NYU 2024 Cinema Studies Conference: holding the gaze

deadline for submissions: 
December 8, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
NYU Tisch Cinema Studies

Since the fin de siècle, the ubiquity of the camera has disrupted notions of gazing at others and ourselves. Moving from the 20th century to the 21st, the camera’s gaze has taken on many overlapping and at times antagonistic roles: it archives, captures, testifies, interrogates, interrupts, imagines, distorts, exposes, imposes, and surveils.

Over time, the idea of the gaze has been enshrined as a theoretical touchstone in film and media studies. In her canonical 1992 essay “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” bell hooks (1952-2021) elucidated a form of critical spectatorship practiced by Black women viewers who have long been denigrated by the mainstream media and excluded from feminist film scholarship. hooks’ pathbreaking intervention facilitated a multilayered engagement with the gaze and opened up the concept to even more fruitful revisions. In the intervening thirty years, informed by critical race studies, gender studies, and postcolonial and decolonial studies, among other intersectional fields, the practice of employing an oppositional gaze to hegemonic media has remained vital. Following the pioneering lead of scholars such as Laura Mulvey, Manthia Diawara, and hooks, holding the gaze carves out a space for scholars, artists, and allied others invested in the past, present, and future of film and media to interrogate and speculate on modes of gazing.

Considering the gaze as both a valuable analytical tool and an object of inquiry in its own right, we ask: How has the gaze—oppositional or otherwise—evolved in the three decades since hooks’ essay was first published? How does an individual viewer’s opposition to (or acceptance of) the images they consume—be they Hollywood blockbusters, network news footage, or viral memes—inform the ways in which they operate in everyday life and the larger world? What power dynamics are at play in the gaze of cameras, creators, and audiences and how does that influence who gets to represent and be represented? What reconfigurations of the gaze emerge as we study digital media ecologies like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, among other platforms? How has the function of the gaze been destabilized by deepfakes and artificial intelligence? How have the politics of representation and identitarian symbols evolved alongside these changes in technology and what role do they play in shaping discourses concerning the gaze? What is the potential for invention and further resistance in the act of looking, especially when one’s gaze, like their presence, is neither considered nor solicited?

Cinema studies has urgently turned towards retroactive gazes, reparative gazes, speculative gazes, fourth-world gazes, and sovereign gazes, revealing the potential to modify repressive power dynamics. How might we best utilize this powerful tool to deconstruct today’s critical moment in arts politics, a moment shaped by the historical neglect of the “other” and movements made to dismantle the screen separating the represented from the real?

We invite you to the 2024 Cinema Studies Student Conference at New York University for an in-person gathering on Friday, February 23rd and Saturday, February 24th, 2024. We welcome fellow students across disciplines adjacent to cinema and media studies, art history, gender and performance studies, and various other fields who are investigating the moving image in some form or another. We are primarily seeking paper submissions, but encourage films, visual art, performance pieces, and other works in line with our focus on the gaze. Panel submissions of up to three applicants are also encouraged. Topics may include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • passive and active spectatorship

  • transnational perspectives

  • intersectionality

  • feminist thought

  • queer and trans studies

  • intent, agency, and power dynamics

  • genre discourse

  • 24/7 news

  • the surveillance state

  • artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and other technological advances

  • social media

  • selfie culture

Please submit an abstract of 250 words and a brief bio of 100 words to holdingthegaze2024@gmail.com no later than Friday, December 8th, 2023. For those submitting non-paper proposals, please provide a brief summary of your work that does not exceed 250 words, along with any pertinent visual documentation (stills, videos, etc.) as links, rather than files.

Participants will be notified by early-to-mid January. We can’t wait to hear from you!