Friday, 27 February 2009

Guest Paper: Queer Language, Homo-Masculinity and Gay Sexual Cinema

Professor William Leap from American University will be giving this paper on 3rd March 2009 as part of our on-going ICAn seminar series.

This paper brings recent concerns in queer linguistic inquiry into the communicative terrain of gay sexual cinema (GSC) – that is, films/videos depicting “men having sex with men”. These products have been dismissed as moments of erotic jouissance, yet a substantial body of literature shows that their imaging of “gay life” has substantial material and social consequences.

I examine here (and in current research) a specific genre of GSC and the type of gay identity that is repeatedly represented by films in that genre. At issue here is an image of gay masculinity that is framed within non-metropolitan and non-minoritarian settings, and within a world populated almost entirely by men, Whatever their sexual orientation, these men are always ready for man-sex and they do so on any occasion. These men refer to each other by given names, complemented by nicknames and affinity labels. Even when participating in “anonymous sex, this is a world where all men act like “best buddies.” Moreover, men are not exclusively “tops” or “bottoms”: every man “flips” to accommodate his partner(s)’ needs. This image of gay masculinity differs from that presented in other genres of GSC Primarily, (1) this image proclaims a sense of gay identity defined in terms of masculine practices and other key values of the American heartland, not the urban terrain; and (2) this image confirms that the exaggerated masculinity that is being defined through a gay idiom in these instances is at the same time a white construction. Indeed, infrequent occasions when men of colour are included in the story line, gayness requires of them an especially explicit performance of whiteness.

In part, these arguments reflect my close reading of the storyline, inventory of characters, directorial style, and the marketing given to this genre. But I am also guided by my close reading of the comments that viewers have posted to gay video club’s websites. These comments repeatedly acknowledge close connections between references to gayness, whiteness and uber-masculinity; and their references extend outside of the erotic context, to engage broader assumptions of the neoliberal social agenda that is broadly redefining gender and sexuality in the contemporary social moment

Time: 4.00-6.00pm. Place: GEE219, Clifton Campus, NTU. Everyone welcome.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

On The Radio: Joost van Loon

Yesterday, Joost van Loon acted as a witness on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze. With new statistics highlighting the UK's high rates of teenage pregnancy, the show explored the role of morality in sex education. For a short period, you can hear the show here via the BBC's iPlayer.

(photo credit: Roadside Pictures. Permissions.)

Guest Paper: Black Genes and White Sweat

Jacob Van Sterkenburg from Utrecht University will be giving a guest paper entitled 'Black Genes and White Sweat: Constructions of Race and Ethnicity in Sport Media' on Wednesday March 4th as part of the on-going ICAn seminar series.

Continuing immigration is one of the great challenges that contemporary western societies are faced with. According to Brubaker et al., race and ethnicity even ‘count among the most significant social and cultural structures of modern times’ (1994: 53). Meanings given to race and ethnicity are not only influenced by institutions like the family, education or paid labour, but also by the media. Due to its popularity, the sport media are an important factor in the expression of meanings given to race and ethnicity.

In my presentation I will discuss my research project that employs a qualitative content analysis to study the representations of racial and ethnic groups in the Dutch sport media, in particular in football on television. By studying representation of race and ethnicity in televised football, the project hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the ways race and ethnicity are socially constructed through popular (media) culture. The project is situated within the disciplinary framework of cultural studies and social cognition theory. The constructions of race and ethnicity in mediated football will be studied by analyzing Dutch football during matches of Dutch teams played at the highest professional level in The Netherlands (the Eredivisie). We draw on grounded theory to apply a method of conducting verbal content analysis that is sensitive to the contextual character of race and ethnicity.

The event takes place from 4.00-6.00 pm in GEE219, Clifton Campus, NTU. Everyone welcome.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Swimming in Queer Theory - Judith Halberstam@Warwick (Part 2)

Following the queer theory workshop and lunch (Part 1), Liz Morrish and Gary Needham attended a formal presentation by Judith Halberstam on the subject of the cut and collage in queer/feminist art.

