Ramtin Teymouri defended his doctoral dissertation, "A Temporal Study of Palestinian Cinema", on Monday, March 27, 2023. The committee consisted of Angelica Fenner (supervisor), Corinn Columpar, Sara Saljoughi, Dina Georgis, exam chair Sarianna Metso, and external examiner Kay Dickinson (University of Glasgow).
We asked Ramtin about his work.
The dissertation discusses how time is reckoned with and represented in Palestinian cinema through a formal and thematic analysis of select Palestinian films. It demonstrates how the films utilise singular qualities of the medium to reflect on Palestinian history, depict the experience of the present moment, and speculate about the future.
I would like to express my gratitude to my committee members as well as my friends, professors, and colleagues at CSI for their invaluable intellectual and emotional support over the years.
His supervisor, Angelica Fenner, had this to say about Ramtin's thesis:
Ramtin Teymouri's thesis, A Temporal Study of Palestinian Cinema, constellates select fiction films by Annemarie Jacir, Ramzi Maqdisi, Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, and Elia Suleiman. Rather than staking a claim for Palestinian cinema along national lines, he acknowledges how disparate works have achieved a cosmopolitan, even universal, poetics that nonetheless references Palestine as a people and a history within a contested place and space. By extension, the visual documentation of this geographical region and the spaces inhabited by Palestinians has become central to films made by and/or for them.
Taking up Foucault's argument that heterotopias inevitably open onto chronotopias, Ramtin's thesis leans especially on the vector of temporality for how it articulates in film form, and for what it can illuminate about lived experience for a broader population within the region and for diasporic or exilic populations. Across three chapters respectively orienting the reader towards past, present, and future, Ramtin’s close analyses attend to the ways restrictions on the movement of residents resulting from the Separation Wall and Israeli checkpoints not only circumscribe their relationships to space, but also comprise ruptures to the flow of everyday life that shape time's passage, all too often experienced as enduration.
Past scholars have examined how the absence of a conventional sovereign state, combined with the aspiration to realize a common future, has uniquely shaped Palestinian engagement with history, understood as the narrativization of time's passage via key events. While that history is fraught with trauma that continues into the present, Ramtin pushes back on claims that trauma defies narrativization or representability. He draws upon Hans-Georg Gadamar's hermeneutics to elucidate how signifying processes pose a means to cinematically (re)construct events past and present and thereby also explore the very sense making entailed in generating those histories -- both for filmmakers and for spectators (and scholars) engaging with their work. These histories, Ramtin demonstrates with reference theorists of photography and the moving image, entail grappling with events, e.g. the Nakba, experienced in non-linear fashion as past cataclysms extending into the present, all the while envisioning possible utopias to enable living on, here and now.
It's been a pleasure for all of us on Ramtin’s committee to witness his steady and deliberative progress on the thesis, even in the face of the social isolation and spatial confinement experienced by so many during lockdown, and which doubtless brought an experiential dimension to his close engagement with the life worlds under examination. Overall, dissertating students in the Cinema Studies Institute have demonstrated extraordinary solidarity and resourcefulness in coming to terms with the present conjuncture.
Congratulations, Dr. Teymouri!