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ACLA Seminar: Gender in Local Cinema: Theories and Practices of Spectatorship

ACLA Annual Meeting, March 26-29 2009 Cambridge, MA

Local, non-Western cinemas played little role in the development of the major theories of spectatorship of the sixties and seventies, theories which remain influential even as increasing attention is paid to non-Western and alternative practices that often challenge or contradict the basic premises of the Euro-centric theoretical canon. Discussions on cinematic representation of gender and sexuality typically draw on psychoanalytically informed concepts originating in those decades. Nonetheless, since the eighties these apparatic theories have been complicated by a growing corpus of scholarship on postcolonial, queer, and transnational spectatorship. With the cultural studies turn within film studies, extra-textual spectatorship/reception has been increasingly recognized as multiple, fragmented, and culturally-historically inflected in later theorizations of spectatorship (Diawara, Neale, Naficy).

This seminar will examine the relation between modes of spectatorship and the social context within which they operate, focusing on the role of cinema in the construction of gender and sexuality within its specific cultural context(s) of production and reception. While we welcome discussions of any “local” context (including Western and diasporic communities), we are especially interested in studies that go beyond a simple opposition to the Western paradigm of spectatorship. Building upon the work of post-apparatic feminist theorists such as bell hooks, Ella Shohat, Jigna Desai, we would like to examine social contexts where cinema has a different function in the construction of gender/sexuality. How do the varying social functions of the medium affect its role in the inculcation or destabilization of gender roles; the affirmation or subversion of normative sexualities? How do the forms of pleasure in a particular practice of spectatorship modify its relation to the construction of gender and sexuality?

Please submit 250 word abstracts no later than November 3rd through the ACLA website: http://www.acla.org/submit/

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