CHAIR'S REPORT TO THE MEMBERSHIP
SOCIETY FOR CINEMA STUDIES CAUCUS ON CLASS
JULY 15, 1997
In lieu of sending you minutes from our annual meeting at the Ottawa SCS
conference this past May 15th-18th, I am sending you this report which
incorporates both what was proposed and discussed at the annual meeting, and
updated information about what has happened since the conference.
At the Ottawa conference, the Caucus on Class sponsored two panels: 1.
"Class Politics, Criminal Pleasures, 'Noir', and 'Neo-Noir'," and 2.
"Fundamentalist Fictions: Politics and/of Hermeneutics in Contemporary
Moving-Image Culture." With the Graduate Student Caucus the Caucus on Class
also sponsored the workshop "Labor and the Contemporary Academy." In
addition, the Caucus on Class sponsored the screening of Struggles in Steel
and Balagan. Furthermore, outgoing Caucus on Class Chair Terri Ginsberg was
a featured speaker at the plenary session "Strategies for Ensuring the Future
of Film and Television Studies." Finally, at the annual meeting of the
Caucus on Class, I, Bob Nowlan, Co-Chair of the Caucus on Class from 1995
through 1997, assumed the position of Chair of the Caucus on Class, and Peter
Sarram was elected Co-Chair of the Caucus on Class for 1997-1999 (and Chair
for 1999-2001); Terri Ginsberg is now Co-Chair of the SCS Coordinating
Committee for Race, Class, and Gender.
The bulk of the annual meeting was devoted towards exposition and discussion
of my proposed agenda for the Caucus on Class for the next two years. This
agenda was received positively, with no objections and only several
additional suggestions. I will now recount this proposed agenda, and, once
again, as I indicated at our annual meeting, I welcome your response to my
proposal -- and your assistance in our collective efforts.
My fundamental commitment is to work as hard as possible to advance the
objectives set forth in our mission statement. In doing so I want to build
upon, and to continue, the extraordinary efforts Terri has made over the past
four years to raise the critical consciousness of the Society on issues of
class in theory and in practice, and to press the SCS to commit itself
towards actively, and proactively, fighting to advance the material interests
of all its members and towards working for progressive social change in the
academy and beyond. I will maintain Terri's insistence upon the
indispensable necessity of critical theory and her vigorous commitment
towards bringing to bear critical theory within and throughout our
intellectual, pedagogical, and political praxis as cinema studies teachers
and scholars who are seriously interested in concerns of "class." I will
also maintain Terri's equally staunch commitments to working as closely as
possible with the other SCS caucuses on issues of common interest and
concern; to reaching out and encouraging more, and new, people to become
actively involved in the work of the Caucus on Class; and to developing and
refining our Caucus on Class web page to make it as useful as is possible, in
the information and the links it provides for cinema and media students and
scholars, and for progressive intellectuals and activists. I think it is
important to note here that we all, not only within the Caucus on Class but
also throughout the Society for Cinema Studies, owe Terri Ginsberg our
sincere gratitude for all of her hard work, dedication, commitment, and
conscience during her four years of leadership of the Caucus on Class. I am
very grateful to have served as Co-Chair of the Caucus on Class for two years
while Terri served as Chair, as I have learned much from her that will prove
indispensable to me as I carry out my responsibilities as Caucus Chair.
My proposals for 1998 and 1999 SCS conference panels build upon work that we
have already been doing, including panels we have organized and presented
over the course of the past several years, and including topics in which
members of the Caucus have already expressed and demonstrated substantial
interest. I propose four key areas in which we attempt to organize panels
over the course of the next two years:
1. Panels which continue to engage critically with prominent trends in
contemporary cinema and media theory and criticism, considering the class
politics of these approaches. Here I am thinking, for example, of
prospective critiques of:
a. The recent return of "cognitive studies" and neoclassical phenomenological
b. The resurgent popularity and increasingly widespread return, more
generally, of formalist and aestheticist approaches.
c. Popular, and populist, forms of "appreciative" multiculturalism.
d. Technologistic and scientistic approaches which combine an utopian
futurism with a reductionist fetishism, especially as these gather energy on
the advent of "the new millennium."
