CFP: Black Film Feminism Special Issue of Film Criticism

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Special Issue:

Rescue Missions: Black Film Feminism

Editors: Courtney R. Baker, Elizabeth Reich, Ellen Scott, Rebecca Wanzo


This special issue of Film Criticism (expected publication in 2021) situates the seemingly recent turn to non-indexicality in Black film studies within a longer history of Black film criticism. In particular, while acknowledging that a particular kind of non-indexicality is fundamental to Black imagery whenever it enters the field of white hegemonic representation, this issue is addressed to correcting the omissions and ahistoricism that have tended to leave out important voices—largely those of women—that have continually called for and modelled a radical praxis of “empowering the eye and reading the signs” as filmmaker, author, activist, and queer Black feminist intellectual Toni Cade Bambara described it in 1993. This volume will deliberately acknowledge the legacy of Black women’s film scholarship in questioning and constituting the terms of Black and African American critical engagement with film. The audience research of Jacqueline Bobo, the urgent assessment of the popular conducted by Wahneema Lubiano, the fierce advocacy and programming work of the late Jacquie Jones, the engagement with representational politics of Valerie Smith, and the work of many others including bell hooks and Bambara have unalterably shaped the project of Black film analysis. This issue aims to both return to these figures’ insights and to cultivate new models of investigation in the spirit of collectivity and collaboration that these scholars demonstrated.


We intend to include articles that are mindful of the politics of citation and are willing to interrogate the contraction of Black Film Studies’ scholarly canon. This approach is not simply an experiment; it is envisioned as a form of redress to correct mistaken and misguided fantasies about the film industry and popular culture that have circulated in the wake of the previous Black film studies high water mark of the 1990s when scholarship was necessarily addressed to independent and (if not versus) mainstream, Hollywood fare. This volume addresses the early twentieth century media landscape that has, through cable programming, “prestige television,” and streaming outlets, created new viewing experiences and context for both new and older cinematic productions.


It is intended that this volume will serve as an archive of sorts, revisiting and reviving for students and current practitioners’ critical practices and analytic discoveries that inform and, in some cases, outstrip the current critical genealogies of Black film studies. The editors will seek through targeted solicitations and open calls essays on the following topics and more:


·      The pressures of critical citation in scholarly production and circulation

·      The contributions and omissions of Black feminist and women-centered analytic traditions

·      Tracing a critical genealogy of images and scholarship to provide a history of the present

·      Affirming the language of Black feminist media studies and historicizing this work

·      Tracking non-indexicality in prior, Black women-centered film scholarship


Please send proposal abstracts of 250 words along with all authors’ names, academic affiliations, and e-mail addresses,and an author biography of no more than 70 words to by January 15, 2020. Inquiries should be sent to the same address.


Upon acceptance, manuscripts will be due August 1, 2020 and should be between 5,000 and 7,000 words (including endnotes and references); they should be double-spaced and submitted in electronic form as a Word (.doc or .docx) file to Submissions should adhere to the notes and bibliography format outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. All bibliographic information should be in endnotes, and submissions should not include an additional bibliography. Submissions should also include a revised abstract of 150 words or fewer.