CfP: I Confess: An Anthology of Original Essays on Constructing the Sexual Self in Contemporary Moving Image Art, Media and Culture


I Confess:
An Anthology of Original Essays on Constructing the Sexual Self in Contemporary Moving Image Art, Media and Culture (title-in-progress)

edited by Thomas Waugh and Brandon Arroyo, Concordia University

A twenty-chapter collection of essays on confessionality (self-referencing, first-person and/or autobiographical stories, testimonies or performances) around sexual identity, desire and practices in moving image media over the last quarter-century, principally in the Global North.

The Sexual Revolution of the  postwar era was built on a foundation of confessionality. The recorded stories and practices of sexual subjects, a societal spectrum of voices including hitherto silenced sexual, gender and racial minorities, radically transformed the nature of cinema, television and the emerging moving image art scene. They also helped turn scattered individuals on the fringes of society into communities and a new cultural force. However, with the loss of many of those voices to the AIDS crisis, and the ideological destruction of collective empowerment in favour of individual accomplishment during  the Reagan-Thatcher-Mulroney regimes of the 1980s, one might have thought that the revolution had slowed down. But in fact the ever-expanding  porn industry, in dialogical relation with the inextinguishable and continuous sex/porn wars, maintained the revolution`s critical mass. And the digital revolution underway in earnest in the 1990s kickstarted new energies and aftershocks in the sexual revolution, leading to galactic techno-cultural economies of sexual representation that pioneers from Kinsey and Hefner to Fred Halsted and Barbara Hammer had never dreamed of. These 21st-century sexual-cultural economies clearly corroborate and extend Foucault`s prophetic probings into the interwoven operations of confession, desire, identity, truth and power, but how, why and to what effect?

At the centre of the second (third?) sexual cultural revolution has been an extraordinary, paradigm-shifting proliferation of first-person voices and imagery within moving-image formats in both high and low culture, inflected by subaltern and identity political movements as well as hegemonic backlashes, incorporating both traditional and new media and platforms. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of millennial confessionality is the way it exists within the in-between spaces and across inherited boundaries of the culture. For example, porn world confessionality offers new ethnographies of porn performers and sex workers. And porn confessionality`s soft core nature has allowed it bleed into G-rated social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Political contradictions are rife: while confession can be a cornerstone of sexual revolution, the first-person discourses of sexual diversity can also help enforce sexual conformity, and get mired in sexual political correctness, advocate assimilation (in the marriage- and military-consumed gay community ), instil fear (as in the false rape “confession” at the University of Virginia), and confirm racial stereotypes (Osama Bin Laden’s porn collection which is “too perverted” to release to the public, and The Maury Show`s showcase of African-American confessions of sexual irresponsibility). Such contradictions and panics within popular culture stretch across the entire landscape of moving image culture that is the focus of I Confess.

Our book will survey the cornucopia of shifts in sexual voices, stories and iconographies within moving-image culture since the 1990s. Few studies in moving-image visual culture have moved beyond the traditional cloisters and boundaries of cultural analysis. Few have captured within the same analytic scrutiny both licit and illicit, documentary and fiction, queer and straight, subversive and hegemonic, text and flow, trauma and jouissance, north and south, panopticon and marketplace, surveillance and empowerment, narcissism and community.  I Confess will fill this gap.

Historical and cultural scope: The collection will scan approximately the last quarter-century. While we are focusing on Euro-American culture and the Global North, inflected as in Foucault by the heritage of Judaeo-Christian confessionality and scientia sexualis, we hope the volume will encompass at least as control studies other cultural contexts, notably East Asian and South Asian. Our period is of course the age of the internet, and even those essays addressing localized or non-digital moving image culture in traditional platforms and venues, from the film festival to the art gallery, will situate their object in relation to the ineradicable presence of the net.

Methodologies: While the collection will profit from an eclecticism and interdisciplinarity suitable to our topic, our favoured methodologies include textual analysis–as applied of course to the always evolving platforms of the sexual mediascape–rigorously anchored both theoretically and materially/historically (and confessionally where appropriate!). The book will build on cultural studies and performance studies as well as traditions of cinema and media studies, will benefit from recent advances in queer, gender, sexuality and affect studies, and is open to cross-pollinisations from the social sciences. We will encourage an accessible, jargon-free style and a crossover audience.


Preliminary prospectus. Please submit a 300-word prospectus for your proposed chapter, along with five key words, applicable preliminary bibliography and mediagraphy, and brief c.v. to<>, by October 1 2015. Participants will be notified of inclusion within one month. We envisage testing the water in 2016 through conference panels and/or curated screening programs, perhaps even special issues of periodicals, enlisting selected participants.

Publication: both book and electronic format are envisaged. Publishers will be canvassed for interest throughout the end of 2015 and early 2016. In addition to initial funding through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insights Grant, the co-editors anticipate a range of internal Concordia University support and further normal grants in support of Canadian arts-related publication.

Deadline: final text. October 1 2016. Essays should be between 5000 and 6500 words, using Chicago date-author format.

Anticipated publication: Fall 2017 or Winter 2018.


Thomas Waugh is Concordia University Research Chair in Sexual Representation and Documentary in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Quebec. He is the editor of Show Us Life: Towards a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary(1984), co-editor of Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada (2010) and The Perils of Pedagogy: The Works of John Greyson (2013), as well as author of Hard to Imagine: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film from their Origins to Stonewall (1996), The Fruit Machine: Twenty Years of Writing on Queer Cinema (2000) Out/Lines: Underground Gay Graphics from Before Stonewall (2002), Lust Unearthed: Vintage Gay Graphics from the Dubek Collection (2004), The Romance of Transgression in Canada: Sexualities, Moving Images, Nations (2006), Montreal Main (2010), The Right to Play Oneself: Looking back on Documentary Film (2011) and The Conscience of Cinema: The Films of Joris Ivens 1912-1989 (2016).

Brandon Arroyo, is a doctoral candidate in the PhD in Film and Moving Image Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. His dissertation is an affective reading of contemporary gay male pornography in the popular internet age focusing on the text’s impact on space, identity formation and discourse. He won a Society for Cinema and Media Studies Student Writing Award in 2014 for an essay titled “Pornographic Space and Sexual Affect in the Networked Gay Village,” and is the author of the forthcoming essay titled “An Amplification of Being: Chris Crocker and the Making of a Transindividual Porn Star.” Both essays will be published in the Porn Studies Journal.

Thomas Waugh
Concordia University Research Chair in Sexual Representation and in Documentary
Prof. Film Studies; Coordinator Program in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality
Director Concordia HIV/AIDS Project
Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema FB315-5
Concordia University
Tel. 514-848-2424 #4654; res. 514-845-2512
Mail address: 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd W
Montreal QC H3G 1M8
Courier address: FB319, 1250 Guy St., Montreal QC H3H 2T4 (tel. #4666)

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