Onco-Filmographics: The Politics and Affects of the Canadian Breast Cancer Documentary

Eva C. Karpinski, York University
Vol. 32, No. 2/Vol. 33, No. 1 (Fall 2013/Spring 2014), 163-187

Departing from Lauren Berlant’s concept of intimate publics, this article examines several examples of breast cancer documentaries as a contested site where the subjectivity of deep personal emotions intersects with the sociality of intense affects linked to representations and discourses of illness, bodies, and biopower. Such documentaries are defined as onco-filmographics, a subgenre of visual illness narrative that uses the versatile medium of film or video to produce fictional, auto/biographical, and/or expository accounts, as well as arts documentary responses to cancer experience. Based on their ability to rally different publics and counterpublics, Canadian onco-filmographics can be grouped into three distinct categories, including neoliberal, privatized heroic stories of suffering and survivorship; counterhegemonic, community-oriented accounts of marginalized experiences (for example, lesbian and Aboriginal); and investigative activist interventions focused on environmental and anti-corporate critiques. While these films are capable of manufacturing and articulating individual and public sentiments, feelings, and rationalizations about breast cancer, they also offer insights into the emerging forms of biopolitics of breast cancer.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]