|Thread A||Thread B||Thread C|
|Session 1 9:30-11:00||Gaming & Geopolitics||Cinema, National Identity & Policy|
|Session 2 11:15-12:45||Beats, Bats & Revolution||Global Cinemas in Transit||Place & Political Principles|
|Session 3 2:00-3:30||Comix, Celebrities & Security||Hollywood’s Construction & Deconstruction of Threat||Place, Precarity & Policy|
|Session 4 3:45-5:15||Hollywood’s Construction & Deconstruction of Threat II||Markets & Mimesis|
Saturday 9:30am – 11:00am Session One
Matthew F. Rech and Dan Bos
A dominant, though not exclusive, trope in critical studies of military-themed games (those in political science, cultural studies and popular geopolitics) is the player whose engagements are fleeting, inconsequential, and void of moral reflection. Central to the political effect of games, suggests Stahl (1996, 2010), for example, is that the constant action required for successful gameplay leaves no room for diplomatic reflection on the use and utility of military violence. As Hughes (2007) argues, the alignment of the closed-in spaces of the home and the bedroom, when twinned with ‘secret mission’ narratives of FPS games, ensure a distain for diplomacy and a preference for force. And as Shaw (2010: 799; see also Shaw and Warf 2009) notes, the design of games (as affective, transitional spaces and events) points to the manipulation of player’s sensory experiences so as to ensure military recruitment, and otherwise, legitimacy for the ‘prosaic geographies of warfare’.
Whilst this paper does not seek to contend such readings wholesale, and whilst it recognises important work that has manipulated military games in order to subvert normative player engagements (Ingram 2011; Robinson 2011; Stahl 2011), it will suggest that there is more to be done to explore the (geo)political and moral investments of players in military themed-games.
Empirically, using a popular geopolitics-inspired approach to audience dispositions, the paper provides an analysis of YouTube comments on the “No Russian” level of the military FPS Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. “No Russian”, a level which enrols the player in a terrorist attack on an airport and requires their complicity in the killing of unarmed civilians, prompts a range of responses from gamers which both compound and unbalance a reading of players as morally disengaged. Specifically, where the unreflective gamer is present alongside the ‘reluctant warrior’, and the ‘refusenik’, it will be shown that players, to varying degrees, are able to contextualise their virtual actions relative to broader discourses of terrorism, contemporary conflict and geopolitics, and furthermore, to enact a playful pacifism at times.
Overall, the paper suggests that to more fully understand the efficacy of games and gaming as (geo)political events and the connectivity between the virtuality and ‘reality’ of global politics, more must be done to understand individual experiences of military-themed games. Where some have begun to consider the moralities and ethics of gameplay (Schulzke 2009; Murphy and Zagal 2011), it also suggests that the often morally challenging nature of military games might serve as a starting point in this regard.
Mark B. Salter
University of Ottawa/ Université d'Ottawa
Presenting and challenging dominant geopolitical narratives is one of the chief hurdles teaching critical geopolitics, particularly in large-classroom settings.
This paper reports on the use of Civilization V over three years in a senior geopolitics course. As a sandbox game, with a deep geopolitical rule structure, Civ is particularly useful for students to (a) confront assumptions about history, territory, culture, and space, and (b) equip them to be critical towards popular culture artefacts that rely on geopolitical narratives. In particular, we demonstrate the utility of a sandbox assignment that matches the sandbox structure of the game.
Sapphire Liu and Margaret E. Kosal
Georgia Institute of Technology
Over the past decade, the idea of non-state actors, such as terrorists, acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) has received global attention. Within the same decade, modern online gaming has incorporated WMD as game play elements. At the same time, the popular cultural pervasion of gaming has been recognized by the US military. Gaming has been pursued by the Army’s Human Terrain Program and Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) as tools for cultural training and education. The question of depiction of biological agents and bioterrorism scenarios arose at a meeting of US federal policy-makers and academics in the area of biosecurity on biodefense policy, education, and workforce development. There is a dearth of research focusing on portrayal of WMD in gaming and, to be even more distinctive, even less has focused on WMD in gaming in interactive, multi-player online communities. Through observation and analysis of three current games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2); Call of Duty: Black Ops (Black Ops); and Massive Action Game (MAG), we show that there strong relationships and some significant differences between the virtual and non-virtual communities in regards to WMD and security. MW2 incorporates nuclear weapons, and Black Ops and MAG represent chemical weapons use. How WMD use and non-use affects tactical and strategic outcomes are analyzed. Ultimately, the research undertaken aims to contribute to the development of a theoretical framework to understand how emerging technologies intersect with traditional security constructs.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series is chosen as a site of discussion and analysis of the recovery of agency, such that gamers are not read merely as passive recipients of hegemonic narratives even if they might be constrained by them. Differences will be noted between both the story and multiplayer modes, in addition to the evolution in perception and use of weapons of mass destruction within the games. Controversial game scenarios will be analyzed for their significance and effect on player conceptions of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ war. This paper will focus on gaming as a site of knowledge (re)production.
It aims to highlight how gaming can be understood as a site of political struggle in its own right, as replete with acts of resistance as with affinities to/with what might be described as a dominant knowledge system.
