We are editing a collected volume on Transnationalism and Westerns
and are currently missing chapters on East Asian and Latin American
Westerns. Confirmed contributors include Lee Broughton, Emma Hamilton
and Andrew Patrick Nelson. You’ll find the CfC below. Please contact
us if you have any questions.
David on behalf of the editors
David Roche, Professor of Film Studies / professeur d’études
Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, France (office LA257)
DEMA / CAS (EA 801)
President of SERCIA (Société d’Études et de Recherches sur le CInéma
Anglophone) www.sercia.net <http://www.sercia.net/>
*CfC Transnationalism and Imperialism: New Perspectives on the Western*
The genre has been widely read within the confines of a national
culture and cinema in the U.S. André Bazin and Jean-Louis Rieupeyrout
(1953) famously labeled the Western “the American cinema /par
excellence/,” and film genre studies since have consistently resorted
to a “sociohistorical analysis” to read the genre as the cinematic
expression of an American identity (Le Bris 2012). In recent film
studies, the Western genre is still widely explored, understood, and
constructed as an American genre despite overwhelming evidence of
foreign production and global circulation since the invention of
cinema. In doing so, studies of the Western strengthen the
construction of an American exception that the genre—and the myth of
the West it is grounded in—itself promoted. In order to emancipate
studies of the Western from discourses of American exceptionalism,
this conference proposes to connect film genre studies with the
recent field of transnational cinema. Transnational cinema generally
refers to films that cross national borders, as stories, productions,
and sometimes both. But the concept of transnationalism can be
interpreted more widely as a repositioning of film studies, in which
the “study of /national/ cinemas must then transform into
/transnational/ film studies” (Lu 1997, emphasis in original). This
“critical transnationalism” approaches film from the viewpoint of
international networks of production and reception rather than from
national film traditions, exploring the complex economic, political,
and cultural negotiations between transnational and national along
with questions of “postcoloniality, politics and power” (Higbee and
Several scholars have pointed out the blind spot of transnationalism
in the study of the Western and started to explore the genre from
more de-centered perspectives. In a 2001 article on Cormac McCarthy,
Susan Kollin called for researchers to abandon the idea of the
Western as a “quintessential American form” and invited them instead
to “recognize that its sensibilities have been shaped by a larger
history of imperialism”. In their respective contributions to /Zoos
humains/ (2011), Pascal Blanchard, Eric Deroo and Eric Ames underline
the ideological familiarity between Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and
other spectacles of imperialism at the turn of the 20^th century. In
his study of French colonial cinema, Abdelkader Benali (1998) notices
that “several levels of comparison can be established between the
French colonial cinema and the American Western”, referencing
narrative structure, themes, dramatic content, or what he calls the
“ethno-anthropological dimension” of those genres. Expanding on ideas
put forth by Richard Slotkin (1992) and later by Stanley Corkin
(2004), James Chapman and Nicholas Cull, in the first chapter of
/Projecting Empire/ (2009) which focuses on the British and American
co-productions of empire films in the 1930s, mention the “common
ground” of Western and empire films, again citing narrative
structures (expansion, taming of the frontier, clash of civilization
and savagery). These various arguments seem to invite the following
hypothesis: that the Western is not so much an American exception,
but rather the American expression of a transnational ideology and
culture of imperialism. That only a limited percentage of American
Westerns feature the Indian wars and territorial conquest does not
change the fact that the entire genre explores racial and gender
hierarchies, as well as issues of progress and violence inherited
from, and shaped by, a history of imperialism. The very category of
the "Western" as a genre can therefore also be questioned as other
labels (empire cinema or cinema of exploration) may better capture
the common features of imperial cinemas beyond national borders.
