Proposed Panel for SCMS: Screening Violence Against Non-Human Animals

full name / name of organization: 
Society for Cinema and Media Studies
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Proposed panel for the 2012 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference (March 21-25, 2012 in Boston, MA)

In 2008, a video of a U.S. Marine throwing a live puppy of a cliff in Iraq surfaced on YouTube and promptly went viral, forcing the Marine into protective custody after his life was repeatedly threatened. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled, controversially, that videos depicting violence against animals are a protected form of speech. In 2011, a Baltimore city surveillance camera captured two young men (later acquitted) dousing a pit bull in lighter fluid and setting her on fire. All of these events raised complicated questions — about the conduct and character of American military personnel, about the relative value of human civil liberties and the protection of animals, and about how to redress this kind of harm — compounded immeasurably by the mediated nature of the violence around which they orbit.

This proposed panel seeks to explore the complexities affective, legal, ethical, aesthetic, discursive, and otherwise — that arise at the convergence of screen media and violence against non-human animals. What are the pains and pleasures that human spectators can derive from watching animals suffer on screen? Why do these texts provoke such intense reactions? How, if at all, should these representations of violence be regulated? To what extent are frameworks for theorizing about violence against humans in the media applicable here? What are the politics of sentimental appeals, like those by the ASPCA or PETA, that use images of harm to non-human animals in order to raise money for their defense? These are, of course, just a few of the questions that papers on this panel might engage …

Please send a 250-300 word abstract and a brief author bio or short CV to Rebecca Adelman ( by August 2, 2011; I will notify participants by August 12.