Congratulations to Dr. Karina-Leanne Griffith

December 11, 2023 by Tony Pi

Karina-Leanne Griffith defended her doctoral dissertation, "Flânoirie: The Moving Images of Black German Cinema" on Thursday, October 12, 2023. The FOE committee consisted of Angelica Fenner (supervisor), James Cahill, and Rinaldo Walcott, internal external examiners Lauren Cramer and Sala Saljoughi, external examiner Dr. Michael B. Gillespie (NYU), and exam chair Stephen Rockel.

We asked Karina about her work.

Through textual analysis of over fifteen Black German shorts, web series and feature films from the 1960s to the present, my thesis differentiates between Betroffenheitskino (so-called “guilt-fuelled cinemas” from migrant perspectives) and what I call flânoire films, moving images that represent reparatory imaginings of Black life. Using Baruch Spinoza and Sianne Ngai’s figuration of active and passive affects, I identify cinematic techniques in editing, mise en scène, and cinematography that evoke feelings and vibes associated with mobility.  While Benjamin and Baudelaire’s flaneur can unobtrusively observe their environments, the flânoire can never be invisible as they inscribe new possibilities through wandering.   
The unexpected outcome of this dissertation is that it turned me into a film programmer (currently for Berlinale Forum Expanded) and curator working out of archives (Oberhausen, Forum Fiktionsbescheinigung, Arsenal, among others). I look forward to applying for third-party funding for my next artistic research project on film projection and my upcoming Artist Residency at the Goethe Institute’s Vila Sul in Salvador de Bahia.   
The next step is placing my upcoming articles in peer-reviewed journals.  
The first applies Cynthia Dillard’s concept of endarkenment to the use of light in Wanjiru Kinyanjui’s The Battle of the Sacred Tree (1994) and A Lover and a Killer of Colour (1988). The second looks at my artistic intervention into King Ampaw’s film They Call it Love (1972).

Her supervisor, Angelica Fenner, had this to say about Karina's thesis:

Dr. Griffith's career journey at the Cinema Studies Institute has been nothing short of remarkable, blending curation, programming, teaching, and an artistic practice. She has deftly woven this praxis-based knowledge into her thesis, which postulates a speculative aesthetics of itinerancy in Black German moving image, encompassing academy-funded student films, feature films, an online web series, film shorts, and more, produced between the 1960s and the present.  What binds these disparate texts across more than half a century is their depiction of a certain 'unfettered Black mobiility' within the European terrain, a flânoirie that conjures for their film protagonists a sense of (self-)respect and belonging. In elaborating this argument, Karina develops a repertoire of terms, such as 'attraction,' 'possibility,' and 'endarkenment' to identify the affects associated with these disparate film aesthetics.  This promising research opens new avenues of exploration that will prove salient for scholars working across a multiplicity of both national and transnational film cultures. We wish Karina every success in her position as Lecturer at the Academy of Arts in Berlin, and are delighted to see the network of alumni from our doctoral program continue to grow!

Karina also has this to say:

I appreciate the careful supervision I received from Professor Angelica Fenner, and the active engagement with my theories from Professor Rinaldo Walcott and Professor James Cahill. You are all in there - from the desire to push the boundaries of German studies, my artistic/activist approach to Black Studies, to my penchant for playing with French words. Thank you to my colleagues at the Institute for Art and Context, Universität der Künste, for your encouragement and support.

Congratulations, Dr. Griffith!

Dr. Karina Griffith