Thursday, 2 April 2009

'The King Stays the King'

While the keen-eyed observer may have noticed the links to upcoming conferences and calls for papers down the right-hand side of our blog, this is one conference that I couldn’t let pass by without a further mention. This is mainly because it offers me the opportunity I’ve been waiting for since we began the blog – the opportunity for a not too gratuitous mention of HBO’s The Wire.

While there have already been at least one conference on The Wire in the US, the UK is now set to have its own (although sadly minus cast members Sonja Sohn and Clark Johnson). Entitled ‘The Wire as Social Science Fiction?’, the conference will take place on 26-27 November 2009 at Leeds Town Hall. At this point, I’ll hand over to the blurb from the conference organizers:
The HBO TV series The Wire premiered in the USA on June 2, 2002 and ended on March 9, 2008, with 60 episodes airing over the course of its 5 seasons. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA it has a huge cast of over 300 characters. The 'star' of the show is the city - a simulated post-industrial every town - within which the interactions between the drugs economy, race, the criminal justice system, the polity, globalisation processes, the changing class structure, the education system and the (new and old) media are examined in minute detail. It has never been screened on terrestrial TV in the UK*** but it has received widespread media attention, especially from The Guardian newspaper. It has sold well on DVD and has developed a cult status, especially amongst media literate audiences with aspirations towards more critical social and cultural sensibilities. It has been critically acclaimed not just as a complex piece of 'entertainment' but also as a profoundly 'sociological' piece of TV, invoking a renewed sense of the 'sociological imagination' amongst many. The eminent Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson recently said of the series: 'The Wire's exploration of sociological themes is truly exceptional. Indeed I do not hesitate to say that it has done more to enhance our understandings of the challenges of urban life and urban inequality than any other media event or scholarly publication including studies by social scientists'. The University of Columbia (rogue) sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, has produced a widely read (freakonomics) blog reporting on how the series was received and interpreted by New York drugs gangs. The Savage Minds anthropology blog has extensively debated the question: 'Is The Wire our best ethnographic text on the'

Plenary Speaker: Prof. Peter Moskos (CUNY), author of
Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District (Princeton University Press, 2008).

We are also seeking papers that utilise The Wire either as a topic or as a resource for the social sciences and the humanities. We welcome papers from any disciplinary context and on any subject. We hope to generate a programme that will appeal to those with an interest in, inter alia: area regeneration; celebrity; criminology; drugs; class analysis; education; gender and sexualities; film and TV studies; globalisation; journalism; language and interaction; media studies; organisational studies; policing; policy studies; politics; 'race' and ethnicities; social and political philosophy; simulation and simulacra; surveillance studies; urban studies; and violence. We are also interested in papers that examine the role of literature, fiction and other cultural phenomena more generally that are generative of a contemporary sociological imagination.

The conference fee is likely to be in the order of £125 (Full) or £60 (concessions) for the two days inclusive of lunch.

Please submit a 250 word abstract for individual papers (30 minutes long) by the 31 July 2009. Proposal Forms are attached or available online at and should be sent to: Wire Conference Administration, 178 Waterloo Place, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, Tel: +44(0)161 275 8985 / Fax: +44(0)161 275 8985
*** Since this blurb was put together, BBC2 have just started screening all five series of The Wire.
(Photo credit: Pierro Sierra: permissions)

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