EVENT Sep 04
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UPDATED CFP Darkness in the American Imagination (virtual conference)

Organization: PopMeC Association for US Popular Culture Studies
Categories: Digital Humanities, American, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, Genre & Form, Popular Culture, Literary Theory, 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

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

KEYNOTES: Noam M. Elcott (Columbia University), Kyle T. Mays (University of California, Los Angeles)

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 and Dina Pedro