lunduniversity.lu.se

Media and Fear

International Symposium at Lund University, Sweden

Department of Communication and Media, March 16th 2017

Call for Papers: Media and Fear

Organisers: Annette Hill, Michael Rübsamen, Tina Askanius and Zaki Habibi


Fear is a key factor in today’s media landscape. A dynamics of fear frequently frames the news about the environment or immigration, it dominates discourses of security and surveillance, and it permeates people’s lived experiences in precarious times. This symposium seeks to address the range of forms and practices within which fear is mediated in its many varieties, researching across political and public spheres, policy and industry sectors, audio-visual content, digital and social media, and audiences and popular culture.

The politics of fear, both past, present and future, cast a shadow on the media and its power to shape and influence publics and audiences. Media often trade in fear at different levels of intensity, working within the political economy of emotions and anxieties about ourselves and others, or about individual lives and public institutions. The social construction of fear and insecurity in media representations, policies and regulations, and in popular culture, can highlight conflict and violence, and discourses of identity and othering. We see this in the imagination of fear in popular storytelling such as crime, fantasy or horror genres. We see this in the rise of populism within Europe or America, where the subject positions of ‘us and them’ can lead to xenophobia and political extremes. And we see this in the increased use of surveillance in crime and policing, intelligence gathering, or within commercial data gathering and geo location tracking, highlighting the pervasive presence of surveillance and the difficult questions that need to be asked regarding regulation and privacy.

We invite contributions to this symposium on media and fear that address the following areas of enquiry: histories of media and fear; a politics of fear; political activism, surveillance and fear; representations of fear in fiction and factuality; audiences, publics and fear. The research questions include:

  1. What are the various relations between media and fear?
  2. How can we critically examine the politics of fear in news, radio and television, film, digital and social media?
  3. How and for what reasons do audiences engage, both positively and negatively, with narratives of fear in politics, society and culture?  


These research questions can be applied to a range of theories, ideas and problems concerning political culture, citizenship and democracy, television, film, radio and print media, digital and social media, popular culture, as well as other topics. Different approaches to research on media and fear can include media, communication and cultural studies, media history, film studies, sociology, political communication, memory studies, cultural geography, amongst others. The aim is to provide a platform for international scholars from various disciplines to dialogue on the politics of fear as it relates to knowledge, people and power.

The schedule includes a combination of keynote addresses, pre-constituted panels, and open panels. Confirmed speakers include Nico Carpentier (Uppsala University, Sweden), Joke Hermes (In Holland University, Netherlands), Annette Hill (Lund University, Sweden), Anastasia Kavada (University of Westminster, UK), Jane Roscoe (London Film School), Tarik Sabry (University of Westminster, UK), and Roza Tsagarousianou (University of Westminster, UK).


Please submit an abstract of 300 words in English by December 12th 2016 to the conference email: mediaandfearkom.luse. For further information please consult our website. There is a registration fee of 750 SEK (80 Euros) that covers food and drink for the day and an evening buffet.

Scientific Content and Significance for the Research Area

Fear is a key factor in today’s media landscape. A dynamics of fear frequently frames the news about the environment or immigration, it dominates discourses of security and surveillance, and it permeates people’s lived experiences in precarious times. This symposium seeks to address the range of forms and practices within which fear is mediated in its many varieties, researching across political and public spheres, policy and industry sectors, audio-visual content, digital and social media, and audiences and popular culture.

In Fear: a Cultural History, Joanna Bourke (2005) asks us to look at fear from different perspectives, addressing historical and cultural contexts to fear as it is associated with pain and suffering, or associated with war, conflict zones and victims of violence. She argues that throughout history people in power have vested interests in promoting or reducing fear and risk. In relation to the media, such as journalism and political communication, fear can be linked to visible and invisible risks and threats that can be used in re-enforcing or resisting systemic and symbolic power relations.

