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CFP: The Enemy in Contemporary Film

Military conflicts unite a national community in opposition to an external enemy, whereas socio-political, ethnic and racial conflicts divide a nation into “us” and an internal enemy. Cultural memory, in Jan Assman’s definition, “has its fixed point; its horizon does not change with the passing of time. These fixed points are fateful events of the past, the memory of which is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance).” One may detect in contemporary international cinema a surge of ‘returns’ to the defining moments of national history.

Adherence to a dominant national interpretation of the past may result in a ‘resurrection’ of past antagonisms, problematic in strikingly different geopolitical and socio-political state of affairs. Concomitantly, a counter-tendency may be observed, with contemporary filmmakers offering a radical re-interpretation of national history, and thus also offering a different perspective on the enemy, attempting to construct a historical consciousness which “focuses on the historicity of events – that they took place then and not now, that they grew out of circumstances different from those that now obtain” (Peter Novick).

We seek papers that will discuss the enemy as represented in contemporary global cinemas as a multifaceted ideological conception in a number of film genres that deal with history and/or politics, either posing the risk of linking film to specific nationalistic agendas, or, alternatively, promoting a trans-national or even a trans-continental global empathetic historical awareness and understanding.

The enemy as a political as much as a philosophical category also provokes questions about the ways in which the historical concerns manifesting themselves in different parts of the world are related to the Western standards of liberal democracy. Films produced by different national cinematographies reveal symptomatic tensions between the requirements of political correctness and historically-determined conventions in the representation of past and present conflicts, and of the enemy in particular. Being a densely contextualized narrative construct, the concept of the enemy triggers a dialogue between the former and the current horizons of historical perception. At the same time, in the era of a global film market, depictions of the enemy in film have the power to necessitate trans-national discussions of burdensome shared or diverse pasts with a view to creating shared futures.

We expect the readings to address the dominant trends in a given nation’s memorialization politics in reference to the current sociopolitical and geopolitical situation. An exemplary article can be a survey of the changing images of the enemy in a national cinematography over a span of time, an analysis of films produced in a particular period that continue to have an impact on the representations of the enemy within a national culture, a discussion of a particular film that is either representative of a nation’s current historical politics or a significant attempt at its redefinition, or, finally, an analysis of recent films in connection to past productions.

We seek contributions on the (re)configurations of the enemy in contemporary global cinemas that explore the major conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including, apart from the two world wars, regional military conflicts, civil wars, revolutions, ethnic and racial conflicts, socio-political conflicts (also within totalitarian regimes), genocide and gendercide, as well as both external and internal forms of terrorism.

Please submit an abstract (up to 200 words) and a short biographical note to Marzena Sokolowska-Paryz (m.a.sokolowska-paryz@uw.edu.pl) and Martin Löschnigg (martin.loeschnigg@uni-graz.at) by  January 31, 2016.

The deadline for accepted articles is September 30, 2016. The articles should use MLA citation style, with the approximate length being 6000 words.

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