Friday, 31 July 2009

Edible Regeneration

Today marks the first of what we hope will be a series of posts from a range of guest bloggers whose research we find exciting. We're delighted to welcome our first guest blog from David Bell (University of Leeds) who has written numerous books on subjects ranging from food, cultural policy and lifestyle to cybercultures, queer geographies and technology.

On Sunday July 19th this year, a reported two million people participated in The Big Lunch, a nationwide street party scheme organized by the Eden Project. You may have seen the associated Mastercard commercial – Mastercard was one of the key corporate sponsors – with its byline, 'Turning our streets into neighbourhoods'. Across the UK, it seems, the shy and isolated occupants of normally desolate streetscapes enacted a very particular form of hospitality, and reclaimed their streets as sociable spaces.

The Big Lunch belongs to a growing tradition of using cooking, eating and drinking as agents of regeneration. As the project of regeneration has become 'softer' and more concerned with people than buildings, so new tools are being co-opted by regeneration agencies. These tools aim to fix the 'problems' of communities and to encourage people to meet, mix and mend their broken social spaces and social lives.

We have already seen the many ways in which 'culture' has been used as an agent of community rebuilding; the DCMS report Culture at the Heart of Regeneration makes bold claims for art’s power to bring people together, raise self-esteem and civic pride, and address socio-economic problems. Of course, culture is also comparatively cheap (the bill for 2012 notwithstanding). Arts projects have therefore long been seen as quick and cost-effective ways to address certain 'problems'.

Now joining the arts is food and drink. I have been exploring the logic behind some of the numerous community regeneration projects that have centrally used cooking, eating and drinking together as agents of change. There have of course been some high profile campaigns, such as Jamie Oliver’s Pass It On, seen as offering the possibility of fixing 'Broken Britain', and indeed The Big Lunch. Less caught up in the media spotlight, other projects are also doing interesting things with food. Here’s just a couple of examples.

Middlesbrough’s Town Meal, for example, grew out of a scheme across the northeast which supported community projects. The Middlesbrough scheme, initiated by David Barrie, also a key broker in the Castleford regeneration project featured on Channel 4’s Kevin’s Big Town Plan, began as an urban farming initiative, encouraging various local groups to grow their own food on any patches of underused land that could be found in the town. At the end of the year, a Town Meal provided food that the urban farmers had grown, accompanied by various other projects.

In the USA, the group Spurse establishes what it calls provisional restaurants, using abandoned buildings and locally sourced (often foraged) foods to produce free meals in an 'artsy' setting. Spurse’s broader aim is to ask questions about waste and excess, and its Public Table provisional restaurants draw attention to the 'waste' that can be creatively reused – wasted buildings, wasted food, wasted skills, wasted people. Spurse is unequivocal in seeing Public Table as a public art project, cementing the food-art-regeneration equation.

Part of what interests me about this work is this food-art-regeneration equation itself; the ways in which both food and art are seen as magic solutions to seemingly intractable socio-economic problems. In a policy context, this gets boiled down to measures of 'success', benchmarks and key indicators, but no-one in that realm pays too much attention to deeper issues. Food, like art, 'works', and nothing more needs to be known. Just as swimming reduces crime, according to the DCMS, so eating together can rebuild community feeling and a sense of belonging.

But I am interested in this regenerative role of food (and art), and thinking about it through the lens of hospitality. While work on hospitality and regeneration has tended to focus on commercial hospitality (bars, restaurants, hotels), these food projects are based around a different notion of the hospitable city, as a site of generosity and reciprocity, and of the role of cooking, eating and drinking in binding people together – turning our streets into neighbourhoods. Exploring in more detail the 'social work' of hospitality gives us a new way of thinking about the uses and meanings of the seemingly mundane acts of cooking, eating, drinking and sharing.

(Photo credit: The Ginger Gourmand. Permissions)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Citizen Journalism and Child Rights in Brazil

Olga Bailey discusses her recent research into these issues which has recently been published in Stuart Allan and Einar Thorsen's edited collection, Citizen Journalism: global perspectives (Peter Lang 2009).

Brazil is a country marked by social inequalities. The children of poor families are the first to suffer the consequences of economic and social disparities. Although Brazil has one of the most advanced laws designed to protect the rights of the child – the Statute on the Child and Adolescent (1990) - the current government has invested very little in a programme benefiting children. In some parts of the country, a great proportion of the child population, 62 million under the age of 18, live in conditions of poverty and their lives are marked by the lack of (among other things) a proper education, health care, and dignity; many are victims of prejudice, crime and violence.

