Mediating Democracy: Contemporary Politics in Film and Media

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
SFSU Cinema Studies Graduate Student Association
contact email: 

SFSU School of Cinema 22nd Annual Cinema Studies Graduate Conference:

Mediating Democracy: Contemporary Politics in Film and Media 

February 11-12, 2021 

Keynote Speaker: Ellen C. Scott (Associate Professor, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television)


While it is hardly an overstatement to say that contemporary life is permeated by various medias, the current pandemic has merely reinforced this ubiquity: from lecture classes to work meetings, birthday parties to graduations, interactions are mediated at an arguably unprecedented degree. The political sphere is no exception. This conference aims to analyze the relationship between contemporary politics and media. Indeed, media’s role within the political realm has become even more prominent, be it a film or show depicting social issues (such as Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us), a politician’s campaign team sending direct messages to users on social media platforms, or bystanders using their personal devices to document horrific instances of police brutality. These examples, and many more, are a constant reminder of the countless ways in which political life is mediated. In other words, media technologies have become one of the ways—an increasingly critical one—in which the question of democracy as such is posed.

In light of the current global political climate, this conference would like to address the following questions: How do film and other technologies mediate democracy? How are democracies always already mediated? Is democracy a form of mediation? What role do the aesthetics of media play in shaping democracy? How have filmmakers and activists utilized media technologies to transform the political and call attention to social issues? Conversely, how are political elites across the globe using these same media technologies to gain power over people? What forms, informs, and misinforms media audiences? 

We hope that these questions will provoke lively discussions on the role of media in our current political conjuncture. Applicants are encouraged to propose topics not only on the US, but also on other parts of the world. By approaching these questions from a global perspective, we believe that we can better grasp the complexities and intricacies of the ways in which democracy is mediated.

Possible topics and examples for this conference could include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Social media and social movements
  • The movie theater as a potentially radical or political space
  • Police brutality as torture porn: the politics and trauma of recirculating filmed racial violence
  • Inherent bias in algorithms
  • “Fake news” phenomenon, the reemergence of the far right, and the new propaganda 
  • The political implications of the aesthetics of media
  • Pandemic, crisis, and (mis)information
  • Non-binary visibility in media
  • The activist as filmmaker (e.g., Cheryl Dunye, Raoul Peck, Boots Riley, Ken Loach)
  • Tik Tok and freedom of speech
  • Surveillance and digital borders in neighborhood “safety” apps
  • Media as an ideological state apparatus
  • “Eat the rich”: the rising popularity of films depicting the wealth gap
  • LGBTQ+ politics in media
  • The democracy of award shows (e.g. #oscarssowhite)
  • Anonymity on social media
  • Racial politics in TV series
  • Media, mediation, and the Frankfurt School
  • (Visual) language and translation
  • Siri, Alexa, and AI
  • Competition between streaming services
  • From awareness to action: Online political movements and “hashtag politics”
  • Media and accessibility
  • Streaming services and the politics of binge-watching 

Submissions will be accepted from current graduate students, recently graduated students from MA or MFA programs (1-2 years after graduation), lecturers, post-doctoral scholars, and/or adjunct faculty.

“Mediating Democracy: Contemporary Politics in Film and Media” will take place February 11-12, 2021. While the School of Cinema hosts this conference, scholars of television, cultural studies, media studies, and other related fields are encouraged to submit proposals. We welcome proposals for 15-20 minute presentations, video essays, or other forms of visual media as well as papers. Upon acceptance, your work will also be eligible for inclusion in our online journal, Cinemedia: Journal of the SFSU School of Cinema (


Submission materials: Please send an abstract of 300-350 words, a brief biographical statement (100-150 words), and CV to:

Deadline: September 1, 2020

Accepted proposals will be notified mid- to late-October.


COVID-19 advisory notice:  While the conference organizers originally intended for this event to take place in person at the SFSU School of Cinema, due to the effects of the pandemic this conference will now be held virtually.