NECSUS, Spring 2022

Deadline: April 30, 2021

Guest edited by Nicholas Baer (University of Groningen) and Maggie Hennefeld (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)

Did you hear? Rumor has it that the Spring 2022 issue of NECSUS will be devoted to the topic of gossip as a prolific yet contested form of media discourse. Spread the word!

As Mladen Dolar has recently argued, rumors are undignified in the history of philosophy, falling under the ancient Greek category of doxa (belief, opinion) rather than episteme (knowledge, logos). Concerning people who are absent or at a remove, rumors are often authorless and unfounded, and yet they can gain enormous traction, authority, and staying power. In this regard, they play a significant and highly complex role in what Erving Goffman called ‘impression management’ as part of the dramaturgy of everyday social interaction.

This special section invites consideration of the non-traditional sources of knowledge that have gained increasing currency in film and media studies, challenging the empirical standards of evidence that informed the discipline’s ‘historical turn’. We encourage topics and modes of engagement that might be deemed speculative, unsubstantiated, or otherwise unscientific, confronting elisions and erasures in the archive. Of particular interest is work in Black, feminist, queer, and trans media studies as well as scholarship on celebrity, fandom, and counterpublics.

The topic of rumors and gossip is also lent vital urgency by the #MeToo movement. Existing outside of official accounts and professional historiography, whisper networks have served as key sites for communicating stories of rape and abuse, even as their truth-claims pose a crisis of documentation and verifiability. Here we are interested in the ambivalence and political promiscuity of gossip in relation to the Foucauldian power/knowledge complex: while rumors serve as a crucial resource for the vulnerable, they can also be a means of baseless, malevolent slander, leaving power structures in place and contributing to an often-exploitative, profit-driven culture of scandal and outrage.

Finally, this special section will examine rumors and gossip as linguistic utterances and modes of address that are transmitted and often amplified through historically variable media forms. Gossip has repeatedly been ignored or dismissed by linguists and philosophers, reduced to what Martin Heidegger deemed Gerede (idle talk). Yet various thinkers have argued that it serves an essential function in social interaction, involving group membership, moral judgment, and relations of trust and confidentiality. Building on existing scholarship, this section hopes to reassess rumors and gossip in relation to current issues in film and media studies, including digital networks, the viral spread of (mis)information, and renegotiations of the distinction between publicity and privacy.

Contributions may focus on but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Conceptual clarifications: What are the relations and differences between terms such as rumors, gossip, hearsay, slander, calumny, and scandal?
  • Historiographical challenges: How does one research and write the history of film and media in the face of informal networks, material gaps, irreducible ambiguities, and unverified or unauthorised information?
  • Theories and methods: Which theoretical and methodological approaches are especially generative for the epistemology of rumors and gossip?
  • Stardom and reception studies: What role does the rumor mill play in celebrity and fan communities as well as in the formation of alternative histories, identities, and public spheres?
  • MeToo: How do rumors and gossip serve as sites for sharing stories of sexual violence and abuse, and what are their potentialities, limitations, and dangers as means of resistance to hegemonic narratives and institutional power structures?
  • Media figurations: How have film and other media visualised, thematised, and participated in the production and circulation of knowledge and (mis)information?
  • Democracy and civil society: What insights can film and media scholars contribute to ongoing debates about social media, the viral spread of falsehoods and conspiracy theories, and other challenges to democracy and civil society?

Please send abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words to g.decuir@aup.nl by 30 April 2021. On the basis of selected abstracts, writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (6,000-8,000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) by 1 February 2022. Manuscripts will subsequently go through a double-blind peer review process before final acceptance for publication.