EVENT May 17
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Call for Chapters (Edited Volume) - Horror Capital: Class, Material, and Production Analyses of Horror Entertainment

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Categories: Popular Culture, Aesthetics, Cultural Studies, Film, TV, & Media, History, Philosophy, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2024-05-17 Abstract Due: 2024-05-17

The cinematic horror genre depends on a system of oppression, domination, and subordination. Although horror is deeply embedded within the politics of representation and social subjugation, we recognize an explicit lack within its scholarship (across disciplines) regarding class and historical materialism. This collected volume, which has emerged after years of collaboration and collective conversations, wishes to remedy this absence: we call for a comprehensive examination of horror as it intersects socio-economic class issues, brutal capitalism, cultural systems of excess, and rugged individualism.

Our call is three-fold. We welcome contributions focusing on (1) class representations within the diegesis; (2) interpretations and theories informed by (Neo-)Marxist critique; and/or (3) materialist and sociological analyses of media production. See a more thorough description of these three categories below (and note that the three categories are not mutually exclusive).

  1. We look forward to receiving submissions that engage the politics of representation concerning class and class dynamics within fictional media constructs. Contributors are invited to interpret cases of horror media in an effort to develop a general “class consciousness” of the genre, its production, and consumption. Questions to consider: Can we create a cinematic horror genealogy of working-class characters (together with their aborted aspirations, struggles, and desires)? As workers appear in the genre, what values are conveyed through their filmic representations?

  2. We invite contributions that develop the “horror” category as a productive heuristic when reflecting upon the social and existential dread produced by global capitalism and its history. Echoing scholars such as Mark Steven, Christopher Sharrett, and Mark Fisher, we ask: How is contemporary horror media responding, absorbing, or resisting the power dynamics of capitalism? Are the universes proposed by the horror genre complicating the tools of the capitalist state, or are they reinforcing them through the interpellation of fear? Do identity politics provide a valuable framework for Marxist horror criticism, or do they inevitably block a rigorous understanding of class?

  3. We call upon scholars to investigate the cultural capital assigned to issues of gender and sexuality, deformity and bodily defacement, and specific geographic regions as they translate to instant production value in horror. Horror films notoriously entail low production costs and, as such, yield immense profits through box office success and streaming purchases. What kinds of “capital” are frequently used to increase the production value of horror media? Could one trace a genealogy of exploitation with regards to female nudity and expressions of terror, the young or elderly, various categories of disability or body horror, topophobia, and fears of the rural/urban/suburban partition?

In light of the above theoretical/analytical trajectories, the areas and media to be explored include (but are not limited to):

  • Social stratification, class discrimination, and capitalist exploitations of labor in horror media – both diegetic (e.g., characters, narratives) and non-diegetic (e.g., involved with the production of media);
  • Discursive dynamics related to satirical representations of economic classes and post-apocalyptic class structures;
  • Horrors of neoliberalism: fear of unstable social bonds and lack of comradery;
  • Horror complicating and challenging the institution of the nuclear, upper-middle-class family;
  • “Serving” the ruling class (caretaking and other labors of servitude): domestic personnel and their status within the system;
  • Primitive accumulation, wealth, and the depiction of dominant values in the genre;
  • Horror media as a persuasive ideological state apparatus and/or a potential site of class struggle;
  • Materialist analyses of the genre and its spectatorship;
  • Elitism in aesthetics (e.g., the politics of “exploitation cinema” and “elevated horror”);
  • The evolving reception of horror media (e.g., slasher films versus true crime docuseries);
  • The extraction of surplus value: capitalism as a vampiric/cannibalizing/parasitic entity;
  • Commercialism, sinister corporations, and their products;
  • Surplus and the obscene;
  • Surplus as waste: environmental and rural/urban decay;
  • The life (and afterlife) of objects under capitalism: production, distribution, possessions;
  • The articulation of otherness in ableist, white heteropatriarchy;
  • Systems of excess in style (unsettling visions of the unwanted and grotesque) and production (cheap, graphic content);
  • Topophobia: human and non-human terrors (along with ominously sentient geographic regions) set within the rural/urban/suburban partition, as well as with criticisms of this partition;
  • Architectonic crystallizations of capital: houses, hotels, cities, and their haunted histories;
  • Rural cults, backwoods berserkers, city criminals, gentrifying invaders, suburban serial killers, and the like;
  • Horror, class, and the politics of gun (super-)ownership.

This edited volume approaches horror as a broad historical legacy (with regimes of formal conventions), exploitative in function, and/or substantive in feeling or experience. Therefore, we welcome the analysis of adjacent categories, such as thrillers and horror comedies. We would happily include case studies of full-length theatrical features; segments from anthology films; television and streaming series; independent, low-budget, and/or made-for-TV movies; and live-action or animated children’s programming. This diverse collection seeks to demonstrate the process by which horror functions as a prominent cultural imagination that saturates the entertainment market.

Please note that this volume prioritizes class and class dynamics in the horror genre. Horror media, of course, exploits a range of vulnerable social positions, including those of sexual orientation, foreignness, race, and indigeneity; however, we wish to maintain a clear analytic focus on class, material production, media consumption, and the like.

Submission Instructions:

Scholars interested in proposing a chapter should send a 500-word abstract and a short biographical note (including the author’s academic affiliation, if any) no later than May 17, 2024, to horrorcapitalvolume@gmail.com.

If an abstract is accepted, essays can be expected to be between 6000 and 8000 words in length (including references).

Manuscripts should not have been previously published and must not be submitted simultaneously for publication in another edited volume collection or medium.

  • May 17, 2024: abstract submission
  • June 30, 2024: notification of acceptance/rejection
  • December 13, 2024: essay submission
  • Fall 2025: expected publication

For any questions, contact William Chavez and Valeria Dani at horrorcapitalvolume@gmail.com.

Further Reading:

For scholarship on the intersection between horror and class, see the Horror Capital Survival Guide: A Reading List for Comprehensive & Qualifying Examinations.




William Chavez (Stetson University) and Valeria Dani (Cornell University)