Call for papers


Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago

Keynote speaker: Alison Griffiths, PhD


It is with great pleasure that we announce “Site/Seeing,” the 16th Annual Graduate Student Conference in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. 


The cinematic has never been confined to “the cinema”: throughout film history, spectatorship has taken place across a multitude of sites. From home movies projected on living room walls, to vaudeville recordings shown in prisons, to all-Black westerns that played in segregated theaters — cinema has always been a vexed site, the experience of which has been predicated on the subjectivities of spectators and the nature of the spaces they inhabit. Identity, accessibility, and proximity to power all collide to inform how we see a thing. Where we see it adds a new depth. 


This conference celebrates the increasing scholarship that seeks to create a more kaleidoscopic view of where cinema can be found and who its spectators are. Nowhere is this more true than in the shifting configurations we see today, including streaming services, mobile viewing, alternative approaches to exhibition, and much more. “Site/Seeing” puts the diverse histories of cinematic spectatorship in conversation with the present and possible futures.


In keeping with the theme of the conference, our keynote speaker is Dr. Alison Griffiths (PhD, NYU; MA, University of London), CUNY Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies at Baruch College and an internationally recognized scholar of film, media, and visual studies. Her research crosses the fields of film studies, nineteenth century visual culture, and medieval visual studies, and examines cinema’s relationship to and experience in non-traditional spaces of media consumption. Griffiths is the author of three monographs and over 35 journal articles and book chapters. Her most recent book, Carceral Fantasies: Cinema and Prisons in Early Twentieth Century America (Columbia, 2016), examines how cinema gained a foothold in American penitentiaries as well as the range of early images of inmates that fed the carceral imagination.

Potential paper topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Home movie viewership

  • Architectural spaces as sites of exhibition

  • Political economies of spectatorship

  • Mobile viewing (e.g., smartphones, in-flight entertainment)

  • Augmented reality environments

  • Window shopping and digital flânerie

  • Geolocative technologies

  • Institutional contexts of film exhibition (e.g., army bases, schools, prisons, hospitals)

  • Disabled viewership and questions of accessibility 

  • Streaming platforms and their effects


We welcome papers from academicians and media practitioners across disciplines interested in interrogating issues related to the topics listed above. We highly encourage creative, experimental and alternative modes of presentation that can embody the spirit of the conference CFP in audio-visual / performative forms.


Please submit an abstract (250-300 words) along with a short bio to the organizing committee co-chairs Jenisha Borah, Maggie Sivit, and Ashley Truehart via this link by February 20, 2020. Participants will be notified by mid-March. Please contact if you have any trouble accessing the submission form.