CFP: Media Cultures of the (Inter/Anti)Imperial Pacific

Editors: Xiuhe Zhang and Tyler Morgenstern


Recent controversies—from protracted battles over international tariff structures to renewed nuclear sabre rattling between the United States and North Korea, and from the brutalities of offshore migrant detention in places like Nauru to the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea—have thrust the Pacific theater to the forefront of global geopolitical attention. But while these disputes often appear in the guise of crisis, as urgent, largely unanticipated outbreaks of acrimony, they are in many ways historically implicated. As Kornel Chang writes, the Pacific has long been a deeply vexed geopolitical and cultural domain, a vast theater of “interimperial” encounter striated by the violences of colonial settlement, neocolonial retrenchment, capitalist exploitation, racial domination, and military conquest. But if these are political and cultural histories, they are at the same time media histories. Indeed, since at least the mid-19th century, media and communication technologies have played a central role both in the consolidation of imperial ambitions across the Pacific, as well as in the manifold ways these ambitions have been sabotaged, undermined, and refused. Seeking to thematize these complex and ongoing histories, issue 15 of Media Fields Journal will explore the media cultures of the (inter/anti) imperial Pacific.

In recent years, scholars of media and technology have turned often toward the Pacific, showing how the region’s overlapping histories of colonization and imperial expansion have fundamentally shaped global communication infrastructures, and vice versa. Nicole Starosielski, for instance, has shown the remarkable degree to which contemporary undersea cable networks, particularly those that connect the west coast of North America with the Asia Pacific, retrace nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonial trading routes, transposing the lineaments of territorial empire into a fiber optic register. Ruth Oldenziel, similarly, has read the Pacific as a techno-imperial palimpsest, uncovering the surprising geographic and logistical continuities between colonial coaling stations, early electric telegraph networks, and the shortwave communications infrastructures that proliferated across the Pacific in the Cold War years. Dwayne Winseck and Robert Pike, finally, have reconstructed in painstaking detail the emergence of coherent communications markets in and around the Asia Pacific after about 1860—a project that played out through a baffling choreography of interimperial negotiation and corporate shell gaming.

In the hopes of extending these important contributions in new directions, we seek original scholarship that explores how media have functioned as tools of imperial governance in the Pacific since the 19th Century, as well as their involvement in struggles for otherwise Pacific worlds and decolonial futures. To this end, we invite contributions that bring media history, theory and analysis into sustained conversation with such fields as Native American and Indigenous studies, postcolonial theory, critical race and ethnic studies, island and ocean studies, and archipelagic American studies (see Roberts & Stephens, 2017). However, we encourage submissions from all those whose work explores the richness and vitality of Pacific media cultures—whether historical, contemporary, or emergent—through the lenses of imperiality, coloniality, and/or decolonization. Moreover, even as we acknowledge the abiding hegemony of the United States across much of the Pacific theater, we strongly encourage submissions that provincialize US- and Anglo-centric perspectives, and approach the question of Pacific imperiality from alternative national and/or geopolitical contexts.

Potential topics for papers include but are not limited to:

●      Indigenous media theory, history, and critique

●      Comparative and differential Indigeneities

●      The technopolitics of imperial administration

●      Activist media: anti-imperialism, decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty

●      The aesthetic and representational politics of (de)colonization

●      Piracy, hacking, and sabotage

●      Trauma, memory, and the archive

●      Oceanic media infrastructures

●      Colonial and imperial nostalgia

●      South-South/East-East solidarities

●      Critical political economy: tariffs, trade, intellectual property, informality

●      Gender, sexuality, and desire

●      Past futures: Bandung, the Non-Aligned Movement, Nuclear Non-Proliferation

●      Environmental disruption and resource extraction (seafloor dredging, artificial island construction, mining, dumping, pollution, sea level rise)

●      Media policy and regulation in/of colonial states

●      Media, technology, and discourses of development

●      (Mili)tourism

●      Techno-orientalism

●      (Revisiting) the cultural imperialism thesis

●      Analytics of migration and settlement: the settler, the ‘coolie,’ the arrivant, the ‘free laborer,’ the indentured, etc.

●      Asian settler colonialism (see Okamura & Fujikane, 2008; Saranillio, 2013)

●      Empire and/as media distribution

●      Media and scalarity: locality, regionality, nationality, globality, and the hemispheric

For any inquiries, please contact issue co-editors Tyler Morgenstern ( and Xiuhe Zhang (

Submissions should be approximately 1500–2500 words, and should include at least one image or audio or video clip related to the essay topic. Email submissions to

For more information and complete submission guidelines, please visit


Kornel Chang, Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

Jonathan Y. Okamura and Candace Fujikane (editors), Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life in Hawai (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008).

