Alanna Thain

 Alanna Thain
Contact Information
514-398-4400 Ext. 8327
Email address: 
alanna.thain [at]

2nd Floor, IGSF Bldg
3487 Peel St. 
Montreal, QC H3A 1W7

Faculty Members
Associate Professor; Director, Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Cultural Studies
Specialization by geographical area: 
Specialization by time period: 
Film & Television
Theatre & Performance
Affect Theory
Archives & Bibliography
Creative Practice & Performance Studies
Identity & Representation
Areas of interest: 

film theory; visual culture; theories of affect; cultural studies; philosophy of the body and movement; gender and sexuality; film production; animation; dance, performance and movement studies; David Lynch, Norman McLaren, Gilles Deleuze, Dave St Pierre, William Kentridge; research-creation; and post-cinematic practices.


My work is broadly interested in bodies, how they move through media and in the world, and their affects and intensities in time. These are the red threads connecting my research on subjects like minoritarian horror media and performance, sleep as a sociable form, dance on screen as a survival tactic, time and suspense in cinema, feminist media practices and communities, biotechnologies, lo tech research-creation and more. Focused on late 20th and 21st century media, art, performance and theory, I research, teach, and supervise in cinema and media studies, critical theory, performance, dance, gender, sexuality and feminist studies. I am director of the Moving Image Research Lab at McGill, focused on the body in moving image media. I am former director of the Institute of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (IGSF). My books include Bodies in Suspense: Time and Affect in Cinema (2017), and the forthcoming collections Lo Tech Pop Cult: Screendance Remixed (with Priscilla Guy, 2024) and States of Immersion: Bodies, Medias, Technologies (with Carl Therrien and Philippe Bédard, 2024), and co-edited special issues on “Dormir/ Sleeping” (Intermédialités 2023); “Short Form Horror: History, Pedagogy and Practice” (Monstrum Journal 2022). “#True” (Necsus: Journal of the European Network of Cinema Studies, 2017), “Prises de Rue” (CiNéMaS 2011) and “How is Research-Creation?”, (Inflexions 2008). I run the FRQSC research team CORÉRISC, on epistemologies of embodied risk in minoritarian horror media and performance. I co-direct the research-creation project The Sociability of Sleep, which looks at sleep in contemporary culture as a site for social imaginaries. My other current research projects include work on reproductive horror, the somatechnics of horror ecologies, post-digital screendance in cinema and installations, nighttime design in Montreal, and “End Gays”, on post-apocalyptic practices in queer communities. I also run a bike powered mobile cinema, Cinema out of the Box, and work on ecological mobile cinemas and activism. Public facing scholarship is an important part of my practice, as are hands-on experiments in thinking through making.


Ph.D. Literature (Duke University)
B.A. Honours (McGill) 

Current research: 

Anarchival Outbursts: Dance and the Practices of Post-Digital Cinema

SSHRC Insight Grant, 2014-2019

Cinema today is on the move. This project traces dance's transversal movements between stage and screen media ecologies in a post-digital expanded cinema, exploring both mainstream and experimental works. How does a newly mobile "cinema" today move beyond public and home theatres to find innovative ways of staging audiovisual images? This project defines new articulations of body and technology in cinema in the wake of the digital turn, as live dance performance engages increasingly with audio-visual media technologies. If the "digital turn" has generally referred to the mainstreaming of digital effects, and the revolution afforded by digital cameras and non-linear postproduction technology, we must also consider how a new mobility of cinema has emerged through new platforms of presentation and dissemination outside of the box of the traditional theatre. This mobility is found in the material practices of post-digital cinema (through experimentation with new forms of installation and screening), in the content and form of cinema works themselves, and has produced new experiences of cinematic spectatorship and embodiment.

