My name is Nicola and I’m currently in the second year of an AHRC-funded PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies. My A-levels were in Spanish, French, History and Mathematics and in 2006 I went on to study Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge in Scotland.
As part of my first degree, I spent a year living and working as a translator in the city of Valparaíso in central Chile. After continuing at Cambridge to complete a Masters degree in Latin American Studies (specialising in Film and Visual Arts), I then moved to Manchester in 2011 where I trained and worked as a secondary school Spanish teacher.
In 2013, I began my PhD in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester. My research explores how films influence and reflect the relationship between humanity and nature in the 21st century, with a particular focus on the representation of natural landscapes in contemporary Chilean cinema.
Just over half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this figure is expected to increase to around two-thirds by 2050. When so many people live in urban environments, what does this mean for how we encounter and experience nature in the 21st century?
For many of us, the film and television screen is an important point of contact with the natural world. We watch nature documentaries, travel programmes, adventure films and cartoon animals, through which we encounter places, habitats and landscapes that we never experience in real life. The vision of nature that we see on-screen doesn’t simply reflect our relationship to nature; it also shapes it.
My research looks at films produced in Chile, a country with one of the most diverse and fascinating natural landscapes in the world. From north to south, Chile is the longest country in the world, stretching from the world’s driest desert in the north, through fertile agricultural valleys, chains of volcanoes and ancient forests, to the frozen expanses of Antarctica in the South. This huge natural diversity and geographical variety is reflected in its contemporary cinema, which makes it an interesting and important body of films for those of us interested in cinema and the natural environment.
The central argument of my thesis is that analyses of cinematic landscapes can no longer be confined to the landscape’s role as a symbol of national identity or an allegory of some aspect of national history. Instead, natural spaces can be more usefully discussed as “postnational landscapes”, which are marked by personal, local and global forces as much as by national cultures.
By expanding and refining approaches to landscape and nature in contemporary cinema, my research contributes to a growing academic interest in how culture influences our attitudes towards nature and how this impacts on the future of humanity’s relationship with the planet.
For updates about my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @nicolarunciman
To watch new films by Chilean directors online, visit: http://www.cinepata.com/
For English language reviews and articles on South American cinema, music and art: http://www.soundsandcolours.com/
To find out what we’re up to in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, visit our blog: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/splas/