Conference Areas

Areas at a Glance

Animals and Culture (Special Topics)
The Body, Fashion, and Popular Culture
Classrooms, Libraries, and the Academy
Comedy Studies
Comics and Graphic Novels
COVID-19 and Popular Culture (Special Topics)
Crime and Scandal in Fact and Fiction
Digital Media and Gaming Culture
Disney Studies (Special Topics)
Fan, Fandoms, and Celebrity Studies
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Film & History
Folklore, Belief, & Religion
Food and Culture
Genders, Sex and Sexualities
Health, Disease and Popular Culture
History and Popular Uses of the Past
Literature and Popular Culture
Monsters and the Monstrous
Performance Studies
Philosophy and Popular Culture
Politics, Civic Life and Popular Culture
Race and Ethnicity
Romance/Popular Romance Fiction
Science and Technology
Sports
Storytelling and Narrative
Television
Travel, Tourism, and Global Culture

Area Descriptions & Chairs

Animals and Culture [Special Topic]
Current Chair: Donna Varga, Mount Saint Vincent University, donna.varga@msvu.ca

This area explores the complex and multifaceted intersections between animals, animal representations, society and popular culture. Animal symbolism has appeared in human culture since the earliest cave paintings, and feature​s significantly throughout popular culture. In many cases, humans are more likely to interact with visual and material animals than actual animals their living counterparts. These mediated representations have been found to influence, not always positively, how living animals are perceived and treated. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged, and possible topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • Animals as companions to humans ​
  • Therapy animals
  • Animals in literature​, art and other media
  • Wildlife genre and documentary
  • Symbols and caricatures
  • Celebrity animals and animal performers, including presentation on Facebook pages and YouTube channels
  • Commodification of animals
  • Animals in advertising, branding, and commercial franchises
  • News coverage of animals and animal issues
  • Animal photography
  • Animal memorialization

The Body, Fashion, and Popular Culture
Current Chair: Gloria Monaghan, Wentworth Institute, monaghang@wit.edu

Classrooms, Libraries, and the Academy
Current Co-Chairs: Julie DeCesare, Providence College, jdecesa1@providence.edu, Lance Eaton, Harvard University, lance.eaton@gmail.com

This area explores the intersection of popular culture and the academy and can manifest in many ways including:

  • The use of libraries, archives, museums, etc for popular culture scholarship
  • Studies and reporting on the creation or organizing of important popular culture collections
  • How popular culture is engaged and used in the classroom, including interesting and unique uses for teaching various courses and educational technology
  • The role of the academy and collections in advancing popular culture studies
  • The role of academic publishing within popular culture studies in traditional and new media
  • Intellectual freedom or cultural sensitivity issues related to popular culture resources
  • Depictions and virtual tours of libraries, classrooms, collections and the academy in popular culture
  • Public libraries and librarians supporting programming and outreach around popular culture resources (graphic novels, streaming video, book clubs etc.)

Comedy Studies
Current Chair: Open

This area seeks papers considering humor in popular culture, past and present. Recent papers have considered Canada’s CODCO and Kids in the Hall, social messages in Richard Pryor’s stand-up comedy, and political incorrectness in Seth MacFarlane’s adult television cartoons.  A more general list offers additional topics:

  • Authors, texts, and motifs from literary humor
  • Contemporary media as news source
  • Politics and the political process
  • Comedic film genres
  • Humor in advertisements
  • Comedians, past and present
  • Gender issues in humor

Comics and Graphic Novels
Current Chair: Charles W. Henebry, Boston University, henebry@bu.edu

This area considers comics and graphic novels. Among the topics welcomed are those probing:

  • The history and cultural impact of comics and graphic novels
  • Representations of comics and graphic novels in popular culture and media
  • How personal and social identities are manifest in comics and graphic novels
  • Body image in comics and graphic novels
  • Comics and graphic novels as an arena of social, political, and cultural struggle
  • The economic impact of comics and graphic novels

Crime and Scandal in Fact and Fiction
Current Chair: Joe Baumstarck, University of Louisville, jbaumstarck@protonmail.com

