Drs. Johannes Merz
- PhD candidate
- Benin, evangelisation, films, material & visual culture
Johannes Merz completed his masters degree in 1998. After doing resesarch in Benin, he wrote an MA thesis called: ‘I Seek Life: Witchcraft Beliefs & Moral Dualism in the Northern Atakora of Benin’.
His PhD project concerns video films used by missionaries and churches in rural northern Benin, West Africa, in their efforts of evangelisation. Among these films are the globally used American film Jesus (1979, John Heyman) and the Beninese video film Yatin: Lieu de souffrance (2002, Christine M. Botokou) which has close affinities to the Nigerian film industry.
Using a semiotic approach, he is not only interested in how these films are received, watched, understood and circulated, but also what role their materiality and agency plays in this process. Hence, his research also pays attention to the most commonly used visual technology of television sets and DVD players. He is interested in researching how the materiality of films and their technology influence film-watching as an embodied experience, and how these relatively new things are accepted as part of the peoples’ material culture. His project also investigates how films are understood as being similar to dreams as they reveal what normally remains hidden to the eye.
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