In the last decade, this issue – child rights – has been debated in the public sphere, including the mainstream media, the government, politicians, and civil society – NGOs. In part, this public debate has produced several non-governmental initiatives that aims to guarantee that children’s rights are protected - from their basic needs, a decent life, to their rights to information, communication and participation, as citizens in the ‘making’.

My research discusses the potential of citizen-journalism in facilitating social changes in the lives of the vulnerable Brazilian children who have no knowledge of their rights, no visible possibility of inclusion in a society that has relegated them to the second-class status of ‘non-citizen’, with no perspective beyond the world of poverty.

In the framework of a child’s right to communication, children can be viewed as social actors who have a voice in interpersonal communication’ in the family, in the community, as well as in the media. From this perspective, since they have a very restricted access to the mainstream media and are often misrepresented, they can become producers of alternative media, putting across their own views on issues of relevance to their lives thus participating in democratic, pluralistic debates.
This discussion is based on an analysis of a project developed to change the lives of poor children. The project is produced by a non-governmental organization ‘communication and culture’ and funded by national and international organizations.

‘Communication and culture’ has two projects of media literacy carried out in public schools in two states of Brazil – Ceara and Pernambuco. O Clube do Jornal (The Newspaper Club) has been developed in 125 schools. The children are trained in basic journalistic skills and are responsible for producing their ‘newspaper’, which is distributed in the community. Primeira Letras (First Letter) has been developed in 809 public schools and aims to train a couple of teachers in each school to integrate the production of the children’s newspaper into the activities of the classroom. The project aims to generate political awareness towards practices of participation and citizenship and to encourage children to position themselves as social actors with power of agency to work towards individual and social transformation.

My research analyzes the role of citizen-journalism in fostering political participation in the daily lives of young, poor Brazilians in a democratic society that, to date, has not fulfilled its obligation to them. The practice of ‘citizenship’ through alternative media might improve their chances of social recognition and inclusion as citizens in the ‘making’, and in the process improve their quality of life.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The End of an Era? Graduation 2009

Congratulations to the last cohort of graduates from the BA (hons) Media & Cultural Studies at Nottingham Trent University who were awarded their degrees at yesterday's graduation ceremony. Our congratulations also go to those students who received their Joint Honours degrees in Media & Cultural Studies.

This is also quite a sad day for those of us who developed and worked on the degree as it feels like the end of a particular chapter of our history. As the first course leader back in 1996, I am perhaps one of the people who feels this particularly keenly. Back then our degree marked a new stage in the development of cultural studies at NTU, taking the traditional strengths in textual analysis and combining them with a new emphasis on lived practice and everyday life. However, these interests live on in the new BA Media which started in 2007, most obviously in the pathway in Popular Culture. And, of course, cultural studies also lives on in our research which is perhaps less easily shaped by market forces. (Or maybe not? But my opinions about the media-ization of cultural studies as a field are perhaps best left for another day!)

So along with our congratulations, we wish this year's graduates the very best of luck with their future. And we'd like to take the opportunity to extend our thanks and our best wishes to those graduates throughout the degree's history.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mediating Madness

Simon Cross talks about his recent work on how madness is mediated.

Well, I may as well write my first ever blog entry about my new book, Mediating Madness: Mental Distress and Public Representation. Its almost finished – though some wit recently told me that for authors, books are never finished, just abandoned. That seems somehow appropriate not least because there is always something else that you think needs to be said. Anyway, the book is no longer my baby, it has grown and grown, and now needs to stand on its own legs, for better or worse. So, within a month I’ll be delivering the manuscript to Mediating Madness to Palgrave Macmillan. So what topics will the book cover?

The six main chapters range across:
The contemporary cultural politics of madness/mental distress (including the question of why I have chosen to retain the 'non-clinical' notion of madness); Reading historical images of madness: change and continuity in the image of madness; Investigative and campaigning journalism and 'suffering images' of mad folk abandoned to their fate in the asylum; The criminally insane and tabloid tales – which includes discussion of the Yorkshire Ripper case; Visualizing madness: mental illness and public representation; and Speaking of Voices: mediating public talk about mental madness and mental distress.

