In a conversation with the queer South Asian independent filmmaker and video artist Hima B. and through an analysis of her cinema verité work-in-progress And I Do Survive, this interview-article looks at the relationship between televisual discourse and “citizenship” as a form of governmentality. Shot in real time between 2002 and 2007, And I Do Survive takes as its subject the HIV-positive bisexual activist Michelle Lopez. Born in Trinidad, Lopez has been in the US for close to two decades now but has been unable to acquire citizenship because of a legal ban on HIV-positive immigrants. Aniruddha Maitra analyzes Lopez's condition through his reading of Hima's video, not to privilege representative realism, but to begin to theorize a more reflexive ethics of representation. Maitra argues that it is Hima's self-conscious verité style that articulates at once its own desire to “represent” Michelle, and the limits of what it can convey to its audience. Maitra shows how the diffused, “middling” presence of Hima's camera locates Lopez in the middle of her contradictory emotions, and gives viewers a sense of her statelessness, of the unnerving position of being both contained and dispossessed by the state. Drawing on contemporary television studies that link the genre of courtroom television to neoliberal governance, the article finally suggests that if (reality) television takes legal citizenship of its citizen-subjects for granted, And I Do Survive articulates precisely the gap between citizenship as a legal status and affective performance of the subject desiring citizenship.
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Research Article| September 01 2010
Ani Maitra; Why Isn't Michelle Lopez on Judge Judy? Citizenship and Televisuality in Hima B.'s And I Do Survive. Camera Obscura 1 September 2010; 25 (2 (74)): 183–195. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2010-007
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