CFP: Bad Objects


The Velvet Light Trap

85th issue: Bad Objects
submission date 25 January 2019

The concept of a “bad object” has long been a moving target in media studies. Although the term is rarely defined with any specificity, a “bad object” is typically a text that is used in critical analysis with the implicit or explicit acknowledgement of its perceived violations of “good” taste. Excess, camp, escapism, the abject, and negotiations of the margins of mainstream culture often mark these objects. The concept is important in feminist and psychoanalytic theories, as well as in genre studies, in which it is mobilized to justify the examination of B-horror, exploitation film, or pornography, for example. The term has helped challenge hierarchies of medium specificity. For example, Michele Hilmes has written that television was treated as a “bad object” of media studies, a sentiment echoed by many other scholars. These uses of the term reflect the fact that age, class, gender, and race have often been motivating factors in the construction of evaluative canons.

Yet the applications of this term have rapidly diversified in the past decade. With the increase in scholarship on new media, social media, video games, and global flows, together with greater attention to diverse identities behind/on/in front of the screen, the conversation on taste cultures has shifted significantly. This issue seeks to expand or question the boundaries and applications of the “bad object” as an analytical framework. We welcome pieces that challenge the foundations of this divide. How can we re-calibrate these and other approaches to address purported bad objects within our contemporary media landscape? Can we approach bad objects beyond the text itself in issues of production cultures, distribution, and consumption?

This issue welcomes submissions that push beyond the binaries of "good" and "bad," "serious" and "ephemeral," and “high” and “low” culture, exploring some of the following themes:

  • Malleability of cultural hierarchies through time and place
  • Consumption of bad objects (hate-watching, “so bad it’s good,” cringe-pop, etc.)
  • Teaching with bad objects
  • Discourse as bad objects (trade press, fake news, toxic fandoms, etc.)
  • Perceptions of formats and genres as bad objects
  • Diversity of reception contexts (mainstream, cult, fan, subversive, revolutionary, and so on)
  • Definitions of “bad” in relation to queer media, gender, race, class, and ability
  • Distribution, exhibition, and transnational flow of bad objects
  • New takes on paracinema, trash, kitsch, and camp
  • Afterlife of bad objects (recirculation, remixing, preservation) 

Submissions should be between 6,000 and 7,500 words, formatted in Chicago Style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to by January 25.


Popular Posts