University of Florida
Since 1960, the rise of emigration in India has led to concerns about a ‘brain drain,’ as skilled professionals left, and Indian students settled abroad to pursue employment opportunities in developed countries. In recent years, there has been a small reversal in this process, with members of the Indian diaspora and Indian students returning to India due to the slowing economies in these countries, and India’s rising economy. While exact numbers are unavailable, the issue has generated waves both in India, where the government has been actively encouraging the return of skilled diasporic individuals and students, and in countries such as the United States, where concerns about losing skilled immigrants has become congressional debate.
In this paper, I examine the implications of this return in two Bollywood films, Swades (2004) and Raajneeti (2010). Both films depict the return and cultural readjustment of their male protagonists (a NASA engineer, and a doctoral student, respectively) to India, from the United States. At the beginning of the films, both anticipate an emigration to the U.S. at the end of their short visit in India. In my paper, I discuss the gradual initiation of the ‘returnee’ to the project of nation building as it applies to technological, social and political systems. I am particularly interested in analyzing the romantic liaisons that the films envision for the visiting emigrant, and the alignment of the projects of nation building and trans/national romance. I argue that the anxieties generated by the emigrant’s return, particularly his role in the community and his place in India’s future, are played out and reflected in his relationship with a native female protagonist. The emigrant’s success in re-entering and embedding himself in the native community is predicated upon the success of a heteronormative union.
Investigating the Function of High and Popular Culture in China’s Rise
The following paper is a discussion of the influences of both high (language/education) and popular (television/cinema) culture on China’s rise in the information age. It draws on the theoretical conceptualisations of globalisation from Jan Aart Scholte and soft power and public diplomacy from Joseph S. Nye Jr. in order to argue that while America will remain dominant for sometime due to its relative military and economic position, the dissemination of ideas in an increasingly global polity is allowing the official Chinese culture ethos to fill an ideational vacuum through the employment of soft power and public diplomacy, which has the potential to spark a repolarisation of the international arena. This discussion also questions the adversarial nature of cultural diffusion in the information age, whilst examining the effects of this dissemination on the Chinese culture itself, as well as concluding with a self-reflective critique regarding the subjectivity of power, culture and analyses.
Such a project will be attempted by first laying out the theoretical foundations of the exchange of cultural ideas provided by Scholte, as well as the qualifications of ‘hard’ and soft’ power and public diplomacy via the ‘tensile taxonomy’ imparted by Joseph Nye. It will then move to an examination of the influence and spread of Chinese culture in its linguistic and educational forms (high culture) and its cinematic and televisional forms (popular forms). Before concluding with some comparisons to the relative cultural stagnation of the United States set in the aforementioned parameters as well as what this militarisation of culture means for the future of global governance and China’s subsequent role within those governing frameworks.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Though largely forgotten in the popular historical imagination, the U.S. Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1932 left us one indelible image: the zombie. Just as American troops were preparing to leave Haiti, the film White Zombie inscribed the landscape of Haiti in the mise-en-scène of the Hollywood horror film and sexualized the zombie in the image of the prone, helpless body of the white woman. For African-Americans, these images complicated an already complex and contested relationship to Haiti and the occupation, with important political and cultural figures taking opposite sides on the rightness of the occupation. The race film industry, which by the 1930’s was dominated by white producers, produced its own zombie films, though with very different articulations of the zombie metaphor. One film, Love Wanga, and its ‘sequel,’ the Devil’s Daughters made ‘zombism’ an extension of the black woman’s sexual desire. The films deployed the star power of Fredi Washington and Nina Mae McKinney respectively to attract a black audience that could otherwise have been repelled by the primitivist tropes of the imperialist discourse. This paper analyzes how, within the circumscribed sphere of race films, these films simultaneously support the imperialist agenda and evoke the (now lost) autonomy of the Haitian people, and probes the deracination of the zombie in contemporary popular media.
University of South Florida
A range of social and cultural influences are increasingly infiltrating the political dialogue, transforming the seat of power from the exclusive terrain of the nation-state to include the public domain of citizen-consumers. The involvement of celebrities in social justice and politics has brought significant issues to the forefront, and to audiences that may otherwise not have been aware of or interested in these issues. The attention provided by the media affords celebrities a platform on which to express their concerns for global and political issues, and the audience’s interest helps empower them as legitimate representatives of those issues. This paper will examine the increasing role of entertainment celebrities as tools of political communication, and the way in which they influence collective action for social or political change.
My research indicates that celebrities have effectively mobilized support for causes in which they are active, and this impact can be demonstrated by tracking increased donations as well as changes in policy. Culture, which includes popular culture, helps make political action meaningful, and I argue that celebrities, as representatives of popular culture through their exposure in film, media, and social media, contribute to the formation and growth of collective identities that form the basis of collective action. The list of celebrity activists is extensive and continues to grow, facilitated by the evolution of mass and social media, which present celebrities as noteworthy figures. It is this identity, as mediated through the messages the celebrity conveys, that contributes to mobilizing public social and political action. Celebrities have thus become a legitimate and necessary component of contemporary political culture, deserving of further scholarly attention.
