The undisciplined discipline: challenges of Pop Cultural Studies

deadline for submissions: 
January 28, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Danièle ANDRE for the 2019 AFEA Symposium
contact email: 

AFEA Symposium: Discipline and indiscipline, University of Nantes, France, 22-24 May 2019


Popular Culture workshop:

"The undisciplined discipline: challenges of Pop Cultural Studies (USA/Canada)" 

Questioning what the discipline of pop cultural studies is aiming at and stands for in 2018 challenges its very identity but also its relationship or even parenthood to other fields that it sometimes aggregates with or encompasses to create something new. Hence the discipline itself needs to be addressed and updated as ever-changing, rooted in multi-, cross-, inter- and transdisciplinary dynamics, making of its undisciplined quality its first defining element.

 Moreover, or precisely because of this specificity, analyzing pop culture objects is also the locus to question normativity and the power of discipline, a notion that compels culture and the arts to correspond to a norm, or to imprison diversity with labels. Such is the case for instance by opposing high to low culture, pop music to opera, or hard science to soft science, etc. But pop culture objects can be read on many different levels to accommodate the greatest number and as such, they are precisely a mixture of different elements of society. Because pop culture is a reaction to people’s perception of themselves and their own reality, it will always need to be apprehended according to theoretical frameworks that will need to be adapted to these objects and their place and time of emergence. Because pop culture is undisciplined in its essence, pop cultural studies needs to integrate a similar characteristic, while trying to maintain academic credibility.

 Pop culture productions would thus question this segmentation, as well as representation of society through their diversity and their ability to mix different arts and mediums. Maybe there is no limit to what popular culture can do, precisely because there is no specific definition for the field of research that it is intimately linked with. Popular culture is defined by its lack of discipline, or more likely by its undisciplined nature which makes it what it is: an indefinitable object that questions society in its impaired functioning by showing how undermined and ill it may be or become (through novels, comics, TV shows, games, etc.). It can also be used by or use the system it is based on (a capitalist economy) and thus reproduce sameness to sell a lot, or make only a few copies to sell them at a very expensive price. Bansky’s latest coup is a good example: shredding his “street art painting” to pieces when it was sold at an auction was meant to criticize the art market and show how ephemeral art and money are, but at the same time, the event increased the value of the work of art by making it even more unique (half shredded). Thus, pop culture works of art are meaningful not only because of what they say, show, deal with, but also by their very belonging to an economy they cannot seem to escape, even less so subvert.


The papers could thus be related either to the theoretical aspects of “discipline-indiscipline-no discipline” aspects of pop cultural studies, or/and to the contents of pop culture objects as they criticize “law and order”, “normativity”, “self-constraint”, etc. or when they advocate an absence of rules, a liberty to play with them, etc.


Papers can deal with, but are not limited to:

- science fiction (“The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Westworld” for instance when it comes to the very notion of discipline and indiscipline imposed upon a society, or on some groups of people; etc.), fantasy, horror (“Halloween”, etc.), adventure (“Black Sails”)

- comics (“Sin City”, “My So-Called Secret Identity”, “Deadpool”, etc.)

- games (video-games, Table top RPG with games to be played by the rule or the new forms asking for an emancipation from any rules and giving players the freedom to invent the story)

- street art (now used to ornate city walls, but also street art to criticize society)

- music (punk, rap, …. How music has been created and used through time to go against or to break free from)

- sports (where self-discipline is necessary but where people can also express their indiscipline towards social problems, such as American football player Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem to protest against police brutality, etc.)

- literature (exploding the way novels are written or were written (blank pages, words that form a drawing, deconstructed sentences, Newspeak, etc.))

- Collectibles & franchising consumerism

- Transmedia narratives (Buffy seasons 8 to 11 in comic books, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, etc.)

- American Indian pop culture, etc.


In a transdisciplinary perspective, the workshop is open to all approaches which may further the understanding of these questions.

Proposals (from 300 to 500 words approximately) may put forward different fields of study and theoretical frameworks and approaches. They are to be sent both to Danièle André ( and Charles Joseph ( by January 28 2019.


NB: To present a paper, one has to be a member of the AFEA association (around 60 euros) and to pay the registration fees for the symposium (also around 60 euros).