Woman dressed in super hero cape on the rooftop with a city skyline in the background.
Photo: Syda Productions / Mostphotos

The conference is cancelled.

PhD students and senior researchers are invited to participate in a conference aimed at bringing together scholars interested in all kinds of popular media. The conference's specific and more general concerns include, but are not limited to, the relations between popular culture/media and the civic imagination, participatory culture and political activism. The sessions are based on case studies and ideas generated and presented by the participants. Presentations and discussions are intended to encourage participants to explore specific approaches, challenge assumptions and develop new perspectives on their work.

Deadline: 15 March

Deadline for abstracts (300 words max): 15 March 2020. 

Organising committee 

Jaqueline Berndt, Per Israelson, Jacob Kimvall, Johan Klingborg, Adnan Mahmutovic, Tiina Rosenberg.

About Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins is the Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education at the University of Southern California, and the author and/or editor of seventeen books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture, From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, and By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism. He has written for Technology Review, Computer Games, Salon, and The Huffington Post. Jenkins refers to himself as an ”Aca/Fan” (hence the title of his blog: ”Confessions of an Aca-Fan”), a hybrid creature which is part fan and part academic. Key concepts in his work are the idea of ”participatory culture” and the notion of ”a moral economy (that is, the presumed ethical norms which govern the relations between media producers and consumers)”. Jenkins, and his research group ”The Civic Imagination Project”, are currently about to publish two books, the anthology Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination, and the handbook Practicing Futures: civicimaginationproject.org/writing-and-speaking.

Below you find a number of excerpts from Jenkins’ website, that shed some light on the conference topic ”Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination”:

”We define civic imagination as the capacity to imagine alternatives to current cultural, social, political, or economic conditions; one cannot change the world unless one can imagine what a better world might look like.” 

”Research on the Civic Imagination has represented a space where the humanities meets the social sciences, where we can explore the political consequences of cultural representations and the cultural roots of political participation.” 

”Over the past few decades, popular culture has increasingly offered the resources people have drawn upon to spark the civic imagination -- from the multicultural, multiracial, and multiplanetary communities depicted on Star Trek to the struggles of ragtag rebels against autocratic empires in Star Wars, from images of female empowerment and collective action in Hunger Games to the depiction of an American Muslim superhero in Ms. Marvel. […] Many minority groups are struggling for inclusion and representation within popular media or to overcome decades of negative stereotyping. In other parts of the world, American popular culture surfaces, alongside local alternatives, as part of the culture of protest and democratic struggle, with superheroes or zombies becoming widely used as reference points in debates and protests.” 

”If stories can inspire and empower social change, stories can also shatter communities, feeding our fears and suspicions, re-enforcing stereotypes in particularly vivid ways. Examples might include the use of Hindu mythology in Modi’s India, the ways that the Nazis drew upon imagery from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, or the ways that The Birth of a Nation helped to revitalize the Klu Klux Klan. In many cases, the only way to combat the corrosive power of such stories is through other stories which invite us to understand the world from alternative perspectives, which help us to understand how other people live and what they feel about their conditions. There are some signs that Hollywood is trying to be more inclusive of diverse experiences, as suggested by likely Oscar contenders such as Fences, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures, or by television success stories, such as Fresh Off the Boat, Blackish, or Jane the Virgin or even in the diversification of the cast in recent entries in the Star Wars and Marvel Extended Universe franchises.”

”Yet, we recognize that the crisis in American politics that has unfolded over the past few years is far from unique around the world, as witnessed by the Brexit vote, the rise of right wing nationalism in Europe and Asia, the political disorder in Brazil, struggles with drug lords in Latin America, and religious extremism in the Middle East, to cite just a few examples. Our early research is discovering ways that indigenous peoples around the world are tapping Avatar and other science fiction texts to dramatize their struggles, the ways that the three finger salute from Hunger Games is being deployed by student resistance movements in Thailand and Hong Kong, the ways that the Islamic world and Russia are developing their own superheroes to reflect their own sense of social mission, and the ways that Brazilians have used the visibility brought by the Olympics and the World Cup to question the priorities of their national government.”

Read more about Jenkins: henryjenkins.org