CFP: The War Face on Screen symposium

Thursday 6th July 2023, University of Leeds

Deadline for CFP: Tuesday 2 May 2023

The central research question for this symposium is: how have images of the face been used on screen to document the phenomenon of war?

We welcome contributions from a range of screen media formats: films (fictional, non-fictional), animation, photography, televisual productions, on-demand media (Netflix commissioned programmes), or digital content uploaded to video hosting services and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok). The ‘facial turn’ in film studies (Steimatsky 2017; Maurice 2022) has not so far directly addressed the question of war, with war genre films often marginalised in classic studies of cinema. In studies of war, military and media, the ‘body’ of the soldier and the ‘corporeal turn’ has attracted multi-disciplinary research (Randell and Redmond 2012; McSorley 2015; Baker 2021), but how might the suffering, exhilaration and memory of war be examined more specifically through a representational focus on the face?

We intend to examine how the phenomenon of war has been mediated through images of the face in various cultural and national contexts. We are particularly keen to include papers that go beyond the confines of Europe, Hollywood and the Global North, exploring cultural production in regions such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

The symposium will also feature a keynote talk, delivered by Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Reader in Visual Culture, Birkbeck).

Potential topics could include:

  • The politics/psychology of the close-up,
  • Images of disfiguration (wounding and scarring),
  • Portraits, posing, performativity and performance,
  • Violence, aesthetics and visuality,
  • Face-to-face interviews,
  • Testimony and trauma,
  • Photographic tropes of war,
  • Social media witnessing,
  • AI, deepfakes, clones, facial recognition,
  • Identity politics (race, gender, and class),
  • The ‘facial turn’ in film studies,
  • Victimhood and perpetration,
  • The face and decoloniality.

Prospective presenters should submit a paper title and abstract of up to 300 words to by 2nd May, for a 20-minute paper. Submissions will be selected on the basis of originality and relevance to the symposium theme, and are open to people at any stage of career.

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 2nd May, 2023. Applicants will be notified by 22nd May, 2023. We have a limited number of UK-only travel bursaries for accepted participants to help with costs. Tentative schedule for symposium, 11am-4pm, lunch provided.

We are grateful to the School of Media and Communication Research Support Fund for supporting this symposium. Organisers: Dr Mani Sharpe (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies) and Dr Katy Parry (School of Media and Communication), University of Leeds.