11 am - 11:15 am, Coffee Break
11:15 am – 12:45 pm, Session Two
As evidenced by this conference itself, discussions about popular culture and world politics have proliferated in recent years. However, in the United States, these discussions remain fairly limited with a focus on mainstream, mostly Hollywood, films and TV shows. What is considered “popular culture” then is limited to TV shows and genre fiction (with science fiction being surprisingly popular as a site of analysis). In this paper, I question this definition of “popular culture” and ask: popular among whom? And what does this dominant understanding of popular culture say about how we use it to study and understand “world politics” around the world? I argue that the definition of “popular culture” especially in International Relations (IR) is mainly focused on US-produced TV shows and films and often ignores those produced in other parts of the world. It also ignores other forms of culture—literature, cartoons, music, sports—that are popular. Utilizing a decolonial standpoint influenced by the writings of C.L.R. James and drawing upon the example of cricket in the Caribbean and in other postcolonial sites, I attempt to interrogate understandings of “popular culture” and “world politics” as it is commonly understood.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Walter Benjamin once wrote that every monument to civilization is a monument to barbarism. Since they performed a “punk-prayer” at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, the members of a Russian band Pussy Riot have become both famous and controversial on an international scale, making visible, to use Zizek’s words, both “the obscenity of the law” and the barbarism of civilization. Inspired by the visibility and success of the Occupy Movement, the group vocalized and asserted the public right to the commons by performing on top of a national monument at the Red Square, on Moscow subway, and finally, at the Cathedral. The band’s performance at the Cathedral during which they sing a “punk prayer” where they urge Mother Mary to become a feminist and also to drive out the president of the country, resulted in its members getting arrested, tried, and sentenced to two years in prison. Their predicament have been subsequently the point of concern for figures such as Obama, Assange, Madonna, Zizek, Putin, Elton John, and various national and international social activism groups and human rights organizations. Thus reimagining the city and its monumental spaces as objects of a utopian desire, the group succeeded in creating a moment of “irruption” in which public energies got mobilized and a revolutionary trajectory was created, both locally, and internationally. What made the band an event of global politics? Why did their public performances threaten the accomplished and rationalized order of capitalism, the authority of the church, and the legitimacy of the state, exposing the sudden vulnerability of the regime? In this paper, I will discuss three issues. First, I will contextualize the band’s street performances in their connection to the success and visibility of the Occupy Wall Street movement, both of which address the issue of the right to the commons – public squares, building, national monuments, and publicly funded infrastructure. Then, I will discuss and contextualize the issue of blasphemy that arose during the trial. Finally, I will analyze the mechanisms that enabled a crossover of a local counter-cultural event into global mainstream visibility.
Like just about any decent-sized city, Tucson is a heterogeneous place. But its location an hour north of the United States’ border with Mexico, a liberal bastion in a conservative state and, what is more, one that has achieved international notoriety for its hostility to multiculturalism, has focused a great deal of attention on its handling of diversity. Through a surprising set of circumstances, Tucson’s music community has found itself at the vanguard of efforts to celebrate cultural variety instead of bemoaning the threat it poses to “American values.”
The mass shooting that nearly killed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords inspired a series of events that underscored her love for the band Calexico and the multicultural aesthetics its music exemplifies. When her District Director Rob Barber, also badly injured in the shooting, created his Fund For Civility in its aftermath, the benefit concerts organized on its behalf helped to reinforce the idea that popular music has a crucial role to play in transcending the ugliness of electoral politics and bringing a diverse citizenry together. But Barber’s subsequent decision to run for Giffords’ office complicated this message, suggesting to some that he had actually used Tucson’s music community as a way to practice politics by other means.
More broadly, the prominence of Calexico and related artists in sustaining a progressive image of the city, one defined by deliberate cultural miscegenation, underscores the importance of attending to the place of music in what I am calling the “multicultural front.” Tracing the roots of this aesthetic back to Tucson’s punk scene, with a wealth of examples, my presentation will tease out the implications of its ideological underpinnings: an aversion to rules coupled with a desire to celebrate difference for its own sake and a tolerance for just about everything except what its adherents regard as intolerance.
This worldview is not confined to Tucson, of course. But it’s my belief that the pressures felt there right now, given its proximity to the border and its place in the media spotlight, make it an especially compelling object of study. Marshaling the work of thinkers who promote multiculturalism, as well as left-wing critiques of its limitations, I will reflect on the dangers that face artists who forsake their autonomy for partisan activity, particularly when it isn’t undertaken with much self-consciousness, while arguing that there are still modes of engagement available on the “multicultural front” that maintain the distinction between culture and politics without compromising the effectiveness of either.
My paper seeks to bring together studies of migration and new media by considering how state regulation and nationalism shape the lives of both migrants and DVDs.
