Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Against Development: Med Hondo's Migrant Cinema as a Practice of Antisystemic Worldmaking

17 May 2024, 5:30 pm–7:30 pm

photo of black men sitting holding black puppets

For this session of Marxism in Culture, Nikolaus Perneczky explores Mauritanian-French filmmaker Med Hondo’s migrant practice as part of a wider struggle over African cinema’s means of circulation.

This event is free.

Event Information

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Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Forum
G17, ground floor, South Wing
UCL, Gower St, London

Speaker: Nikolaus Perneczky

A descendant of Africans who were traded as human commodities in the trans-Saharan slave trade, Hondo became the first chronicler of African labour migration to France in the 1960s and 70s. Tracing the linked movements of goods and people across Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, Hondo’s films tie the lived experience of migration into wider histories of colonial trade and forced displacement. His films, I argue, show us the history of global capitalist modernity as seen from the hold; a position of racialised disposability from which Hondo calls into question both liberal and Marxist ideas of progress, while simultaneously charting alternative routes of escape. Following Hondo’s transnational activities as producer, distributor, and principal coordinator of the pan-African pressure group Comité africain de cinéastes (CAC), I offer a reading of African cinema as tied into the uneven and combined development of “world-cinema”: a global entanglement from which Hondo’s proudly “dependent” practice continually attempted to break free. My talk is derived from a chapter on Med Hondo that forms part of an ongoing book project reappraising filmmaking in post-independence West Africa as a critical challenge to prevalent discourses and practices of “development". The overarching argument, which the book unfolds across four case studies, is that in contesting “development”—whether promulgated by developmental states or the institutions of international development aid—the practice of early African cinema emerges as an important arena for antisystemic "worldmaking", understood as a remaking of the world beyond the political and economic forms of global capitalist modernity.

All welcome - no registration required, just join us on the day. This event is not being live-streamed or recorded.

Image credit: Med Hondo, Soleil Ô (1970).

The Marxism in Culture seminar series was conceived in 2002 to provide a forum for those committed to the continuing relevance of Marxism for cultural analysis. Both ‘Marxism’ and ‘culture’ are conceived here in a broad sense. We understand Marxism as an ongoing self-critical tradition, and correspondingly the critique of Marxism's own history and premises is part of the agenda. ‘Culture’ is intended to comprehend not only the traditional fine arts, but also aspects of popular culture such as film, popular music and fashion.

About the Speaker

Nikolaus Perneczky

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary University of London

He is working on a postdoctoral project titled Restitution and the Moving Image: Decolonising Global Film Heritage (2022–2025). Recent publications include an article in the journal Black Camera on the futures past of African cinema (2022); a chapter in the edited collection Accidental Archivism arguing for the restitution of Africa's displaced film heritage (2023), and a book chapter on Indigenous claims to images and sounds held by national archives in Australia (forthcoming). Together with Cecilia Valenti, Nikolaus is currently working on the edited volume Restitution and the Moving Image: On the Politics and Ethics of Global Audiovisual Archiving (Amsterdam University Press, under review). He is also preparing a monograph titled Against Development: Early African Cinema as Worldmaking (Oxford University Press).