be inviting professors to present on topics of their choice over this period.


Though we have an operational budget of $0, the seminars will be free to the public. All professors will be offering their services on a voluntary basis.


Organized by the East Vancouver Young Hegelians
Chapter 13 (Negating the Negation Faction)


Nicole Shukin — Striking Images: The Politics of Cinematic Affect


An early silent film classic – Sergei Eisenstein’s Strike (1925) – will serve as this seminar’s entry point into larger questions of aesthetics and politics. The technique of dialectical montage that Eisenstein practices in this film – exemplified by a scene in which the brutal suppression of striking factory workers is dramatically intercut with shots of a bull being stunned with a pole-axe, and then slaughtered – prompts an analysis of the politics of cinematic affect. For Eisenstein, such startling juxtapositions of images were themselves designed to strike spectators with visceral force, by-passing representation in order to directly affect viewers and move them to political action. His cinematic philosophy poses an immediate connection between aesthetics and politics that I suggest underlies how the radical relation between the two continues to be thought today.


Eisenstein’s practice of dialectical montage has received ample critical attention, and in this seminar we’ll have a chance to compare two different takes on his socialist cinema, one by Jonathan Beller in The Cinematic Mode of Production and the other by Jacques Rancière in Film Fables. Yet what I propose is at once most obvious and yet overlooked in aesthetic or biopolitical readings of Eisenstein’s cinema is the homology that Strike inadvertently implies between animal slaughter and the affective force of moving images. How exactly are animal slaughter and moving images interimplicated, and what does this interimplication signal for how a politics of species may need to be better accounted for in any aesthetic politics of equality?



Jonathan Beller, Chapter Two (“The Spectatorship of the Proletariat”) in The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle (Dartmouth College/University Press of New England, 2006).

Jacques Rancière, “Eisenstein’s Madness,” in Film Fables (Bloomsbury Academic, 2006).

Participant Bios

Nicole Shukin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, and member of the interdisciplinary graduate program in Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT). She specializes in Canadian Literature, cultural studies (with a focus on theories of biopower, animal studies, and the politics of nature), and poststructuralist, (post)Marxist, and posthumanist theory. Dr. Shukin has contributed to the edited volumes Against Automobility (Blackwell 2006) and Deleuze and Feminist Theory (Edinburgh 2000). She has published in the journals ESC, Social Semiotics, Canadian Literature, and Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, The Dalhousie Review and CR: The New Centennial Review.