2. Panels which continue to engage critically with prominent directions in
classic and contemporary film making, again considering the class politics of
these approaches. Here, I am thinking, for example, of panels in the areas
a. Class and crime in Hollywood film making -- past/present/future, including
potentially continuing to focus on noir, neo-noir, and post-noir films.
b. "Post-Gen X" films of youth alienation and rebellion, including a
possible consideration of the diverse discourses of "cynicism" in
contemporary commercial and not-for-profit film making.
c. Historically changing relations between as well as evaluations of "studio"
versus "independent" film making.
3. Panels exploring the class dimensions of the thematic focus for the next
two year's conferences, starting with that of the San Diego conference --
focusing on intra-national and inter-national borders in the age of
trans-national capitalism. I am especially interested in engagements with
b. The class structure of -- and class struggles within -- the "new" "global
c. Interdeterminate interrelations among race, ethnicity, nationality,
gender, sexuality, and class.
4. Panels involving a critical examination of the ways in which popular film
and television mystifies -- especially elides, evades, conceals,
marginalizes, and trivializes -- relations between labor and class. Here I
am particularly interested in confronting changing modes of mystification,
what these changes mean, what their consequences might be, and what
contradictions might exist within these changes that can be taken advantage
of for resistant and oppositional ends.
I have also expressed interest in working together with representatives of
other caucuses on co-sponsoring panels in any one or more of these areas, and
interest in organizing workshops in 1998, 1999, and as long as necessary, on
"labor and the academy," building and following upon what we accomplished at
this year's conference and yet taking account of new developments. I would
like next year's workshop to involve significant representation from
Southern California labor activists, and to include additional theorization
of the nature and the course of academic labor struggles in the midst of the
current multi-dimensional crisis of working conditions and working
opportunities within the academy. I have proposed working together, once
again, with the Graduate Student Caucus on this workshop -- as well as with
representatives of any other Caucus or Caucuses who might wish to contribute
Because Bulletin Board proposals were due less than two weeks after the end
of the Ottawa conference, I have had to put together "official" descriptions
for the Caucus on Class panels and workshops to be held at the 1998 San Diego
conference very quickly. In doing so I have attempted to respond to a
consensus of interest among Caucus on Class members. I have consulted with
others who have expressed particularly strong interest in the prospective
Caucus on Class sessions at next year's conference. The proposals for the
six proposed Caucus on Class panels and workshops at the 1998 San Diego SCS
conference -- as they will appear in the Bulletin Board mailing to be sent
out to SCS members in July -- are as follows:
1. WORKSHOP: LABOR AND THE CONTEMPORARY ACADEMY
This workshop engages in a collective theorization of the nature and course
of academic labor struggles in the midst of the current multidimensional
crisis of working conditions and opportunities within higher education
today. It will also include reports on, and sharings of, practical
strategies for coping, resisting, and progressing.
2. PANEL: MYSTIFYING CLASS, MARGINALIZING LABOR
Films and videos are often recommended because they engage extensively with
issues of labor and class, yet the connections drawn between these issues are
often elided or mystified through religious, pseudo-scientific, and
"commonsense" discourses, among others. Especially welcome are
cross-cultural and cross-historical analyses of mystificatory strategies such
3. WORKSHOP: TEACHING CLASS IN TEACHING FILM
How is it possible to teach intellectually rigorous and politically
progressive understandings of class in -- and by -- teaching film?
Contributions to this workshop are especially welcome which discuss the
teaching of class, in teaching film, in its interdeterminate interconnections
with race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexuality.