This area explores actual crime, the representation of crime in culture, and fictional crime. Scandals of all sorts are also explored, as is the presentation of scandals in any medium. Any of these themes can be explored in isolation or intersectional studies can explore the interactions between these areas. This area is currently being developed and innovation is invited. Any topic which can be reasonably fit into the broad concept of crime and/or scandal is welcome. Some suggested topics within this area are:

  • An analysis of crime and/or scandal within a culture
  • How a culture represents crime and/or scandal
  • How crime fiction and/or scandal fiction is influenced by actual crime and/or scandal (or vice versa)
  • How a culture responds to crime and/or scandal
  • Factual crime and/or scandal that is taboo for fictional representation
  • Crime fans and/or scandal fans
  • Fiction for this area covers any form of media, including literature, movies, theater, newspapers, television, music, and art.

Digital Media and Gaming Culture
Current Chair: Kelly I. Aliano, Long Island University–Post Campus, kel.irene.aliano@gmail.com

This area explores all aspects of popular culture in the digital age:

  • social media
  • blogging / v-logging
  • gaming
  • information retrieval and archiving
  • virtual reality
  • online and open source publishing
  • online television
  • tabletop and board games
  • pinball machines and their ilk

We encourage papers that deploy or imbricate multi-disciplinary theory in order to analyze individual games of all genres, social media threads and trends, and digital systems of societal control.

Representative recent papers have developed neo-Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, Queer, African-American, non-western, and post-structuralist approaches to well-known video games, as well as historicist appreciations of the evolution of the digital world. Proposals that deal with or touch upon almost anything connected with computer-driven culture are welcome.

Disney Studies [Special Topic]
Current Chair: Priscilla Hobbs, Southern New Hampshire University, p.hobbs-penn@snhu.edu

This area invites submissions from scholars and independent researchers for topics related to Disney. The intent behind this area is to foster dialogue about an entertainment corporation that has seeped and inspired many facets of popular culture. Submission topics are welcome for any Disney-related topic, including but not limited to:

  • Theme Parks and hyperreality
  • Animation (films, process)
  • Princesses, Pirates, and everything in between
  • Walt Disney
  • Imagineering and urban planning
  • Disney+, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, The Wonderful World of Disney
  • DisneyNature, the True Life Adventures, and Ecology
  • Diversity and Disney Hegemony
  • NOTE: Proposals for acquired properties (e.g. Star Wars, The Muppets) are welcome, but need to connect to Disney.

Fan, Fandoms, and Celebrity Studies
Current Chair: Shelly Jones, SUNY Delhi, jonesmc@delhi.edu

This area encourages submissions that focus on interrogating the ideas and the ideals of fans and fandoms, and why we idolize celebrities. We welcome submissions from all theoretical and philosophical perspectives. We are open to submissions in any area of fan and celebrity studies including but not limited to:

  • Creation and authenticity of fandoms
  • Fandoms, diversity and inclusion
  • Celebrity marketing, advertising, and public relations
  • Social media use and celebrity status
  • Defining fandoms
  • Fandoms and politics
  • Celebrities and illness
  • Sport fandoms and celebrities
  • Issues of fame and what it means to be famous in our culture
  • Fandom comparisons between cultures
  • Trust and value of celebrity
  • An individual celebrity

Fantasy and Science Fiction
Current Chair: Amie Doughty, SUNY Oneonta, Amie.Doughty@oneonta.edu

Highlighting the more positive aspects of the fantastic genre, the Fantasy and Science Fiction area seeks to examine texts that bring about a sense of wonder in their receivers through their representation of the marvelous, and we welcome submissions from scholars of all levels for papers that explore any aspect of the intermedia traditions of the fantastic that might promote this work. Topics can include, but are not limited to, elements of fairy tale, fantasy, legend, mythology, and science fiction; proposals should investigate how creative artists have shaped and/or altered our preconceptions of these sub-traditions by producing innovative works in diverse countries, time periods, and media and for audiences at all levels.

