Public Intellectuals: Celebrity, Advocacy, Activism

Public Intellectuals: Celebrity, Advocacy, Activism

ASCA/NICA Symposium organized by Gaston Franssen on Friday November 8, 2019, 13:00-17:00

Public Intellectuals: Celebrity, Advocacy, Activism

VOC-zaal, Bushuis, Kloveniersburgwal 48, Amsterdam

Open to all students and staff members. Register by sending a mail to Please mention your affiliation.

Cultural critics have been bemoaning the decline of the public intellectual at least since 1987 when Russell Jacoby published the book The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. Through Richard Posner’s 2003 Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline to Stefan Collini’s 2006 Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain and recently McKenzie Wark’s 2017 General Intellects: Twenty-Five Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century this narrative of the loss or decline of the public intellectual continues to dominate the discussion, putting the blame on the intensification of specialization in the academy and the increasing celebrification of public figures. This symposium seeks to intervene in this narrative of loss and decline by analyzing contemporary intellectuals who maintain a public profile in the media (traditional and/or new), while constructing and negotiating their public image in different ways. This symposium, then, starts out from the conviction that the public intellectual on the one hand and the culture of celebrity and mass media on the other hand are not at odds with each other. Rather, these speakers accept that contemporary public intellectuals, whether they want to or not, must navigate the pressures and politics of media culture; and analyzing their navigational trajectories, moreover, is essential to truly understand the roles they play in public life and their impact on current debates.

13:00 Dr. Gaston Franssen (University of Amsterdam): Welcome & Introduction

13:10 Panel: dr. Shelley Cobb (University of Southampton) &
dr. Neil Ewen (University of Winchester): The Celebrity, Micro-Celebrity and Anti-Celebrity of Contemporary Public Intellectuals in the New Attention Economy

14:15 Dr. Inge van de Ven (Tilburg University): Attention Seekers: Female Public Intellectuals in the Selfie Age

15:00 coffee/thee

15:15 Prof. Dr. Odile Heynders (Tilburg University): The Public Intellectual on Stage: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

16:00 Prof. Dr. Misha Kavka (University of Amsterdam) & Emma Blackett (University of Auckland, MA): Trump’s Women

16:45 Panel discussion + Q&A

17:15 Drinks

Shelley Cobb is an Associate Professor of Film at the University of Southampton. Her main areas of research and teaching expertise are in women and film (both production and representation), gender and popular culture, celebrity studies and adaptation. Her monograph Adaptation, Authorship and Contemporary Women Filmmakers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) considers film adaptations directed by women that foreground the figure of the female author. She is also co-editor (with Neil Ewen) of First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship and Cultural Politics (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Neil Ewen is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication at the Department of School of Media and Film, University of Winchester. His research interests lie in the politics of contemporary media and culture. From a critical media and cultural studies perspective, he writes about celebrity, sport, politics and politicians, film, television, and journalism. He is the co-editor (with Shelley Cobb) of First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship and Cultural Politics (Bloomsbury, 2015) and Capitalism, Crime and Media in the 21st Century (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2020).

Odile Heynders is Professor of Comparative Literature and Head of the Department of Culture Studies at Tilburg University. She has published numerous books and articles on European literature and authorship. Her book Writers as Public Intellectuals, Literature, Celebrity, Democracy (2016) appeared at Palgrave McMillan. Her current research (book) project is on Experiences of Migration in Literature (book contract Cambridge Publishers).

Misha Kavka is Professor of Cross-Media Culture at the Media Studies Department, University of Amsterdam. Her main areas of research are film , (reality) television, and the affective relations that underpin celebrity culture. Her publications include Reality Matters: Affect and Intimacy in Reality Television (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and Reality Television (Edinburgh University Press, 2012).

Inge van de Ven is Assistant Professor of Online Culture in the Department of Culture Studies at Tilburg School of Humanities & Digital Sciences, Tilburg University. She is interested in contemporary literature in relation to new media, and everything to do with attention. She has published in Image & Narrative, Journal of Creative Behavior, and Narrative. Her monograph Big Books in times of Big Data will be published in 2019 with Leiden University Press.