Graduate Student Conferences

[UPDATED] I've been lamenting the lack of smaller film studies conferences in the US or Canada, but there are some really interesting graduate student conferences that might be of interest to some readers.

Fields of Vision: Observation, Surveillance, Voyeurism

Yale University
February 21 and 22, 2014
abstract due December 15, 2013

Keynote speaker: Jonathan Crary (Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University)
Closing remarks: Brigitte Peucker (Professor of German and Film Studies, Yale University)

Vision has held a privileged position as the sense most associated with notions of truth, knowledge, and power throughout the history of Western epistemology. Optical technologies have for centuries been bound up with enhancing our ability to observe and investigate the surrounding world; from the camera obscura to the telescope and the x-ray, technologies of vision have been central to the development of ways of knowing in both the sciences and the arts. But it is the camera that most radically impacted our relationship with visible reality, reconfiguring relationships between viewers, images, and the world itself. Images began to enter into circulation as cultural objects with an indexical relationship to the physical, visible world. With the moving image came cinema and television as new artistic practices and industries, transforming crowds into mass audiences and serving as the primary means of stimulating consumer desire and leisure activity. Cameras today are found not just in movie and television studios but in closed-circuit networks and traffic-monitoring devices, satellites and spy drones, and in the hands of mobile phone users everywhere, effectively blurring our understanding of private and public. Photographic technology has long been implicated in programs of surveillance and control, and contemporary society is unprecedentedly mediated by the camera’s eye.

But we cannot speak of "vision” in any singular, monolithic sense. Technological development has brought about not only a proliferation of images, but also a proliferation of different modes of vision, and with it numerous distinct relationships and dynamics that can be formed between the viewer and the image. This conference seeks to explore how past and present technologies have expanded what we call our ‘fields of vision.’ In particular, distinct notions of Observation, Surveillance, and Voyeurism have been paramount to theorizations of visual media and cinema and deserve close analysis and re-examination in light of technological development. As such, we hope to interrogate the complex relationships between viewer and the viewed, observer and the observed.

From the camera’s roving omniscience in Fritz Lang’s M to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up; from the voyeuristic appeal of reality TV to the monitoring of the everyday life through social media; from the paranoia and vigilantism of Travis Bickle’s gaze to surveillance technology in Michael Haneke’s Caché and Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, this conference seeks to engage theoretical and historical discussions of vision-based arts and technologies as they shape relationships between us and our visual world. In light of the increasingly expansive realms in which moving images can be experienced, we hope to complicate simplistic notions of a fixed relationship between the image and the spectator, between the camera and visible reality.

Below are a few topics to consider that relate to the overall conference theme. Proposals related to other issues and concepts fitting with the theme are encouraged.
  • Technologies and "Modern” Modes of Vision
  • Observation in Documentary, Ethnography, and Visual Anthropology
  • Rethinking Voyeurism and Scopophilia in the 21st Century
  • Technologies of Visual Surveillance, Panopticism, State Power, and Imperialism
  • Surveillance and Paranoia in Narrative Cinema
  • New Modes of Vision through New Media and Social Networks
  • Corporate Surveillance and Targeted Advertisement
  • Mobile Phone Cameras and Citizen Journalism
  • Visuality and Social Dystopia in Film and Media
  • Iconophilia and Iconophobia in Cinema and Film Theory
  • Media Infrastructures (e.g. Satellites, Cables, Cell Towers)
Interested presenters should submit a 250-350 word abstract and a CV to co-chairs Jorge Cuellar, Nick Forster, Vika Paranyuk, Sean Strader, and Andrew Vielkind at no later than December 15, 2013.

New Terrain

8th Annual Landscape, Space, and Place Graduate Student Conference
Indiana University
February 27- March 1, 2014
abstract due January 10, 2014

Keynote speakers: Stephanie DeBoer (Communication and Culture, Indiana University), Janet Walker (Film and Media Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara), and Kenneth Foote (Geography, University of Connecticut)

Indiana University’s Department of Geography and Landscape Studies Program are hosting their 8th annual Landscape, Space, and Place Graduate Student Conference. To reflect the increased focus on spatiality as a vital lens on a multitude of subjects, graduate students from all disciplines are invited to participate by presenting work that foregrounds issues of landscape, space, and place. In addition to paper sessions, there will also be a landscape architecture poster and model session. Via these various formats, we strive to create a dynamic, interactive atmosphere in which to foster discussion and academic growth.

Landscape studies is multidisciplinary and landscape’s far-reaching academic connections and diverse array of approaches give the field its strength. The goal of the New Terrain conference is to bring together graduate students across disciplinary backgrounds to exchange ideas and consider novel perspectives. We also hope to encourage a more integrative framework upon which to build the future of the field.

Potential vectors through which to consider dimensions of landscape, space, and place include but are not limited to: Architecture and environment, war and violence, memory and history, gender and sexuality, race and nationality, economics and class, politics and social movements, coloniality and postcoloniality, film and media, gaming and technology, literature and popular culture, photography and visual culture, performance and the arts, sciences and public health

Potential questions to address include but are not limited to:  How do landscapes shape dynamics of power and how do these power structures in turn shape landscapes? What are the relationships between spaces and cultural and artistic practices? How can places influence conceptualizations of citizenship and political involvement? What are some of the contemporary or historical ways of experiencing space? What are some of the ways of reproducing and circulating notions of place?

