“Picturing the Popular”


Call for Papers

7th Annual Critical Studies Graduate Student Conference

“Picturing the Popular”

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Submission Deadline: Monday, January 14, 2013

The graduate students of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts seek presentations from fellow graduate students that examine the relationships and tensions between popular culture and academia.

In engaging with popular objects, scholars, critics, and consumers must all negotiate the potential discontinuities between popularity and cultural or artistic merit.  “Picturing the Popular” turns critical inquiry back onto the scholar to explore how our own intellectual and pedagogical praxes impact, and are impacted by, the study of popular culture.

This conference poses two sets of questions.  One: what does academic scrutiny and critical inquiry reveal about our criteria for defining and evaluating popular culture?  Does academic attention always recognize the depth and cultural significance of a work, or is there a risk of artificially inflating the importance of a work that is otherwise unremarkable?  How does academic thinking define our understandings of what is popular or unpopular?

Two: How is our very understanding of the popular informed by the functions of academia?  To what extent is academic inquiry determined by popular trends, accessibility of media objects, accepted wisdoms, and academia’s own tastes and biases?  How does the specialized set of intellectual parameters employed by academics impact our professionalization?

We welcome papers, creative projects, and other non-traditional presentations exploring the roles that popular, mainstream, or hegemonic media (and their opposites) play in our scholarship and our classrooms.  Presentations may address popular culture in connection to the widest possible range of social, cultural, political, and economic phenomena.  Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • fandom and user-generated media
  • star studies
  • genre studies
  • industry research
  • issues of taste, value, quality
  • canonicity
  • popular or “accepted” histories, identities, political narratives
  • populism and social movements
  • popularity across national boundaries, issues of translation, adaptation
  • alternatives to mainstream popularity (avant-garde/art cinema, trash cinema)
  • “disreputable” media, such as reality television or pornography
  • “aca-blogging” and other forms of popular culture production by academics
  • academic practice, pedagogy, professionalization

Please submit your proposals to Lorien R. Hunter (lrhunter@usc.edu) and Mike Dillon (dillon@usc.edu) by Monday, January 14, 2013.  Submissions should include a 250-300 word abstract and a brief bio.  Please feel free to contact us with questions.

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