Pathways of Cosmopolitanism: London and Manchester?

Pathways of Cosmopolitanism:
London and Manchester?

23 November 2009
Hanson Room, Humanities Bridgeford Street Building
The University of Manchester

Speaker: Adrian Favell
Paper: The Cosmopolitan and the Provincial: London (and Manchester) as a Hub of Intra-EU Mobility

The aim of this symposium is to examine the relationship between Animation and Automation by bringing into dialogue two already highly interdisciplinary areas of scholarship: film studies, including new media and visual culture, on one hand, and social studies of science and technology, on the other. Our venture arises from a number of ongoing debates about the changing meanings of the two, interrelated concepts of animation and automation across the boundaries of the humanities, the arts and the social sciences.

Drawn from these diverse fields, the participants are joined by a shared interest in the entanglement of moving images, animate entities, and machinic agencies. The place of movement in the constitution of life, liveness and liveliness, the shifting of agencies from bodies to machines, unstable boundaries of the organic and the synthetic, and the remembered histories and projected futures of anatomical and technological configurations form the starting place for discussion. Our aim is twofold: to elucidate the specificities and diversity of initiatives in the creation of life, of life-like creatures or images, and of artistic, cinematic and scientific imitations of life; and to debate the justificatory assumptions on which those projects have relied, analysing the transformations in ways of thinking and their productive outcomes. Our discussions will be attentive to enactments of resemblance and difference, boundary making and connection, as well as to relations of discursive and material practices, imaginaries and politics. At stake are possibilities for refiguring agency and relocating responsibility in critical and generative ways that relate to questions of animation and automation in particular.

The symposium was structured across two days and hosted by The University of Manchester’s Centre for Screen Studies and Lancaster University’s Centre for Science Studies. The symposium began with a day of events in Manchester: 1) an opening performance piece ‘Animating Bodies’ by sociologist and live performer Professor Jackie Orr (Syracuse) whose innovative modes of presentation echo her groundbreaking conceptual work on the conference themes; 2) a UK premiere screening of Frances Leeming’s filmGenetic Admiration (2005), followed by a discussion with the filmmaker led by Profs. Jackie Stacey (Manchester) and Kim Sawchuk (Concordia, Canada) aimed at elaborating and illuminating Leeming’s use of ‘collage animation’ (a technique combining artistic and cinematic styles and genres) to explore the highly topical issues of the recombinant practices of new forms of genetic engineering and cloning; and 3) Screen’s 50th Anniversary Public Lecture by Professor Vivian Sobchack (UCLA), co-sponsored by the journal.

Together these presentations provided a provocative but also highly accessible introduction to new directions in film, artistic performance and critical scholarship and set the stage for a more detailed and focused academic discussion on the conceptual issues raised. Not only will this first day attract a broad audience of academic and non-academic participants but, in its very format of mixing live performance, film, artistic presentations and academic analysis, it will animate the problematic of the multiple mediations of ‘life and liveness’ that lies at the heart of our concerns.

The following dat the conference moved to Lancaster University, which houses a leading Centre for Science Studies (CSS), for a workshop designed to continue our exploration of the issues. Each of the invited participants were selected based not only on the thematic connections among their areas of specialisation, but also on the innovative and transdisciplinary character of their scholarship. Rather than a conventional set of paper sessions, the workshop allowed for in-depth debate and detailed theoretical and substantive discussions generated through pre-circulated statements of interest by the participants, and drawing on the performances, screenings and lectures of the previous day. The objective is that these discussions should result in a conceptual framework that might form the basis for a special issue of the journal Science as Culture and/or a special dossier of short pieces on animation for publication in Screen, and in the longer term for new work on these topics at the intersection of film studies and STS.

Speakers included (including links to abstracts):

Lisa Cartwright
 (Communications, UC San Diego)
Beth Coleman (Comparative Media Studies, MIT)
Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology, MIT)
Mél Hogan (Communication Studies, Concordia)
Sarah Kember (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths)
Frances Leeming (independent filmmaker)
Adrian Mackenzie (CESAGen, Lancaster University)
Fiona O’Neill (CESAGen, Lancaster University)
Jackie Orr (Sociology, Syracuse University)
Kevin Parker (Arts, Histories, Culture, The University of Manchester)
Kim Sawchuk (Communication Studies, Concordia University)
Vivian Sobchack (UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television)
Jackie Stacey (RICC, The University of Manchester)
Lucy Suchman (CSS and Sociology, Lancaster University)
Aylish Wood (Film Studies, University of Kent)


Professor Vivian Sobchack delivered a lecture on Thursday 26th March at the Whitworth Art Gallery in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the film and television studies journalScreen.

The conference poster and conference programme are also available.