One of the best resources we have for understanding the effects of this new mobility is to think contemporary cinema through its relation to another art of movement: dance. "Anarchival Outbursts: Dance and the Practices of Post-Digital Cinema" explores key examples of dance in post-digital cinema to ask: what are the productive tensions and anxieties around bodily experience in the age of post-digital cinema that can only be addressed by recourse to dance? Across cinema, dance is newly popular at many levels of production. Screendance has become its own genre, complete with an established festival circuit; this emerging genre experiments with the specificity of how bodies move across cinema. Many feature filmmakers have turned their attention to dance films (eg. Phillippe Grandieux's Guy Maddin, Wim Wenders, Mike Figgis and Jaco Van Dormeal), exploring the potential for a new "expanded cinema" relative to what Chantal Pontbriand has termed "expanded dance". Other narrative filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and David Lynch have explicitly used dance as a means to explore the transition to digital cinema. Screendance has also served as a critical site of exploration of new modes of digital embodiment, through the synthespians of motion capture and digital composition (as with the experimental works of Thierry de Mey, Nicolas Briand, Philippe Bayleucq and others). At the same time, contemporary dancemakers integrate cinematic elements into their performances.

Anarchival Outbursts assesses how the effects of how intermedial performance changes the conditions under which we answer such fundamental questions as the liveliness of the cinematic image, and the effects of cinema's transformations of live bodies. As dance filmmakers experiment with the possibilities for new creation (not simply recording, reproducing or representing) opened up by screen dance, their works stage the complicated question of how we live our own moving images. What new avenues of expanded perception and action do the affects and sensations engendered by these images make possible? What does dance do in post-digital cinema?

Cinema Out of the Box

Cinema Out of the Box brings mobile media out of the theatre and into the environment. With the help of the McGill Sustainability Projects fund and the Moving Image Research Laboratory, we have developed a fully mobile and self-sustaining film projection system - moved and powered by bicycle - that is capable of presenting cinema in just about any geography, temporality, or climate. Our mandate is to explore the urban ecologies of Montréal with a variety of moving image experiments, including 16mm, Super8, and digital screenings. We are interested in several animating questions: How much energy does it take to power projections? How do built environments interact with media ecologies? What kinds of interpretive links do we draw between film worlds and those the environments immediate to the screening? How can environmental media help us re-think the use of artificial spaces as a part of a general ecological practice?

Join us for regular screenings and special events.

The Moving Image Research Laboratory (MIRL)

CFI-funded infrastructural laboratory for the investigation of relations between developments in moving image technologies and understandings of the moving body. Investigators: Michael Cowan (German), Alanna Thain (English), Thomas Lamarre (East Asian Studies/AHCS).

Facebook link

Other Projects

Selected publications: 


Bodies in Time: Suspense, Affect, Cinema (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)

Edited Volumes

Special Issue of Studies in European Cinema, “Europe on Display: Spectacle and European Cinema”, co-edited with Michael Cowan. 2015.

Articles and Book Chapters

One way out between two worlds: the dance moves of Twin Peaks,” Senses of Cinema 79, 2016.

“The Present Feeling: Contemporary Art and the Question of Time / La sensation présente : l’art contemporain et la question du temps.” Introduction to the Catalogue for the Montreal Biennale, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. With Brian Massumi, Erin Manning, Toni Pape, Adam Szymanski, Ronald Rose-Antoinette, and Erik Bordeleau.

“In the Blink of an Eye: Norman McLaren Between Dance and Animation.” Douglas Rosenberg, ed. Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016.

“A Birds’ Eye View of Leviathan Special Dossier in Visual Anthropology Review. Mark Westmoreland, ed. Spring 2015.

Welcome to This Situation: Tino Sehgal’s Impersonal Ethics.” Co-authored with Toni Pape and Noemie Solomon. Special issue of Dance Research Journal on “Dance in the Museum”. Co-edited by André Lepecki and Mark Franko (December 2014).

“Sonic ethnographies: Leviathan and New Materialisms in Documentary,” Co-authored with Selmin Kara. In Music and Sound in Documentary Film, Holly Rogers, ed. New York: Taylor and Francis/ Routledge, 2014. 180-192.