Film and History
Current Chair: Marty Norden, UMASS Amherst, norden@comm.umass.edu

This area welcomes presentations on a wide range of film topics contributing to popular culture. Suggestions for topics include the following areas of analysis:

  • Films that portray history with great accuracy or which provide fresh or controversial perspectives regarding events (e.g. Spotlight, JFK)
  • Films exploring the nature of complex characters or incorporating social, political, and ultural themes (e.g., heroism, friendship, injustice, racism, betrayal, ambition)
  • Film adaptations of other media, such as novels, short stories, and the theatre, or from real life situations
  • Film genres, such as romantic comedy, the gangster film, the western, the war film, or science fiction
  • History of the cinema
  •  Economic and cultural impacts of film on society
  • Academy Awards’ nominations, policies, and practices

Folklore, Belief, & Religion
Current Chair: June-Ann Greeley, Sacred Heart University, greeleyj@sacredheart.edu

This area wide net to examine the intersection of religion/ myth/fairy tale/ folklore in popular American and global culture. “Religion” here is not limited to institutionalized expressions or formal practices but also encompasses the interface with popular culture of religion as a range of beliefs and practices, identities and narratives that also find expression in performances and performative spaces (theater), in forms of music, art, dance, and film. Myth, Fairy Tale and Folklore are similarly expansive concepts and, like Religion, cut across geographical and chronological boundaries.  Papers may be drawn from a range of disciplines and methodologies and papers that express new conceptualizations of the area themes are also welcome. Themes in some recent papers include:

  • Folk religion and non-mainstream practices
  • Religious themes in adolescent literature
  • Folkloric beliefs and practices evidenced in popular culture
  • Religious themes in American politics and popular media (TV)

Food and Culture
Current Chair: Ann Kordas, Johnson & Wales University, akordas@jwu.edu

This area explores intersections among food, eating, and popular culture. Possible topics of interest include the following:

  • The history of food and dining
  • Depictions of food and dining in popular culture
  • Connections among food, eating and identity
  • The history and culture of restaurants
  • Food festivals and cooking competitions
  • Cookbooks as popular culture
  • The Food Network and celebrity chefs

Genders, Sex, and Sexualities
Current Chair: Hayley McCullough, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, hmccullough.popculture@gmail.com

This area investigates issues central to the discussion and understanding of gender, identity, sex, and sexuality.  The title of this area is intended to reflect NEPCA’s recognition that identities are fluid and that notions of what is “normal” are socially constructed. Some particular topics may include:

  • Queer Theory
  • LGBTQ legislation
  • Coding
  • Terminology and nomenclature
  • Performativity
  • Coming Out
  • Health and health policy
  • Intersectionality/hybridity
  • How masculinity and femininity are constructed
  • Affinity and support group cultures
  • Social activism

Subject matter may be derived from any number of diverse fields of academic inquiry, including but not limited to visual art, literature, performing arts, political science, social science, public policy, women’s studies, and critical race studies.

Health, Disease and Popular Culture
Current Chair: Julia Brown, Stony Brook University, julia.r.brown@stonybrook.edu

This area invites proposals in topic areas relating to health, disease and popular culture. How does popular culture inform our understanding of health and/or disease? How do health/disease narratives permeate popular culture? What implications do such narratives suggest for healthcare broadly or cultural perspectives of health/disease? We welcome proposals from a number of approaches in historical and contemporary perspectives including:

  • Social determinants of health discourse including race, ethnicity, class, place, built environment
  • Cultural contexts of narratives of illness from patient and health practitioner perspectives in novels, short stories, memoirs, graphic comics, etc.
  • Cultural discourses of infectious disease outbreaks, epidemic, pandemic, emerging infectious disease, chronic illnesses
  • Promotion of individual health in culture:  diet, exercise, public hygiene, lifestyle
  • Food Security and Insecurity as portrayed in media
  • Health Policy and portrayals of health and disease in visual and print culture

History and Popular Uses of the Past
Current Chair: James P. Hanlan, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, jphanlan@wpi.edu

Literature and Popular Culture
Current Chair
: Susan Gorman, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, susan.gorman@mcphs.edu

This area welcomes papers that analyze and evaluate the connections between popular culture and literature, understood broadly. How does popular culture inform and/or react to literature, and what are the implications for that relationship? Presentations can discuss many different theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Intersections of popular culture and Literature
  • Retelling of works of literature in popular culture media
  • Publication, reception and audience of Literature and popular culture
  • Popular culture trends in Literature
  • Literary genres and how they are explored in popular culture
  • Any other topics that bring together these two areas.

