January 26th, 2018 – Sean Batton

Dear All,
We invite you to join us on Friday, January 26th at 11:00 am in Cobb 311 for the third Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we welcome Sean Batton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. He will be presenting a paper titled “L’Entraînement mental: The Medvedkin Groups and Popular Education.”
Matt Hubbell, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, will serve as the discussant. 

A screening of À bientôt, j’espère by Chris Marker and Mario Marret at the Palente funtion hall, April 27, 1968

No paper will be pre-circulated.

Refreshments will be provided.

We hope to see you there!

Yours in Mass Cult,

Panpan and Jenisha


L’Entraînement mental: The Medvedkin Groups and Popular Education

This paper will examine the influence of the French popular education organization Peuple et Culture on the work of the Medvedkin Groups, the filmmaking collectives made up largely of factory workers from French industrial towns who completed nearly a dozen films between 1968 and 1974. Recent studies have focused on situating their films within the context of contemporary experiments in agit-prop and collective filmmaking; while this synchronic approach has helped to understand the Medvedkin Groups’ place within the events and legacies of 1968, it confines the discussion of the films’ formal strategies to comparisons with those of filmmakers such as Chris Marker, Rene Vautier, and Jean-Luc Godard. What has so far been neglected are the Medvedkin Groups’ roots in post-war struggles for working-class culture and popular education.
Peuple et Culture had formed in the wake of the Liberation to militate on behalf of a more egalitarian society through improvement of worker’s access to cultural and intellectual life. Its activities were informed by a pedagogical technique called “entraînement mental”, a combination of Bergsonian theories of memory with Henri Lefebvre’s attention to the textures of everyday experience. Peuple et Culture played a direct role in establishing the Centre culturel populaire de Palente-les-Orchamps (CCPPO) in Besançon, from whose volunteer staff and facilities the first Medvedkine Group would emerge. Through an examination of proto-cinematic media productions of the CCPPO, I will consider the ways entraînment mental has been manifested, not only as a pedagogical tool for training militant artists and filmmakers, but as an aesthetic strategy for creating militant audiences.

Sean Batton is a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

Matt Hubbell is a Ph.D. candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

Jan 19th, 2018 – Brian White

Dear All,

Please join us Friday, January 19th at 3PM in CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St) as the Art and Politics of East Asia and Mass Culture Workshops are proud to host Brian White, PhD Candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He will present a draft of his dissertation chapter titled “Asian Aliens: Race and Ethnicity in 1960s Japanese Speculative Fiction.”
Cover for Tsutsui Yasutaka’s 1967 short story “The Vietnam Travel Agency”

Brian’s dissertation chapter is available here.

Please email either Panpan [panpan@uchicago.edu] or Jenisha [jenisha@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Cody Jones, PhD Student in Comparative Literature and Divinity, will serve as the discussant.

Please note the special time and location.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you this Friday!

Warmly,

Panpan and Jenisha


Asian Aliens: Race and Ethnicity in 1960s Japanese Speculative Fiction

In this partial dissertation chapter, I take up a 1968 short story by metafiction writer Tsutsui Yasutaka, entitled “Rose-Tinted Rhapsody.” Through a close reading of this text, I discuss the significance of race and ethnicity in considerations of Cold War-era SF (speculative- or science-fiction). This argument is an intervention in the hegemonic scholarly tradition in Japanese popular cultural studies of reading postwar texts within a bilateral system in which the United States is Japan’s only interlocutor and nuclear trauma and hyper-capitalism its only thematic concerns. Instead, I argue for a reading of these texts that is more sensitive to the complex contemporary geopolitical situation, in which a variety of affinities were negotiated, opened up, and closed off.

January 12th, 2018 – Gary Kafer

Dear All,

Please join us on Friday, January 12th at 11:00 AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Gary Kafer, Ph.D. student in Cinema and Media Studies; he will discuss “Conjuring the Algorithmic Specter,” an article in-progress. Marc Downie, new lecturer in Cinema and Media Studies, will serve as the discussant.

The paper is available for download here.

Please email either Panpan [panpan@uchicago.edu] or Jenisha [jenisha@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Yours in Mass Cult,

Panpan and Jenisha


Conjuring the Algorithmic Specter

In this paper, I take up Kittler’s claim that “the realm of the dead is as extensive as the storage and transmission capabilities of a given culture.” In our twenty-first century media environment, algorithms have increasingly become capable not only of analyzing events as they occur, but also controlling the future orientation of actions, thoughts, and affects. If, as Kittler argues, the ghosts of twentieth century media were recorded representations from the past, the specters that haunt these new feedback technologies rather visit us as recoded future potentials. However, at their most basic level, algorithms are inflected by a gap between code and implementation; the effects of algorithmic computation cannot be known in advance simply by reading code or building a program. As such, I aim to re-situate the specter not as an artifact emerging from the material relations embedded in a particular technical system, but rather as emerging in the lived social realities in which algorithms are implemented to perform a particular function. The stakes of this argument, rather than merely redefining the spectral technologies of the contemporary computer age, strike a substantial chord with a broader biopolitical arena, allowing us to commune with the algorithmic specter as a figure for those bodies marked as exceptional within the construction of our speculative neoliberal present.