The reader (perhaps you?) will undertake a journey and see how mediations of madness emerge, disappear, and interleave, only to re-emerge at unexpected moments. I’ll post another blog about the book when its about to go to print. I hope you read it. If you do, please let me know what you think!
(Photo credit: howzey. Permissions.)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Summer Reading: Bad Girls Go Everywhere

In the first of a new series of pieces which we've called Summer Reading (our thoughts on things we're reading during the 'vacation' which inform our teaching and research rather than tips for the beach!), Joanne Hollows discusses Jennifer Scanlon's new biography of Helen Gurley Brown.

As I try to ease myself into a new research project about second-wave feminist identities, I’ve been reading Jennifer Scanlon’s Bad Girls Go Everywhere (Oxford 2009), a biography of Helen Gurley Brown (author of Sex and the Single Girl, long-term editor of the US edition of Cosmopolitan). While the story of Brown’s life is a great read, there is also another story here about histories of feminism. Identifying herself as a feminist, Brown nonetheless has been written out of histories of second-wave feminism and Cosmo, along with Brown herself, was frequently represented as the ‘other’ of feminism during the 1960s and 1970s. The book therefore represents an important intervention in debates about feminism and/in popular culture. While many narratives of ‘popular feminism’ identify how feminism entered the mainstream from the 1980s onwards, Scanlon identifies how many of the issues associated with feminism were promoted within Cosmo in the 1960s. The kind of popular feminism developed by Brown might have been deeply problematic in the eyes of second-wave feminists but it also managed to bring feminist concerns – about the workplace, sexuality and financial independence - to a much wider audience (and this makes good reading alongside Megan Le Masurier’s recent work on the history of Cleo magazine in Australia).

Scanlon also identifies a clear relationship between the Gurley Brown brand of feminism and more recent forms of ‘girly’ feminism, identified with the ‘third-wave’ and located in what are often referred to as ‘post-feminist’ texts such as Sex and the City. From such a perspective, while Carrie and her friends might represent ‘feminism undone’ to some feminist critics, they might also represent a continuation of the earlier forms of ‘popular feminism’ that have their roots in publications such as Cosmo. While this might not meet the rigorous demands of second-wave feminism – and Scanlon clearly identifies some of the more problematic aspects of Brown’s politics – Brown had a key role to play in the mainstreaming of feminist demands for reproductive rights, equal pay, independence and the right to sexual pleasure. Furthermore, Scanlon suggests that Brown’s imagined audience of ‘Cosmo girls’ reached a wider audience – in terms of class if not perhaps ‘race’ – than more ‘official’ forms of feminism did in the period.

There is some useful stuff here too for people interested in feminist debates about sexuality, the magazine industry, fashion and beauty (and there are productive parallels between Scanlon’s position and Linda Scott’s arguments in Fresh Lipstick on the latter). I found the chapter which compared Gurley Brown’s brand of feminism with Betty Friedan particularly illuminating. A lot has been written in recent years about Friedan in feminist cultural studies but Scanlon not only made this fresh but she also made some great points about the different women’s positions in relation to both consumption and domesticity. While Friedan’s critique of consumer culture is well-known (and became something of a commonsense in second-wave feminism), Gurley Brown advocated that women should enjoy the rewards of working in their ability to spend money on themselves (although she was far more strict about how single girls approached money management!) In many ways this parallels some of the debates currently taking place within feminist media studies about consumer culture and post-feminism. Some of these pieces are currently on my ‘to read’ pile (e.g. McRobbie’s recent article, ‘Young Women and Consumer Culture’) alongside Scanlon’s reflections on Gurley Brown’s legacy in Feminist Media Studies and Women’s Studies.

But given that this is also a really readable and enjoyable biography, you could also probably take it to the seaside too!
(Photo Credit: SwanDiamondRose. Permissions.)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Of Screen, Glasgow and Gortex

Martin O'Shaughnessy reports back from the (very rainy) annual Screen Conference in Glasgow.

I went up to Glasgow last week for the Screen Studies conference. which takes its name from the seminal journal Screen. Screen was at its height of fame / notoriety back in the 1970s when, drawing on a powerful, heady and often tyrannical mix of Althusserian Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis, it was right at the cutting edge of screen theorising. It is now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and has just brought out a special number that maps out where screen theorising is today. Working in the same vein, this year’s conference sought to map where screen theorising has come from and where it needs to go. Conference plenaries delivered by conference luminaries tended to emphasise the ‘coming from’ angle and looked back to the intense, heady days of the seventies with a mixture of relief that it was over and a sense of nostalgia for its lost passion, excitement and political radicalism. Conference panels, of which there were many this year (meaning one missed much more than one heard) were more likely to look at the contemporary period. The panels helped the conference open up to screen theorising and not simply Screen Theory while taking it away from a narrowly UK-centred understanding of screen studies (I heard, for example, a very good panel on African screens).