Monsters and the Monstrous Area
Current Chair: Michael A. Torregrossa, Independent Scholar, popular.preternaturaliana@gmail.com

This area welcomes proposals that investigate any of the things, whether mundane or marvelous, that scare us. Through our sessions, we hope to pioneer fresh explorations into the darker sides of the intermedia traditions of the fantastic (including, but not restricted to, aspects of fairy tale, fantasy, gothic, horror, legend, mythology, and science fiction) by illuminating how creative artists have both formed and transformed our notions of monsters within these sub-traditions in texts from various countries, time periods, and media and for audiences at all levels. Our primary goal is to foster a better understating of monsters in general and to examine their impact on those that receive their stories as well as on the world at large. However, as a component of the Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association, the Monsters and the Monstrous Area is also especially interested in celebrating both the New England Gothic tradition and the life, works, and legacy of H. P. Lovecraft, a leading proponent of Weird Fiction and an immense influence on contemporary popular culture.

Philosophy, Belief, and Popular Culture
Current Chair: Anthony G. Cirilla, College of the Ozarks, acirilla@cofo.edu

“Philosophy? I always preferred common sense.” This infuriating phrase has met the exasperated ears of many individuals invested in philosophy, whether people trained in the discipline, teaching in it, or simply appreciative of its value for society. Building bridges between philosophy and apparent “common sense,” however, depends upon those who have regard for philosophical discourse and inquiry. We are interested in papers that look at:

  • Philosophy as related to television shows, sitcoms, reality TV shows, sports, wrestling, etc
  • Problems of philosophy as they emerge on the big screen and film (live action or animated)
  • Videogames, board games, live participation in games such as LARPing, Dungeons and Dragons, or Cosplay
  • Fantasy, science fiction, and fiction novels and graphic novels, especially those with broad-base appeal and influence in their genre/niche
  • Other major arenas of popular culture which implicate philosophical discourse and have definable reach for analysis
  • Popular culture which conspicuously appeals to a major philosophical figure such as Aquinas, Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Hume, etc (such as the show Lost)

Both analytical and continental styles and figures within philosophy are welcome, although clarity of analysis and subject matter are always appreciated.

Performance Studies
Current Chair: Brandy Hadden, Duquesne University, haddenb@duq.edu

This area embraces interdisciplinary scholarship and critical approaches to the music, dancing body, performance, and live art. Areas of interest include technology and influences of social media, emerging dance forms, digital archives, embodiment, identity, nationhood, migration, postcolonialism, gender and sexuality.:

  • Music and dance as an art forms and a systems of representation and communication
  • Music, dance, performance, and live art within the context of history, politics, economics, religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc.
  • The role of genre in music, dance, performance, and live art
  • How musical production and performance can function as a form of social/cultural expression and identity
  • How technology (including various modes of industry, transportation, communication, and entertainment) has affected the evolution of music, dance, performance, and live art
  • Musical theatre
  • Divas and icons

Politics, Civic Life and Culture
Current Chair: Dana Gavin, Old Dominion University, dgavi001@odu.edu

This area explores the role of political actors, institutions, ideology, rhetoric, and satire in popular culture. Papers may be drawn from all policy domains – both foreign and domestic. Recent conferences featured panels on:

  • The presidency in popular culture
  • Storytelling in the public square
  • News coverage of political figures and campaigns
  • Narrative approaches to public policy
  • Political icons
  •  American identity. 