This paper followed of from some of the issues and artists previously discussed in Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place (2005). Halberstam offered an analysis of several feminist/queer artists including Kara Walker and Yoko Ono. What interested Halberstam was the way in which collage, re-inscription and cutting are central devices in these artists’ practice. What drew Halberstam to cutting and collage is the way in which the practice re-organizes meaning through juxtapositions and absences which could be thought of as queer. Halberstam urged us to consider through various works the moments when subjects become illegible thus unreadable, unknowable, and resistant, subjects who refuse to cohere and subject who embrace passivity as a form of agency. Gary thinks some of this connects quite well with some earlier 1990s queer work in photography (namely Della Grace Volcano and Catherine Opie) in which the subject’s gender becomes illegible and unreadable and includes in the canon images of Judith/Jack Halberstam. The conclusion drawn from Halberstam’s presentation also returned us to the queer theory workshop from earlier that morning, in that, Halberstam asked the audience to consider the possibility of embracing negativity and passivity as viable political acts of resistance for queers. The larger framing of Halberstam’s new work in queer theory would seem to suggests that queerness is (and should be) “the problem of the subject itself”.
(photo credit: Arbitrary.Marks/Colleen Keating)

Swimming in Queer Theory - Judith Halberstam@Warwick (Part 1)

Liz Morrish and Gary Needham participated in a day of queer theory events on the 16th February organised by Cath Lambert and led by Judith Halberstam; these included a queer theory workshop, lunch, and a formal paper on queer and feminist art.

The morning session workshop was on trends in queer theory in which Judith Halberstam identified several new avenues of exploration that she saw as the vanguard in recent queer scholarship. The workshop was structured around three readings that the participants (about 20 of us) had been given in advance. These were the introductory chapters to Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004), Rod Ferguson’s Aberrations in Black: Towards a Queer of Color Critique (2004), and Heather Love’s Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer Theory (2007). Usefully, Halberstam effortlessly teased out the main arguments from each of these introductions in order to pose much broader questions about the direction queer theory might be heading over the next few years. We feel they are worth summarising here.

Edelman’s No Future is by now a well-rehearsed critique of the normative effects of temporality that reveals how the figure of the child functions as the lynchpin of a future defined solely in reproductive and familial terms. Queerness occupies the side of those ‘not fighting for the children’ thus queers are defined as future-negating. Ferguson’s Aberrations in Black proposes critique of US sociology that defines as aberrant everything which lies outside of the white family. Queer theory, then, must acknowledge its genealogy and affiliation with women of color feminism in order to develop a queer of color analysis. Ferguson’s work not only racializes queer theory’s implicit whiteness but also seeks to undo the rigid disciplinarity that has often kept the study of race and sexuality separate from one another. Finally, Heather Love’s Feeling Backward suggests that is too early for queers to turn away from the shame, and recommends we engage in a ‘backward looking’ as a way to investigate the shame which is part of our history and identity. Even in an era that celebrates gay pride, there are those traces – structures of feeling – that leave an indelible trace of shame. Shame thus “lives on in pride” despite attempts to appropriate it as a reverse discourse.

Judith Halberstam prompted us into group discussion in order to think about how the future of queer theory (paradoxically based on concepts of backwardness and negativity). The questions that came out of these complex arguments were to get us thinking about how we (as queers) might embrace a negative impulse in directly political terms as a form of resistance to the prevailing social order. Halberstam also asked could we find a way out of melancholia, shame and negativity – and what are the political alternatives and what are the other legacies we can activate? How can we imagine a queer future in the absence of ‘the Child’? Can we also speak of a queer affectivity? If the goals of queer theory have been to shatter, resist, disrupt - what other projects can we claim for queer theory?

While the workshop did raise more questions than it could possible answer it proved a useful overview of some recent trends in queer theory and the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves especially if we are to maintain queer theory as a distinctly political and relevant form of critique and analysis.

Liz found Judith Halberstam terrific and likewise Gary was impressed by the effortlessness with which she brought together these three distinct debates in queer theory. Unlike so many queer theory divas, Judith was approachable, unselfconscious, interested and extremely skilled at managing a discussion with participants at different levels of understanding. Over lunch Liz discovered, much to her delight, that Judith was a major swim-head with an obsession about water that rivalled her own. Given Liz’s readings of Halberstam’s Female Masculinity and Drag King Book not to mention the various articles on butchness, FTM and transgender – indeed, given Liz’s reading of Judith super-cool masculine physical self-presentation – Liz was intrigued at the idea of negotiating a pool with Judith (what swim attire would she wear?) and of course the women’s locker room. Cursing herself for not bringing her cozzie, Liz realised she wasn’t going to find out experientially, so she asked Judith instead. They discussed the practices, paradoxes, concealments and confoundings of gender in the swimming environment. Fascinating stuff. What a duo and what a challenge to gender normativity. Liz will always regret not swimming with Judith Halberstam. And off Judith went to turn heads in the Warwick pool leaving Liz to debate Warwick’s campus cuisine with Gary.
(photo credit: Arbitrary.Marks/Colleen Keating)

'Dr Matt' at WOMADelaide

Matt Connell, whose current research includes the intergenerational DJ project , writes as he prepares to go to Australia to shadow the Kala Collective and Charity Shop DJ as they put on a venue at the WOMADelaide 'Sounds of the Planet 2009' festival in South Australia:

