CFP: The Conference on Contemporary Celebrity Culture

Posted on Jul 24, 2018

By organizers: Renee Cramer, Professor of Law Politics and Society & or Craig Owens, Professor of English, Drake University

C4: The Conference on Contemporary Celebrity Culture, Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa, USA), June 9-11, 2019.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” opines the dissipated Lord Henry in the opening chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Oscar Wilde’s novel of celebrity. Less blithely, however, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us, in her TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009), that the way we talk about others can also recapitulate cultural injustice: “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” For Adichie, who kept her pregnancy very much out of the public eye, being talked about is often unwelcome, especially under pressure to “perform pregnancy.”

C4: The Conference on Contemporary Celebrity Cutlure (Drake University; June 9-11, 2019) will consider the problematic of being “talked about” nearly 130 years after Wotton’s prescient utterance, in what some might argue is a very different celebrity-cultural moment.

We invite abstracts for presentations on any aspect of celebrity culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, from any of a wide range of humanistic, creative, and social scientific perspectives. We particularly welcome playful, provocative, and experimental approaches and formats.

Topics may include:

  • Readings and analyses of individual celebrities.
  • Sociologies and anthropologies of celebrity culture.
  • Historicizations of particular celebrity formations.
  • Comparative cultural studies of celebrity.
  • Celebrity influence and influencers
  • The economics and politics of celebrity.
  • Celebrity as it manifests itself beyond the entertainment industry.
  • Anti-celebrity and alt-celebrity formations (Anonymous, Banksy).
  • Effects of celebrity on everyday life.
  • Celebrity practitioners (chefs, musicians, athletes, et al.)
  • Cults of celebrity.
  • Celebrity and its relationship to fame and notoriety.
  • Micro- and niche celebrity.
  • Fandoms and fan culture.
  • Celebrities and mass & social media.
  • Celebrity and “Reality.”
  • Celebrity fashion and branding.
  • The scholarship of celebrity.
  • Celebrity as performance art.

C4 will feature up to 24 non-simultaneous, 20-minute plenary presentations over two days, in addition to an opening dinner, closing reception, and keynote presentation. Participants will be asked to attend all presentations and will be invited to submit article-length versions of their papers at the end of summer 2019 for inclusion in a peer-reviewed collection of essays.

Thanks to support from the Drake University College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for the Humanities at Drake University, a modest registration fee of $150 will cover all conference-related expenses, including daily breakfast, opening dinner, and audio-visual technology needs. Conference-rate hotel accommodations near Drake’s campus will be available to participants.

Please send proposals, including a 350-to-500-word abstract and a brief author’s biography, in the body of an email, to by 15 September 2018. Please do not send attachments. Decisions will be announced by October 31, 2018; registration deadline: Februrary 1, 2019.

Questions may be addressed to the C4 organizers: Renee Cramer, Professor of Law Politics and Society ( or Craig Owens, Professor of English (, both of Drake University. Please, however, do not send proposals and abstracts to these addresses.

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