Weihong Bao, University of Berkeley
Jérôme Bourdon, University of Tel Aviv
Haidee Wasson, Concordia University
The summer seminar aims to rethink media history from the margins and to place at the center of our attention neglected, alternative, or censured media texts, uses, and technologies. By shifting the discussion from hegemonic actors, dominant institutions, and successful mass media to the fringes of media history, it pursues the double objective of rewriting media history into media histories, and of opening a space to rethink historiographical practices and methods. The writing of marginal histories is inseparable from a reflection on the modes of operation and politics of historical writing: bringing together established and emerging scholars, the seminar investigates what has been left over by hegemonic mass media and hegemonic historical narratives.
Traditionally, media history has been conceived as a ‘grand narrative’ of singular media and national institutions: the ‘birth’ of cinema at the end of the 19th century and its subsequent ‘coming of age’ with the conversion to talkies; the history of public broadcasters in European countries; the dominance of post-war TV; and more recently the hegemony of digital media. Given the importance of media for the construction and consolidation of national mediascapes, media history has furthermore received mostly attention from a national angle, notwithstanding the importance of transnational communication in a globalized world.
More recent historiography has challenged these narratives by highlighting the importance of transnational circulations and intermedial relations. Instead of studying singular media within national boarders, it focuses on the “entanglement” of actors, practices, and technologies approached from the perspective of dynamic relationships and interdependences. Building upon this scholarship, the seminar favors a multilayered perspective emphasizing transient media experiences, material and conceptual hybridity, and marginal events. More particularly, it proposes to critically reflect upon centers and peripheries in media history: the expression ‘from the margins’ is borrowed from postcolonial history exploring the peripheries of world history in order to “de-center” Western histories, as well as to stimulate a debate on history as a discipline. Here, rather than retelling the past, history functions as an act of resistance countering dominant narratives.
The seminar is structured in three sections expanding on three days, to which is added a oneday graduate symposium. Titled Marginal Spaces, Marginal Objects, Marginal Times, the thematic axes pay particular attention to geographical and spatial, material and technological, and historiographical aspects of marginal media histories.
Situated on the top of a hill overlooking the lake of Lugano, the location at Monte Verità is unique and offers a setting favorable for exchange and discussion (http://www.monteverita.org/en/24/conference-centre-monte-verita.aspx). We aim to take full advantage of this place to create a space for collaboration and dialogue. Rather than being conceived as a conference of one-way presentations, we consider the event as a collective exploration of the fringes of our field.
19-24 August 2018
Monte Verità, Switzerland