Along with the ideological and narrative similarities between the
American Western and other spectacles of imperialism, another largely
unexplored field of study is that of the circulation and reception of
Westerns outside the United States. Quantitative studies on the
exportation of American Westerns abroad are needed to specify the
vague estimates presently available, as well as studies on the
marketing strategies developed by studios to sell their products
outside the United States. One recent step to answer this question is
Russell Meuff’s 2013 study of the target marketing of John Wayne
films in 1950s France. If Hollywood’s construction of foreign markets
is important to understand how producers conceived the appeal of
their products beyond national borders, the reception of American
Westerns abroad is as important to understand how those products
interacted with, and contributed to shape, national or local
cultures. Talking about /Cheyenne Autumn/ in a 1967 interview with
Peter Bogdanovich, John Ford mentioned the interest of European
audiences for the Indian as one of the reasons for making the film.
This interest needs to be verified. More specifically, it begs the
question: to what extent does/did the American Western crystallize
national or local issues of imperialism? One hypothesis that could be
addressed is that American Westerns acted as a foil to audiences of
imperial nations: it represented both a foreignness that allowed for
dissociating criticism (Americans murdered the “Indian”) and a
familiarity that was exhilarating (the white man’s epic), the level
of historical dissociation being proportionate to the guiltless
enjoyment of an imperial story. Some scholars point to more complex
power relations at work in the circulation and reception of American
Westerns. One example is Peter Bloom’s contribution to /Westerns:
Films Through History/ (2001), in which the author explores how the
reception of populist American Westerns in 1930s Algeria affected
French rule in the colony. Such reception studies can shed new light
on the issue of American cultural imperialism.
In addition to the circulation and reception of American Westerns
abroad, one last area of transnational discussion of the Western is
that of foreign productions. Of the three areas of study mapped out
for this conference, this is the most well-known and explored.
Studies of non-American westerns have developed since the 1980s
(Frayling 1981), focusing predominantly on Italian Westerns that were
successful in the U.S. and worldwide (those of Sergio Leone and, to a
lesser extent, Sergio Corbucci), but there remains much work to
consider the diversity and complexity of Western productions outside
the U.S., notably by considering how the genre’s imperialist
thrust—the economic conquest of space and celebration of hard
masculinity at the expense of a racial other—has been used to reflect
on national and international concerns. Attention to the transfer of
Western motifs and figures (costumes, color schemes, songs and music,
the use of low-angle shots and narrative montage to emphasize heroic
feats, the advance of civilization, etc.) to address national
concerns and sometimes critique imperialist ideologies would be
welcome. A first step in that direction was taken with the recent
publications of /International Westerns /(Miller 2013) and /Critical
Perspectives on the Western/ (Broughton 2016), which break new
grounds in focusing on reinterpretations of the Western by foreign
industries such as Hungary, Brazil, Bangladesh, and South Africa.
/International Westerns/ is especially noteworthy for its attempt to
fill in the gap of a “book-length survey of the breadth of the
international Westerns” [xvi], but, while the book crosses the
borders of the American Western, it reestablishes those borders in
its treatment of foreign Westerns as local rewritings of the genre
within national cinematic traditions. The extent to which
non-American Westerns reinstate the idea of an exceptionally American
genre even as they appropriate the genre remains to be assessed.
The following venues of investigation can be addressed:
ðThe American Western as the expression of a transnational culture of
+ comparative studies of the Frontier/Western myth and other colonial
or imperial narratives;
+ transnational origins of Frontier/Western mythology;
+ comparative studies of the American Western and other colonial or
+ interactions of the American Western with other national cultures
(appropriation, acculturation, redefinitions);
+ discussion of the national label "Western" as opposed to
transnational genre categories such as empire cinema or cinema of
ðThe American Western abroad: circulation and reception:
+ economic, cultural, political implications; American marketing
+ the reception of American Westerns in foreign countries and the
degree to which they resonate with national cultures of imperialism.
ðThe non-American Western: the production of Westerns abroad:
+ case studies of non-American English-language productions
(Australia, Canada, Italy, etc.);
+ comparative studies of American Westerns and non-English-language
productions (Argentina, Brazil, German, French, Manchuria, etc.).
ðTransnational studies of the Western: definitions, theory, practices:
+ Surveys of national academic corpuses on the Western;
+ Comparative studies of national academic corpuses.