In doing so, my work attempts to complicate scholarship on globalization, especially in the humanities, which often uses terms such as “flow,” “movement,” and “crossing” to describe the travel of immigrants and new media. By turning to regulation, I hope to explore the uneven relations amongst states, nations, and film industries as they jostle to define citizens, nationals, and audiences. My point of entry into this analysis is Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (MNIK; 2010), which sought to appeal to a world-wide audience by addressing global issues, namely, 9/11 and racial discrimination. It was not only through its narrative that the ‘Bollywood’ film sought to capture the global market, but also through its first time alliance with Fox Searchlight Pictures which acquired the rights to distribute MNIK in India and worldwide. If regulation is crucial to the film’s narrative, it is also central to the film’s distribution. As it crossed state boundaries, the film (both in its theatrical and DVD versions) needed to be certified according to specific state or non-governmental guidelines before it could be screened. Both through the application of censorship or rating guidelines as well as exhibition norms, MNIK was tailored to meet ‘national’ tastes. This tailoring invites us to reflect on the adaptations—the cutting and the stitching—made by immigrants to ‘fit in’ so that they can be viewed as nationals and citizens. I propose to examine the film’s complicated position with respect to immigration and nationalism in tandem with how these issues play out in the film’s transnational theatrical exhibition as well as DVD production and distribution.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
In her indictment of the American public’s indifference toward “foreign” films, the critic B. Ruby Rich warns, “The blinders opposed by monolingualism and cinematic illiteracy [...] have created a nation prone to global illiteracy, bound by linguistic leashes to a univocal universe, impervious to subjectivities not their own.” This presentation engages Rich’s observation through an analysis of the distribution and translation of contemporary multilingual cinema via Blu-ray. I examine the relationship between the high definition screen aesthetics celebrated in Blu-ray marketing campaigns and the subtitling of recent multilingual films. After winning its format war with Toshiba’s HD DVD, Sony’s Blu-ray has navigated a new format war fought simultaneously on two fronts – with standard DVD and with streaming video. Blu- ray’s main appeal to consumers in this marketing battle has been its superior image quality, promoting an appreciation for visual precision not only among cinephiles but also among the broader viewing public. For monolingual audiences watching multilingual films on Blu-ray, subtitles are an indelible part of the high definition image. Of course, the subtitles for multilingual films also notoriously generate narrative confusion for monolingual audiences by collapsing the multiple spoken languages in the film into one printed language. In this presentation, I discuss the aesthetic, cultural, and political consequences of Blu-ray’s transformation of language into an image, drawing examples from recent multilingual films – including Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom/2003), Babel (Alejandro González Iñarritu/2006), and Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami/2010) – that foreground translation and travel as narrative preoccupations. This filmography provides an opportunity to combine an analysis of the global narrative itineraries within these films with an analysis of their textual presentation in the Blu-ray format. My investigation of Blu-ray distribution and translation practices explores whether or not Blu-ray has the potential to remedy the cinematic illiteracy that Rich laments.
Largely ignored, especially during the socialistic era from 1945 to the late nineties, Romanian cinema has become a hot ticket for film festivals around the world. A first post-socialistic cinematic wave took by surprise the Cannes festivalgoers, and although no one predicted a long standing success, the Romanian filmmakers continue to produce with low budgets impressive artworks. Starting with Stuff and Dough in 2001 (Cristi Puiu), and the shocking The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005), to the Palme d’or winner 4 Months 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007), as well as the successful Tales from the Golden Age (Cristian Mungiu, 2009), and not necessarily ending with Morgan (Marian Crisan, 2011) which represented Romania at the 2012 Oscars, the Romanian New Wave earned an impressive number of prizes and immense recognition around the world.
The sudden affirmation raised great suspicions among scholars who criticized the West’s establishment of its cultural hegemony through the distribution of prizes, and saw in the old and new prize distribution practice a self-congratulatory gesture: these prizes confirmed the West’s ideological values and victory (as superior capitalism) over the East (the inferior communism). This also reinforces the already expressed belief in the existence of an invisible wall that still separates Western and Eastern Europe, a wall that emphasizes longstanding ideological, philosophical and cultural differences.
In addition, the fact that for the first time Romanian cinema attracts wide attention either validates a contribution films bring in their current form to the global artistic register, or reflects another cultural misunderstanding since self- representation of nations (or cultural spaces) is altered at global levels by the global imaginary. In other words, if there still is a process of “othering” of the Romanian cultural space through a misunderstanding of its cinematic works, this is the result of self-representational registers that are still very much interpreted in accordance with specific ideological values. The cinematic product acquires in the exchange between East and West multiple meanings, its economic and artistic values being determined by ideological rather than financial or esthetic factors.
Robert A. Saunders
Farmingdale State College
Drawing on the emergent field of popular geopolitics, my paper explores the Anglophone geographical imagination of the Russian realm following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. I examine how Cold War fears associated with the Soviet Union (nuclear war, KGB agents, and gulags) were seamlessly transformed into new stereotypes with a global reach (radical ideologues with “loose nukes,” hackers/mad scientists bent on bringing down Western capitalism, and mafiosi infiltrating the American “Heartland” and London’s leafy suburbs) through a critical analysis of Russian/post-Soviet villains in contemporary films and television. My focus is on media representations during the 1990s and the 2000s, which portrayed the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet republics redoubts of anti-Westernism, peopled by nihilist anarchists, corrupt politicians, and revanchist military commanders. I demonstrate the coherence of Western geographical imagination of post-Soviet space as dangerous landscape, and reflect on the “real world” ramifications of such popular geopolitical convictions within what Grayson et. al have called the “popular culture-world politics continuum.” Teasing out the highly gendered notions of the threat posed to the “West,” I contend that the comparatively uniform representations of homo post-Sovieticus and his “motherland” are not just figments from the minds of American, British, and Australian cultural producers, but also serve the interests of Western economic elites by firmly rooting the post-Second World within the field of power and the system of structural production that currently dominate international relations. In closing, I will touch on recent Russian and other post-Soviet state efforts to mitigate these highly negative images in Western popular culture via nation branding, cultural programs, and other forums.