A conference is a multi-bodied, multi-voiced beast so that what was said in it always defies easy summation. One insistent note that did emerge however was a sense that the object of screen studies had changed so profoundly over the years that we were no longer sure what we should be looking at or how. Screen had once existed in a world where cinema studies was only an emerging discipline and where television struggled to achieve recognition as a worthy object of study. Now the talk is more likely to be of the ‘death’ of cinema and the demise of television as a core national entertainment with a mass and sometimes family audience. Faced with the proliferation of screens big and small, the multiplicity of TV channels, the fragmentation of audiences, the dematerialisation of the digital image and the diversification of viewing practices, it is no longer clear what we should study or how. Can those of us who teach film and television even know any more what our students might be watching and what grounds we can meet them on? One way to respond to this frighteningly shifting terrain is clearly nostalgia: nostalgia for the old concentrated communion between film spectator and sacred cinematic texts; nostalgia for the days when the nation sat in front of Dennis Potter or Coronation Street; nostalgia for the solid materiality of the cinematic image and its indexical relationship to the real. But nostalgia doesn’t take you very far. The past is best used as a resource for comparison and critical distance rather than as a place of retreat.

Glasgow, when we arrived, was in the midst of a deluge, as the Scottish clouds perhaps shed tears for Andy Murray’s sad, semi-final defeat. It was then that my trusty blue Gortex, not as old as Screen, but more useful in a rainstorm, came to my rescue, keeping me dry from the knees up. I was nonetheless drenched from the knees down. Should I confess that my first act on arriving at the conference was to retreat to the bathroom to try to dry my trouser bottoms with the hand dryer? Thankfully no-one came in while I was doing this. Trying to explain to an eager conference goer why you are standing on one leg in the washroom is not the easiest thing to do. Explaining Screen theory, on balance, is probably easier (and much dryer).

(Photo credit: garybirnie; permissions)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Blood on the Side

Viv Chadder explores what we can learn about representations of madness from Robert Rossen's film Lilith.

I am concerned here with the last film of Robert Rossen,
Lilith (1964). This is an enigmatic and intriguing film with an impressive cast, that goes to the edge of defying analysis. At first glance it would appear to be a response to the anti-psychiatry movement, at least, it departs markedly from earlier films such as The Snake Pit (1948) in their clear condemnation of the brutality of the state asylum system. Gender politics appears confined to the observation that ‘insanity always appears more sinister in a woman than in a man’.

The plot appears to defy logic at times and to depend on the improbability of an unqualified and vulnerable young man (Vincent Bruce) being employed in a plush private asylum as occupational therapist. Residents appear free to come and go at will, causing some almost inexplicable change of scene, though there is some minimal rationale for an abrupt change of scene to a jousting tournament, where the by now infatuated hero gets to crown his Lady Queen of Love and beauty. Not the first daring exploit from within her thrall, Lilith clearly feeds on his obedience and willingness to interpret and fulfil her demands at whatever cost to others’ lives and his own sanity. This mythical creature is ruler of her universe peopled by gods who weep at her disobedience. Her will is to leave the mark of her desire on every living thing. Our hero seeks to protect her in her quest to fulfil this aim, whether it be another woman, small boys, a colleague. HERE Rossen clearly risks much to be true to the novelist Salamanca’s ideas (upon which the film is based). Vincent wrenches a fairy doll from its place in the collection of Lilith’s trophies. He installs it in an aquarium of fishes, submerged in a watery grave. We share in a lecture delivered by the asylum physician to an enrapt group of staff. The psychotic spins the asymmetrical fractured web of the mad spider. The sufferers experience immense catastrophe due to their superior spirits and sensibilities. All of us, he says, are involved in ‘rapture’, in its fullest meaning of course. Vincent is congratulated on his success in achieving the transference with Lilith, staff seemingly oblivious to the manifest impropriety of the relationship that entails, and in denial concerning his admission of willingness to succumb to her seduction.

