CFP: Realizing Resistance – Star Wars, Episodes VII, VIII & IX

Digital Frontiers and the University of North Texas' Department of Philosophy and Religion
University of North Texas, Denton
May 2 - 4, 2019
Stichtag: 01.12.2018

Although Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope may have started out on shaky ground, its cinematic release in 1977 forever changed the landscape of American pop culture. As Douglas Brode has argued, “Star Wars, simply put, had turned out to be not merely the latest momentary blip on the entertainment screen but an essential element of how we define ourselves through the movies and related media” (2012, 7). Far from simply reflecting a particular film genre, Star Wars has become a cultural phenomenon that has impacted pop culture for over four decades.

Throughout the original trilogy, the prequels, and most recently the sequels, the films have focused on the struggle between Imperial forces and rebellious fighters who seek to throw off the yoke of an authoritarian regime. In the opening crawl of Episode VII–The Force Awakens, we are told that the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, is fighting against the First Order so that peace and justice may be restored to the galaxy. This conference seeks to critically explore what it means to be “with the Resistance” by focusing on Episodes VII, VIII, and (to the extent possible) IX, as well as the various ways these films reflect, contribute to, or even fail to show “how we define ourselves through the movies and related media.” In other words, this conference aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines to examine the three most recent Star Wars films as cultural texts, with an explicit focus on themes of resistance and justice, and on how these films contribute to, reflect, or depart from broader contemporary cultural practices and social discourses.

We are interested in, for example, the paradox inherent in certain fan criticisms of Episode VII–The Last Jedi as “social justice propaganda,” in light of the enduring theme of resistance and justice throughout the film franchise. We seek to analyze what it means for Star Wars slogans to be used on posters at contemporary political rallies, in what ways, and by whom. We want to ask how Episodes VII, VIII & IX might be productively used in a classroom to teach students about various concepts of justice, or about histories of social resistance movements. We want to pose critical questions about cultural appropriation and Orientalism in the most recent films and throughout the franchise. We also want to explore what limitations there may be in attempting to theorize about and practice resistance to hegemonic power in relation to a film franchise owned by one of the most powerful and successful corporations in our contemporary capitalist economy.

Scholars may analyze any one of the three sequels, or some combination of them. While we are aware that Episode IX will not be released until December, we have included it here in order to give interested participants the opportunity to reflect on trailers, the marketing in the lead-up to the cinematic release, or even to include analysis of the film itself by the time of the conference. Further, because the most recent films are part of the larger franchise, we welcome (and would even expect) papers that put Episodes VII, VIII & IX in dialogue with any other Star Wars films. Finally, in addition to the films themselves, papers may engage with any media related to the sequels including comics, animated series, SW fiction, merchandise, advertising, or other types of social media.

And so, we invite all interested participants to join us in thinking about the themes of resistance to hegemony, justice, and the restoration of peace in Episodes VII, VIII & IX and how these films reflect, contribute to, or depart from wider social discourses and cultural phenomena. In analyzing “the Resistance,” in the films and beyond, paper proposals, in the form of 250-word abstracts, may address—but are not limited to—any of the following topics:

  • Generational differences or continuities
  • Sexualities
  • Models of friendship
  • Human relationships with technology
  • The role of the Environment/non-human animals/creatures
  • The role of women
  • The role of people of color
  • The role of children/young people
  • Ambiguity around “good guys” and “bad guys” in social conflicts
  • Family/found family/lineage/heritage
  • Class hierarchies
  • Cultural appropriation and Orientalism
  • Heroism through necessity
  • Digital Scholarship and New Media Studies interventions
  • The significance of names/naming
  • The use of humor
  • Clothing/fashion/color motifs
  • Religion/belief/ritual
  • Icons/symbols
  • Hope
  • Languages
  • Teaching

As aca-fans it is our hope that this conference is both a celebration of the films, and the broader culture engendered by the Star Wars franchise, as well as an opportunity to engage in constructively critical analysis. We welcome scholars from any discipline, employing any methodology, however in the spirit of the conference theme, we request that all papers avoid racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious bigotry.

Accepted participants will be invited to present their 20-minute papers, or to exhibit their work, at a two-and-a-half-day interdisciplinary conference at the University of North Texas in Denton. To submit a paper proposal, please submit this form with the following information:

  • Name, institutional affiliation, email address of corresponding author and all co-authors (if applicable)
  • 250-word abstract
  • Short bio

Dares and Deadlines

  • Submission Deadline: November 15, 2018
  • Notifications: January 5, 2019
  • Conference Dates: May 2–4, 2019

If you have questions please contact Follow @RealizeResist on Twitter for Star Wars chat and conference updates.

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