CfP (Journal): Thinking about Censorship Differently

Special Issue of Participations: The International Journal of Audience & Reception Research

Deadline for proposals: 31st October 2015 (250 words)
Notifications of acceptance: 30th Nov 2015
First draft deadline: 1st May 2016
Final draft deadline: 1st September 2016 (following peer review)
Publication: Nov 2016

Email abstracts to Please title the email “Participations Special Issue – your last name.”

Over the last few years, the issue of censorship has been looming larger. Governments have always been keen to close down arguments which they find threatening; sometimes arbitrarily, sometimes with at least a superficial attempt at ‘justification’. Recently, this has taken the form (in many places) of attempts to shut down the social media which are perceived to be beyond governmental control. At the same time, rising levels of conflict around religion have pushed the issue of ‘offence’ high on the agenda while different kinds of cultural representation involving race, gender and sexuality have been defined as ‘dangerous’. The result has been such horrible moments as the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January. It is in such contexts that governments are likely to reverse their usual rhetorics, and speak out for ‘freedom of speech’ – even when they have been happy enough to stifle it themselves in various ways.

All kinds of working assumptions about how cultural and media materials are received by members of the public are embedded within these ongoing arguments and counter-arguments. On one side, when authorities are for censorship, there are usually claims about the ‘immaturity’ and ‘vulnerability’ of the people who need protecting, often from themselves. On the other side, when the right to ‘freedom of speech’ is paraded, then come the claims that people can ‘get the joke’, can ‘see satire for what it is’. When campaigning groups of any kind denounce ‘offensive’ materials, they usually proclaim their own emotional outrage on behalf of those whom they imagine will be harmed by the offending materials.

Many kinds of voices, including those of academic researchers, are heard in the ongoing debates about all these issues: from law, political studies, religious studies, sociology, psychology, and so on. But what might be the contribution of audience and reception studies?  Accordingly, we are pleased to announce a Special Issue of Participations:  Journal of Audience and Reception Studies. We are interested to hear from scholars and practitioners who are studying the nexus of censorship and reception.

Possible questions to be addressed are:

  • How are debates about censorship conducted, and what claims are made about ‘audiences’ in concrete circumstances?
  • How does the concept/discourse of ‘offence’ work in different contexts and for different audiences?
  • How do audiences claimed to be ‘immature’ actually relate to and make sense of the materials deemed dangerous for them?
  • How do particular audiences claim challenging materials for themselves, and insist on making sense of them in particular ways?
  • How do audiences read media depictions of censorship?
  • How does audience reception of censorship differ in the context of fictional versus non-fictional texts?
  • How do audiences interpret concepts such as insensitivity, incivility and indecency in mediated channels?
  • How do audiences subvert censorship/attempts at censorship?
  • What are individuals’ and groups’ experiences of being excluded from public discussion?
  • What is the relationship between censorship and memory?
  • How do definitions of censorship change moving from texts to platforms?Manuscripts can cover various media (e.g. games, theatre, film, comics, music, television, social media, etc.) and genres (news, reality programming, non-fiction, pornography, etc.).
  • Topics may also include non-mediated events such as protests, demonstrations, developing communities of resistance, navigating legal frameworks, etc.

The editors welcome theoretical essays as well as empirical studies from various methodologies.

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