The politics of fear, both past, present and future, cast a shadow on the media and its power to shape and influence publics and audiences. Media often trade in fear at different levels of intensity, working within the political economy of emotions and anxieties about ourselves and others, or about individual lives and public institutions. There is the strategic generation and management of fear in journalism, propaganda, advertising public relations, and political campaigns. For example, David Altheide in Terrorism and the Politics of Fear (2006) highlights the discourses of fear in news media and how dominant frames for representing fear impact on social experiences. The Politics of Fear (Wodak 2015) addresses the strategies, and half-truths in promoting fear in extreme right wing ideologies. We see the trade in fear in the rise of populism within Europe or America, where the subject positions of ‘us and them’ can lead to xenophobia and political extremes.

The social construction of fear and insecurity in media representations, policies and regulations, and in popular culture, can highlight conflict and violence, and discourses of identity and othering. For example research on the construction of Islam in Europe by Spiros and Tsagarousianou (2013) highlights the politics of contestation in media representations and shows how European Muslim citizens negotiate their identities within a climate of fear, making their own media space to engender a sense of belonging. Such work underscores Appadurai’s argument about the geography of anger (2006), where the dynamics of culturally motivated violence impact on feelings of inclusion and exclusion in mediated and public spheres.

Media and fear connects with the policy and ethics of surveillance across governmental, commercial and private spheres (Ball et al 2012). The increased use of surveillance in crime and policing, intelligence gathering and war, or within commercial data gathering and geo location tracking, all highlight the pervasive presence of surveillance and the difficult questions that need to be asked regarding regulation and privacy. Recent research on social activists, for example, indicates how alternative political movements fear not only digital surveillance of their online identities and actions, but also the surveillance of these movements through infiltration by undercover police (Ball et al 2012). Such research shows how fear of digital surveillance connects with trust, morality and ethics in political culture.

In terms of popular culture, fear is a dominant feature in popular storytelling such as crime, fantasy or horror genres. In their research on the mnemonic imagination Keightley and Pickering (2012) note how imaginative engagement or disengagement with popular culture is of vital importance, integrating the practices of narrativisation with lived experience. Their research brings to the fore processes of imaginative work in memory studies, where nostalgia, or intergenerational remembering have powerful symbolic meaning in shaping the past, how we live in the present and imagine the future. For example, the recent rise in television drama about the cold war era, Stranger Things (Netflix 2016) or The Americans (FX, 2014-), signifies how memories of past conflicts and fear of the other become caught up in current concerns about the war on terror, or the pervasiveness of government surveillance in contemporary society and culture. The imaginative re working of fear in popular storytelling is a resource for identity construction and making sense of everyday life in the uncertain times of late modern society.

We invite contributions to this international symposium on media and fear that address the following areas of enquiry: histories of media and fear; a politics of fear; political activism, surveillance and fear; representations of fear in fiction and factuality; audiences, publics and fear. The research questions include:

1. What are the various relations between media and fear?
2. How can we critically examine the politics of fear in news, radio and television, film, digital and social media?
3. How and for what reasons do audiences engage, both positively and negatively, with narratives of fear in politics, society and culture?  

These research questions can be applied to a range of theories, ideas and problems concerning political culture, citizenship and democracy, television, film, radio and print media, digital and social media, popular culture, as well as other topics. Different approaches to research on media and fear can include media, communication and cultural studies, media history, film studies, sociology, political communication, memory studies, cultural geography, amongst others. The aim is to provide a platform for over seventy international scholars from various disciplines to dialogue on the politics of fear as it relates to knowledge, people and power.

References

Appadurai, Arjun. (2006) Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger, Durham North Carolina, Duke University Press.

Altheide, David (2006) Terrorism and the Politics of Fear, Oxford: Altamira Press.
Ball, Kirsty, Haggerty, Kevin and Lyon, David. (2012) Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies, London: Routledge.

Bourke, Joanna. (2005) Fear: A Cultural History, London: Fontana.

Keightley, Emily and Pickering, Michael. (2012) The Mnemomic Imagination: Remembering as Creative Practice, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Spiros, Sofos and Tsagariousianou, Roza. (2013) Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wodak, Ruth. (2015) The Politics of Fear: What Right Wing Populist Discourses Mean, London: Sage.