In the hopeful expectation that I'll be able to get on the decks at some point, I'm busy sorting out my tunes for a set at the Bombay Picture Palace at the WOMADelaide festival in Australia next week. This has involved recording a lot of vinyl to CD, through a laptop, because the recent heat wave in South Australia makes having a box of vinyl outdoors a high risk business. This recording process is something I’ve been meaning to get my head around for ages, because a lot of my rare ‘Asian Beats’ records are irreplaceable. This is an example of the way a potential gig like this forces one’s professional development, catalysing the effort to learn a new technological trick. I do use a CDJ deck, but up to now I’ve been pretty strictly an analogue kinda guy, so it’s been good to dip my toes more deeply into the digital waters. However, now instead of worrying about melting records, I’m worrying about whether airport X-rays mess with CDRs. Most chat forums say no, but a couple of people do report having their recordings scrambled, so it’s fingers crossed - and a Flash memory card backup in the bag!

I’m going to be learning a lot about the administration of a major art’s event – some of the paperwork I’ve been looking at is mind-boggling: from customs certification that traditional wooden instruments have been fumigated, to intricate Performing Rights legal declarations, insurance documentation and the dreaded Health and Safety bumf, the behind the scenes activity that goes into putting on an enjoyable festival in our totally administered world is enormous. For every punter letting their hair down, there seems to be two organisers pulling theirs’ out.

The Bombay Picture Palace venue where I’ll be based features an exhibition of original Bombay film hoardings, alongside a team of Indian artists painting a new one for the festival. This is a dying art, because nowadays digital poster production is eclipsing the tradition of painted advertisements. My family tree includes an Anglo-Indian root, so I’ve always been interested in the Audio-Visual cultures of the Asian diaspora. I’m really looking forward to interviewing the artists, and the team bringing the whole event together. I’ll try to make a post or two while I’m out there – but for now, it’s off to buy some factor 50 sunscreen….

(Photo credit: Clive Rowland)

Monday, 23 February 2009

For Us or Against Us?

A report on Mary Evans’ paper, ‘For Us or Against Us: Coercion and Consensus in Higher Education’, delivered at the University of Birmingham, 20th February 2009. By Liz Morrish.

Mary Evans produced a well-researched and structured argument in support of her thesis that neoliberal discourse and institutions (especially elite institutions) have produced a new kind of compliant and conformist female academic who completely accepts the new values of the university. Universities have embraced the values of the marketplace and models of social action based on enterprise. While embracing these new ideas, elite institutions have resisted moves towards greater diversity in student admissions.

The demands that the academic engages with the economic forces visited upon the university have in turn produced a new labouring self, perhaps a formulaic over-socialised persona, who is unrelentingly positive and engaged in academic entrepreneurship. This demands a negotiation with the institution which is gendered. Women analyse difficulties as failings of the self, rather than deficiencies in the institution. These latter become inadmissible, just as anger with institutional values becomes pathologized. Advancement through the hierarchy of the university is available only to compliant ‘good girls’. In this way, gender discrimination is no longer overt and categorical, but covert and is seen in pressure to conform to the ideal. For men, greater toleration of individuality is permitted, but women have to do more work to conform, squeezing out any possibility for ‘the person’ to emerge.

In terms of admission to elite institutions, the ideal remains the confident student with recognisable aspirations. Difference, if identifiable, must be articulated and accounted for. The person of promise and enthusiasm is the neoliberal ideal and privilege bestowed on that person will be seen as earned and legitimate. Perhaps this is the ultimate ‘confidence trick’ ?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

MA Media and Globalization Open Day

Come and find out more about our MA in Media and Globalization at the School of Arts and Humanities Postgraduate Open Day on 26 February 2009.

This MA course is primarily concerned with the role of the media in processes of globalization.The course is designed to deliver a highly advanced and sophisticated level of understanding of the many facets of today’s communication media, including broadcasting and information communication technology. The course consists of modules in: media analysis, media industries, globalisation, research methods and a wide range of options.

The MA is located with ICAn and is taught by members of the Communication, Culture and Media team who are one of the largest research teams in the field in the UK. You'll have the opportunity to be taught by key researchers in the field. In the recent Research Assessment Exercise that took place nationally, 82% of our research output was judged to be of international status and 32% of it was judged to be world-leading.

The event takes place on 26.2.2009, 4.00-7.00pm in CELS001, Clifton campus, NTU. To find out more about the Open Day, email postgraduate admissions

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Guest Paper: Animation and Abstract Realism

Dr Alex Jukes from Edge Hill University will be delivering a paper on 'Animation and Abstract Realism' as part of the on-going ICAn seminar series on Wednesday 25 February .