4. PANEL: SEX, CLASS, AND CRIME IN NOIR, NEO-NOIR, AND POST-NOIR FILM
Papers are welcome which inquire critically into the political and
ideological implications of the historically evolving ways in which noir,
neo-noir, and post-noir films engage issues of sexual conflict and class
struggle (especially in their intersection) through the mediation of
narratives of crime and discourses of criminality.
5. WORKSHOP: THE POLITICS OF CLASS AND/VERSUS IDENTITY IN (POST)MODERN FILM
AND TELEVISION STUDIES
Are class politics and identity politics necessarily opposed? If so, why
so? If not, why not? What are class-based theories of identity politics?
What are identity-based theories of class politics? How does this conflict
play itself out within (post)modern film and television studies, and with
what larger social-historical consequences?
6. PANEL: THE RETREAT FROM CRITICAL THEORY IN CONTEMPORARY FILM AND
Does the increasing popularity within contemporary film and television
studies of neo-classical phenomenology, cognitive studies, appreciative
multiculturalism, post-analytic neopragmatism, experientialist (post)identity
politics, and, more broadly, resurgent formalism and aestheticism, mark a
retreat from critical theory? What are the intellectual, institutional, and
political consequences of these trends?
I am pleased that Janet Loveland and the Graduate Student Caucus have
agreed, once again, to co-sponsor the workshop on "labor and the contemporary
academy," and that Linda Dittmar, 1998 SCS Conference Program Committee
Chair, has agreed to chair the workshop "Teaching Class in Teaching Film,"
Peter Sarram, new Caucus on Class Co-Chair, has agreed to chair the panel
"Mystifying Class, Marginalizing Labor," and Terri Ginsberg has agreed to
chair the panel "The Retreat from Critical Theory in Contemporary Film and
Television Studies." I want to thank each of these people for their
readiness to help out, and I want to encourage others to volunteer to get
involved in helping organize and facilitate any one or more of the panels or
workshops where you have a particular interest. Every year many members of
our caucus are actively involved in presenting, chairing, responding, and
otherwise at the SCS conference, and yet many times not as part of Caucus on
Class sponsored events. Don't forget that we are here, we need your support
to continue viable and effective, and that your efforts are what make the
Caucus what it is and what it will be.
Six sessions is twice what we sponsored at this past year's conference, and
yet I am confident we can do it -- and that we can make these sessions
powerful and significant. Many conference attendees expressed a great deal
of interest in the Caucus on Class and its activities in Ottawa, and already
so far six individuals have contacted me to express interest in presenting as
part of one or more of our sessions in San Diego. I would like to urge as
many of you as possible to join these six. At the annual meeting a consensus
supported the idea of putting together pre-constituted panels, or at the
least panels which are as cohesive and coherent as possible, and where the
papers, and the presenters, address each other as far as possible. We want
to break with "business as usual" for panels at academic conferences, and
make our sessions genuinely urgent and interventionary. Please contact the
designated panel chair, and/or myself, as soon as possible, at the least to
let us know of your potential interest in presenting so that we can work
together throughout the process of preparing our panels and workshops. Also,
please send me suggestions and recommendations of people whom you would like
to see and hear present as part of any one of these panels or workshops, and
please let others -- who are not Caucus on Class members, but who are your
friends, colleagues, and comrades -- know what we are doing, and encourage
them to contact me if they are interested in presenting, and to submit a
proposal or proposals for any one or more of our sessions.
Terri Ginsberg has offered, and I have accepted her offer, to serve as chief
"scout" for films of interest that we will screen at the next two years'
conferences. I have informed her that, in considering films which the Caucus
on Class might sponsor next year, I am especially interested in films which:
1. Engage interdeterminate interconnections among race, ethnicity,
nationality, "transnationality," gender, sexuality, and class.
2. Engage new class-conscious strategies -- or recover the history of past
class-conscious struggles -- for labor justice.
3. Address the class dimensions of contemporary relations between the U.S.
and Mexico, including struggles surrounding immigration/emigration.