Proposals in English (350 words including a short bio and
bibliography) must be sent to Marianne Kac-Vergne
((marianne.kac /at/ u-picardie.fr) <mailto:(marianne.kac /at/ u-picardie.fr)>),
Hervé Mayer ((hervmayer /at/ gmail.com) <mailto:(hervmayer /at/ gmail.com)>) and
David Roche ((mudrockca /at/ gmail.com) <mailto:(mudrockca /at/ gmail.com)>) by
March 15, 2019. Notification of acceptation will be sent to
participants by April 1, 2019.
_Scientific Committee_: Mathilde Arrivé, Jean-François Baillon,
Zachary Baqué, Lee Broughton, Matthew Carter, Christophe Chambost,
Claude Chastagner, Florent Christol, Claire Dutriaux, Sarah Hatchuel,
Gilles Menegaldo, Monica Michlin, Andrew Patrick Nelson, Anne-Marie
Paquet-Deyris, Peter Stanfield, Vincent Souladié, Clémentine
Altman, Rick. /Film/Genre/. London: BFI, 1999
Benali, Abdelkader. /Le cinéma colonial au Maghreb : l’imaginaire en
trompe-l’œil/. Paris: Cerf, 1998.
Blanchard,Pascal /et al. /(eds.). /Zoos humains et exhibitions
coloniales : 150 ans d’inventions de l’Autre/. Paris: La Découverte,
Bloom, Peter J. “Beyond the Western Frontier: Reappropriations of the
‘Good Bad-man’ in France, the French Colonies, and Contemporary
Algeria.” Ed. /Westerns: Films through History/. Ed. Janet Walker.
New York: Routledge, 2001, 197-218.
Bogdanovich, Peter. /John Ford/. London: Studio Vista, 1967.
Broughton, Lee (ed.). /Critical Perspectives on the Western: From /A
Fistful of Dollars/to /Django Unchained. London: Rowman and
Campbell,Neil. /Post-Westerns: Cinema, Region, West/. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
Carter, Matthew. /Myth of the Western: New Perspectives on
Hollywood’s Frontier Narrative/. Edinburg: Edinburgh University
Chapman, James and Nicholas John Cull. /Projecting Empire:
Imperialism and Popular Cinema/. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.
Corkin, Stanley. /Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S.
History/. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2004.
DurovicováNataša and Kathleen E. Newman. /World Cinemas,
Transnational Perspectives/. New York: Routledge, 2010.
Frayling, Christopher. /Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans
from Karl May to Sergio Leone/. New York: I.B. Tauris, 1981.
Higbee, Will and Song Hwee Lim. “Concepts of transnational cinema:
towards a critical transnationalism in film studies”. /Transnational
Cinemas/ 1.1 (2010): 7-21.
Kollin, Susan. “Genre and the Geographies of Violence: Cormac
McCarthy and the Contemporary Western.” /Contemporary Literature/42^.
3 (2001): 557-88.
Landi, Marcia. British Genres: Cinema and Society (1930-1960).
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Le Bris, Louis. /Le Western : grandeur ou décadence d’un mythe ?/
Paris: l’Harmattan, 2012.
Lottini, Irene. “When Buffalo Bill Crossed the Ocean: Native American
Scenes in Early Twentieth Century European Culture.” /European
Journal of American Culture/ 31.3 (Oct 2012): 187-203.
Lu Sheldon Hsiao-peng. /Transnational Chinese Cinema: Identity
Nationhood, Gender/. Honolulu, HA: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997.
Meeuf, Russell. /John Wayne’s World: Transnational Masculinity in the
Fifties/. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2013.
Miller, Cynthia J., and A. Bowdoin Van Riper (eds.). /International
Westerns: Re-Locating the Frontier/. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2014.
Nelson, Andrew Patrick (ed.), /Contemporary Westerns: Film and
Television since 1990/. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013.
Rieupeyrout, Jean-Louis. /Le Western ou Le cinéma américain par
excellence/. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1953.
Slotkin, Richard. /Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in
Twentieth-Century America/. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1998 .
Teo, Stephen. /Eastern Westerns: Film and Genre Outside and Inside
Hollywood/. London: Routledge, 2017.