Conf/CfP - (Re)Politicizing Discourses on Photography, 7 December 2015, Paris, France

Publish Date: Jul 13, 2015

Deadline: Sep 18, 2015

About the Conference. (Re)Politicizing Discourses on Photography

The history of photography has been the object of increasing interest amongst French academics over the past 40 years, and yet to this day there are relatively few works that consider the political investment inherent in photographic images, uses, and practices. This situation can partly be ascribed to apolitical uses of estheticizing discourses that are meant to legitimize both the medium and its academic study. It is also produced by the general context of a post-1989 intellectual landscape, in which the neo-liberal reconfiguration of political categories often entails a dissolution of conflict.

The study of photography has undeniably proven to be a powerful tool for reshaping discourses on art. It could also, and with the same critical drive, address more directly political questions - for instance through the use of the categories of race, class, or gender, which are relatively seldom explored in French photographic studies. In taking part in this ongoing politicization of the analytical frameworks used to study cultural productions, scholars working on photography could contribute to a more general reconfiguration of the political category as such.

This symposium will be the occasion to reflect on the interaction of the photographic and the political beyond simple appropriation of one by the other (politically-committed photography, propaganda, etc…). The practice of photography, considered in this light, is more generally underlain, informed and invested by political categories and practices - be they ideological constructions, questions of visibility and representation, or the various ways in which power is exerted, contested or actualized in cultural practices. In order to better analyze photography as an integral part of the social realm (where it is produced, where it circulates, and where it acts), we deem it necessary to reintroduce analytical frameworks that are more specifically political - such as those of conflict and individual or collective action.

One of the goals of this symposium will thus be to move from looking at photography as a network of political phenomenona to considering the relevance of politicized approaches. We would also like to open a conversation on how contemporary redefinitions of “the political” could enrich and reinvigorate academic approaches to photography.

This symposium will bring together young researchers who share an interest in these issues. We would also like to see various fields of research and various European perspectives meet in the process. The following, non-exhaustive, list of themes could be developed:

1 - How can researchers studying photography adopt analytic frameworks such as race, class, and gender, which have been developed by the social sciences and which have been deployed to great effect by cultural studies? Under what conditions would such concepts allow photographic studies to become more effectively political? To what extent can such categories, which are central to a new articulation of the political, the social, and the cultural, still convey a critical charge, while they are more and more integrated into a mainstream academic vocabulary?

2 - In the wake of Michel Foucault’s work, the best assimilated politicized reading of photography consists in interpreting the medium as a power apparatus. How can we use the discourses describing the imperialism of the photographic gaze, or the democratic power of the medium as a way to access representation and empowerment? Can the subjects producing the images and those being photographed be thought of as agents crafting a new politics of visibilities?

3 - How are researchers - just like photographic objects and practices - part of social, political and economic patterns of relations which situate them within the configuration of power? What reflexive postures can these researchers adopt through a standpoint epistemology? To what extent can photographic studies be a site from which to take a critical stance on the dominant point of view on art, and, more generally, on the world as a social system?

The symposium will end with a round table with all participants and the invited keynote speaker, Jorge Ribalta, artist, critic, and curator (A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker Photography Movement, 1926-1939, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 2011).

Submission Procedure

Young researchers in all fields of the humanities and social sciences are welcome to apply. Independent scholars and those working on the matter through their practice (preservation, curation, artistic practice) are also encouraged to send their proposals. Papers should be twenty minutes in length, and can be delivered in French or English.

Proposals for papers, should follow the template below and should be sent by email to by September, 18th 2015.

  • Full name of the author(s)

  • Affiliation(s) and position(s)

  • Title

  • Abstract (about 3000 characters, spaces included). This abstract should include the subject of the paper, the theme(s) into which it falls, the methodology that will be used and/or several theoretical references. A short bibliography can be added as well.

Some funding for travel expenses might be available.

We hope to publish the papers presented at the symposium. The format is still to be determined.


Deadline to respond to the call for papers: September 18th, 2015

Decisions emailed to participants: early October, 2015

Symposium: December 7, 2015 at Paris Diderot - Paris 7

Scientific Committee

Eliane de Larminat (Université Paris 7-Diderot / LARCA)

Véra Léon (Université Paris 5-Descartes / CERLIS)

Anaïs Mauuarin (Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne / HiCSA)

Alice Morin (Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle / CREW)

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