Call for Papers: History Lab Conference

Entertainment, Politics, and Culture: Perspective on a Historical Relationship

Throughout history, political power has used different forms of art and entertainment to buttress its legitimacy, or to express its ideology, values, and political agenda. From the Roman circus and popular religious festivities to the contemporary entertainment industry, all societies have developed mechanisms of popular entertainment and public rituals in which political views, interests, and demands can be expressed. Furthermore, entertainment and cultural manifestations have functioned as a form of resistance. Artists, performers, and other cultural figures have demanded their autonomy to freely express their values and opinions. At our conference, some questions we would like to discuss include:

  • What are the social and political dimensions of entertainment?
  • Are art, sports and entertainment vehicles to sustain political power or can they be used to challenge it, as part of a strategy of resistance of the civil society?
  • Can artists, sportsmen, journalists, and performers working in the performative arts ever be autonomous from the political milieu, or are these fields always political and ideological in nature?
  • How are culture and religion intertwined with political motivations, what are the limits of political interference in those areas?
  • How do popular cultural, artistic and religious manifestations express or promote changes in the public and political sphere?

These are some of the inquiries that could open the debate during the next History Lab Conference. We welcome proposals for papers covering all periods of history and all geographic areas. Interdisciplinary approaches and submissions from around the UK and beyond are also coveted. Topics that might be addressed include:

  • Theatre, circus and performance arts
  • Cinema and film history
  • Media, news and politics
  • Sports and identity politics
  • Music and identity politics
  • Spectacle, politics and public space
  • Art, paintings and propaganda
  • Material culture, sculpture and politics
  • Religion and political power, religious festivals and popular piety

The plenary speaker will be Rachel Dwyer (SOAS) specialises in Hindi cinema and film culture in South Asia. One of her last books is Bollywood’s India: Hindi cinema as a Guide to contemporary India (2014) in which she explores the relationship between entertainment industry, culture, society, religion and politics.

Please submit a 300 word abstract for 20-minute paper or panels to with ‘History Lab Conference’ in the subject line by Friday, April 20th, 2018. Panel proposals should include individual paper titles. Accepted proposals will be notified by early May 2018. The conference is FREE for all panellists and attendees, and lunch and refreshments will be provided.

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