Making Style Work

deadline for submissions: 
December 22, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Yale University Labor and Film Working Group

Making Style Work Conference *Extended Deadline*

Call for Proposals

Co-sponsored by the Yale University Labor and Film Working Group, Yale Whitney Humanities Center, the Yale Film and Media Studies Department

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Humanities Quadrangle 136

Yale University

Submission Deadline: Friday, December 22, 2023 by midnight

In the realm of aesthetics, stylistic choices have had a direct bearing on the figuration of labor and
labor-power within the works themselves. Whether Neorealist or Expressionist, Dogme or Cinema
Novo, the sense of style sits uneasily between genre-claims and tautologies about authorship. For
Bourdieu, style is a cognitive acquirement that performs a “decoding operation” (1984). In Dick
Hebdige’s analysis of subcultures, stylistic choices are the medium through which subjects
communicate a sense of oppositionality and subversion (1979). Style can be thought of as a form of
processual representation that depicts work “as approaching the magic standard of zero labor”
(Skvirsky 2020). And perhaps the question of style can be understood as gimmicky, “simultaneously
overperforming and underperforming” (Ngai 2020). How do the problems of style reveal something
about the collective media arts and their labor(s)?

The question of style has been oft-elided. What is the relationship between the film’s production and
the field within which it is interpreted? The Making Style Work Conference invites papers across the
humanities that investigate style and labor. We especially welcome submissions on media production
outside the Anglophone and Western European context.

We encourage presentations on topics related to stylizing and stylistics of labor and media. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Genre and generic depictions of labor

  • Ethics of representation

  • Strikes and unionization on and off-screen

  • Repetition and ritual

  • Collaboration in filmmaking

  • Slow cinema

  • Badness and its purposes

  • Imperfect cinema

  • Usefulness/uselessness

  • Overperforming/underperforming

  • Depictions of sex work

  • Industrial video

  • Vernacular film

Submission Guidelines

To submit a proposal, please include the following information in one document: proposals for 20 minute presentations (300 words), paper title, and biography (100 words). Please send proposals by email to The deadline for submissions is Friday, December 15, 2023 by midnight. Successful proposals will be notified by January 27, 2023.

About the Yale Labor and Film Working Group:

The Labor and Film Working Group presents an opportunity to consider film and moving image-genres explicitly thematizing or operationalized within the workplace or forms of labor. The depiction of the laboring subject on screen is fraught with myriad socio-historical concerns, and the working group aims to explore these intersections between the depicted work and themes such as the classification of labor and the question of “domestic work;” filmmaking practice as work or the labor surrounding cinematic production; the cinematic forging of, and investigation into postcolonial identity; issues of modernizing technology and the development of the city; unemployment; gendered, racialized, and sexualized workplace dynamics; migration; and, indeed, the historical development of the very concept of who is considered a “worker” and what is considered “work.” These questions also help to outline labor as a throughline in longstanding discussions of aesthetic and theoretical questions about film’s representational and social capacities as a medium.

The Labor and Film Working Group convenes for a standing discussion on where labor fits into the rest of film/media study and history. We screen and discuss moving image-genres explicitly thematizing or operationalized within the workplace, read the history of film theory and authorship against its labor history, and broadly think about how to articulate the link between labor and media in the constitution of aesthetic categories.