Tendering the Flesh: The ABCs of Dave St-Pierre's ‘Contemporary Utopias’”. Co-authored with Virginia Preston. TDR 57.4 (2013) 28-51.

Performing the Printemps Erable,” Transmutations 1.1 (February 2013). Co-edited with Jennifer Spiegel and Magdalena Olszanowski.

Arrhythmic Excitements Blindside Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.

"Anarchopanda's Soft Subversions" Wi: Journal of Mobile Media 6.2 (July 2012).

"Press Play" Society and Space, July 2012.

“Death every Sunday afternoon: the virtual realities of Hirokazu Kore Eda's Afterlife" Memory in Contemporary Global Film, edited by Terence McSweeney, and Amresh Sinha. London: Wallflower Press, 2012.

“Rabbit Ears: Locomotion in Lynch’s Inland EmpireIn Francois-Xavier Gleyzon, ed. David Lynch in Theory. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia 2010. pp. 86-100.

Anarchival Cinema Inflexions 4 (December 2010) “Transversal Fields of Experience” edited by Troy Rhodes and Christoph Brunner.

“Insecurity cameras: Elevator Criminality and Time” Intermédialités 14 (Fall 2010), Special Issue “Build/Batir” edited by Will Straw and James Cistneros.

A texture in the desert of the real: Heterotopic Encounter in Denis Villeneuve’s Un 32 Aout Sur Terre Nouvelles « vues » sur le cinéma québécois 11.

All the Single Babies: Adorable/ Automaton?In Medias Res, Dance and Technology Theme Week, April 26-30, 2010.

Against Full FrontalInflexions: A Journal of Research-Creation 2 (Fall 2008).

Affective Commotion: Minding the Gap in Research-Creation,” Inflexions: A Journal of Research-Creation 1 (May 2008).

Wandering Stars: William Kentridge’s (Err)ant Choreographies,”Parallax 14.1 (Winter 2008), Special Issue on “Installing the Body.”

“The Intensions of Extensions: Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s bODY rEMIX/ gOLDBERG vARIATIONS” differences 19.1 (Winter 2008).

Exogenesis: Mind children and cultured images in Battlestar GalacticaFlow 6.12 (December 2007) Special Issue on Battlestar Galactica.

Funny How Secrets Travel: David Lynch’s Lost Highway Invisible Culture 8 (Fall 2004).

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • Principal Investigator, SSHRC Connection Grant, “Terms of Privacy: Intimacies, Exceptions, Exposures”, 2016, $16,370.23
  • Principal Investigator, SSHRC Connection Grant, “Affective Encounters: Tools of Interruption for Activist Feminist Media Practices”, 2015, $15,818
  • SSHRC Insight Grant, “Anarchival outbursts: Dance and the practices of post-digital cinema,” 2014-2019
  • FQRSC Établissement de nouveaux professeurs-chercheurs grant for “Le remix du corps et des genres : les croisements contemporains de la danse, du cinéma et de l’animation”
  • Richard Plant Award for Best Essay in English, Canadian Association of Theatre Research, for ““Tendering the Flesh: The ABCs of Dave St. Pierre’s Contemporary Utopias” TDR/ The Drama Review. Co-authored with Virginia Preston, May 2014
  • McGill Sustainability Fund, “Cinema out of the box”, October 2013
  • SSHRC Partnership Grant, Immediations: Art, Media and Event (co-applicant with Erin Manning, PI, Concordia), 2013-2020
  • SSHRC Insight Grant, “Art and Ideas in Motion: Parkour Project”, (co-applicant with Michael Jemtrud, PI), 2014-2017
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Brown University (Pembroke Center for Research and Teaching on Women)
  • Resident Fellow, Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, 2012-2014
  • "Fabricating Aesthetics" L’Institut de Recherche en Histoire de l’Architecture grant, (Michael Jemtrud,Architecture, PI)
  • CFI Leader’s Opportunity Fund Award for the MIRL (Moving Image Research Laboratory) 2010-2014, ($997,614) (co-applicant with Thomas Lamarre and Michael Cowan)
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