Both novel and film are heavily laden with Freudian clues, but this is no oedipal space. Jung’s anima might assist us? I am tempted to follow Mladen Dolar’s suggestion that psychoanalysis enables us to identify and encircle the space where meaning collapses. Our first view of the horrors of psychosis comes in the tour of the asylum to introduce Vincent. A woman, catatonic, sits on the floor draped over her bed in a lascivious pose? Finally it is Lilith we see through the mesh-covered viewing window. A woman we have witnessed to be expressive, animated, full of joy and passion, cunning, duplicitous, mercurial (shape-shifting), carelessly demanding the servitude of her knight of Poplar Lodge, greedy for conquests and pleasure. Careless of the lives of others , vulnerable only to psychosis at the previous death of her brother from her incestuous desires. Finally we see this dangerous weaving woman once trapped in her loom by her hair, a vacant, motionless, catatonic void. Her kingdom in ruins depredated, her loom in pieces, her vitality and creativity, her duplicitous viewpoint voided, an object of the gaze, ‘her’ language annulled, a vanished woman, no longer capable of transformation, frozen and remote.

This film has little to share with the past, more with the future. To retreat to a more specific context, I discovered that the film was shot at Chestnut Lodge Maryland, where Salamanca had worked after World War 2, and which was presided over by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. The improbable freedom of the patients, the emphasis on the transference, impose new meaning on this film with this association. So we should look to I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, rather than absorb this text in a spurious undiscoverable history.

Rossen would appear to refuse the more melodramatic representations of the mad. There is emotional but little physical violence. I do not ignore the suicide of the young man whose gift Lilith appears to refuse. He falls on his sword. The event is denied us, but its emotional power is not. We are left with the medieval trappings of Salamanca’s novel, and little hint of Macdonald’s Lilith. Her visions or her hallucinations, we do not share. Vincent orders her blood on the side with her whisky. We share just her POV through steel mesh, with a predatory hand clutching it, and look out over the splendid grounds of Poplar/Chestnut Lodge, Rockville/Stonemont, Maryland, grounds which rarely yield to the ‘threatening’, but normally remind us of the affluent, rather than the refuge of our world’s catastrophes. Touched, only on the inside with a hint of gothic shadow, as we are touched by the mark of Lilith and her rebellion against the dead hand of the joyless and undesiring. Depleted as well of the violence of Frieda Reichmann’s patients but intricate and sensitive in its depiction of the emotional dangers of the work, espousing a neo Romantic view of the work of the therapist Rossen’s film seems to be a testimony to the temptations suffered by the masochist to betray the weak to satisfy the greed of the Lady and to enjoy her favours.

Doubtless overshadowed by the publication of Joanne Greeberg’s book,
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, in the same year I believe this film to be an unostentatious testimony to the work of Frieda Fromm Reichmann, without the spectacular cure, and dwelling scarcely at all on the traumatic symptoms of the patient eschewing also overt deployment of the myth of Lilith. Rossen and Salamanca (they co-scripted the film) are clearly as fascinated as Vincent Bruce by the captivating lure of the patient.

Mladen Dolar, ‘I Shall be with You on Your Wedding-Night: Lacan and the Uncanny’, October, 58 (Fall) 1991
(Photo credit: PlingPlong. Permissions.)

Monday, 6 July 2009

Re-Reading a scene from Red River

Retrospectatorship after Brokeback Mountain

Patricia White in her book unInvited proposes the concept of retro-spectatorship. Retro-spectatorship is a way of negotiating the history of Hollywood through contemporary practices of spectatorship and the identities and cultural politics we now bring to our viewing of the past. Through retro-spectatorship, Brokeback Mountain solicits us to re-view the classical Hollywood western ‘that belongs to the past but is experienced in a present that affords us new ways of seeing’ (97). Therefore, as a contemporary western Brokeback Mountain’s helps us to shape a retrospective reading of older westerns, particularly those westerns such as Red River and Calamity Jane that have either struggled to disavow their homoerotic underpinnings or made obvious a range of queer possibilities. Its not that re-reading the classic western is an appropriating practice or subversive re-imagining rather, no reading of the text is the correct one its just that straightness is the default position of culture that we have all some point internalised as a practice. The point here is that Brokeback Mountain answers the call to all those elided and hinted at stories of same sex desire in the Hollywood western by retrospectively prompting a return back to films like Red River from a vaulted position of contemporary spectatorship. Brokeback Mountain engenders a privileging of being able to un-think assumptions about westerns in relation to sexuality. As Patricia White brilliantly demonstrates in her re-reading of lesbianism in classical Hollywood cinema, our spectatorial vantage point as queer subjects is steeped in knowingness about how Hollywood edited out homosexuality and cast it to the realm of the merely connotative. D. A. Miller in his analysis of Hitchcock’s Rope, suggests that the eliding of homosexuality’s denotation ‘exploits the particular aptitude of connotation for allowing homosexual meaning to be elided even as it is also being elaborated’ which, explains how homosexuality by its absence is made meaningful throughout classical Hollywood cinema.

