SCMS 2020 CFP — Screening Ourselves: Mediation, Exemplars of Difference, and Cultural Transformation

deadline for submissions: 
August 9, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Michael Dalebout — University of California, Berkeley
contact email: 

CFP (SCMS 2020) Screening Ourselves: Mediation, Exemplars of Difference, and Cultural Transformation

Digital media proliferates, in part, because it allows individuals to adopt, inhabit, revise, and project their ways of being. Liking, saving, and sharing digital objects shapes our personal and social lives, and has transformed what it means to see and be seen, to garner and wield cultural influence. By self-reflexively mediating ourselves in cultural artifacts, what political claims are we adopting about how the world is, or should be? Which lives are screenable, or screened? 

As opposed to representative exemplars of political and cultural identity who instantiate community norms, I am interested in those figures who Stanley Cavell understood as exemplars of difference. That is, those who, in one way or another, embody claims that exceed such existing norms. In negotiating and inhabiting everyday life, these individuals project to others another sense of how to live, one which does not merely combine and master existing social possibilities nor one which is defined by a contrarian rejection of them. Rather, such a way of life moves beyond ideal and conventional understandings of what lives are recognizable and matter. As such, exemplars of difference are frequently unsettling, provoking others to reexamine the shared conceptual ground that shapes the social and personal possibilities one can acknowledge, or take up. Contemporary cultural exemplars might include Lil Nas X and his song “Old Town Road,” Olivia Wilde’s film Booksmart (2019), Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up performance in Nanette (2018), a television series like Pose (FX, 2018-present), a video game like Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games, 2018), or the media savvy of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In all of these cases, conventional ways of mediating social norms are invoked but also transfigured, articulating possible (but previously illegible) experiences of living within and beyond social norms. As such, they contribute to our political capacity to acknowledge—and articulate—lives we previously could not imagine.

This panel invites papers which consider how such exemplary ways of life are expressed in myriad cultural objects and media forms. (Particularly sought are discussions of how practices of producing and consuming such objects successfully produce political critique and cultural transformation—in the way the work of Davide Panagia suggests, for example.[1]) Moreover, because such cultural objects—as they endure in time and circulate within and across cultures—become objects of collective invention, in what ways does the history of the proliferation and consumption of such objects reveal itself as a collective political practice of critique and cultural transformation?

I look to form an interdisciplinary panel that brings together cinema and media studies and approaches from disciplines including, but not limited to STS, critical theory, philosophy, literature, intellectual history, political science, communication studies, and performance studies. The Society for Cinema and Media Studes 2020 Conference will be in Denver, CO from April 1-5, 2020. https://www.cmstudies.org/page/upcoming_conference

Abstracts should propose a cultural object/event and a theoretical ground for analyzing it. Ideally submissions will offer a provisional critique of how said object/event makes legible an exemplary sociopolitical experience by rearticulating people, places, and/or things in a critical or transformative fashion.

Please send an abstract (300 words), title, list of works cited (3-5 sources), and brief author bio (500 characters) to m.dalebout@berkeley.edu by August 9, 2019. Selected participants will be notified by August 16, 2019. 

Michael Dalebout, C.Phil is a Ph.D. candidate in Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.  https://rhetoric.berkeley.edu/people/michael-dalebout/

1 Davide Panagia, “A Theory of Aspects: Media Participation and Political Theory,” New Literary History 45 no. 4 (2014); 527-548. See also, Panagia, Davide. “Blankets, Screens, and Projections: Or, the Claim of Film.” In The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought (2014): 229-62.