Call for Papers | On Research Methods in Film Studies

deadline for submissions: 
May 16, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Diffractions (Universidade Católica Portuguesa)

Guest Editors: Ekaterina Smirnova and Sara Magno

The next issue of Diffractions pursues an interdisciplinary reflection on research methods for the study of film and moving images. To begin a meaningful discussion around research methods within Film Studies it is first necessary to acknowledge that we are addressing a transdisciplinary field of investigation that is part of a complex, rapidly changing and interrelated media environment encompassing various practices such as cinema, contemporary art, animation, television, streaming, video games among others. With this issue we would like to encourage critical inquiry into film and its interactions with these practices and to acknowledge that there is no longer a dominant paradigm of methodologies used to study film, but, as Miriam Hansen puts it, there exists a “healthy eclecticism” (Hansen, 2012) of theories and methodologies ranging from narratology and phenomenological approaches to new modes of practice-based research such as the documentary filmmaking, for example. Moreover, we are looking for contributions that both share and test new methodologies of analysis but can also discuss and challenge the usefulness of older methodologies in this field of research.

The development of Film Studies can be traced back to the 1920s, with movements such as the Russian formalist school and the German-Language film theory by authors such as Sergey Eisenstein, Siegfried Kracauer, André Bazin, Walter Benjamin, Bela Balazs, among others. These thinkers gave the first impulse for the evolution of film studies methodologies drawing heavily on philosophy and sociology. However, these theories were not institutionalized or integrated into academia on a broad scale. This inclusion happened much later in the 1960s when English-speaking approaches established their hegemony in the international debates around film studies.

As a separate field of study, Film Studies first emerged in the United States, even though it was still a part of literary studies schools. American Film Studies emphasized television as a space of inquiry, focusing on film texts and the processes of understanding and interpreting them. With the development of film theory and cultural theory occurring around the same time, Film Studies in the United Kingdom, and in other countries, came into being in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, its connection to these other fields of cultural analysis highlights similar research questions and methodologies available within cultural, representational, and film theory at that time.

It took some years before Film Studies developed a methodological approach to studying film audiences, researching the historical contexts within which popular cinema was produced and consumed. Cultural Studies and Social History helped provoke this shift from the text to the viewer. ‘Screen theory,’ tried to capture and analyze the processes of consumption employed by viewers inside the cinema. The notion of the historical audience replaced the theoretical category of the spectator, and Cultural Studies, Social History, and Television Audience Studies and their methodologies became increasingly relevant.

Over the 1990s, Film Studies underwent its own ‘cultural turn,’ as it became more receptive to approaches and bodies of knowledge from related fields - not only Culture Studies, but also Media Studies, Cultural History, and Visual Culture. Around the same time, Film Studies also expanded beyond Western interpolation growing exponentially in Australia, China, and South America. This internationalization highlighted the fact that from the late 1990s to the early 2000s there was a significant shift from aesthetic to social practices within Film and Culture Studies. For instance, we witnessed an increasing discourse and development of new methodologies of study in relation to the production of cinema by queer identities, racial minorities, and other ‘marginalized’ communities. Conjointly, the history of Film Studies from the early 1990s onward has been heavily influenced by the critique and the psychoanalytic method of Laura Mulvey's (1975) argument of the dominance of the male gaze in which the author discusses how cinema works to construct, deconstruct and problematize mainstream cultural identities.

However, around the late 1980s, there was a generalized reaction against Film Studies due to the complexity of its language and the abundance of abstract concepts. In response to this, modern sciences, whether neurosciences or quantum physics, have reawakened anxieties about the status of reality and the visible world, initiating timeless philosophical debates and augmenting the reasons for film and philosophy to join efforts. Rethinking the ontology of cinema can be evoked both by the “digital turn” or the “death of cinema” arguments. New film philosophies recast the questions of film as art, narrative and character, authorship and genre, thus putting cinema as an object of study and Film Studies as a discipline in a more secure epistemological place.

Over the last 30 years, cinema and visual art have developed a closer relationship and have mutated and affected each other. Along with debates about film, art, and philosophy, there are studies on documentary and ethnographic film, which have evolved into their own branch of Film Studies, with a particular focus on theoretical and ethical questions posing what reality is and how it can be portrayed. Another intriguing connection between the arts and cinema has to do with how the filmmaking process is adapting to the different types of moving images in the digital world, including animation, video games, video installations, virtual reality, etc. More and more, we are seeing a certain “blurring” between these categories and the way they increasingly interrelate with each other. For example, Lev Manovich (2002) addresses this aspect when he identifies that while we are entering the ‘digital age,’ we regularly witness a resurgence of nineteenth-century techniques of animation. These techniques are commonly seen when artists choose to not only record images but also to manually construct them, thus turning cinema into what Manovich characterizes as “no longer an indexical” media technology but a “sub-genre of painting.” This also goes along with the rise of interest in connecting Film Studies with Animation Studies and no longer looking at these spheres separately.

Within the discussion of ‘new media cultures’ it is common to speak about ‘new forms of interaction,’ even ‘new forms of subjectivity,’ generated by recently developed media technologies, and the way these latest forms shift the balance of power from the text towards ‘the user’. However, methodological considerations have not yet been given the necessary attention in academic discussions. What are the old and new methodologies at work in the current study of film? And what will be the future of Film Studies? This new issue of Diffractions is intended to bring together recent research in film and its methodological processes.

Articles are invited on topics related to research methods in Film Studies, including but not limited to:

*Methods for textual analysis and text mining in Film Studies
*Film and video as methodological tools
*Cinema and social network analysis
*Audience research and new modes of spectatorship (delayed cinema, immersion cinema, etc)
*Production analysis and film research
*Narrative analysis and beyond traditional narratology in cinema
*Filmic archival research
*Quantitative methods and big data
*Methodological issues in specific schools of film analysis - post-structuralism, critical theory,
culture studies, political economy, phenomenology, auteurism, queer approaches, feminism,
postcolonial studies
*Film studies and philosophy
*Neuroscience of film
*Animation film studies and Animation practice as research
*Film and Intermediality
*Cinema and materiality
*Documentary film studies and documentary practice as research

Submissions and review process:
The submitted papers will go through a peer-review process that will determine whether they are publishable with minor or major changes, or if they do not fulfil the criteria for publication. Diffractions' editorial board is fully responsible for the final decision about the acceptance and publication of the articles.

Please submit your paper by May 16, 2022, through the journal’s platform:

Every issue of Diffractions has a thematic focus but also contains special sections for non-thematic articles. If you are interested in submitting an article that is not related to the topic of this particular issue, please consult the general guidelines available at the Diffractions website at The submission and review process for non-thematic articles is the same as for the general thematic issue. All research areas of the humanities are welcome.