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The Australian National University

Dr Gemma King

PhD (University of Melbourne, Paris 3- Sorbonne Nouvelle), BA Hons (University of Melbourne)
Lecturer in French Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 6125 9029

Areas of expertise

  • Cinema Studies 190201
  • French Language 200306
  • Multicultural, Intercultural And Cross Cultural Studies 200209
  • Museum Studies 210204
  • Screen And Media Culture 200212
  • Literature In French 200511

Research interests

French cinema; multilingualism; contemporary French culture and society; museum studies; European cinema studies; migration and movement in the contemporary world; language, power and violence in film; postcolonialism and cultural representation; codeswitching and audiovisual translation; transnational and Francophone film studies


I joined the ANU in 2016, after completing my PhD as a cotutelle at the University of Melbourne and l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle- Paris 3 in 2015. My research explores language, culture, violence, and power in French and Francophone contexts. Specifically, I work on the representation of linguistic and cultural difference in French film, focusing on the relationship between multilingualism and social power. I am particularly interested in films which portray marginalised cultures and the potential of languages other than French, even the historically disenfranchised, to empower their speakers. I also research the interplay between power and violence in cinema more broadly, and the representation of multiculturalism in French museums.

I am Convenor of the ANU French Research Cluster and Postgraduate Officer of the Australian Society for French Studies. I taught across French, English, and Cinema studies at the University of Melbourne, Paris 3, and the Université Paris-Est Créteil before joining the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the ANU, and my book Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema will be published with Manchester University Press in September 2017.

Researcher's projects

Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema

This monograph investigates the contemporary phenomenon of multilingualism in French film, and asks what such films can tell us about the experience of speaking different languages in today's France. Not only is multilingual dialogue vastly more present in twenty-first-century French cinema, but for practically the first time, multilingualism is being depicted as a tool for (re)negotiating power dynamics. In multilingual cinema, the depiction of the status of a wide range of languages other than French is evolving from marginalised to foregrounded. Through language learning and strategic code-switching, the characters of these films wrest power from one another and wield it in innovative ways. Exploiting their knowledge of a wide range of languages, from rival lingua francas like English to traditionally migrant or socio-politically marginalised languages such as Arabic or Kurdish, multilingual characters in these films offer a counter-perspective to dominating ideologies of the role and status of the French language.

Decentring France adopts a transnational approach to understandings of social power and language. It analyses multilingual film through the framework of Ella Shohat and Robert Stam’s theory of polycentric multiculturalism, which “is about dispersing power, about empowering the disempowered, about transforming subordinating institutions and discourses” (Unthinking Eurocentrism 1994, 48). Unpacking the power dynamics at play in the translingual dialogue of eight emblematic case studies (Entre les murs [Laurent Cantet 2008], Polisse [Maïwenn 2011], Un prophète [Jacques Audiard 2009], Dheepan [Jacques Audiard 2015], Welcome [Philippe Lioret 2009], La Graine et le mulet [Abdellatif Kechiche 2007], Des hommes et des dieux [Xavier Beauvois 2010] and London River [Rachid Bouchareb 2009]), it posits that contemporary French multilingual films revisit and revise the role of language in French cinema. 

Other current and future projects:

The films of Jacques Audiard

French cinema and the 'langue de passage'

Paris museum cultures and representations of multiculturalism

Available student projects

I am available to supervise PhD, Masters and Honours students in any of my fields of expertise.


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Updated:  22 August 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers