Call for Papers

Ekphrasis. Images, Cinema, Theory, Media

Vol. 25, issue 1/2021

Counterdiscourses and Counterpublics in Cinema, Art, Media and Literature


The studies dedicated to counterdiscourses and their relationship with publics and counterpublics are already part of a rich and diverse academic tradition. The seminal essays dedicated to the notion of public sphere and other related issues such as public debates, political participation or media discourses can be traced back to John Dewey and lead to authors like Hannah Arendt or Jürgen Habermas. A large variety of approaches and numerous researches, from social and political theory to historical and cultural analysis, from literary theory to cinema, media or art studies exist today.

This call for papers is an invitation to all academics and researchers interested in the broader field of counterdiscourses and counterpublics studies, to submit contributions from different disciplines and various methodological approaches related to minor and marginal narratives, opposed to unilateral hegemonical discourses and the idea of a monolithical constitution of a public sphere. We are looking for contributions that discuss and analyze the inherent multiplicity and diversity of our contemporary societies and cultural representations. The idea of “public”, as argued Michael Warner, deals with more than the passive recipients of literary, artistic or cinematic discourses. We understand the “public” as a social entity, a dynamic arena where aesthetic, ideological and cultural values are performed, exchanged and collectively created.

In his critical account of the formation and role of the “public sphere”, Jürgen Habermas indicated how the structures of the emerging liberal (or bourgeois) public have played a central role in defining ideas of democracy, participation and public debate. The liberal “public sphere” depicted the ideal of an unrestricted, independent and neutral arena where participants could freely express and discuss matters of „public interest”. In her response to Jürgen Habermas’ analysis, Nancy Fraser argued that, in spite of its apparent espousal of equality, reason and accessibility as ideals, the liberal model had a marked class character and rested, in fact, on exclusionary practices that consistently marginalized the voices of women, working-class people, people of color etc. The term “subaltern counterpublics”, coined by Fraser, described alternative public arenas where “members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” Estranged from the official public sphere, these subaltern counterpublics (or, as Michael Warner called them, “minor publics”) stand in clear opposition to it. On the other hand, as noted by Kathy Ferguson, while challenging the dominant norms (and frequently domination itself as a paradigm structuring the public sphere), minor counterpublics (and their counterdiscourses) are not only negations, but also affirmations of different social, ideological or artistic values and practices. Their antagonistic and critical stance cannot be
separated from their exploratory dimension and emancipatory potential. Though subaltern and often marginal, counterpublics are not completely isolated. In relation to the dominant public sphere they play a double role. On one hand, they offer critical perspectives on the dominant discourses; on the other hand, they smuggle oppositional practices, values and ideas into the public arena, sometimes effectively unsettling it. Minor and marginal counterpublics thus oppose unilateral narratives and hegemonical discourses, reminding the inherent multiplicity and diversity of the “common”.

If publics are primarily “spaces of discourse organized by nothing other than discourse itself” (Michael Warner), then a reflection regarding “subaltern”, “minor” or “radical” publics is also a reflection on their specific modes of expression and realization – ideological, artistic, or literary. The question of counterdiscourses (and counterpublics) can thus be a generous framework for exploring issues such as political and social imaginaries, symbolic communities, aesthetic norms and practices, the formation of particular media spheres, influence, translatability, subversion etc.



Possible topics of interest include the following key concepts, but are not limited to:


Avant-garde aesthetics and revolutionary discourse.

Feminist cinema, literature, art.

Proletarian culture, social art, popular cinema and literature.

Anti-colonial, post-colonial and decolonial discourses in cinema, literature, art.

Queer cinema, literature, art.

Anarchist cinema, art and literature.

Punk aesthetics and do-it-yourself ethics.

Underground publics, counter-culture and subcultures.

Affinity groups, intentional communities and militant groups as counterpublics.


Suggested readings

Robert Asen, “Seeking the ‘Counter’ in Counterpublics”, Communication Theory, 10(4), p.
Jesse Cohn, Underground Passages. Anarchist resistance culture, 1848-2011, AK Press:
Oakland, Edinburgh, Baltimore, 2014.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, translated by Dana
Polan, University of Minnesota Press, 1986 [ Kafka: pour une littérature
mineure, Les éditions de Minuit, Paris]
John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems: An Essay in Political Inquiry, Ohio University
Press: Athens, 2012
Kathy E. Ferguson, “Anarchist Counterpublics”, New Political Science, vol. 32 no. 2, 2010,
p. 193-214.
Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually
Existing Democracy”, Social Text, No. 25/26 (1990), p. 56-80, accessed November 21, 2020. .
Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, “Toward New Imaginaries: An Introduction”, Public Culture,
vol. 14 no. 1, 2002, p. 1-19.
Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, translated by Thomas
Burger with Frederick Lawrence, MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1991.
Ewa Majewska, “Art as Counterpublics? Modes of Resistance in Contemporary Culture”,
Przegląd Kulturoznawczy , 3(41), 2019, pp. 271-286,
Kulturoznawczy/2019/Numer-3-41-2019/art/16030/ .
Ewa Majewska, “The Utopia of ‘Solidarity’ Between Public Sphere and Counterpublics:
Institutions of the Common Revisited”, Journal of Utopian Studies, 29.2, 2018, pp. 229-247.
Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, Zone Books: New York, 2005.

Guide for authors:

We welcome proposals for papers from all theoretical approaches and also from practice-based researchers or artists.

Deadline proposals (150-200 words): 11 January 2021

Acceptance notice: 15 January 2021

Final submission deadline: (5,000-9,000 words for articles, including a 300 word abstract, 5-7 keywords, and a list of references; for book reviews 2,000-3,000 words): 5 April 2021.

Issue editor: Adrian Tătăran, e-mail: or


Note to authors: Both the proposal and the final text should observe the submission guidelines to be found on our website: and the recommended MLA citation style.  








Call for papers Ekphrasis. Images, Cinema, Theory, Media 

Vol. 26, Issue 2/2021



Issue editor: Fátima Chinita, Lisbon Polytechnic Institute, Theatre and Film School, Portugal 


In cultural anthropology, subjectivity is an inherent part of the human condition; our perception, affects and sense-making stem directly from it. It exists at an individual level because human beings are sentient and thinking subjects reflecting upon themselves and upon the context in which they are inserted. At a social level, subjectivity depends on large scale cultural formations which predetermine choices and behavioural patterns imbuing them with political overtones. In cinema, these two components of subjectivity may be expressed through what Lisa Lebow calls first person documentary films, which designate a mode of address and not a filmic genre: “[…] these films ‘speak’ from the articulated point of view of the filmmaker who readily acknowledges her subjective position” (2012, 1).

These films include a broad range of practices: the essay film, the self-portrait and the video diary, among others. Historically, essay films have been directed at least since the 1920s and the cinematic masterpiece Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) is actually placed in this category by many film theoreticians. From the 1970s onwards it proliferated across different geographies and cultures, spreading in the world cinema landscape. Generally considered a hybrid and creative form of cinematic expression, the essay film eludes a single and irrefutable definition, which makes it an interesting topic for research and ever more so nowadays that film is mixing with other sculptural art forms and invading the gallery and the museum. Commentators’ positions on the essay film vary in relation to its form as well as its contents and mission, but it seems relatively safe to perceive it as being located in a universal in-betweenness having to do with typology, artistic or ideological goal, documental or critical stance, narrative or factual condition, interstitial framing, and so on.

Essay films, as a type of first-person cinema (although Laura Rascaroli in 2009 distinguished between these two film varieties), may be poetical or accented, artistic or political, personal (literally about a person or self) or collective (about a community of whatever sort), covertly or assumedly autobiographical, descriptive or reflexive. More than other films − which are per se authorial statements inasmuch as all works reflect their authors − these films are made to be explicitly about the filmmakers. “The matter of knowing ourselves or coming to consciousness about ourselves is not only a central ontological question […] but is also at the center of the project of self-representation” (Lebow 2012, 4).

These films may range from the self-presentation of the author and/or their artistic praxis to the questioning of social realities subjectively perceived from the author’s perspective. In fact, for the purposes of this publication both are considered self-representation. Therefore, this journal issue will focus on essay films with a twofold perspective, simultaneously artistic and political/sociological. Using the concept of self-representation as ideology and dealing with authorial self-representation (a specific person/people, lives, family, internal experiences, artists’ professional engagement) and authorial ideological engagement (which corresponds to one's world vision through an ideological choice of form and contents), we are opening this call for papers as a way of writing about oneself in the world and writing about the world through oneself. Both perspectives can be made to coalesce, the essay film as an art form being the uniting factor, independently of the author's films main goal(s).

