Call For Papers: Photography’s Shifting Terrain – Emerging Histories and New Practices

Akkasah - Center for Photography , New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
03 Oct 2014

Call For Papers: Photography’s Shifting Terrain – Emerging Histories and New Practices

© Yasser Alwan, Courtesy: Akkasah, the Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi

The New York University Abu Dhabi is calling for papers for the the conference ‘Photography’s Shifting Terrain – Emerging Histories and New Practices’, taking place from March 8 – March 10, 2015.

Our understanding of the histories and practices of photography is changing as more and more critical attention is being paid to photographic cultures from outside of Europe and North America, and to new forms and functions emergent in a variety of contemporary social and political contexts and digital formats. This conference will bring together up to forty scholars, photographers, curators and archivists from around the world in order to undertake new explorations of photography’s past and its present.

Models for global, regional and local histories of photography are being rethought as a growing number of case studies develop our knowledge of previously unexamined or little known traditions as well as individual photographers. New visual vocabularies and practices are being constructed in vernacular, documentary and fine art forms; the same vocabularies and practices can also challenge these very categories and are often characterized by a turn to local histories and mythologies and personal experiences and needs. Emergent nations and cultural groups are using photography to construct their own histories and a sense of shared cultural heritage. At the same time, both photographers and photographs increasingly move between cultures, and the space between the local and the global has become a space of situatedness in its own right.

Documentary photography has been the object of critique but photography committed to human rights or ‘peace photography’ is thriving – not just in new forms but also through new strategies of intervention. The concern with aesthetics has similarly been out of favor in some quarters but there is also a renewed interest in the relationship of aesthetics and ethics.

In such contexts, the work of archives, galleries, photo agencies, festivals and other cultural organizations committed to the photographic image is more important than ever, as is the role of visual education. Where there is little state support for photography, such institutions often carry the responsibility for creating, preserving and disseminating photographic culture.

These are some of the areas and issues the conference aims to examine. The conference will focus in particular on the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. However, work about and from other regions is also welcomed, as are suggestions for other topics.

Both scholarly papers as well as presentations by those working with photography outside the academy are invited.

The organizers plan to publish a volume of selected papers and presentations.

In addition, important and previously un-translated writings on photography from the non-English-speaking world will be gathered together with a view of publishing an anthology in English. Suggestions and contributions in this area are welcome.



All travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses will be covered for all participants presenting at the conference.
The conference is funded and hosted by the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute. It is organized in collaboration with the Arab Image Foundation. Principal Organizers: Shamoon Zamir, Associate Professor of Literature & Visual Studies, NYUAD, and Director of Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYUAD. Issam Nassar, Professor of Middle East History and Member, Arab Image Foundation



Photography’s Shifting Terrain: Emerging Histories & New Practices
Locations: New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Date: March 8-10, 2015


Possible topics for proposals include, but are not limited to:

– New visual vocabularies in photography
– Archives & archival practices
– Alternative histories of photography
– Photography & human rights / “Peace Photography”
– Photography and history
– Photography and aesthetics
– Cross-cultural encounters & movements
– Photographic genres, modes and audiences
– Image & text / the photobook


Proposals for papers or presentations, or for panels should provide as much detail as possible but should not exceed 500 words.
Proposals will be reviewed by the principal organizers and an advisory committee.
All papers and presentations will be in English and only 20 minutes.
Submit a 500 word abstract and a 150 word biographical note to: Özge Calafato (ozge.calafato@nyu.edu)

Proposals should be submitted in the following format:

Name of the author(s)
Telephone and e-mail address
Title of proposal
Body of proposal



You will be notified by November 7, 2014 regarding the status of your proposal.

For further information on the conference, please contact:
Shamoon Zamir, Arts and Humanities, New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE



Akkasah, the Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi, explores the histories and contemporary practices of photography in the Arab world from comparative perspectives: it fosters the scholarly study of these histories and practices in dialogue with other photographic cultures and traditions from around the world. Through a range of activities, the center also supports the developing photographic culture in the UAE.





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