John M. Woolsey
George Mason University
This essay is about neohumanitarian rationality, which, broadly defined, refers to the dominant Western way of thinking about, picturing, narrating and prescribing courses of action in relation to distant (i.e. non-Western) human suffering and conflict. Neohumanitarian rationality is a problem-solution framework, a modality of thought and action that problematizes human suffering and conflict and treats them as objects of knowledge to be managed and controlled by technical experts and moral authorities. In general, neohumanitarian rationality has interventionary inclinations (both military and economic), pictures human suffering and conflict through the lens of human rights discourse, and has a near religious faith in the value of social engineering (i.e. state- and nation-building). I argue that this rationality is nearly ubiquitous in Western culture and politics; it informs, for example, popular media depictions of distant suffering and conflict, the United States’ counterinsurgency strategy in the “war on terror,” and utopian visions of “global governance” based in normative cosmopolitan political principles.
It is in the realm of the popular social and cultural imaginary, its images, stories and legends, that one can identify the optics by which this rationality makes visible—indeed, helps to produce—“precarious lives” and marks them as problems in need of a humane solution, and trace the mechanisms of discipline by which it attempts to shape the conduct of those subjects living “secure lives.” By examining several examples in the popular press and cinema, this essay explores the ways in which popular neohumanitarian narratives contribute to the cultivation of Western citizens as a historically specific moral category of person. Rather than simply cultivating compassionate or empathetic identifications with distant others, neohumanitarian narratives foster subjects whose sense of self as moral and ethical actors is often built on an identification with powerful Western states and inter-governmental institutions that seek to shape societies, states and economies in accordance with a bionormative ideal of Western life. The neohumanitarian subject is a moral subject who identifies with these actors and supports their state/nation-building projects or, alternatively, advocates for their intervention in areas where they are not already active. By examining the history and characteristics of neohumanitarian rationality and its manifestations in everyday cultural and political life, and in a sense denaturalizing it, I aim to create the possibility of thinking otherwise and resisting the constraints that have been imposed on what is considered humane conduct.
Wilfrid Laurier University
When the famed whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, announced in November 2010 that it was to release 250,000 secret diplomatic cables – correspondence between foreign embassy officials and the U.S. State Department - to mainstream news outlets; journalists, politicians and political pundits worldwide joined in the speculation of just what information might be revealed and how damaging it might be to US interests including its national security and foreign relations. Amidst the news of how, for example, many Middle Eastern nations are far more concerned about Iran's nuclear program than they've publicly admitted, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ordering diplomats to assemble information on their foreign counterparts, were some startling revelations from the American embassy in Ottawa. Indeed, eclipsing all other tales of international intrigue, the lead story on the CBC news on December 1 was the cable sent from Ottawa to Washington in early 2008, entitled “Primetime Images of US-Canada Border Paint U.S. in Increasingly Negative Light,” which highlights the CBC’s “anti-American” programming content specifically, its drama series The Border in particular, dubbed in a subheading as “Canada’s answer to 24, w/o that Sutherland guy.”
While the mainstream media had a field day with the tone of the cable, this paper situates it within the context of Canadian broadcasting history by re-examining the relationship between Canadian cultural policy and public diplomacy as a form of soft power, defined by Joseph Nye as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion. Drawing then on Yasmin Jiwani’s analysis of how soft power works within the text of The Border to gain viewers’ consent to surveillance tactics of the “war on terror,” the paper argues that the show may not be as anti-American as the cable’s author claimed.
While what Canadians think Americans think about Canadians is, in common parlance, thought to speak to a crisis of identity and our perpetual “inferiority complex,” what Americans think Canadians think about Americans has become a crisis of diplomacy which might require, in a closer examination of the recommendations of the diplomatic cable, a soft power approach to rectify.
12:45pm – 2:00pm, Lunch
2:00pm – 3:30pm Session Three
Lori A. Crowe
Taking as its starting point both the importance of pop culture analysis for feminist politics and a recognition of the of the pervasiveness of superhero narratives, mythology, and artifacts in contemporary society, this paper seeks to challenge traditional and critical security studies assumptions through a feminist pop culture analysis of the mainstream movie Superhero. Engaging with the Superhero mythology and its popular contemporary form contribute to revealing the analogous construction of the problem of ‘security’ and ‘insecurity’, and can thus contribute to the powerful feminist critiques of the central problematiques of security: that of its foundationalist assumptions and the power structures embedded within. In revealing the mutually constitutive relationship between the superhero and the production of militarization/insecurity, the reproduction of tropes that construct knowledge of what is good and bad and maintain an ideology of the inevitability of war, normative masculinity and the necessity of a technologically superior military become evident. This paper thus suggests that such popular culture texts have implications for our perception of and participation in military conflict and espouses the need for a critical politics that suggests moving beyond an illusory ‘security/insecurity’ divide.
