Orphans, Disciplines, and the Institutions of Cinema: Placing Orphan Films (September 26, 2013)

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Nontheatrical Film and Media Scholarly Interest Group
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Call for Papers

Orphans, Disciplines, and the Institutions of Cinema: Placing Orphan Films
Indiana University Bloomington
September 26, 2013

When the first Orphan Film Symposium was held in 1999, the agenda was clear from its title: "Saving 'Orphan Films' in the Digital Age." Fourteen years, and eight symposia, later, orphan films no longer need scare quotes to be identified, and many previously obscure and unknown films are now at the center of archival and historical investigations of the cinema. Moreover, recent edited collections such as Charles Acland and Haidee Wasson's Useful Cinema (Duke, 2011), and Devin Orgeron, Marsha Orgeron, and Dan Streible's Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States (Oxford, 2012), demonstrate the history of these films before they were orphaned; they were produced, distributed, and exhibited as part of a larger nontheatrical network and as active participants in alternative cinema cultures.

In this one-day, graduate student conference, presented by the SIG in conjunction with Orphans Midwest (Sept 26-28), Indiana University Cinema, Film and Media Studies at Indiana University, the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University, and the Nontheatrical Film and Media Scholarly Interest Group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, we ask for papers that consider the analytical, historiographic, and disciplinary consequences of "placing" orphan films in particular theoretical and historical categories. For example, does the identification of orphan works as educational, medical, industrial, scientific, or other genres of films remind us of the specific circumstances of their reception, or does it needlessly encourage a tendency to ahistorically categorize films? Are auteurist histories of individual directors overly dependent on art cinema modes of analysis, or do they give us a way to think of these works are more than mere expressions of institutional ideologies? Should we use the traditional tools of film studies, such as close reading, to analyze orphan films? Or is it preferable to create new methodologies that allow us to consider the tens of thousands of films that make up the orphan archives? How can researchers of orphan films benefit from dialogue with those in science studies, media ethnography, digital humanities, media archeology, and other emerging fields of study to produce interdisciplinary historical and theoretical work on orphan films?

Please submit 300-word proposals, and a brief bio, by May 10, 2013 to martin.johnson@nyu.edu. If you wish to propose a pre-constituted panel, workshop, or alternative presentation mode, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your plans.