EVENT Sep 04
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Virtual Conference | Darkness in the American Imagination

Organization: PopMeC Association for US Popular Culture Studies
Categories: American, Interdisciplinary, Genre & Form, Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Adventure & Travel Writing, Children's Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels, Drama, Narratology, Poetry, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy
Event Date: 2023-09-04 to 2023-09-08 Abstract Due: 2023-06-11

"Hello Darkness, My Old Friend"

Darkness in the American Imagination | virtual conference 4–8 September 2023


Darkness has always been defined in binary opposition to light. As Toni Morrison puts it in Playing in the Dark (1992): “Whiteness, alone, is mute, meaningless, unfathomable, pointless, frozen, veiled, curtained, dreaded, senseless, implacable.” While darkness and light are mutually constitutive, the threshold between the two is ambivalent; it is blurry and changing. In addition to its symbolic dimensions, the darkness-vs.-light binary can also be taken literally: the early settlers feared the dark while electricity effectively banished darkness from cities, for example. The dark may be rife with danger, a metaphorical space of erasure, and a tool of obfuscation, but at the same time, the dark may provide protection, a space for subversion, and a place of beauty.


In view of the multiple meanings of darkness in the American imagination, we invite papers on topics including—but not limited to:

  • darkness and the racial imagination
  • darkness and oppression/marginalization/erasure
  • the surveillance of darkness
  • dark bodies and/in light spaces
  • darkness in memory/dark roots: trauma, selective memory of the past, etc.
  • the aesthetics of darkness in (audio)visual media (e.g. the use of shadows)
  • the role of literal darkness in everyday life, in the history of urban development, etc.
  • the cartographic imagination and darkness
  • darkness and the historical imagination (e.g. the “dark age”)
  • darkness in political discourse (e.g. notions of America “descending into darkness,” the Intellectual Dark Web)
  • darkness in performances
  • power outages and sports
  • the aesthetics of dark skies
  • imagining the dark web
  • darkness and outer space, the deep sea, the forest, the underworld, etc.
  • darkness in Indigenous cultures
  • artificial darkness
  • the role of blank screens
  • (color)blindness in literal and metaphorical senses
  • the dark and darkness in subcultures (gothic, metal, witchcraft, etc.)
  • darkness, existential dread, and making fun of it
  • darkness and the monstrous (ghosts, otherworldly creatures, etc.)

Deadline for submission: JUNE 11, 2023 (notification of acceptance by the end of June)


We accept abstract proposals for individual presentations (≈ 300 words) or full panels (3-4 presenters, ≈ 250-word description of panel plus abstracts of all papers). Please, email your proposal to popmec.darkness@gmail.com as a single attachment (.doc, .docx, .odt) including name, affiliation (if any), and contact email.

The conference will take place virtually, tentatively on 4-8 September 2023. Since we expect that presenters from all across the globe will participate in the conference, real-time presentations will take place indicatively between 4PM and 9PM Central European Summer Time. The organizers may decide to pursue a publication project based on the conference.


Registration fees: Student/unwaged 10€ -- Full 25€

Organizing committee: Laura Álvarez Trigo, Paula Barba Guerrero, Michael Fuchs, Anna Marta Marini, Alejandro Rivero Vadillo

Assistant organizer: Dina Pedro

If you have any doubt or inquiry, feel welcome to drop a line at popmec.darkness@gmail.com. 



Anna Marta Marini / Dina Pedro