Goldsmiths, University of London
Around the release of Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, Mark Fisher posted an opinion piece on the Guardian’s website. Under the heading, “Batman’s Political Right Turn,” Fisher did a good job outlining the undeniable right-wing conservative narrative that flows from the film. The problematic gap in this narrative is the suggestion that the validation of capital over the public is not inherent in all Batman narratives and, to a significant degree, to all superhero texts. The recent popularity of the Iron Man movies would seem to support this argument. Frank Miller’s public rant against the Occupy movement would appear to support it as well.
The paper, then, would attempt to trace what Foucault would have called the ‘governmentality’ inherent in comic book culture; that element of the art form that draws on conservative fantasies and reinforces inequality as a natural element of human organization. Insanity is depicted as inherently evil. Poverty is a precursor to selfishness and antisocial behavior. Why is it that the superhero cannot function as a component of popular struggle? Why must she or he always operate as a mechanism for the preservation and justification of the status quo?
The superhero culture typically hinges on the construction of a dominant narrative where the public is only decent in their invisibility. It also unproblematically showcases the global elite as necessarily wealthy and enthusiastic in their use of violence in the preservation of the stability of that wealth. Is this a reflection of the post-industrial global political situation? Is it a means of justification carried out by the propertied against the oppressed or is it some inherent attempt on the part of the oppressed to rationalize the world they inhabit? In other words, is the contemporary superhero a decree from up on high or is it a governmentalized response to our global binary culture – good/evil, sane/insane, greedy/propertied, etc? The proposed paper will attempt to address – as completely as possible in the time allotted – these questions.
Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti
My paper is about clothes. From performative masquerade of Judith Butler to psycoanalitic interpretation of Eugénie Lemoine Luccioni, the thought about the clothes and who wears it is complex and articulated. On the other hand the fashion system deals with all society, mixing popular culture and globalization, economic power and personal desires and can be read like a form of cultural hegemony, but also a form of political contestation and resistance. I’ll show works of some contemporary artists who, realizing clothes, come face to face with the political reality in different part of the world: in their works clothes become the intersection of world politics and various popular cultural forms. These artistic clothes deconstruct with a sense of humor and creativity the hegemonic discourse of power that would shape ethnic identities, gender identities and political understanding.
Université du Québec à Montréal
If the Western was the archetypal genre of American cinema until the 1970s, John Ford was the acknowledged master in developing the narrative and cinematographic potential of the genre. Ford used the western to explore and develop archetypes of American mythology and identity, to probe their contradictions and to debate notions of threat and identity. This paper examines Ford’s classic “Cavalry Trilogy” (1948-1950). Focusing on his treatment of issues of identity, difference and threat, of the role of the military in forging an American community, and on depictions of class, gender, ethnicity and empire, the paper argues that these films anticipate, reflect and project fundamental transitions in the narrative of the U.S. Cold War security imaginary.
Université du Québec à Montréal
This paper will demonstrate, through analysis of two popular films noirs of the 1950s, Pick-up on South Street and Kiss Me Deadly, how these spy thrillers dealing with the question of atomic secrets, both produced during the McCarthy era, found ways to subvert the idea of a Communist or Soviet threat, while appearing on the surface to confirm the reality of an ever-present danger to American society.
University of Ottawa
In the wake of the end of the Cold War, the National Security State apparatus adapted to the “new world order” and American cinema witnessed the golden years of the Hollywood blockbuster action movies. Looking back on blockbuster action movies that aimed to represent the prevailing security context, characterized among other themes, by the specter of domestic terrorism, allows us to examine the gradual adaptation of the National Security State to new political threats and challenges solicited by an uncertain and unknown security environment. Consequently, this paper first foregrounds the political-historical context of the 1990s in which the National Security State is set as it turns to seeking enemies and threats at home. Secondly, we present the new political economy of Hollywood and the blockbuster business model that it promotes to better assess how the National Security State imaginary is being rendered these Hollywood movie productions, which, we contend, provide us with an excellent entry point to reflect on the transformation undergone by the National Security State in the post-cold war era.
Goldsmiths University of London
This paper looks at the increased popularity of reality shows involving Roma and Traveler groups in the UK and US - focusing in particular on shows such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and American Gypsies - and the impact that they are having on established traditions of representing these groups that often rely on reinforcing stereotypes. The paper argues that while these reality shows mark a swift change in practices of Roma and Traveler representation by increasingly implicating these communities into their own representations, increased access to the 'authorship' and 'legitimation' of representations does not necessarily lead to less discrimination against these groups. The paper seeks to assess why that may be the case by looking at theories of 'seeing' that focus on the relationship between sight and affect.
