This essay examines the work of British “cinefeminist” Claire Johnston, whose activism, writings, and filmmaking during the 1970s and 1980s merged innovative feminist media production practices with new modes of theoretical inquiry. Johnston's 1973 essay “Women's Cinema as Counter-Cinema” was crucial to feminist film theory's development, yet the essay's canonization has reduced her thinking to a handful of theoretical concerns. To grasp the full political promise of Johnston's work, this article reconsiders the essay in three related contexts, examining: the historical circumstances in which it was published and the feminist debates it participated in; its ties to Johnston's less noted writings; and its relation to Johnston's filmmaking while she was a member of the London Women's Film Group, a feminist filmmaking collective committed to building coalitions among women media workers. This article won the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Writing Prize in 2016.
Reconsidering the Work of Claire Johnston
Rachel Fabian is a PhD candidate in the Film and Media Studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the former managing editor of Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies and also served as the editor for the Media Fields Journal special issue “Access/Trespass.” In 2016 she received the Joan R. Challinor Dissertation Research Award from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is currently completing her dissertation, entitled “Collectivity and Its Discontents: Transnational Figurations of 1970–80s Collective Media-Making and Activist Affects.”
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Rachel Fabian; Reconsidering the Work of Claire Johnston. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2018; 4 (3): 244–273. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.3.244
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