SCMS 2015 CFP: Scarlett Johansson's Recent Body Politics

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Swagato Chakravorty / Yale University

"I feel everything," remarks Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) at one point in Luc Besson's 2014 techno-thriller of the same name. Later in the film, Lucy physically dematerializes, dispersing 'everywhere.' If Johansson's body is figured as radically plastic here, it is constructed quite differently in UNDER THE SKIN (Jonathan Glazer, 2013). And her body is altogether absent in HER (Spike Jonze, 2013).

Taken together, these three films constitute a fascinating swerve from the ways Johansson's body has often been fashioned and figured as a contemporary female sex symbol. Just what is it that makes this recent series of films, clustered within a two-year timeframe, so intriguing, and how might we read them against the grain? What might these films contribute to the ongoing "bodily turn" and emphasis on affectivity and embodiment in visual studies?

Epistemologies of surface and skin, interiority and exteriority, and subjectivity inform both audiovisual form and the narrative of UNDER THE SKIN. Surfaces and interfaces may also be theorized in the information streams Lucy becomes capable of reading in her hyper-embodied condition, and in HER's anemic textures and colors. Affective and queer approaches offer other options, allowing us to observe how Johansson's characters dismantle much of her sexualized persona over the course of the three films. Finally, each film engages differently with the question of technology and the body. Biopolitics and discourses of the body in the age of what W. J. T. Mitchell has called "biocybernetic reproduction" are thus called into question.

This panel welcomes efforts to understand Scarlett Johansson's body politics as they have unfolded across her three recent films, either by taking up any of the questions above, or other possibilities, including but not limited to:

- The feminine and the virtual: (e.g., Computer avatars and A.I. voices are often coded as female; how does Johansson negotiate this?)

- Virtuality, transcendence, and the merely human

- Johansson's stardom and the "desexualized" sex symbol

- Johansson's recent body politics and feminist, postfeminist, queer discourses

- Bernard Stiegler's work on biopolitics, technology, (dis-)embodiment, and the virtual

Please email an abstract (250-300 words), title, list of works cited (3-5 sources), and brief author bio (500 characters) to Swagato Chakravorty at by August 15. All proposals will be responded to by August 20.