CFP: "Parasocial Politics: Audience Readings of Cultural Politics in Pop Culture" 10-15-2012

full name / name of organization: 
Jason Zenor SUNY-Oswego
contact email: 

There is no doubt that people learn about politics from television. The popularity of cable news and satire suggest that people are often absorbing and dissecting political messages from these channels. But, other channels, media and texts will also discuss the important political issues of our time, even if it is not as overt. Ultimately, media consumers learn about, debate about, and decide on important political issues through their relationship with fictional media- just like we learn about debate political issues with our real life friends.

Though there are many scholarly books that examine the 'political' messages of popular culture, very few examine how audiences read (or create) these messages. This edited collection will examine how consumers form complex relationships with media texts (and characters) and how these readings exist in the nexus between the real and fictional worlds. All methodologies are welcomed (surveys, experiments, focus groups, mixed methods, etc). This would be a collection of essays, based on empirical research that shows how consumers read the text (not a rhetorical or thematical analysis of the text itself, unless it guides the audience research).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

"South Park and Political Correctness"
"Jersey Shore and Italian Stereotypes"
"Grey's Anatomy and Health Care"
"Modern Family and Homosexuality and Family"
"The Middle and the American Dream"
"Parks and Recreation and Bureaucracy"
"The Office and Labor Issues"
"Community and Education"
"Survivor and Social Welfare"
"Undercover Boss and the 1%"
"Breaking Bad and the War on Drugs"
"Walking Dead and Environmentalism"
"True Blood and Poverty"
"Dexter and Justice"
"Boondocks and Race"

The editor foresees an emphasis on television programming because of the long-term relationship that audience form with characters. But, the submissions do not have to be limited to television as works on film, music, and advertising are welcomed. Creative ideas, unique media texts and approaches are welcomed. The greater emphasis will be placed on fictional content and cultural politics (so your submission should not analyze news, news satire, documentaries or shows and films about political institutions).

Deadline for submission is October 15, 2012. Abstracts (up to 500 words) and a brief curriculum vitae should be emailed to the editor with the byline: Parasocial Politics. Abstract should include research question, method and any theoretical perspectives. All inquiries should be sent to the editor as well.

Jason Zenor
Assistant Professor
School of Communication, Media and the Arts