Discussions of precarity have tended to take place in two idioms. On the one hand, a political economic or sociological approach has explored precarity as a result of changing labour relations in a post-fordist context: the “feminisation” of labour, flexible contracts, and temporary agencies have been the sites of precarisation and its consequences in this approach. On the other hand, an ethical-philosophical approach following on the contributions of Judith Butler has emerged that locates precariousness in human relationships per se, tending to universalise the experience of and the need to recognise precarity as a means of providing an ethical ground for politics. That precarity is an international experience is rather taken for granted in both approaches, as is the meaning of “international” itself. This paper sets out to problematize the relationship between precarity and the international by examining the roles played by the international in organising work and in organising the possibilities for political subjectivities. If the notion of precarity helps to draw our attention to the international and its effects on the organisation and the experience of work, then what can it tell us about the politics of precarious subjects? This question will be pursued through the analysis of four films about apparently precarious subjects in four different contexts: In This World (dir. Michael Winterbottom); Fear and Trembling (dir. Alain Corneau); Bolivia (dir. Adrián Caetano); and Last Train Home (dir. Lixin Fan).
University of Ottawa
It has been well documented that to be a fan of a cultural production or commodity often, if not always, involves both the consumption of that commodity and a subsequent drive or desire to produce something in turn. That something almost invariably involves the use of the original cultural commodity in some capacity (Jenkins, 2006). The emergence of the internet and digital technologies has brought with them a number of new opportunities for fans to both consume and produce cultural commodities. However, this emergence has also brought with it a number of socio-political challenges – not just for fans, but for cultural producers, consumers, and policymakers alike. In the process these challenges have profoundly shifted the relations of power between producers and consumers. For cultural producers, new technologies PANEL 3C: PLACE, PRECARITY & POLICY have been both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, they have allowed for greater exposure and proliferation of their cultural commodities; on the other hand, they have led to an expansion in the unauthorized use, reproduction, and pirating of those commodities. For consumers, new technologies have given them access to a world of content for a fraction of the cost, while also potentially opening them up to a world of illegal activity. In response, governments have sought to mitigate and control unlawful use and reproduction of cultural commodities through amendments to cultural policy and copyright law, further stressing the divide that exists between producers and consumers. These amendments have left fans in a precarious situation as they are, at once, both consumers and producers of cultural commodities. Many fan cultural practices, which invariably make use of intellectual property and copyrighted materials, are now being challenged by cultural policy amendments – leaving many fans uncertain whether their productions and practices are legally acceptable. Whereas once fans might have been peripheral actors in the socio-political landscape, the internet has brought fans into the proverbial mainstream consciousness, and producers and policymakers have taken notice. Consequently, and perhaps unintentionally or reluctantly, fans and fan culture are being politicized as a result of government intervention into cultural policy – intervention which is often spurred by producers. This discussion proposes to explore some of the implications and consequences of the politicization of fans, touching on themes of power relations as they relate to fans and producers.
3:30 pm - 3:45 pm, Coffee Break
3:45pm – 5:15 pm Session Four
Université du Québec à Montréal
Studying twelve Hollywood movies about the 2003-2011 U.S.war in Iraq, this paper shows how these films “transcode” the “superpatriotic/militarist/gendered” mindset that was dominant in America in the years following 9/11. In addition to projecting the idea that there should be a strict limit on women’s participation in wars, most of these films echo and legitimize arguments similar to those of the Bush administration and neoconservative ideologues. The controversy raised by Brian De Palma’s Redacted and, to a lesser extent, by Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah and Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone, shows how preeminent the superpatriotic/militarist/gendered mindset was in America after 9/11hence the sentiment shared by many that by portraying the US military and the war in a negative light, De Palma, Haggis and Greengrass had denigrated America itself.
The development of nuclear weapons is one of the watershed moments in world history, ushering in a ‘nuclear era’ characterised, among other things, by what Jonathan Schell has termed ‘second death’. Where previous weapons threatened the deaths of individuals and even communities, nuclear weapons promise the ‘second death’ of species extinction and with it very possibility of the life in memory. Nuclear weapons, however, are not a clearly known ‘thing’, but rather a complex object discursively imagined and produced. Previous work has shown how the imagination of nuclear weapons in policy and (inter)governmental practice has established the conditions of possibility for nuclear politics (Mutimer 2001). This paper turns the question of the nuclear imagination to the realm of popular culture, to ask a) how nuclear weapons are produced in and through their cinematic representations, and b) what limits that imaginary implies for (re)thinking the politics of nuclear weapons in the present. The paper reads a selection of English language films, produced for the cinema, from both the Cold War and post-Cold War, and which have as a central theme the management of politics in the nuclear age. The first section of the paper will read the Cold War films to reveal their imagination of nuclear weapons, and compare it with that of the policy discourse I have previous analysed. The second section will examine the post-Cold War films to explore the (dis)continuities in that imagination. Finally, the paper will consider the limitations that this imagination imposes on the possibilities for contemporary nuclear politics.
The post-9/11 era has seen a number of popular TV series (e.g. Breaking Bad, Dexter, 24) that treat, in various ways, the relationship between ends and (violent) means – and this at a time of pre-emptive warfare, drone strikes, “extraordinary rendition,” torture and other violations of international laws and norms, carried out ostensibly in the name of “homeland security.” This paper does not posit a one-on-one correspondence between U.S. political/imperial violence and the TV series in which noble ends redeem nefarious means, but investigates how contemporary anxieties – arising not only from the “War on Terror” but from other salient coordinates of Western post-industrial experience – find expression, if not exactly resolution, in some of the more highly acclaimed dramas of the past decade.
