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Ecomedia at ASLE-Juneau: Maquilapolis

2012 July 9

Jennifer Sibara shares her abstract from the ASLE-Juneau conference.

Maquilapolis: Mobilizing Resistance to Environmental Violence in the Global South

I argue that the documentary film Maquilapolis (City of Factories, dirs. Vicky Funari and Sergio de la Torre, 2006) offers important models for artistic and political collaboration aimed at mobilizing resistance to environmental violence in the Global South. The film explores the lives of several women factory workers in Tijuana and their efforts to obtain restitution from transnational corporations and the Mexican government for environmental and labor violations. Through the film, the activists seek to raise awareness among “First World” consumers about the violence that goes hand in hand with global capitalism. The film documents countless violations perpetrated by transnational corporations—factories emitting toxic plumes into the air, releasing contaminated waste water into local streams, and abandoning hazardous materials, among other crimes. These visual examples evidence the ways in which transnational corporations perpetuate the legacy of colonialism—treating workers in the Global South and their environments as natural resources to be exploited and then discarded. However, rather than calling on privileged audiences to “rescue” the subjects of the film, as many well-intentioned documentaries do, the creators of Maquilapolis adopt a technique Rosa Linda Fregoso calls “mobilizing shame”: this tactic challenges privileged viewers to confront the environmental and health effects of the commodities they rely upon—ranging from cell phones to batteries to medical supplies—which are often produced “out of sight, out of mind” in Global Southern communities. The film also indicts the transnational corporations that profit from global capitalism and the governments that comply with the exploitation of their peoples and resources.

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