4. Address struggles over, and backlashes against, affirmative action in the
U.S., and in particular in California.
5. Explore the meeting of multiculturalism and transnational economic and
political interests in contemporary California, especially Southern
California, and in adjacent states in the U.S. West and Southwest.
6. Address interrelations between class and crime, and ideologies of
criminality as instrument of oppression.
7. Offer critical reflections on, or reexaminations of, the class politics of
"postmodern culture," "postmodern theory," and "postmodern politics" at the
edge of "the new millennium."
Terri knows of these particular interests as far as films are concerned, and
will keep these in mind as she searches for useful films for next year's
conference. I also welcome suggestions for films which we might screen at
next year's conference from all other Caucus on Class members.
Beyond sponsoring panels, workshops, and film screenings at the annual SCS
conference, I propose that we begin work on two additional Caucus on Class
sponsored projects. Both projects follow up on interest that has been
expressed to me from others within the Caucus and the Society, and beyond.
First, I would like to work together with other interested people in
developing a critical bibliography for cinema students and scholars of useful
materials on class and film. Second, I would like to work together with
other interested people in putting together a book-length manuscript for
eventual publication on "Critical Theory, Class Politics, and Cinema Studies"
which will follow upon the recently published The Hidden Foundation: Cinema
and the Question of Class (Minnesota, 1996). The book I propose will,
however, be different from The Hidden Foundation because it will not be
organized in as conventionally eclectic a manner as the latter but rather
will work to advance a sustained argument for a coherent, principled, and
committed set of positions -- representing a range of significant "nodes of
contestation" within the Caucus on Class -- on what, how, and why class
issues need to be brought to the forefront of scholarship and pedagogy in
cinema and media studies on the advent of the 21st century. Of course both
the prospective critical bibliography and the prospective book may take quite
a while to complete, and, for that matter, may prove beyond our resources at
this point in time. And yet, I welcome any and all interest in working with
me on either one or both of these projects.
Please let me know if you are interested in contributing to either or both of
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, comments, suggestions,
and recommendations. I look forward to working with you.
Chair, Caucus on Class, Society for Cinema Studies
Department of English
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
(715) 836-3167 (Campus)
(715) 838-9291 (Home)
[log in to unmask] (E-mail)
Caucus on Class Web page: http://pages.nyu.edu/~tjg9373/
If you have not already completed the following mailing list and
informational questionnaire form, and sent this to me, please do so as soon
as possible. If you wish to be included on the Caucus on Class mailing list
(and to be included as a member of the Caucus on Class) please write in your
name, postal address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address in the
appropriate spaces below. I would appreciate it if you would fill out the
rest of the requested information, and, as possible, answer, however briefly,
the questions at the end. However, if you do not wish to fill in this
additional information, or answer these questions, you may still sign up to
be included on our mailing list and to be included as a member of the Caucus
INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION/ACADEMIC STATUS:
PARTICULAR INTERESTS IN CINEMA AND MEDIA STUDIES:
IDEAS FOR FUTURE CAUCUS ON CLASS-SPONSORED PANELS AND WORKSHOPS:
IDEAS FOR FUTURE CAUCUS ON CLASS-SPONSORED FILM SCREENINGS:
IDEAS FOR OTHER CAUCUS ON CLASS PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES:
EXTENT OF OWN ABILITY AND WILLINGNESS TO BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN CAUCUS ON
CLASS WORK OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT TWO YEARS:
____I DO WISH THE INFORMATION AND THE RESPONSES I HAVE PROVIDED ON THIS
QUESTIONNAIRE TO BE SHARED WITH OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CAUCUS ON CLASS.
____I DO NOT WISH THE INFORMATION AND THE RESPONSES I HAVE PROVIDED ON THIS
QUESTIONNAIRE TO BE SHARED WITH OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CAUCUS ON CLASS.
To sign off SCREEN-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF SCREEN-L
in the message. Problems? Contact [log in to unmask]