We are aiming at a heterogeneous collection of transnational articles and accept both theoretical and/or practical study cases. We strongly encourage articles about world cinema and lesser-known filmic works, as well as articles with novel approaches.

Possible topics of interest include, but are not limited, to the following:

(a) Artistic Films: the art, the medium.

· Self-reflexive forms and practices of the essay film.

· Poetics and personal methodologies of the essay as pedagogic strategies.

· Essay film as an in-between cinematic position.

· Self-representation in contemporary audiovisual art/culture.

· Essay films about film/art and authorial creativity.

· Reception and relationship with film viewers.

· Essay films for galleries and museums.

· The essay film across disciplinary borders.


(b) Subject Films: the personal, the familiar, the cultural.

· Autobiographical representations and self-examination.

· Affinities/divergences with the self-portrait.

· The self in memories or the archive.

· Branding: self-representation and authorship.

· Female, queer and minorities’ creative gestures.

· Self-consciousness and the body.

· First-person cinema and video confessions.


(c) Accented films: ideology and politics.

· Gendered, postcolonial, diasporic, political cinema.

· Contesting/interrogating the world through the self.

· Relationship with other branches of knowledge.

· A world phenomenon dealing with local or transnational themes.

· Dialectic arguments: thesis and antithesis.

· The essay film as an instrument of change.

· Socio-political interests of the author.


Guide for authors:

The language for this issue of the journal is English.

All articles need to be proofread by a native English speaker before being sent to the journal

Articles: 5,000-9,000 words, including a 300-word abstract, 5-7 keywords, a list of references, plus footnotes. Notes should be used with frugality; if something is worth saying, it usually is worth saying in the text.

Book reviews 2,000-3,000 words. The books you propose must be recent.

Both the proposal and the final text should observe the submission guidelines to be found on the journal’s website:

Deadline proposals (250 - 300 words): April 5.

Acceptance notice: April 20.

Final submission deadline: July 30. We recommend that articles be sent before this date. Authors must be prepared for quick rewrites in September and October.

Publication date: December 2. Send your submissions to:


Suggested readings:

Alter, M. Nora. The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction. Columbia University Press, 2018.

Alter, Nora M. and Timothy Corrigan, editors. Essays on the Essay Film. Columbia University

Press, 2017

Bellour, Raymond. “Autoportraits,” Communications, no. 48, 1988, pp. 327-87.

Bensmaïa, Réda. The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text. 1986. Translated by Pat Fedkiew, Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987.

Bergala, Alain, ed. JE est un film. ACOR, 1998.

Corrigan, Timothy. The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker. Oxford University Press,


Esquenazi, Jean-Pierre and André Gardies, editors. Le Je à l’écran. L’Harmattan, 2006.

Grange, Marie-Françoise. L’autoportrait en cinéma. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008.

Hollweg, Brenda and Igor Krstić, editors. World Cinema and The Essay Film: Transnational Perspectives on a Global Practice. Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

Lebow, Alisa, editor. The Cinema of Me: The Self and Subjectivity in First Person Documentary. Wallflower Press, 2012.

Lejeune, Phillippe. Le Pacte autobiographique, new augmented edition. 1975. Éditions du Seuil, 1996.

Liandrat-Guigues, Suzanne and Murielle Gagnebin. L’Éssai et le cinéma. Éditions Champ Champ Vallon, 2004.

Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Postcolonial Life-Writing: Culture, Politics, and Self-Representation. Routledge, 2009.

Mouëllic, Gilles and Laurent Le Forestier, editors. Filmer l’artiste au travail. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013.

Papazian, Elizabeth A. and Caroline Eades, editors. The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia.

Wallflower Press, 2016.

Rascaroli, Laura. The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film. Wallflower

Press, 2009.

---. How the Essay Film Thinks. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Renov, Michael. The Subject of Documentary. University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Sayad, Cecilia. Performing Authorship: Self-Inscription and Corporeality in the Cinema. I.B. Tauris, 2013.

Thumin, Nancy. Self-Representation and Digital Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Williams, Deane and Julia Vassilieva, editors. Beyond the Essay Film: Subjectivity, Textuality and Technology. Amsterdam University Press, 2020.




Ekphrasis is a peer-reviewed academic journal, edited by the Faculty of Theatre and Television, “Babes-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, indexed by Emerging Sources Citation Index (Clarivate Analytics), ERIH PLUS, EBSCO, NSD, and CEEOL.

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit: