Los Angeles, CA, USA / ONLINE, 22.-23. October 2020

Please *register* to attend First Forum 2020: /Passing/ here: .

On October 23 and 24, the ZdC Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Association hosts its annual graduate conference, First Forum. This year, First Forum 2020 has invited engagements from emerging scholars, educators, researchers, artists, activists, and community members to consider passing as a technology of and against visual, aesthetic, cinematic, televisual, and computational regimes. Across the conference’s two days, we’re excited to have 18 participants in conversation across 6 panels. A detailed schedule of the panels and paper descriptions can be found on our website: .

At 3p on October 24, we’re excited to host a *keynote roundtable between Sandra Harvey (UC Irvine), Jian Neo Chen (Ohio State), American Artist, and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (USC).*

Please find a detailed schedule alongside panel descriptions at the conference website: .

The conference will be conducted over Zoom. To attend, please submit a free registration through our Eventbrite: . Zoom links will be sent 24 hours prior to the start of the conference.

We thank the ZdC Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Association, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, the Levan Institute for the Humanities, the Visual Studies Research Institute, the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, the Division of Media Arts and Practice, and the Program in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture for their crucial support of this conference.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email the chair of First Forum 2020, Harry Hvdson, at 


Conference CFP Theme: /Passing/

Organization: First Forum, a Cinema and Media Studies Conference at University of Southern California

Conference Dates: October 23-24, 2020

Submission Deadline:
Please email an abstract of no more than 300 words for a 15 to 20 minute presentation and a biography of no more than 150 words by June 14, 2020, at 11:59 PDT to

Notification of Acceptance:
mid- to late-June


American Artist, interdisciplinary artist whose work considers black labor and visibility within networked life and has been exhibited the Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Koenig & Clinton, New York
Jian Neo Chen, Associate Professor of English at Ohio State University and author of Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement
Sandra Harvey, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at UC Irvine and author of “Passing for Free, Passing for Sovereign: Blackness and the Formation of the Nation”


/Passing/ is so /passé/, or so we’re told. In “The ‘Empire’ Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” Sandy Stone ambivalently articulates a personal and political imperative for transsexuals generally, and male-to-female transsexuals in particular, “to forgo /passing/” and, rather, to transition “to read oneself aloud” (232). For Stone, /passing/, or its necessity, involves the individual and collective scrubbing of enfleshed histories, and forecloses the possibility of authentic relationships with others. According to Stone, gender /passing/—as a performance of hegemonic discourses, as a disidentification with gender normativity, as a movement towards new horizons of desire—is analogical to the experience of racial and sexual /passing/, against which people of color, gays, and lesbians have /already/ imagined new modes of embodiment, resistance, and solidarity.

Stone’s earnest and urgent call to become posttranssexual—to actively not /pass/—opens problematics of subjectivity, agency, and authenticity that scholars across disciplines have long before and since complicated. In “‘A New Hope’: The Psychic Life of Passing,” C. Riley Snorton considers how the possibilities of failure, misrecognition, and misidentification inherent to /passing/ “serves as a context for the emergence of selfhood” (82). In “Passing for Free, Passing for Sovereign: Blackness and the Formation of the Nation,” Sandra Harvey historicizes /passing/ as a system of “the antebellum slave surveillance regime,” and the fabrication of /the pass/ and its policing as the context through which Black racial /passing/ came to signify fugitivity, deception, and freedom across identificatory milieus.

Following Stone, Snorton, and Harvey’s critical readings of the transitivity and transversality of /passing/ across gender, race, and sexuality, the /First Forum/ Cinema and Media Studies Conference at the University of Southern California invites emerging scholars, educators, researchers, artists, activists, and community members to consider /passing/, what Snorton identifies "as the practice of moving from an oppressed group to a dominant group” (79) and what we consider as a technology of and against visual, aesthetic, cinematic, televisual, and computational regimes of knowledge.

For us, questions like the following emerge: How do the theoretical approaches to /passing/ offered by Black studies, Indigenous studies, Chicanx studies, Asian-American studies, trans studies, queer theory, gender studies, feminist theory, and disability theory, among others, shift questions of (good) representation and authenticity fielded by cinema and media studies, and vice versa? How have racial, gender, sexual, able, and class /passing/ been central to the historical and technical formation of American cinema and spectatorship? Does /passing/ open new ways to think about systems of surveillance and capacities to perform opacities?

We invite applicants to think across /passing/ both as a minoritarian and minoritizing technique of endurance and resistance, and in its idiomatic forms. How, for instance, do idioms such as “/passing/ for,” “/passing/ up,” “/passing/ through,” “/passing/ away,” and “/pass//fail,” among others, gain their significance and cultural force through common sense understandings, lived experiences, and racialized/racializing and gendered/gendering systems of /passing/?

We take this conference as an opportunity to reflect critically on the disciplinary and cultural inheritances, of /passing/ and otherwise, that have been /passed/ on to us, and to project the futures that /passing/ opens up. How do people and makers tactically (re)appropriate regimes of visuality that produce and are produced by paradigms of /passing/ in order to survive, collect, escape, destroy, and (re)build? We welcome proposals that address /passing/ from a variety of epistemologies, methodologies, and lived experiences. We encourage Black, Indigenous, person of color, trans, and queer applicants.

*Possible topics for exploration include (but are not limited to):*

transgender historicity, data doubles, racializing surveillance, */making a pass/*, deep fakes, provisionality, */pass/fail/*, attempts and desire, cinematic codes of passing, bots, borders, */passing through/*, ignorance, cruising, precarity, mourning, */passing by/*, paradigms of success and failure, */passing away/*, deep fakes, identity and identification, */passing for/*, //belief, embodiment, unbelonging, */passing over/*, temporality, reading, clocking, rejection, transport, virality, transition, */passing on/*, genealogy, blood, informatic opacity, racebending, whitewashing, death, */passing up/*, interpellation, intimacy, disidentification, refusal, authority, aeriality, afterlives,

The conference will take place over two days. The first day will feature the keynote speaker’s address, with a reception to follow. The second day will showcase the work of participants. We invite scholarly and creative projects: papers, poetry, performances, programs, etc. Presenters may participate via remote teleconferencing service.