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Borders and Frontiers in Philosophy and Film | Call for Abstracts

The third annual symposium of the International Society for Philosophy in Film (ISPiF) will take place on August 29th-31st, 2024 in London.

The ISPiF promotes philosophical engagement with film by conceiving film as a form or expression of thought. Rather than a mere source of entertainment or collection of objects for aesthetic scrutiny, film expresses ideas and arguments worth engaging. From the perspective of ISPiF, to engage films philosophically means to think through, along with, and/or against films, to make sense of them, to learn from them, and to further expand the practice, study, and teaching of philosophy into new regions through thoughtful engagement with film.

Theme: Frontiers and Borders in Philosophy and Film.
Abstract Deadline: May 1, 2024

Look at it. It was once a wilderness. Now it’s a garden. Aren’t you proud?” – Hallie (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)

Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.” -Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

Horace Greeley is often credited with the phrase, “Go West, young man. Go West and grow up with the country.” It is a phrase that has echoed throughout Hollywood cinema for more than a century – an industry that not only has grown up with the country, but has played an outsized role in what this nation has become. The meaning of ‘America’ resonates within an imaginary space in no small part formulated by Hollywood and its ever-evolving vision of the frontier. As America grew up, its youthful (if not naive) faith in endless expansion and growth came to confront the limits, burdens, and violence inherent to such a project – and Hollywood was there to reflect and refract these struggles, refurbishing the American mythos in the process. Today, it seems impossible to imagine a frontier without at the same time considering the hidden boundaries that contain and betray this space, providing the contours of a distinctively American project. And though Hollywood never lost its youthful optimism, it is at the margins where frontier and borders meet where cinema, American and otherwise, has most pushed, contested, unsettled and most importantly, broadened our sense of what is possible.

In Hollywood and beyond, cinema has also and immeasurably shaped ideals surrounding personal identity. From its inception cinema has shown us who we are meant to be, and how we are meant to look and work and live and love and die. At the same time, it has struggled to contend with or sought to evade those transgressive and border identities that do not fit the ideals depicted on the silver screen (or captured in the bigoted subtext of studio morality clauses). Through this tension between the cinematic ideal and complex reality, filmmaking has both resisted and enabled– sometimes through its very resistance– the construction of ‘other,’ ‘border’, and ‘queer’ identities.

As we fall into the strange new world of the twenty-first century, cinema can help us to navigate the shifting, even dissolving geographical and metaphysical borders that shape our identities. As the climate crisis creates new conflicts while exacerbating existing ones, humanity bleeds across geographical borders. Our communities and nations are rapidly changing, in ways that ‘threaten’ well-established national identities while renewing the promise of a robust shared sense of membership within the human ethical community. What can film teach us about existence in these new borderlands or this emerging shared world? What new, more open notions of identity should film conjure for us as we learn to reshape our own in response to a rapidly changing world?

ISPiF invites abstracts that address these (and other) questions concerning borders and frontiers in the philosophy of film:

— “Border” Identities: To be and not to be; ambiguous personal identities; ambiguous belonging; the border of life and death; non-binary beings and modes of existence
— Liminal Spaces: Borderlands; spaces between; existence on the margins; indefinite, emerging and dissolving borders — The Human and the Other-than-Human: Human/animal relations; human/AI relations; defining/upsetting the limits of the human
— Inside-Out: Breaking down the walls that separate us; incarceration
— Transgression of boundaries: Rebellion; revolution; escape from confinement; resistance Immigration and Migration: — Challenges to citizenship; journeys to new lands; hope, despair and the promised land; visions of the homeland
— The Frontier Myth: The Western, American expansionism, the ‘final frontier’ and science fiction; shifting landscapes of the frontier; the gunslinger and individualism
— New Frontiers: New developments in technology; the emergence of artificial intelligence; imagining new futures and landscapes; space exploration
— Colonization and Colonialism: Portraits of Indigeneity; settler myths; constructions of otherness; American founding myths
— Closing of the Frontier: The ‘anti-Western’ Western; the inescapable city; unimaginable futures; apocalyptic nightmares
— Geographical Borders: The War film and national identity; gangster films and portraits of immigration; cosmopolitanism
— Violence and Borders: Tribalism; Patriotism; xenophobia;
— Temporal Boundaries: Relations between past, present and future; experiences of temporality

Submission Guidelines and Instructions:

Extended abstracts should be 500-750 words, with standard font and margins.

Deadline: The deadline for receipt of abstracts is May 1, 2024. Any submission received after midnight Pacific time on this date will not be considered. Notification of acceptance will be provided in mid-May.

If accepted, final papers, no longer than 15 pages, double-spaced, must be provided by July 15th in order to be distributed to all participants in advance of the symposium. This is crucial to the format and success of the symposium, where authors will be provided only 10-12 minutes to summarize, emphasize, or further develop the contents of the full essay. This condensed presentation time, combined with all participants reading each accepted paper and viewing relevant films in advance, is intended to allow substantial time for questions and discussion following each presentation.

Please send all submissions as either a Word or PDF attachment to: ispifconference@gmail.com

ISPiF Executive Board:

Steven Brence – Department of Philosophy, University of Oregon Caroline Lundquist – Clark Honors College, University of Oregon Alain Beauclair – Department of Humanities, MacEwan University Chris McTavish – Centre for Humanities, Athabasca University Joe Saunders – Department of Philosophy, Durham University

Sponsored by the University of Oregon, the Oregon Humanities Center; MacEwan University Office of Research Services; MacEwan University Department of Humanities