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
  • Museum Studies 210204
  • Screen And Media Culture 200212
  • Multicultural, Intercultural And Cross Cultural Studies 200209
  • Film, Television And Digital Media 1902

Research interests

French cinema; contemporary French culture and society; multilingualism and codeswitching; museum studies; European cinema studies; immigration; language, power and violence in film; postcolonialism and cultural representation; transnational film studies


I am a Lecturer in French Studies at the Australian National University, where I research language, culture, violence and power in French and Francophone cultures. Specifically, I investigate the representation of linguistic and cultural difference in French film, focusing on the relationship between multilingualism and social power. I also research the interplay between power and violence in cinema more broadly, and the (non-)representation of multiculturalism and colonialism in French museums.

I am Convenor of the ANU French Research Cluster, the French Honours Program and the SLLL Outreach and Engagement Reference Group, as well as a member of the Advisory Board of the Australian Journal of French Studies, and was elected 2017 Postgraduate Officer of the Australian Society for French Studies. I received the ANU Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2018 and taught across French, English and Cinema studies at the University of Melbourne, the Université Paris 3: Sorbonne Nouvelle, and the Université Paris-Est Créteil before joining the ANU in 2016. My work has been published in Contemporary French Civilization, the Australian Journal of French Studies, Francosphères, Linguistica Antverpiensia, French Cultural Studies, The Conversation and numerous edited volumes, and I run Les Musées de Paris, a blog about the lesser-known museums of Paris. My first book Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema was published with Manchester University Press in 2017 and I am currently working on the contracted monograph Jacques Audiard for Manchester's French Film Directors series.

Researcher's projects

Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester University Press 2017)

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. 

Jacques Audiard, under contract with Manchester University Press, French Film Directors series

Spanning traditional French milieus and transnational spaces, equally concerned with intimacy and empowerment as with violence and subjugation, the work of Jacques Audiard is a key part of contemporary French cinema. Audiard is a significant filmmaker in France not only due to his success in the box office and on the awards circuit, but because he occupies a place in the heart of the French cinematic landscape while also making films that tests its edges. Perhaps more than any other French filmmaker working today, Audiard toes the line between centre and periphery, France and beyond.

Jacques Audiard, to be published within MUP's French Film Directors series, will be the first book to examine Audiard’s career, the delicate position he occupies between national French and transnational cinemas, and the ways in which his films cross cultural, social, linguistic and geographic borders to challenge the conventions of French cinema. The book will build its methodological frame from a blending of French cinema studies, particularly on the contested concept of the auteur, and transnational cinema studies. Blending ‘micro’ textual analysis with ‘macro’ cinema history, it will reveal the centrality of movement to Audiard’s cinema, from physical violence to alternative mobilities, flows of globalisation, acts of creative expression, sex and the social ascent of the underdog. Through analysis of his individual films within the context of his global body of work, this book will argue that Jacques Audiard’s films, characters and career are uniquely and fundamentally defined by boundary-breaking, border-crossing and myriad forms of movement in the contemporary world.

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:  25 June 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers