Cinema and Popular Culture Across Borders

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Cinema and Popular Culture Across Borders

A virtual workshop marking the retirement of Charles Ambler from the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso

March 19-20, 2021 on Zoom.

The workshop is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For further information and registration:

Deliberately positioned on the periphery, this workshop explores the international dimensions of the history of cinema borders and borderlands (and associated popular culture phenomena) constituted in terms of culture, class, gender, sexuality and race during the period at the middle of the 20th century when cinema reached its peak globally. Scholars of popular culture have often drawn sharp boundaries between imported commercial products such as film and local or “authentic” expressions of the popular arts. In practice people experienced movies within rich and diverse popular culture worlds in which local forms continually engaged with the global.

Keynote: Laura Isabel Serna, Cinema from the Global to the Local: Thinking about Scale.” Dr. Serna is Associate Professor of History and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California. A cultural historian her research has focused on the transnational circulation of culture between the United States and Mexico.  She is the author of Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014). 


Charles Ambler earned his PhD in African history at Yale University.  He joined the UTEP Department of History in 1984. He was chair of the department from 1989-1993 and Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, 1996-2005 and 2014-2019. In 2010 he was the President of the African Studies Association.  He is the author of “Popular Films and Colonial Audiences:  The Movies in Northern Rhodesia,” that appeared in The American Historical Review and other articles, chapters and papers on cinema and popular culture.  In addition he has authored or co-edited four books and numerous articles and reviews on topics related to modern African history.

Cinema and Popular Culture Across Borders: Program

Friday March 19, 2021: 12 noon to 3 pm Eastern Time

Session 1 (12:00-12:55 pm): Keynote

Laura Isabel Serna, University of Southern California, Cinema from the Global to the Local: Thinking about Scale”


Session 2 (1:00-1:45 pm): Film Distribution and Exhibition: The Borderlands and the          World

Melissa Hutson, PhD Student, UTEP, ​“Viva La Diversion: Spanish-language Theaters in the        Borderland”

James Burns, Clemson University, "From London to Brownsville: A Texas Family’s Remarkable            Role in the Global Spread of the Early Cinema”

Comment and Discussion: José Carlos Lozano, Texas A&M University International          


Break: 1:45-2:00

Session 3 (2:00-3:00 pm): The Politics of Cinema-Going

Megan Feeney, Independent Scholar, “The Hollywood "Giro" in Havana: Between           Americanization and Cubanidad

Charles Ambler, History Dept., UTEP, “Celluloid Freedom: Hollywood in the Era of

Decolonization in West Africa”

Comment and Discussion: Laura Fair, Columbia University


Saturday March 20, 2021: 12 noon to 2:30 pm Eastern Time

Session 4 (12:00-12:35): Film Actors Cross Borders

Ernesto Chávez, History Dept., UTEP, “Ramón Novarro en México: Mexico’s Golden Age and

the Limits of Transnational Stardom”

Comment and Discussion: Colin Gunckel, University of Michigan


Break: 12:35-1245

Session 5 (12:45-1:30): The Meanings of Movies Across Borders

Shruti Narayanswamy, St. Andrews University, Scotland, “We can succeed where America has

failed': Cinema and Prohibition Propaganda in Late Colonial Bombay”

Laura Fair, Columbia University, “Disco and Desire in the Socialist Heartlands: India’s Disco

Dancer (1982) in the Soviet Union and Tanzania”

Comment: Katie Bird, Department of Communication, UTEP


Session 6 (1:30-2:30): Closing Roundtable Discussion: Cinema and Popular Culture Across             Borders

Kenda Mutongi, MIT

Luise White, University of Florida

Lina Murillo, University of Iowa

Laura Isabel Serna, University of Southern California

Daniel Biltereyst, Ghent University, Belgium


UTEP has experienced network difficulties and you may not be able to access the webpage and registration. Please contact me if you have questions or regarding registration. Chuck Ambler