This seminar considers the creation of ‘digital’ realism in animation through the use of ‘embodied’ expression via abstraction and interaction, as opposed to visually photo-realistic and purely representational form.

By focusing on one of the central issues raised in the creation of digital images - the much-debated relationship between simulation, representation and presentation - this session questions the relationship between photo-realistic (and non-photorealisitc) CGI human representation and our ability to empathise and engage with such models on a human level.

Traditionally cinema, and by extension 3D CGI digital technology, has relied heavily upon realistic visual representation to convey the notion of the real. By looking at the work of Vivian Sobchack relating to film and phenomenology, and Malcolm Le Grice relating to material and interactivity, this discussion aims to explore the notion of artistic expression as a key ingredient in creating the visually ‘believable’ within a digital artistic from, the role of perception and the potential of simulation rather than representation in mediating this form of expression.

The session will include presentation and articulation of personal creative practice relating to this investigation.

Time: 4.00-6.00pm. Place: GEE219, Clifton Campus, NTU. For more information, contact Russell Murray

Everyone welcome.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Beyond Homosexual Desire

On Friday 27th February Liz Morrish is presenting on a panel entitled 'Beyond homosexual desire: Linguistic approaches to queer identities' along with Helen Sauntson of University of Birmingham. The panel is part of the 1st International CCCU Queer Studies Conference: Queering Paradigms.

Gender and Sexuality: The Discursive Limits of ‘Equality’ in Higher Education

Liz Morrish (NTU) and Helen Sauntson (University of Birmingham) are organising a series of seminars on 'Gender and Sexuality: The Discursive Limits of "Equality" in Higher Education' funded by a grant from the Dean's Fund at University of Birmingham. Future speakers include Richard Johnson and Joyce Canaan.

This seminar series investigates a number of areas of concern, regarding gender and sexuality, which are identifiable in the current British higher education environment. The series explores how current dominant ‘neoliberal’ discourses, which emphasise the commodification of higher education in the UK, function to set limits upon ‘equality’. Ironically, while these discourses often suggest a widening of opportunities within higher education with an emphasis upon unlimited individual freedom and choice, the lived experience can be rather different for women and sexual minorities. The seminar series will explore the impact such discourses are having upon gender and sexuality identities and practices in the academy. The aims of the seminar series are:

• To identify the characteristics of neoliberal discourse and its influence in the UK academy
• To identify effects which impact on women, sexual minorities and gender/sexuality scholarship
• To examine effects of on constituencies of scholars who are marginalised by neoliberal discourse
• To examine patterns of fiscal loss or reward as a result of neoliberal strategies of HEI management and planning

The next event is:

Friday 20th February 2009 10.00-12.00 (Selly Oak campus, room OLRC 104)
Professor Mary Evans, University of Kent
For Us or Against Us: Coercion and Consensus in Higher Education

In debates about the admissions of state school pupils to Oxbridge those defending Oxbridge have challenged the idea that universities should be 'engines of social change'. At the same time Oxbridge, and other universities have accepted the responsibility of 'enabling' entrepreneurship and other market led initiatives. I want to explore some of the implications of this position in terms of the 'making' of the person in higher education and in particular the ways in which conservative refusals of radical gender and class change re-inforce structural inequalities.

For further information, please contact Helen Sauntson

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Symposium on Work

Our Annual Media and Cultural Studies Symposium takes place on Friday 20th February and this year the theme is 'Work'.

Keynote speakers are Professor Martin Parker from the University of Leicester talking about 'Studying the Counter-culture of Organization: 'From Management Bollocks to Captain Jack Sparrow' and Professor Andrew Beck from Coventry University whose paper is called 'From Plantation to Plant: Richard Pryor and Frederick Winslow Taylor go to the movies'.

Other speakers are all from our team at NTU: Ben Taylor on 'Organized Labour and the Creative Industries'; Dave Woods on 'Redefining work?: The case of peer production'; Steve Jones on 'Generation Y and Helicopter Parents'; and Martin O'Shaughnessy with 'They didn’t all die, but all were affected: resisting the silencing and invisibility of labour in contemporary French film'.

If you want to join us, the event is free and will be held at the Clifton campus of NTU in room ABK107 from 10am-4pm. To reserve a place email

Welcome to our new blog

Welcome to this new blog produced by people working in cultural studies at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Whether you're a current student, someone interested in our BA Media, a prospective PhD student, someone working in cultural studies or just someone who might be curious about what we have to say, we hope you'll find something here to interest you. We aim to publish details about who we are and our current research, information about cultural studies events at Nottingham Trent and elsewhere, and thoughts on current news and trends.