UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Beyond the Sovereign Gaze: Nativism, Factography, and Decolonisation in Nikoloz Shengelaia’s Eliso

20 May 2024, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm


A SSEES Cinema Research Group seminar with Dušan Radunović (Durham University)

This event is free.

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Masaryk room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton street

In the broadest sense, this paper aims to evaluate the evolution of imperial discourses about Georgia and the Caucasus at large in the early Soviet context. It lays out the complex figuration of the national idea in Georgia under imperial rule, followed by the ideology of representation that underpinned those processes, from its inception in imperial years to its controversial re-negotiation during the short-lived period of national emancipation in the 1920s. The central part of the paper is dedicated to the Georgian Soviet film Eliso (1928), which emerged from the collaboration between the Georgian poet-turned-filmmaker Nikoloz Shengelaia (1903-1943) and the screenwriter Sergei Tret´iakov (1892-1937). The paper argues that Eliso fundamentally challenged the reigning mode of representing the Caucasus by questioning the inherited “sovereignty” of the colonial gaze, to inaugurate a different, vernacular vision. To illustrate the ways in which the film circumvented the existing mode of representation, the discussion focuses on the implementation of Sergei Tret´iakov’s key concepts, such as factproduction [proizvodstvo], and purpose [naznachenie] in the cinematic figuration of indigenous subjects. While the centrality of Tret´iakov’s productivism for the emergence of new visuality on the peripheries of Soviet film industry will broach the broader question of the crisis of (Soviet) modernist project, the appraisal of Shengelaia’s emancipatory effort will gear us towards the conclusion that the political emancipation of the (colonial) self went hand in hand with the emancipation of the strategies of representation.

About the speaker:

Dušan Radunović is Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham, where he teaches Russian social and cultural history and film studies. Radunović has published in a variety of subjects from intellectual history to critical and film theory (Bakhtin, Formalism, Eisenstein, avant-garde cinema). He is the author of a monographs on the genesis of the concept of form in the twentieth-century Russian humanities (forthcoming) and on Mikhail Bakhtin (in Serbo-Croat, 2012) and is a co-editor of the volume Language, Ideology, and the Human: New Interventions (Routledge, 2012). His monograph of the concept of form in twentieth-century Russian humanities is being prepared for publication. Radunović’s other interests include ethnographic cinema, east-European film modernism and the archaeology of the film medium.

Image credit: Still taken from the film Eliso, Goskinprom Gruzii, 1928. Dir. Nikoloz Shengelaia