Film and Visual Media in the Gulf: Images, Infrastructures, and Institutions: Connecting Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the World

This conference addresses the marginalization of the Gulf within film studies and the marginalization of film and visual and social media, including television and on-demand programming, within area studies to (a) redefine conceptual frameworks to render images and stories from the Gulf more legible, (b) theorize political economy within Gulf media ecologies and (c) strategize ways to support a sustainable film and visual media culture in the Gulf that acknowledges its connections with Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the world.

The conference will be structured around three critical focuses of analysis:

Images and stories: This section analyzes images and stories that resonate with audiences living in the Gulf, as well as perceptions of Gulf productions from outside the region. Images and stories from the Gulf must contend with multiple assumptions, including stereotypes, as well as the limitations various socio-economic, national, transnational, and family factors that can impose on Gulf stories. As with media in Africa, the emergence of social media as a viable platform for sharing images and telling stories also challenges assumptions about film and visual media and broadens the perspectives that can potentially reach large audiences.

Institutions and cultures: This section investigates how thinking about images and stories within the context of developments by the state and by transnational corporations in free zones, as well as grassroots efforts on online platforms, to understand the limitations and opportunities for developing sustainable cultures for locally conceived and produced media. One of the greatest challenges remains the problem of building capacity for sustainable media cultures. As multiplexes open in Saudi Arabia and the government embraces a visual media industry, neighborhood cinemas close elsewhere else in the Gulf, thereby reducing the diversity of media on offer. Moreover, the lavish film festivals, which imported practices and personnel from places like Cannes or New York, have failed to capture interest among Gulf audiences.

Infrastructure and platforms: This section explores the opportunities and limitations of new media paradigms, which includes both informal media distribution on “pirated” DVD and online, but also media that is conceived, produced, distributed, and exhibited for multiple digital platforms, especially social media. The latter appeals to “digital natives” whose expectations and experiences of film and visual media are often structured in fragments or algorithmically, rather than linearly or causally, as in the media practices of analogue generations and “digital migrants.”

The conference aims to produce an anthology and/or special journal issue of scholarly research developed from papers presented at the conference.

Please send 300-word abstracts and short bio by 15 July 2018 to:

Alia Yunis, Zayed University ( and
Dale Hudson, NYU Abu Dhabi (

Notifications will follow by 01 August 2018.

For pre-circulation to participants, 10–15–page papers are due 14 October 2018. Conference presentations will be 10 minutes.

NYUAD will cover roundtrip economy airfare and accommodations.


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