Guest editor: Kim Knowles (Aberystwyth University)
Few issues are as pertinent today as the relationship between old and new, past and present, obsolescence and progress. Paradoxically, as the obsession with the new in contemporary society intensifies, so too does our interest in older technologies, styles, and artefacts. Advertising and marketing in particular have tapped into the selling potential of nostalgia and references to the past permeate just about every cultural domain from film, television, art, and music, to fashion, food, tourism, and interior design. Terms such as ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ have become commonplace, both frequent appendages to item searches on Ebay and other shopping sites/outlets. How do we define and distinguish these terms, and how might they be unpacked to shed light on the processes by which history is evaluated, appropriated, and consumed?
Unlike retro and nostalgia, vintage has received little critical attention despite its ubiquity in the fields of fashion and furniture. The complexity of the term derives from its relationship to taste and value and rituals of acquisition and exchange. Situated somewhere between retro irony and antique sobriety, vintage carries a host of connotations that shift in relation to contextual and historical markers. From the ragpickers of flea markets and car boot sales to the affluent consumers of highly-priced rarities, vintage traverses disparate spaces, identities, and practices, encompassing both mainstream and alternative attitudes and ethics.
A host of historical and philosophical commentators, from Benjamin to Baudrillard, have grappled with our relationship to history through modes of representation and ways of seeing. Whilst for Benjamin an engagement with the past can mean redemption in the present, Baudrillard sees our cultural obsession with history as emptied of meaning – a reflection of the postmodernist decline of the real. How to consolidate these different positions within a theory of vintage? What can a study of vintage with its shifting meanings, its complications and contradictions, reveal about our attachment to the past and its significance in the present? What is the relationship between vintage and practices of remembering, both personal and collective, and how might these practices be activated in ways that go beyond consumerism? Notable here are recent studies of media and nostalgia – Amy Holdsworth’s Television, Memory and Nostalgia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Lucas Hilderbrand’s Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright (Duke University Press, 2009), and Katharina Niemeyer’s edited collection Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). How do we negotiate the fine line between nostalgic reification (Baudrillard) and critical interrogation (Benjamin)? How does vintage connect with popular culture and what Simon Reynolds has termed ‘retromania’ in his book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (Faber & Faber, 2011)?
This NECSUS special section aims to answer some of these questions, building a theory of vintage that stretches across different media. It will bring together a wide range of new perspectives on and critical approaches to the theme of vintage, opening up the topic to related fields of enquiry and making connections across disciplines and theoretical paradigms. Topics may include, but are not restricted to, the following:
# Vintage aesthetics
# Vintage fashion
# Vintage and new media
# Second-hand cultures
# Vintage, taste, and value
# Memory and memorabilia
# Practices and rituals of collection and exchange (including spaces of exchange)
# Vintage and nostalgia
# Relationships between vintage, antique, and retro
# Psychoanalytic perspectives (e.g. theories of mourning, loss, and lack)
# Postmodernism and history
# Contemporary engagements with the archive
# Vintage and obsolescence
# Vintage, authenticity, and the auratic
# Vintage theory
We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 10 October 2014 at the following address: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. On the basis of selected abstracts writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (5000-7000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a blind peer review process.
NECSUS accepts abstract submissions on a rolling basis throughout the year for a wide variety of articles on a number of themes related to media studies, in addition to proposals for the following types of reviews: festivals, exhibits, books. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration. Access our submission guidelines here.