The Politics of Animation and the Animation of Politics
This article demonstrates how political inquiry can guide the study of animation. It proceeds by investigating animation’s minor status within film and media studies and then the expansion of its definition and conceptual associations. This expansion has philosophical implications, which are explored in this article through the work of Jeff Malpas and Bruno Latour. By examining how these philosophers discuss animation and animated examples – puppets, in particular – this article demonstrates a shift from thinking of animation as expressing mastery and illusion to thinking of animation as expressing transformation, heterogeneous action, and distributed agency. This shift challenges philosophy’s opposition to rhetoric, poetics, and technology, and in turn challenges modern binaries between nature and culture, science and politics, reality and artifice, facts and fetishes, and it presents the world as animated. The author argues that this idea need not obfuscate the many different moving-image technologies that have been designated animation or cinema, and contends that some of these, such as animated cartoons, directly engage the confusion about animation caused by modern binaries. This argument proposes studying animation through multiple modes or lenses in order to prevent dominant realist modes of inquiry from stifling the uncertainty and pluralism that are central to animation’s capacity for political expression.