Call for Papers – The Migrant as an Eye/I. Transculturality, Self-Representation, Audiovisual Practices

Edited by Alice Cati (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) and Mariagiulia Grassilli (Sussex University)

Experiences such as those of exile, immigration, and transnationality are central in the current political and cultural debate. Several filmic works and visual artistic projects focus their narratives on life stories, as shaped by distance (either geographic or memory-related) and motion (in terms of travel, border crossing and disorientation). Meanwhile, a focus on exilic and diasporic identities may lead potential audience to perceive migrant works merely on the basis of personal traumas of displacement.

The special section of this issue of Cinergie aims at scoping the plurality of cross-media productions that define non-dominant forms of ethnic subjectivity, in the awareness of both the dynamic contamination of cultural models and the crisis of the ancient dichotomy between Self and Other. Challenging both the assimilationist logic and the processes of othering (Rings), we witness now the reclaiming of identities that have already internalised their ethno-cultural roots. In light of this, it appears urgent to revisit the value of certain terms, such as “Migrant/Post-Migrant” (Rings, Leal) “Third [World]” (Gabriel, Guneratne-Dissanayake), “Accented” (Naficy) — first applied to cinema productions, ethnographic films, experimental and visual-anthropological texts, and now including all other media productions (i.e. Bennett’s idea of ‘Accented Media’) — which are still defined by a hierarchy of values that place the Other in a condition of cultural subalternity.

In this sense, despite the intention to use media practices as a way to promote ethnic diversity and intercultural dialogue, the chance to actually access real forms of self-representation from the side of the Other is still to be verified. On the one hand, fueled by the political concern about the so-called ‘migrant or refugee crisis’, media seem more interested in embracing products about ‘migration’ to ‘Europe/US’, rather than the cultural background of professionals who work within the cultural and creative industries (filmmakers, producers, photographers, artists, writers, performers). On the other hand, the lack of recognition at the local national level, and the scarcity of provision for cultural diversity within many countries’ cultural policies, still impact at the level of identity and self-confidence, as necessary qualities for encouraging creativity to expression.

From the Seventies/Eighties on, the influence of post-modernism, feminist theories, and postcolonial studies has led to the emergence of life-writing as a tool to explore a multifaceted range of objects and processes, namely narratives, representations and performances of the Self. As Moore-Gilbert notes, there is an implicit opposition between auto-biography and life-writing: the former derives from a modernist perspective centered on the male/white/Western subject, who is often seen as a pure abstract state of consciousness; the latter is defined as a room of expression for an embodied and relational subject situated in historical, sexual, social terms, who is usually worn out by experiences of loss, vulnerability and displacement.

Despite the marginalization, repression and forgetfulness put forth by hegemonic political systems, the opportunity to for minorities to freely express themselves seems finally emerging, as well as the possibility to let counter-memories arise. Different conception of psyche and selfhood in the West can be reframed within non-western cultures, ideologies and epistemologies. Clearly enough, contemporary globalization has inevitably affected the sense of self and subjectivities in different social, political and cultural contexts, as well as the devices adopted for the self-construction and self-understanding (Tianqi Yu). The contemporary visual culture surrounding the subject enables thus to introduce a broad conception of ethnicity, intended as cultural formation determined by a media-based imaginary that is culturally contaminated (Russell).

In this age of highest expansion of new autobiographical forms made possible thanks to audiovisual and digital practices (autobiographical fiction and documentary films and videos, digital storytelling platforms, self-portraits and selfies, Vlog, Facebook and Instagram accounts, etc.), it is not only possible for anyone to produce and circulate self-representations as a banal and everyday practice, but it allows for current self-representations to challenge established discourses that reflect power relations at both social and geopolitical level (Thumim, Chouliaraki). How could thus ex-/post-colonial subjects and their antecedents/descendants represent their selves, tell their own stories and subverting the stereotypes of Western culture? How are hierarchies re-inscribed when the Other’s self-image is re-mediated in the Western media system? When and how does the Other actually have the possibility to really represent her/himself?

A cohesive exploration of the contemporary multiplicity of expressive forms as well as the various auto/biographic discursive regimes, may allow for the emergence of a plural identity, which is dynamically questioning itself and its own idiosyncrasies, by means of its own cultural and ethnic background.

Contributors are invited to take into consideration theoretical issues as well as specific case studies related (but not limited) to these themes:

  • Theory and history of non-Western subjective/autobiographical/first person audiovisual works, which can help to reassess the predominantly Western-oriented scholarship on this field.

  • Family and personal images (small-gauge films, videos, pictures, mobile camera images) taken and collected by non-Western individuals for private use or recycled in artistic projects.

  • Genealogy and ancestry research devoted to identities that had been hardened by decades of racial categorization.

  • Migrant and refugee filmmaking in between autobiography, self-representation, as well as (co)productions, collective creativity and participatory projects.

  • Negotiation between written and audio-visual biographies in the narration of the migrant Self (memoirs, videotestimonies, interviews, talks, visual presentations etc.).

  • The re-mediation of migrant and refugee self-representation, geopolitical power relations and mainstream media.

  • Auto-ethnographies: creative analytical practices aimed at exploring personal experiences and understanding one’s own first-, second- or third-generation cultural background.

  • Digital storytelling platforms and digital archives as useful tools to establish a plural view on past and present, enabling at the same time the preservation of ethnic groups’ memories otherwise excluded from the dominant political logics.

Submission details

Please send an abstract and a short biographical note to and by April 1, 2019 — [subject: CfE #19 — The Migrant as an Eye/I abstract submission + name surname authour(s)].

Abstracts should be from 300 to 500 words of length (English).

If the proposal is accepted, the author(s) will be asked to submit the full article by June 30, 2019.

The articles must not exceed 5,000/6,000-words.

Contributions will be submitted to double blind peer review.

The issue number 19 of Cinergie will be published in December 2019.

  • Submission of proposals: April 1, 2019

  • Acceptance notified by: April 15, 2019

  • Submission of full articles: June 30, 2019

  • Publication: December 2019