4-5 may 2017 La Rochelle Women and Popular Culture(s) in the Anglophone Worlds (1945-2015)


 Women and Popular Culture(s) in the Anglophone Worlds (1945-2015)

4-5 may 2017


University of La Rochelle


Keynote speakers:

-Kim Akass (Senior Lecturer, Film and Television Studies, coordinator of the Media Research Group, University of Hertfordshire)

-Janet McCabe (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, co-director of the Centre for Media and Creative Practice, Birkbeck College, University of London)


            The interdisciplinary two-day conference « Women and Popular Culture(s) in the Anglophone Worlds: 1945-2015 » proposes to review the present state of knowledge on such elastic notions as those of “woman” and “popular culture” and to underline their permanence and evolution at a time when the influence of Gender and Cultural Studies seems undisputed in both academic and social fields. The conference addresses the issue of how, through popular culture and cultural industries, women have been involved in social, cultural, and economic sectors they were previously barred from and what means and channels they have used to invest and invent specific places, spaces, and cultural milieu from the middle of the 20th century to the present time.

The term “popular culture” will be central. From Matthew Arnold’s book (Culture and Anarchy) to more recent works, it is open to debate: it is not the “high culture” of the Leavis’s nor folk culture. It is not what Christopher Lasch coined as “mass culture” either (Mass Culture or Popular Culture?). Situated at the crossroads between the unique and the expected, and between high, folk and mass cultures, popular culture is everything that they are not. The issue is even more complex if we take into consideration the multiple examples of hybridization between these forms of culture. How have women taken advantage of this lack of consensus?

Since the middle of the 20th century, the presence of women has become increasingly visible in all fields of popular culture and in cultural industries (cinema, music, visual and performing arts, etc.). But the last decades, which have been at the origin of multiple women’s culture(s), produced exclusively by women and for women have also proved that stereotypical and archetypal figures associated with femininity are still rife (i. e. the all-pervasive mother-figure). Is “feminine culture,” as Georg Simmel coined it in “Philosophy of Love,” still subjected to male prerogative or has it become a dominant, not to say global culture which is part and parcel of the contemporary popular culture(s)? What parts have ecofeminist theory and practices and literary women dealing with womens’ “naturecultures” (Donna Harraway) played? Papers are welcome that will look, for instance, at the influence of ecofeminist critics and writers over the representations and discourses concerning women, nature, and culture.

The conference will also be focused on the interactions between literature, comparative studies and popular culture, and on defining who the “learned” women of today are (politicians, scholars, noted authors and artists, patrons, etc.). Have new categories emerged among literary women and have women’s writings been catalysts to new literary and artistic genres? Is social background still a determining factor? What recognition have women been given and how have they been perceived and represented? Is the line separating popular culture and “high” culture still perceptible? We will pay special attention to multi-talented, versatile women whose production reflects the overlapping of literary genres and academic subjects and also signals a blurring of the boundaries between “popular” and “high” cultures and between the masculine and the feminine.

In the economic field, we shall consider the place of women in the workplace and delimit the economic networks of the feminine, the way they have developed and have been dismantled over time. What is the place of women in cultural industries? Do women’s economic networks necessarily reflect women’s economic and purchasing power? We encourage proposals that highlight the specificity of female economy, but we also welcome papers that approach women’s merchandising in the media and visual culture as well as the close relationship between capitalism and sexism: women as actors vs. objects of bargaining, the working woman vs. the whore, women as consumers vs. commodities.

The real and symbolic spaces associated with women should not be overlooked. In what ways and with which tools can we define and delimit them? Are the traditional categories based on ethnicity, geography, social background, and gender still valuable standards when considering popular representations? Current arguments about intersectionality lead us to question the epistemological value of traditional concepts in the mapping of the feminine, and to discuss the place of the body and of its uses in the building of new feminine spaces.

Special attention will also be paid to the use of the Internet and digital technology thanks to which “celebrities” 2.0, influenced by post-feminist criticism, present themselves as the spokespersons for gender equality. What can be said about the omnipresence of feminine figures on social media and about their “practice” of freedom and equality? Is popularization synonymous with politicization and do “feminine culture” and feminism(s) necessarily go hand in hand? If the core gender identity has regularly been attacked, feminism and its ramifications seem to be engulfed to the extent that the appropriateness of the concept of a feminist “wave” is becoming more and more controversial, which is all the more obvious as multiple feminist groups, trends and labels coexist (radical, eco-, post-feminism, …). Where do feminisms stand today? What is the consequence of their cultural assimilation? Dissemination or dissolution? Autonomy or fragmentation?

The conference theme can be approached through several, non-exclusive angles, among which:


-Cultures of women

-Feminine and/vs. feminist culture

-Learned and/vs. “popular” women

-Culture and acculturation of feminism(s)

-The economy of the feminine/female economy

-Cartographies and geographies of the feminine

-The representations of women in popular culture

-Women’s consumer behavior/practices and the merchandising of women

-Feminism and capitalism

-Women and culture 2.0


Despite its title, the conference is not restricted to feminist and gender studies. Spanning the Anglophone worlds over 70 years, it encourages the sharing of contrasting points of view in order to enhance how certain women, from all social, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds and with different sexual orientations, have been playing down and playing with popular culture and gender stereotypes. The conference thus aims to explore the means and channels women have been using according to the milieu or group to which they belong, and the ways these tools and channels have been coopted, subverted and recycled. In this perspective, we would like to bring together specialists from various disciplines, such as sociologists, historians, geographers, economists as well as scholars in (comparative) literature, art and visual arts, music, and costume/fashion history.


Abstracts (approximately 350 words) and a short bio should be sent to elodie.chazalon@univ-lr.fr before December 15, 2016. The CFP will also be published on Calenda. Papers will be selected for publication.

Scientific committee: Kim Akass (University of Hertfordshire), Danièle André (Université de La Rochelle), Florence Binard (Université Paris Diderot), Nickie Charles (Warwick University), Claude Chastagner (Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier III), Elodie Chazalon (Université de La Rochelle), Christian Chelebourg (Université de Lorraine), Eliane Elmaleh (Université du Maine), Margot Irvine (Université de Guelph, Canada), Janet McCabe (Birkbeck College, University of London), Bénédicte Meillon (Université de Perpignan-Via Domitia), Michel Prum (Université Paris Diderot), David Waterman (Université de La Rochelle)





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