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Opening The Fortress : the work of public gaze on the Swiss asylum reality
Javnost - The Public : Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture
Special issue : Publics, Discursive Struggle and Political Agency.
The Fortress (La Forteresse) is a 2008 documentary film by Fernand Melgar that reports the Swiss asylum reality from a distant but committed point of view. The documentary describes the life of asylum seekers awaiting in a federal centre the decision to grant them-or not-refugee status. It subtly raises the issue of the role that "textual realities", grasped from the spectator's point of view, play in the production of public discourses. Most of all, it subtly poses the question of the (Swiss) spectator as an actor of the asylum policy, in the context of a semi-direct democracy. After evoking the notion of sensible experience for linking spectatorship to politics, we look at how the documentary invites its model spectator to accept the film's moral premises. Furthermore, focusing on the Swiss public sphere, we deliver an account of the reception by empirical spectators, notably by a group of leftist activists that tend to subvert Melgar's intentions. This two-fold analysis leads us to exhibit that, in a context of discursive struggles, The Fortress generates an original space of deliberation and experience, which appeals to the public to exercise their political agency on asylum policy without being constricted by an antagonist framework.
asylum, documentary, public sphere, spectator, "sensible experience"
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