Travelling the scenic landscape: Community, nationalism and precarity in Nomadland (2020) | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Precarity and the Moving Image
  • ISSN: 1757-1952
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1960

Abstract

The aim of this article is to interrogate the use of US rural landscape in the 2020 film and its account of contemporary precarity and poverty in the United States. I argue that while the film is ostensibly invested in locating alternative modes of living in the face of neo-liberal marginalization, it ultimately reaffirms neo-liberalism’s core tenet, individualism, through its fascination with what Kenneth Olwig calls the ‘scenic’ landscape. This approach to landscape understands nature as an unchanging ‘stage’ on which a nation’s history is played out and thus ultimately naturalizes nationalism. Thereby, the film reaffirms the myth of the ‘wide open spaces’ of American landscape which has historically been instrumental in the displacement of people excluded from US national identity on the basis of class and race. This can be contrasted with a more interactive, more inclusive approach to landscape which understands landscape as the result of interaction between a community and its environment. Recent US films such as (2018) identify precisely such an interactive understanding as a basis for potential resistance against the forces of neo-liberalism which perpetuate precarity.

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2022-06-01
2024-04-19
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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Chloé Zhao; film geography; indie cinema; landscape; nationalism; Nomadland
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