‘Great Walls’ Film Screening and Discussion – 11/6

The Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, the Politics Department at New School for Social Research, and the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs is pleased to invite you to the Screening of “Great Walls” followed by a discussion with filmmaker Bill Callahan moderated by Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research Anne McNevin.


Why do people hate the Berlin Wall and love the Great Wall of China? Both are tourist sites. But while people go to the Berlin Wall to lament division, they go to the Great Wall to celebrate Chinese culture, history, and power. And what does this tell us about our reaction to Trump’s Wall?

“Great Walls: Journeys from Ideology to Experience” develops the arguments of Bill Callahan’s award-winning article, “The politics of walls: Barriers, flows and the sublime” (Review of International Studies, 2018), which explores the ideological questions of what walls mean, and the affective intensities of how they can move and connect people. ‘Great Walls’ likewise juxtaposes our understanding of the (evil) Berlin Wall and the (good) Great Wall to reframe understandings of Trump’s Wall. But while the article examines how border walls work as ideological sites for the Right and Left, the film shows how people (both presidents and students) also experience walls as sites of joy, fear, anger, and fun. The film’s last two sequences – playing volleyball over the US-Mexico barrier, and fireworks art at the Great Wall – show how research films can address serious issues (i.e. the current migration crisis) through complex ideas (e.g. the sublime) in ways that engage the general public. The goal for “Great Walls” is to explore how history, philosophy, and visual art research can help us to understand current social and political problems.

Bill Callahan’s award-winning films include “toilet adventures” (2015), “An American in Shanghai” (2016), and “Re-Collecting China” (2017). He teaches politics and filmmaking at the London School of Economics, and his book Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations is published by Oxford University Press (January 2020). You find his Vimeo page here.


1:55 pm Screening of “Great Walls: Journeys from Ideology to Experience” (29 min)

2:25 pm Discussion with Bill Callahan moderated by Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research Anne McNevin.

The event is part of Boundaries & Belonging, the required course for the graduate minor in Migration Studies at The New School.

The event is free and open to the public.  Please RSVP, seating is on a first-come first-served basis.

Where: Kellen Auditorium, 66 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10011


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