Ruth Oldenziel, “Islands: The United States as a Networked Empire,” in Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War, edited by Gabrielle Hecht (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), 13-41.

Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens (editors), Archipelagic American Studies (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017).

Dean Itsuji Saranillio, "Why Asian settler colonialism matters: a thought piece on critiques, debates, and Indigenous difference,"Settler Colonial Studies 3, 4 (2013), 280-294.

Nicole Starosielski, The Undersea Network (Durham and London: Duke University Press,2015).

Dwayne Winseck and Robert Pike, Communication and Empire: Media, Markets, and Globalization, 1860–1930 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007).


Call For Papers: Media Fields VII Conference, April 3-5

Display: Excess and Visibility in Film, Media, and Culture

Keynote Speakers: Soraya Murray (Associate Professor in Film and Digital Media at University of California Santa Cruz and principal faculty in Art and Design Games and Playable Media), Joshua Neves (Assistant Professor Film Cinema Studies at Concordia, Canada Research Chair, and Director of the Global Emergent Media Lab).

Special Event: Screening of Shakedown (2018) and post-screening discussion with Director Leilah Weinraub and Professor of Feminist Studies Mireille Miller-Young.


DNA ancestry reports. Neon billboards. Bodycam videos. Reality tv competitions. GIS maps. Stock tickers. Real-time election coverage. Televised court cases. Local drag shows. Protest live streams. 3D ultrasounds. Reddit AMAs. Twitch feeds.

Our contemporary mediascape is ostensibly awash with outlets to visualize and represent modern life. The discourse of an “always on” and seamlessly connected global visual culture is built upon an excess of visibility and accessibility, which hides as much as it reveals. From this vantage, early theories of the modern spectacle are at once uncannily relevant and seemingly outdated. From this vantage, the Media Fields Editorial Collective at the UC Santa Barbara Department of Film & Media Studies is seeking proposals for its upcoming biennial conference that address this year’s theme — Display — through the lenses of excess and visibility.

Early theorists in film and media studies exploring visibility, sensation, and excess centered the spectacle as an organizing object of study. As the everyday is continually mediated through communication technologies and entertainment experiences and intensified by postmodernity, digitization, and globalization, we seek to consider how theories of the excessive spectacular can be revised by considering the (in)visible display. Seeking to explore the usefulness of display to interrogate contemporary media cultures and revisit historical questions, we ask: What continuities, disjunctions, and transformations exist between historical and contemporary cultures of display? Does a mediascape saturated with visibility and excess call for a reexamination of the spectacle? Does the excess of the spectacle still resonate with contemporary media practices? And, what does moving from spectacle to display open up in our thinking on these topics? How can we better investigate what is on the surface, behind, underneath, and beyond the display?

In interrogating this topic, we seek papers that explore media’s relationship with display in its various forms: as media objects, industry practices, social processes, and cultural artifacts. We invite a range of works that explore the modes and means of visibility; strategies and practices of image construction; relationships between the production and promotion of display; encounters and engagements with display regimes; intersections of aesthetics and the politics of display; forms of local, national, regional, and global aspirations and belonging; and interactions between multisensory spectacle and forms of subjectivity, resistance, and imagination.

Papers may reflect on display as it relates to questions around the following themes. We especially encourage submissions that work to decenter dominant paradigmatic privileges.

  • Space: architecture and design; media mobility; built environments and urban spaces; extractive and environmental media; public, consumer, and leisure spaces; domestic and private spaces; questions of scale (global, regional, local, national, territorial); physical infrastructures and urban planning
  • Industry: trade shows and conventions; distribution and exhibition; audience construction and measurement; ownership structures and affiliations; labor dynamics; cultures of production; digital infrastructures (data collection, storage, and analytics; algorithms; moderation practices; walled gardens; geoblocking)
  • Representation: film, tv, game and transmedial representations; publics and counterpublics; protest, disruption, and direct action; surveillance and policing; digital identities; data visualizations; immersive technologies; simulation and virtual reality
  • Embodiment: performance; trauma and memory; haptic, aural, and other sensory experiences; disciplinary regimes; articulations and experiences of difference (race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, age); belonging and community
  • Objects: media devices; screens and surfaces; imaging technologies (geographic information displays [GIDs], medical, environmental, military); signage, billboards, and promotional materials; markers, sensors, and indicators; attractions and amusements
  • Use: digital interfaces; platforms; mapping and navigation; connected viewing; online gaming; social media; digital consumer and retail practices; remix, copyleft, and piracy cultures; digital and streaming communities (YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, 4chan)

Panelists will have 15-20 minutes to present their papers. Please email a 250- to 300-word proposal and a brief bio (in PDF format) to by January 15, 2019. For any inquiries, please contact the conference organizers: Aleah Kiley (, Charlotte Orzel (, Nicole Strobel (, and Xiuhe Zhang (