Race and Ethnicity
Current Chair: Enrique Morales-Diaz, Westfield State University, emoralesdiaz@westfield.ma.edu

This area considers the intersection of race and/or ethnicity with popular culture. Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Constructions and depictions/appropriation of race in particular genres (film, comics, music etc.) or mass culture and social media (spirit animals, sugar skulls, “Taco Tuesdays” etc.)
  • The intersections of race, ethnicity, popular culture and academia, including pedagogy
  • “Whitewashing” and other approaches to racialization in book-to-screen adaptations
  • Race and ethnicity in public discourse (Black Lives Matter, immigration, Islamophobia, Sinophobia/#jenesuispasunvirus …)
  • The intersections with and meanings of race and ethnicity in constructions of nation/nationalism, “postracial” culture, neoliberalism, globalization and capitalism

Romance/Popular Romance Fiction
Current Chair: Wendy Wagner, Johnson & Wales, Wendy.Wagner@jwu.edu

This area invites proposals relating to romance fiction and its influence and adaptations in popular culture. In her 2004 book A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis defines the romance novel as “a work of prose fiction that tells the story of courtship and betrothal of one or more heroines.” Romance Writers of America, the professional organization of romance authors, cites two specific features of romance fiction: a central love story, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. This area welcomes submissions in this area from variety of disciplinary perspectives. Topics may include:

  • History of the romance novel
  • Analysis of romance readers
  • The romance novel across cultures
  • Romance tropes
  • Politics and activism in the romance community
  • Film and television adaptations
  • Romance fandom and “shipping”
  • The economics of the romance novel industry
  • Portrayals of romance authors in popular culture
  • Controversies in the publication of romance novels
  • Romance book clubs
  • New media and romance novels
  • Library and archival collections of romance fiction

Science and Technology
Current Co-Chairs: Jessica Hautsch , Stony Brook University , jessica.hautsch@stonybrook.edu; Jon Heggestad, Stony Brook University, jon.heggestad@stonybrook.edu

This area of the Northeast Popular Culture Association encourages paper submissions that explore the relation of science and technology to popular culture and to American culture, with science and technology broadly defined. We are particularly interested in putting science, technology, culture, and the humanities in conversation with one another. How are science and technology represented in popular culture? How do we use popular culture to understand science and technology? And how do we use science and technology to understand narratives, art, and culture? What do we gain, what do we risk by approaching science and technology from the lens of the humanities, the humanities from the lens of science, by putting these disciplines in conversation with each other? Some topics may include::

  • representations of science and technology in print and visual culture
  • digital humanities
  • cognitive science/cognitive humanities
  • technology, environmental science, and ecocriticism
  • science, the internet, and digital technology
  • technology, race, and gender
  • cultural influences on science and technology
  • popularization of science and technology
  • science education and technology in the classroom
  • the celebrity scientist and science fans
  • science and technology in the museum
  • science, technology, the present, and the future
  • technologies of cultural production

Sports
Current Chair: Shawn Driscoll, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, shawn_driscoll@uml.edu

This area probes American and international intersections between sports, society, and culture. Among the topics welcomed are those probing:

  • The history and cultural impact of sports
  • Representations of sports in popular culture and media
  • How personal and social identities are manifest in sports
  • Sports and body image
  • Sports as an arena of social, political, and cultural struggle
  • The economic impact of sports

Creative projects, fiction, and memoir are considered only insofar as they are part of broader analytical frameworks.

Storytelling and Narrative
Current Chair: Adam Crowley, Husson College, crowleya@husson.edu

Television
Current Chair: Karen Honeycutt, Keene State College, khoneycutt@keene.edu

This area encompasses presentations from a broad array of perspectives, especially given that what constitutes “television” in the 21st century is in flux. Possible topics or approaches include but are not remotely limited to:

  • Broadcast history
  • Consumption modes
  • Content Formats
  • Reality TV
  • Future of TV
  • Cultural and societal impact
  • Gender, race and ethnicity
  • Artifacts and rituals
  • Advertising
  • Theories and criticism
  • The business of TV

Travel, Tourism, and Global Culture
Current Chair: Open

This area invites presentations on any aspect of global (international and/or ethnic) culture. Some areas of interest include:

  •  Arts initiatives-including public art exhibits, guerrilla gardening, tagging etc
  • Immigrant neighborhoods
  • Music, including world music
  • Literature
  • Exploration of spatial/geographical community (e.g. urban studies, urban-rural divides, megacities, etc)
  • Any other aspects of culture in its broadest meaning(s)