The Process Genre

Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 224 illustrations, incl. 60 in color Published: March 2020

Latin American Studies, Media Studies > Film, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

From IKEA assembly guides and “hands and pans” cooking videos on social media to Mister Rogers's classic factory tours, representations of the step-by-step fabrication of objects and food are ubiquitous in popular media. In The Process Genre Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky introduces and theorizes the process genre—a heretofore unacknowledged and untheorized transmedial genre characterized by its representation of chronologically ordered steps in which some form of labor results in a finished product. Originating in the fifteenth century with machine drawings, and now including everything from cookbooks to instructional videos and art cinema, the process genre achieves its most powerful affective and ideological results in film. By visualizing technique and absorbing viewers into the actions of social actors and machines, industrial, educational, ethnographic, and other process films stake out diverse ideological positions on the meaning of labor and on a society's level of technological development. In systematically theorizing a genre familiar to anyone with access to a screen, Skvirsky opens up new possibilities for film theory.


“Thank goodness there are still film genres to discover! Covering a broad historical and geographical range, from Japan to Chile and from early cinema to YouTube, Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky's study of the cinematic work of work is both meticulously argued and strikingly original.” — Jonathan Kahana, editor of The Documentary Film Reader: History, Theory, Criticism

“After reading Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky's original take on the process genre one wonders why this essential cinematic genre had not been an object of systematic study earlier. The book draws on the genre's connection to modernity, cinema, magic, and technique, and it develops a textured reading of Latin American cinema and its discourses on labor. With examples ranging from slapstick to process manuals and art cinema, the book is impressive in its historical and contextual depth and textual deftness. Skvirsky's vivid readings convey the unavoidable interest in following a sequence of concerted steps toward a predefined end—in the cinema.” — Ivone Margulies, author of In Person: Reenactment in Postwar and Contemporary Cinema

"[The appeal of the process genre] is impossible to ignore while reading The Process Genre; even Skvirsky's step-by-step accounts of the texts she cites elicit a distinct sense of gratification." 

— Madeline Collier, Film Quarterly


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky is Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on the Art  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction: The Process Genre  1
1. The Process Film in Context  51
2. On Being Absorbed in Work  77
3. Aestheticizing Labor  116
4. Nation Building  146
5. The Limits of the Genre  193
Epilogue: The Spoof That Proves the Rule  219
Notes  239
Bibliography  287
Index 305
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2021 Prose Awards (presented by the Association of American Publishers)

Winner of the 2021 Society for Media Studies (SCMS) Best First Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0644-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0540-7