Making the Strange Familiar : The Functions of Empathy in Intercultural Film Narrative

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-3336-6
Title: Making the Strange Familiar : The Functions of Empathy in Intercultural Film Narrative
Author: Nåls, Jan
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of communication
Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Belongs to series: Publications of the Faculty of Social Sciences - URN:ISSN:2343-2748
Abstract: The dissertation investigates the varied roles and functions of empathy in intercultural film narrative, in both text and process. The overall purpose is to gain an understanding of empathy as a key element in intercultural communication. The research aim is two-fold: first, to determine the general functions of empathy in intercultural communication, and second, to uncover ways in which empathy can be enhanced in non-fiction text and process. As a compilation of four articles, this dissertation uses a mixed methods approach and different sets of material for each article. The dissertation material consists of non-fiction texts, case studies, and observations linked to the process of intercultural communication. Three of the articles focus specifically on non-fiction narrative and its production process. The material is rooted in the authors’ personal experience as a film practitioner and educator, as two of the four articles exhibit cases in which the author was a participant observer. The methods used to examine the material are qualitative, including textual analysis, qualitative interview, case study, and participant observation. The theoretical approach is interdisciplinary, combining film studies, cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and narrative and literary studies. In light of the results, a general function of empathy is to create an understanding of and between others and of the self, enhancing trust and fostering shared meaning between different stakeholders in the narrative process. Thus, empathy can undo otherness and counter stereotypical representations. Additionally, one function of empathy is to challenge power hierarchies in non-fiction film production. The results of the dissertation further reveal that empathy can be enhanced by allowing for relational empathy during the production process, and by enabling non-fiction subjects to take part in the design of the narrative. In the initial phase of a narrative process, empathy can be encouraged between author and subject by mutually sharing similar life experiences related to the central themes of the narrative. Elements in non-fiction texts that invite empathy include a clear narrative structure and characterisations that allow for appraisals that precede empathy. In distribution and viewing, empathy can be enhanced by the construction of spaces that allow for uninterrupted viewing and immersion.What kind of stories should we tell of each other? This key challenge of intercultural communication inspired this dissertation. It addresses the challenge by exploring the different functions of empathy in intercultural film narrative. Stories foster empathy which allows us to experience the subjectivity of others. In the narrative context, empathy can occur between those who create stories, those who take part in them, and those who consume them. Here, empathy is also introduced as a key theoretical concept in understanding intercultural communication and narrative. Based on the authors’ personal experience in the years 2006-16, case studies of documentary film production and education are introduced and analysed. The case studies took place within an exchange programme between academic institutions in Africa and Europe, as part of the North South South Exchange (NSSE), a funding instrument of the Finnish Foreign Ministry. As a compilation of four articles, this dissertation uses a mixed methods approach and different sets of material for each article. Three of the articles focus specifically on non-fiction narrative and its production process. The theoretical approach is interdisciplinary, combining cognitive and narrative studies. In light of the results, a general function of empathy is to create an understanding of and between others and of the self, enhancing trust and fostering shared meaning between different stakeholders in the narrative process, as well as between distant others. In this way, empathy can make the strange familiar, and counter stereotypical representations. The study also considers strategies of how empathy can be enhanced in narrative text and process.
URI: URN:ISBN:978-951-51-3336-6
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/286181
Date: 2019-01-12
Subject: viestintä
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.


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