First Forum 2017: CONTAGION




FIRST FORUM invites submissions that explore the multiple valences of the term ‘contagion’ in relation to the movements of cinema and media. Embedded in medicalized discourses of the body, the word has often been negatively associated with the spread of disease and illness. Even as theories of globalization imagine the uninterrupted flow of information and commodities, the fear of contagion calls for the containment of populations and territories. The Ebola virus, the terrorist, the computer bug, and the zombie alike threaten to breach the boundaries of the body and the nation. Derived from the Latin con (together with) and tangere (to touch), the word ‘contagion’ also implies a proximity of sentiments and sensations. While it may be connected to the risk of contamination and danger, the term might also open up a zone of empathetic contact. Taking its etymological potential as a starting point, this conference invites papers that consider the broad implications of the term. Can ‘contagion’ be a productive model for thinking about the movement and organization of ideas, cultures, and peoples? How can contagious border crossings queer seemingly stable categories of identity, revealing the artificial and arbitrary nature of their construction? What impact do existing representations of contagion—whether of affect, disease, or environmental agents—have on our cultural imaginaries? Can cinema be considered a contagious medium that invites bodily and sensory engagement rather than relying on the distant gaze? How are the material dimensions of this contagious transmission reconfigured through the networks of digital circulation?

In addition to panel presentations, we will have alumni respondents, a faculty roundtable, and a keynote address from Dr. Bliss Cua Lim.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 200 words for a 20-minute panel presentation and a short bio. Non- traditional, creative projects are welcome, as are individual papers or pre-constituted panels.

Please email your submissions and inquiries to by June 30, 2017

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Swarms, insect, and viral media
  • Touch, haptics and phenomenologies of film
  • Zombies, vampires and body horror
  • Discourses of racial purity and miscegenation
  • Queering contagion
  • Immigrants, refugees, and diasporas in film and media
  • Biopower, technology, and national security
  • Environmental contamination, pollution, and ecocide
  • HIV/AIDS and other epidemic media
  • Medical media (radiography, stethoscopy, and medical imaging)
  • Educational and pedagogical films on contagion