Film and Visual Media in the Gulf: Images, Infrastructures, and Institutions
connecting Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the world
28–30 October 2018 | New York University Abu Dhabi
Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Over the past two decades, the Gulf has begun to harness media’s power to reframe and even reset debates about its position within the world, perhaps most visibly and audibly in Arabic- and English-language news media. The historically asymmetrical balance in favor of foreign perspectives, notably Egyptian, Hollywood, and Indian stereotypes of Gulf Arab, remains with narrative film and visual media.
Film and visual media in the Gulf, however, extend beyond feature-length films screened at malls, streamed online, or served as in-flight entertainment. Gulf film and visual media makers have garnered international attention on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Moreover, Gulf audiences screen and stream a diverse array of media, including Bollywood and Hallyuwood films, Khaleeji musalsals and K-dramas (Gulf and South Korean television dramas), Saudi web series, and Turkish soap operas. Media culture also includes social media practices that communicate through video and visual images.
This conference addresses the marginalization of the Gulf within film studies and the marginalization of film and visual and social media, including television and on-demand programming, within area studies to (a) redefine conceptual frameworks to render images and stories from the Gulf more legible, (b) theorize political economy within Gulf media ecologies and (c) strategize ways to support a sustainable film and visual media culture in the Gulf that acknowledges its connections with Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the world.
The conference brings together media scholars, professionals, and educators to promote conversations between academic scholarship and professional best practices to facilitate research in both media studies and area studies, as well as to encourage the development of culturally aware and nuanced practices in media education, production, and programming.
The conference will be structured around three critical focuses of analysis:
Images and stories:
This section analyzes images and stories that resonate with audiences living in the Gulf, as well as perceptions of Gulf productions from outside the region. Images and stories from the Gulf must contend with multiple assumptions, including stereotypes, as well as the limitations various socio-economic, national, transnational, and family factors that can impose on Gulf stories. As with media in Africa, the emergence of social media as a viable platform for sharing images and telling stories also challenges assumptions about film and visual media and broadens the perspectives that can potentially reach large audiences.
Institutions and cultures:
This section investigates how thinking about images and stories within the context of developments by the state and by transnational corporations in free zones, as well as grassroots efforts on online platforms, to understand the limitations and opportunities for developing sustainable cultures for locally conceived and produced media. One of the greatest challenges remains the problem of building capacity for sustainable media cultures. As multiplexes open in Saudi Arabia and the government embraces a visual media industry, neighborhood cinemas close elsewhere else in the Gulf, thereby reducing the diversity of media on offer. Moreover, the lavish film festivals, which imported practices and personnel from places like Cannes or New York, have failed to capture interest among Gulf audiences.
Infrastructure and platforms:
This section explores the opportunities and limitations of new media paradigms, which includes both informal media distribution on “pirated” DVD and online, but also media that is conceived, produced, distributed, and exhibited for multiple digital platforms, especially social media. The latter appeals to “digital natives” whose expectations and experiences of film and visual media are often structured in fragments or algorithmically, rather than linearly or causally, as in the media practices of analogue generations and “digital migrants.”
The conference aims to produce an anthology and/or special journal issue of scholarly research developed from papers presented at the conference.
The conference will also include workshops with media professionals and educators with the aim of producing a small media handbook that offers strategies to adjust dominant practices and pedagogies to reflect the specificities of the Gulf.
Please send 300-word abstracts and a short bio by 15 July 2018 to:
Alia Yunis, Zayed University ([log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>)
Dale Hudson, NYU Abu Dhabi ([log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>)
Notifications will follow by 01 August 2018.
For pre-circulation to conference participants, complete drafts of 10–15 pages are due by 14 October 2018. Conference presentations will be limited to 10 minutes.
The NYUAD Institute will pay for roundtrip economy airfare, as well as accommodations and meals during the conference.
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: http://www.tcf.ua.edu