The Probable Revolution: Archival Images, (Im)materiality, and the Reactivation of Portuguese Militant Cooperative Cinema

Douglas, Lee. 2023. The Probable Revolution: Archival Images, (Im)materiality, and the Reactivation of Portuguese Militant Cooperative Cinema. Romanic Review, 114(2), pp. 360-379. ISSN 0035-8118 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

On April 25, 1974, everyday Portuguese citizens transformed a military coup into collective popular resistance, thus initiating a revolutionary process that marked an end to the Estado Novo. Image-makers, aware of the historical event unraveling in plain view, occupied public plazas and roamed city avenues to document a popular uprising that marked a clear end to Portugal’s Fascist project. In this impetus to record radical change, film and its associated technologies promised not only to document, capture, and freeze history in the making but also to make it material, to transform the push and pull of the revolutionary project into something that could be preserved and kept. The article questions the notion that digitization produces a straightforward dematerialization of the analogue print by proposing the concept of digital (im)materiality. This (im)materiality, it argues, not only allows the transformation of revolutionary images into heritage but also makes possible their (re)activation in ways that both speak to the past and reinvent the future. Attending to the (im)materiality of Portuguese militant cinema makes it possible to approach these images not as texts to be interpreted but as social artifacts through which meaning, knowledge, and memories are made. Following Morgan Adamson’s call to consider how “images of resistance endure” and how “enduring images resist,” the article traces the (im)materiality of Portugal’s revolutionary filmic images with the aim of thinking across temporalities. So while, on one hand. the text unpacks how images of the Portuguese Revolution were produced and, subsequently, transformed into heritage, it also reflects on the author’s own engagement with the Revolution’s visual archives and her co-direction of the film essay "A revolução (é) provável" ("The Revolution [Is] Probable," 2022), where splicing, cutting, and juxtaposing digitized images makes it possible to interrogate the material texture of history while also producing other forms or knowledge and knowing.

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This text was written with the support of a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Contemporary History at NOVA University in Lisbon, made possible by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program in the framework of Marie Sklowdowska-Curie grant agreement No. 895197.


Revolutionary cinema; film archives; (im)materiality; enduring images; film editing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Anthropology > Centre for Visual Anthropology (CVA)


27 January 2023Accepted
1 September 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

30 Nov 2023 10:25

Last Modified:

30 Nov 2023 15:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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