The NECS 2023 Conference
The NECS 2023 Conference (13-17/06) and Graduate Workshop (14/06) will be held at the University of Oslo, Blindern Campus in June.
We are excited to announce the keynote speakers of this year’s conference!
Abstract – Practices of Care in Crisis Cinema
In Orwa al-Mokdad’s documentary 300 Miles (2016), an activist, Adnan, bemoans worldwide apathy to Syrians’ plight: ‘If only someone in Japan cared!’ The distribution of care often depends on a differential system: while some crises elicit concern and empathy, others are met with indifference or occur without us even knowing. Media play a pivotal role in influencing who or what we care for. Nowhere is this more evident than in news stories which, through decisions of selection, prioritisation, inclusion and exclusion, shape what is deemed worthy of our attention. In my book Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship (2014), I argued that cinema can counter the desensitising impact of such news images through aesthetic choices that are also ethical choices about whose death or suffering should be acknowledged and whose should be permitted or pass unnoticed. In this paper, I extend those arguments with the insights of my recent book, Crisis Cinema in the Middle East: Creativity and Constraint in Iran and the Arab World (2022), which explores creative strategies for producing films under conditions of crisis in the Middle East. I explore how cinema constructs hierarchies of care and attention more generally, interrogating how films act as advocates for the care of others in crisis by comparing and contrasting typical mainstream practices with those of independent filmmakers from the region. My examples include Abbas Fahdel’s five-and-a-half hour documentary Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) (2015) (which reframes what is worthy of our attention through its home-movie format and slow durational aesthetic), Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ For Sama (2019) (in which creative choices were designed to counter waning international attention and care for Syria), Maysoon Pachachi’s fictional feature Our River, Our Sky (2021) (with its use of non-hierarchical, ensemble storytelling for circumstances in Iraq at the height of sectarian violence), and documentaries created from digital archives, calling for an ethics of care for the dignity, safety and political agency of the people who appear in them.
Shohini Chaudhuri is a Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, UK. Her recent work builds on her research and curatorial interests in Middle Eastern cinema over the last twenty years, as well as her scholarship on world cinema and film and human rights. She is author of the following four books: Crisis Cinema in the Middle East: Creativity and Constraint in Iran and the Arab World (2022), Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship (2014), Feminist Film Theorists (2006) and Contemporary World Cinema (2005). Additionally, she has published articles in journals such as Camera Obscura, Screen and Transnational Screens, and chapters in edited collections such as Documentary Filmmaking in the Middle East and North Africa (2022), Global Humanitarianism and Media Culture (2019), Disappearing War: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cinema and Erasure in the Post 9/11 World (2017) and Postcolonial Cinema Studies (2012). She is currently guest-editing a special issue, titled Soundtracks of Our Lives: Music-Making and Musicians in Cinema of the MENA Region, for the journal Regards – revue des arts du spectacle. As a film activist as well as educator, she has researched and curated film programmes for The Mosaic Rooms, London, and Art Exchange, University of Essex, and has organised public film events for Amnesty International and other cultural institutions.
Abstract – The Subject Supposed to Care
In place of what Mario Tronti theorized as the social factory, the reflexization of capitalist processes has led to the social manor. Society is no longer oriented toward the production of workers and commodities; it’s an order of personalized service, privilege, hierarchy, and fealty. Yet in a society of services, we often hear the lament, “nobody cares.” This talk considers the missing subject supposed to care in order to draw out the affective infrastructure of the neofeudal social manor.
Jodi Dean is Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. Her books include The Communist Horizon, Crowds and Party, and Comrade: An essay on Political Belonging, all published by Verso. Her most recent book is the first-ever collection of the writings of black communist women, Organize, Fight, Win, co-edited with Charisse Burden-Stelly and also published by Verso.
Abstract – Greenwashing Our Way
We are all greenwashing unconsciously—I am doing so as I type these words. My laptop includes a brand marking and a style that are plain to see—as plain as the blood that marks its past and future is invisible. This is not merely a story about computing—it is a tale of the entire world of media, communications—whichever term you prefer. It is a story about the labor and environmental impact of those industries, specifically the technologies they use. So greenwashing is not merely to do with companies or governments sponsoring ‘good’ works in order to divert attention away from their environmental crimes; nor is it to do with supposedly ‘green’ industries like culture denying their own environmental criminality. It is also to do with everyday forms of silent, unconscious complicity on the part of institutions and individuals via the uses they make of the media, the technological sublime, and the ‘technically sweet.’ I’ll explain why this is so and what might be done about it, drawing on ideas of the duty of care and on work done over the last twenty years, per Greening the Media (with Richard Maxwell, OUP, 2012), Greenwashing Sport (Routledge, 2017), Greenwashing Culture (Routledge, 2017), and How Green is Your Smartphone? (with Richard Maxwell, Polity, 2020).
Toby Miller is Stuart Hall Professor of Cultural Studies, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana—Cuajimalpa and Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Collaborator, Murdoch University. He is Past President of the Cultural Studies Association (US).
Abstract – On the messiness of care: vulnerability, responsibility and community
What is care? Or perhaps we should rather ask: What does it do? In my talk, I explore care as a messy concept that is, perhaps purposefully, hard to define. Further, I argue that care describes or performs unruly relations and practices. I want to develop interconnections between what I see as a renewed attention to questions of care in the Anthropocene, where the climate crisis impacts on all life and life-sustaining organisms and systems, and feminist care ethics, that foregrounds vulnerability as an intrinsic part of being human. I am inspired by imaginaries and stories that attempt to overturn the narrative about what it means to be in need of care: from being reserved the “needy” to making it part of everyday life in different forms as a kind of (care) ethic. With examples from contemporary science fiction, such as Station Eleven (2021, HBO), Kindred (2022, Hulu) and Äkta människor (Real Humans, 2012, SVT), I trace such (re)imaginings of care through the concepts of vulnerability, responsibility and community.
Ingvil Hellstrand is associate professor in gender studies at the Department for Caring and Ethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stavanger, Norway (UiS). Her research interests are storytelling practices and knowledge production, science fiction and the posthuman. Ingvil is currently involved in the interdisciplinary research project Caring Futures: Developing Care Ethics for Technology-Mediated Care Practices as lead of the work package Imaginaries of care robots and other technobodies, bringing together science fiction as method, technologies of care, and posthuman ethics. Ingvil is a member of The posthumanities hub, and a founding member of The Monster Network.
[NECS 2023 visual identity: © Abirami Logendran]