CFP: Film in history / History in film Conference


2-4 April 2020

The South African film industry has a long history, albeit racially fractured, uneven and inconsistent.  Since the introduction of Edison’s kinetoscope in 1895, the film industry and a film culture has become deeply entrenched in South African cultural, political and social life.  The historical development of the South African film industry, and in particular pre- and post-1994 state intervention by means of funding mechanisms, offers a rich site of exploration of South African racial and cultural politics, as well as ideological, aspirational and idealised self-representations in film.  Cinema as both a text and a set of practices and activities which are constantly intervening in society, makes cinema an actor in the ‘maintenance, mutation and subversion of systems of power’. Within this framing, film is read and analysed in history and as source of history; in shaping and reflecting the context of production and reception, in short, as ‘agent, product and source of history’, according to Marc Ferro.

History is increasingly consumed on film. Indeed, Marc Ferro goes further than many scholars in emphasising the ubiquitous influence of visual representations of the past.  He says, ‘television (and one can include film here) has become a kind of parallel school’, in other words, film as history.  Paula Amad (2010) on the other hand, in arguing for film as counter-archive, positions film as a medium that poses a challenge to the positivist historical methodology and archive with its emphasis on order, scientific objectivity and neutrality as elaborated by Leopold von Ranke.

The conference seeks to engage with film in South Africa in the four domains discussed above; film in history, film as source of history, film as history and film as counter-archive.  The conference aims to bring together South African and international scholars working broadly in the domain of film and history in and about South Africa.  The conference is open to all scholars whose research interest is film and visual studies from a historical perspective, including research interests in the historical development of cinema (in the South African national, comparative and/or global contexts), cinema culture, audiences, festivals and reception, technologies and the business of filmmaking as well as historians working with film as history, film in history and film as [counter]archive.

Select conference papers will be considered for publication in an edited volume

Abstracts for presentations are invited in the following broad thematic areas:

  1. Histories of the development of the South African film industry (‘national’, ‘ethnic’ and comparative)
  2. Film and nation-building in pre- and post-1994 South Africa
  3. State intervention in the film industry in pre- and post-1994 South Africa (state subsidies, the NFVF, censorship)
  4. Audiences and reception
  5. Film festivals
  6. South African film scholarship
  7. Archives, counter-archives and film (the South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives)
  8. Film, heritage and tourism

Film Screenings

The conference will include film screenings of select films from the South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives and short films produced by University of Pretoria History students.  Filmmakers are also invited to submit their own productions for consideration.


A select number of original research papers will be considered for publication in an edited volume of essays.


Abstract deadline:  20 January 2020

Abstracts can be submitted to

Acceptance responses: 7 February 2020

Publication-ready papers to be submitted by 17 April 2020

Inquiries can be directed to:

Ian Macqueen:

Glen Ncube:

Nisa Paleker:

Dr G Paleker

Senior Lecturer

Department of Historical and Heritage Studies

Tel: 012 420 2264