Call for Draft Chapters
African Screen Worlds: An International Workshop
SOAS, University of London, UK
“A way of apprehending the world based on my experience, my education, my culture and my environment. Mantisme is a system of thought that we virtually assimilate to a language that is unique to each individual. A language that I permanently “negotiate” with the language of the “other” with whom I would share an experience, education, culture and a similar environment.”
(Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Africa for the Future: sortir un nouveau monde du cinema , cited and translated by P. Julie Papaioannou, “‘Qu’elle aille explorer le possible!’ Or African Cinema according to Jean-Pierre Bekolo, in Harrow and Garritano, eds, A Companion to African Cinema, Wiley Blackwell, 2018, p.405)
In September 2020, a three-day, fully-funded workshop will be held at SOAS, University of London as part of the ERC-funded project “African Screen Worlds: Decolonising Film and Screen Studies”. In the broadest sense, the workshop is designed to facilitate and inspire collaborative dialogue and work on creative African screen media texts and contexts among scholars working in this field in different parts of the world and – in particular – within Africa. To facilitate this, all transport, accommodation, visa, and meal costs will be fully covered for the selected participants, regardless of where they will be traveling from. In a more specific sense, the focus of the event will be collectively workshopping and developing pre-submitted chapters for publication in an edited volume titled African Screen Worlds. There will be several inspiring keynote presentations by leading African screen media scholars, practitioners and creative researchers.
All submissions will need to engage, in some way, with the concept of “screen worlds”, which we put forward as a heuristic device to encourage creative, provocative approaches and angles of analysis in relation to African screen media. Our reasons for suggesting this concept are twofold. First, we would like to put the emphasis on the importance of analysing screen cultures through the diverse “worldviews” of particular locations and individual artists, acknowledging that films are significantly influenced by the ways that filmmakers constantly negotiate their subjective experiences of the world with the contexts in which their films are conceptualised, made, circulated and viewed. Second, we wish to interrogate the possibilities and tensions that manifest themselves in the creation and circulation of diverse “screen worlds” in a variety of formats (feature fiction films, short films, creative documentaries, web series) in our era of digital flows as well as barriers, of mediated border-crossings as well as geo-blocking and censorship. For example, as mobile data becomes cheaper in Africa, the possibilities for streaming African-made content via phones could become transformative for people’s viewing experiences, and platforms such as iRoko, ShowMax, Sodere and Netflix are responding to these opportunities. And if African films are growing in popularity and accessibility, this perhaps means that even “arthouse” films might be able to break out of the international film festival circuit on which they have been dependent for so long, moving beyond the “world cinema” category to which they have often been consigned, for better or worse.
This workshop asks participants to consider these recent developments in African screen cultures and technology in relation to one or more of the following: specific “worldviews” (both on the African continent and in Africa’s diverse diasporas); contemporary, mainstream theorising around screen cultures and experiences (e.g. the work of Giuliana Bruno, William Uricchio, Haidee Wasson); the representational forms African films currently take and might take in the near future; and the ways in which African films are made, circulated and viewed. In each case we encourage authors to foreground something about their own identity, positionality and/or lived experience in relation to the subject matter (in line with Bekolo’s idea of “mantisme”). We wish to be clear that we hold no preconceived or fixed views on how the concept of “screen worlds” should be theorised; we suggest this concept as a prompt to see how different scholars of African screen media choose to theorise/translate/argue against/reject this concept in relation to particular cinematic texts and/or their contexts of production and consumption. We are particularly interested in chapters from Africa-based researchers grounded in local perspectives and experiences, and based on long-term research. We strongly encourage submissions from both established and early career researchers.
In addition to the issues raised above, chapters might address the following questions (although this list is by no means exhaustive):
- How do African filmmakers conceptualise screen content depending on whether they are targeting “big screen” or “small screen” cinema audiences?
- How are the melodramatic, lowproduction-value “screen worlds” that are common across commercial film industries in Africa changing under new industrial conditions of film production, distribution and exhibition?
- How do audiences in diverse African and diasporic contexts experience the diegetic “screen worlds” of different African films?
- What are the relationships between film and television in African and diasporic contexts, particularly in relation to Moradewun Adejunmobi’s groundbreaking theorisation of the “televisual turn” in African screen media (2015), and the general global turn to television?
- How are video on demand platforms such as ShowMax, Sodere, and Netflix, as well as phone apps such as iRoko, changing the forms, modes and routes of African screen media?
- Are chasms developing or closing between “popular” cinema and “film festival” cinema in Africa and elsewhere because of the different kinds of screens on which these forms of cinema tend to be watched?
- What does the popularity of certain film genres across and beyond Africa, as well as the emergence of popular local film genres in specific African contexts, tell us about the local/global nature of “screen worlds”?
- What kind of new genres of filmmaking, and convergence of artistic forms beyond cinema, are evident in recent creative African screen media texts, both in the continent and beyond?
- Does “world cinema” remain an important category of analysis when it comes to contemporary African screen media and why/why not?
Submissions need to include:
- a draft chapter of between 6,000 – 8,000 words (word count includes footnotes but excludes bibliography)
- a chapter abstract of 300 words
- a biography of 300 words
Please use the Harvard style referencing system and UK rather than US spelling. If you quote something in an African language (which is encouraged), please make sure that you also provide an English translation.
Please note that the workshop will take place either directly before or after the 2020 African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) conference at Cardiff University, Wales, to make it easier for participants to potentially attend both events. We strongly encourage our participants to also submit abstract/panel proposals to this conference when the Call for Papers is published. Please note, however, that we cannot cover participants’ costs for attending ASAUK.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 819236).
Dr Lindiwe Dovey and Dr Michael W. Thomas
SOAS, University of London