Carlos Frederico Pereira da Silva Gama & Bárbara Tigre Maia
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro / London School of Economics
The "rise" of BRICS nations has provoked all kinds of reactions from the IR community. A host of stereotypes followed in this wake. Either BRICS are “revisionist” states, struggling to reorder global governance mechanisms away from the “developed world”, or the BRICS are “reformist” states, infusing vitality in a post-WWII institutional architecture falling short of expectations. Taken as a spectrum of political possibilities, this bipolar account fosters seemingly incommensurable depictions of the international order – either the impossibility of a global order (just reiterating, in slightly renewed ways, the notion of international) or the passage from the international to an (still sketchy) global order.
Such BRICS stereotypes unsettle ongoing notions of the European identity and polity. Either BRICS will replace Europe as the gravitational center of the current international system or, more disturbingly, they could provide a viable alternative to global governance modeled at the image of the territorial (European) modern sovereign state.
Our proposal articulates the stereotyping of the so-called BRICS in current IR and contemporary ambiguities of the process of European integration. We proceed by analyzing the infamous (banned) European Union ad campaign (in which the BRICS and Europe are placed as poles of an ongoing struggle for international ordering) through cinematic politics. Through tropes of motion and stasis, depictions of space and body action, the current contradictions and shortcomings of the EU project coalesce around borders erected between the modern subject in crisis and emerging global threats. Such representations not only infuse vitality in the fragmented EU body through seductive expansion, they also re-enact the sacredness of territorial space vis-a-vis threatening transnational expansion "from overseas".
Stemming from stereotypes portrayed by, among others, Adam Smith, David Hume and Montesquieu, China, India and Brazil are framed as materially-endowed civilizations, nevertheless reproachable for their vicious, "unacceptable" moves - in moral contrast with a humble, modest, old-fashioned Europe. In such a therapeutic project(ion),the future is re- enacted by retrospective updates of alterity stereotypes - instead of "rising", BRICS shall be rescued from their "downfall", their moral shortcomings, in order to be "reconciled" with an expansive notion of the (European) moral realm that reiterated previous configurations of international ordering.
Justin Van Wormer
City University of New York
Contemporary politics and culture in the developed word are characterized by the insecurity produced as a consequence of the neoliberal economic order. In reaction to this insecurity, I identify a trend in current writers I call the “neoliberal Gothic.” If the traditional Gothic was a way by which the emerging bourgeoisie in the 18th and 19th centuries secured identity in the face of the failures of historical or natural aristocracies and irrationalities, then the neoliberal Gothic is a reaction to the insecurity caused by the financialization of everyday life in which the apparent rationalities of market institutions are unveiled as Gothic monsters and the market itself is presented not as a transparent arbiter of value but an edifice more imposing and obscure than the Castle of Otranto.
Because both the Gothic and neoliberalism have common transatlantic roots, I examine both British and American works. I use texts including early Gothic tales and critical texts by Fred Botting and David Harvey among others to establish a working definition of the Gothic in a neoliberal political context. I then examine contemporary popular works like comics by Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano and journalistic accounts of the late financial crises by Michael Lewis and Matthew Taibbi – in order to uncover essentially Gothic tropes and images being used in popular culture to represent anxieties provoked by the experiences of neoliberal subjectivity. For example, Taibbi depicts Goldman Sachs as a vampiric monster from the deep whose threat is at once immediate and historical; while Delano explains Thatcherism as a demonic plot – and New Labour as a hellish hedge. Marx famously said that capital is the vampiric incarnation of dead labor, the global financial system is here revealed as that vampire's unholy progeny.
This paper critically examines the interaction between politics and art with a particular focus on the discussion concerning Plato’s assumption that regards the mimetic art as a mere delusional copy. While I question why the act of mimesis is not welcomed in Plato’s Ideal city, Kallipolis, I compare Plato’s approach to Paul Virilio’s recent critique of the contemporary art as being the mimetic embodiment of the aesthetics of the Auschwitz camp. Unlike Plato who did not give permission to the mimetic artists to perform in Kallipolis, Virilio does neither propose to banish contemporary artists from the world stage nor opposes technology or technological performance. However, Virilio states that the detrimental effects of the crisis of perception realized through the loss of the fixed habitable space. According to Virilio, this loss of distance due to the fluidity of identities, the audience today cannot achieve a mediated experience but simply a malleable and consumable entity. Thus, Virilio relates this crisis of perception, namely the destruction of the distance and therefore the emergent dichotomy between the object the subject and the audience and the art, to the technological age of speed. Plato ties up this to the delightful ability of the mimetic artist and mimetic performance. Thus, the main accusation of Plato brings against mimesis is “its power to corrupt even the better sort of men” since men take pleasure and approve of the feelings of fictional characters they would be ashamed of in real life. At this point, I intend to explore Plato’s and Virilio’s societal role as critics of mimetic art.