A contemporary viewing of Red River, armed with the knowledge that one of its central stars Montgomery Clift was gay, provides the insight that retrospectatorship reveals in the films homoerotics that are barely contained in ‘the shadow kingdom of connotation’. (Miller: 125) The spectator’s first introduction to Montgomery Clift’s as the Matthew Garth character is startling in its invitation to look at his handsome boyish looks, standing aloof he seems to be gazing down towards John Wayne’s crotch while sucking on a piece of straw (shot 1).

Shot 1

The camera cuts from the medium shot to a close-up of Clift’s face as he looks towards Wayne that instantly constructs him in relation to a relay of desiring looks. In the facial close-up Clift looks on, tonguing the single piece of straw that dangles from his mouth.(Shot 2 and 3) The shot of Clift’s face seems to linger for an extra beat but it’s the minor detail in the piece of straw where a queer reading of Clift’s body and performance values such minutiae as it suddenly jumps out retrospectively as a signifier of Clift’s queerness, his character’s desire for Wayne and our desire for him. He plays with the piece of straw in a way that hints and suggests sex, an oral tease, delicately phallic but undeniable in its capacity to be read as homoerotic.

Shot 2

Shot 3

Steve Cohan also discusses Clift’s performance in Red River describing how he ‘uses physical gestures to draw attention to his presence in a shot, rubbing his face, caressing his nose, holding his chin, sitting side-saddle on his horse’ to the extent that it ‘implies Matthew’s passivity as erotic spectacle’. (216) Cohan’s reading of film emphasis ‘the trope of boyishness’ in Montgomery Clift in contradistinction to the manliness of John Wayne as the film sets out working through its opposition between the soft boy and the hard man. Clift’s softness in Red River helps to define his erotic appeal and Cohan points out that its precisely this aspect of his performance which challenges the hegemonic forms of masculinity typified in the film by John Wayne.

Steve Cohan (1997) Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. New York and London: Routledge
D. A. Miller (1991) ‘Anal Rope’ in Diana Fuss (ed) Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. London and New York: Routledge.
Patricia White (1999) unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

(Images: screen grabs; permissions)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Palestine: Culture and Politics

As the first in what is intended as as an ongoing series of events, Patrick Williams and Anna Ball are organising a one-day symposium on Culture & Politics in Palestine, to be held at NTU on October 2nd. Details of the call for papers are below:

Palestine: Culture, Conflict and Representation
An Interdisciplinary Symposium
Friday 2nd October 2009
Nottingham Trent University

Keynote address by Professor Nur Masalha, Director of the Centre for Religion, History and Holy Land Studies, St Mary’s, Surrey

As a site of complex and enduring conflict, Palestine – conceived as a cultural entity – poses many challenges to those who wish to engage in the task of its meaningful representation. Nevertheless, a desire to confront these challenges continues to flourish – among political thinkers, activists, scholars, creative practitioners, writers and critics both within and beyond the Palestinian territories.

This interdisciplinary, one-day symposium invites scholars working from a range of academic and cultural perspectives to explore the complex relationships between culture, conflict and representation in the context of Palestine, as posed to them in their own research. The symposium poses two key questions: how might the various conflicts faced by Palestinian society and culture be adequately represented? Conversely, what are the conflicts entailed in the act of representation, whether of a political, cultural, artistic or scholarly nature?

Topics might include, but are not limited to:
  • Conflicts relating to space, territory, nation and their representation
  • Questions of media representation and coverage
  • Conflicts of cultural identity and belonging – including statelessness, citizenship, exile and diaspora
  • Conflicting subject-positions of a national, ethnic, gendered, class-based or generational nature
  • The roles of culture and cultural initiatives within conflict: literature, film, art, media, or initiatives such as the literary festival Palfest or the women’s filmmaking NGO Shashat
  • The politics of culture, representation and resistance
  • The politics of culture, representation and conflict resolution
  • The politics of transnational scholarly representation
  • The potentials and pitfalls of (post)colonial studies or other forms of theorization as modes of representation
  • Said’s legacy in the representation of the Palestinian struggle
  • The ethics of representing conflict itself

The symposium will include a series of roundtable panels, a keynote address and film screening.

Abstracts are invited for 20-minute papers from across the disciplines. Abstracts should be no more than 500 words in length. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 7th August 2009, and should be sent to:

Those whose papers are accepted will be notified no later than 14th August.