Panelists will be limited to 15-minute presentations and 5 minutes for questions. Poster session presenters will also be asked to give a brief introduction to their projects to begin the exhibit. Abstracts of approximately 250 words are due January 10, 2014 and should be sent to Any questions may be directed to Daniel Grinberg at or Katie Lind at

The Silver Screen: Theories and Histories of Cinematic Color

The 10th University of Chicago Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference
April 4th and 5th, 2014
abstract due January 10, 2014

Keynote Speaker: Edward Branigan, Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California - Santa Barbara and author of Projecting a Camera: Language-Games in Film Theory (Routledge, 2006), Narrative Comprehension and Film (Routledge, 1992), and Color in Cinema: Language, Memory, Commerce (forthcoming)

"Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement," Stan Brakhage wrote, "and innumerable gradations of color." This conference seeks to re-imagine the innumerable gradations of color in the history and theory of cinema: from the spectral sensations of light at play in Maxim Gorky's "Kingdom of Shadows" and Loïe Fuller’s serpentine dances to those of J. J. Abrams's 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013) and its countless lens flares; from the blacks and whites of Italian neorealism to the blacks and whites of 'Frankenweenie' (2012), Tim Burton's digital 3D stop-motion animated film; from works that explore the synthesis of color and music like Léopold Survage's studies for 'Colored Rhythm' (1913) and Columbia Pictures’ 'Color Rhapsodies' cartoon series (1934-49) to Mary Ellen Bute's 'Color Rhapsody' (1951) and Paul Sharits’s 'Color Sound Frames' (1974); from early film processes like Lumière Autochrome and Kinemacolor to color-correction suites like Pandora Pogle and DaVinci Resolve. Like sound, to which it is so often linked synaesthetically, color challenges our basic vocabulary as film scholars. But "are we," as Roland Barthes asked of the voice, "condemned to the adjective? Are we reduced to the dilemma of either the predicable or the ineffable?" Scott Higgins's 'Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow' (University of Texas, 2007), for one, uses the Pantone Color Matching System as a standardized lexicon, while Joshua Yumibe's 'Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism' (Rutgers, 2012) offers a historical account of the sensuous and somatic richness of cinematic color.

Yet when films as canonical as Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' circulate in formats as varied as faded 16mm prints, pan-and-scan VHS tapes, pristine 70mm prints, 360p YouTube clips, and Blu-ray discs, which version do we select as the object of our analysis, and how do we make such a choice without losing sight of the work’s ever-unfolding critical and popular reception? Colors can be "preserved," "restored," and "corrected," but can their cultural meanings? Can we fix color as readily as we can calibrate our television set’s brightness and contrast? After all, color is permanently enmeshed in questions of realism, of spectacle, of film as art and film as industry—questions that this conference regards as catalysts for conversation. Color invites renewed consideration of hitherto understudied participants in film production, such as cinematographers, art directors, special-effects technicians, and costume designers, not to mention the thousands of women responsible for stenciling, tinting, and toning films of the silent era, as well as the women who posed as "China Girls" for film laboratories. It also reminds us of cinema’s relationship to other technologies of reproduction (e.g., xylography, lithography, halftone printing, and xerography) and visual media (e.g., picture postcards, lantern slides, children’s books, television, comic books, and video games), and opens up the discipline of film studies to parallel debates in art history, cognitive science, psychology, comparative literature, musicology, cultural studies, and philosophy.

With these problems in mind, our conference welcomes presentations by graduate students who, like Walter Benjamin, wish to penetrate "the riotous colors of the world of pictures." Possible topics include (but are by no means limited to):

  • analyses of individual films or bodies of films by a single director, cinematographer, or costume designer
  • histories of technologies, exhibition formats, broadcasting standards, industrial and corporate regulations, craft and technical discourses, etc. (e.g., additive color processes, color film stocks, colorization techniques, NTSC/PAL, computer and video game graphics, digital cameras)
  • color’s role in generic construction (e.g., melodrama, science fiction, noir)
  • cinematic lighting techniques and art design
  • the technical and ideological problems posed by the reproduction of non-”white” skin tones
  • visual music and synaesthesia
  • color’s affective properties
  • color and allegory
  • color’s place in classical film theory (e.g., the writings of Eisenstein, Arnheim, Balázs, Bazin)
  • the theory and philosophy of color (e.g., Albers, Kandinsky, Wittgenstein, Goethe, Schopenhauer) as applied to cinema
  • reappraisals of the historiographical models advanced in Edward Branigan's "Color and Cinema: Problems in the Writing of History" (1979)
  • color and memory/historicity
  • contemporary artistic, avant-garde, and popular appropriations of cinematic color
  • the aesthetics of black-and-white film and video
  • the theory and practice of film restoration
  • color motifs and narrative structure
  • historical trends in color design

Interested graduate students should submit abstracts of 250-300 words (along with institutional/ departmental affiliations and current email) to by January 10, 2014. Participants will be notified acceptance by late January.


rebecca said…

Have any of the resulting papers from the call for Theories and Histories of Cinematic Color been published online? I find it a fascinating topic and would love to read them.

Chris Cagle said…
I don't know of any conferences in the field with published proceedings, online or otherwise. And it's too soon for papers to get through a review and publication process.

You might be interested in this conference: Even if you can't attend, they're publishing a volume in conjunction with it.

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