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Moving FiguresClass and Feeling in the Films of Jia Zhangke$
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Corey Kai Nelson Schultz

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474421614

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421614.001.0001

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The Peasant and the Mingong: From Empathy to Sympathy to Looking Back

The Peasant and the Mingong: From Empathy to Sympathy to Looking Back

(p.48) Chapter 2 The Peasant and the Mingong: From Empathy to Sympathy to Looking Back
Moving Figures

Corey Kai Nelson Schultz

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 2 examines the representation of the figure of the peasant and its contemporary incarnation as migrant workers (mingong). It analyzes the structures of feeling of empathy and hope that concretize around the mingong figure in these films, but also explores the sense of precariousness related to this figure in the more recent films, and how the figure has been made subaltern, wretched, and rootless. It examines two cinematic forms associated with this figure – the point-of-view (POV) shot and the observational shot – positing that the POV evokes empathy while the observational shot creates sympathy. Then, it focuses on the mingong mass that replaces the individual mingong, arguing that the mingong have been commodified and made expendable. It concludes with a cinematic form associated with this group – the mingong gaze, which exists as a reminder, watching and, in its presence, remaining, demanding that the viewer acknowledge the mingong and their current state.

Keywords:   Peasant, Migrant workers, Mingong, Cinematic gaze, Precariet, POV

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