CFP: The Politics Of Faith, Spirituality, And Religion In Southeast Asian Cinemas

10th Biennial Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC) July 23-26, 2018, Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta, Indonesia

In Southeast Asia, the tropes of faith/belief, spirituality and religion are frequently inseparable from the political––whether specific regimes, groups, movements or longer 'undercurrents'––in a way that challenges post-enlightenment, rationalist/secularist conceptions of the political and the modern. As the products of these rapidly changing societies with diverse and long-historical philosophies and practices of faith, religion and ritual, Southeast Asian cinemas have often occupied disputed theoretical and aesthetic ground, particularly in their engagements with politics. Local cinematic forms have consistently resisted any absolute break with the power structures and attendant narrative and aesthetic discourses that link the regional past to its national presents. The resultant connection drawn by many local films between modernism and approaches to life, politics and representation that eschew Western secularism have frequently served as a source of consternation or dismissal from both local and global audiences and critics.

In the decades since 9/11, however, as religion has become ever more visible and the post-European Enlightenment ideal of separation between public and private spheres has been increasingly destabilized throughout the world, films engaging with the profound continuity of local aesthetic and spiritual pasts in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere have also begun to gain more regular acceptance in the foremost bastions of cinematic legitimacy in Europe, East Asia and the United States. How might works like these––and perhaps more important, those less universally appreciated offerings that preceded them––challenge and expand our understanding of what cinema is and does? How might the analysis of Southeast Asian cinemas, genres, or particular films inspire a critical rethinking of the position and role of religion, faith and other “old” systems of belief in processes of regional transformation and decolonization, and the production and spread of modernity and nationalism they fostered?

Perhaps the most pressing question in this context: in light of the alarming contemporary expansion of politico-religious conservatism and authoritarianism throughout the region, might Southeast Asian films, filmmakers and theorists be especially well positioned to formulate a critical response that elides the polarizing valorization of secularism so often deployed by Western critics?

Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Representation of religion, religious themes, and spirituality in cinema Faiths, identity-based politics, sectarianism.
  • Cinema as a vehicle for the adaptation and continual development of religious or traditional ideologies and systems of thought.
  • Cinema as a mediator between religious and political authorities and the public.
  • Cinematic reference to, or quotation of, traditional systems of belief and forms of expression.
  • Cinema and Institutional investment in defining and promoting tradition.
  • Faith/religion and reception, exhibition, distribution (ex. themed festivals).
  • Films as interventions into religious politics/cultures and sectarian politics.
  • Faith/religion/spirituality, film, and consumer culture Religion and censorship Islamic themed films as a contemporary phenomena in Indonesia and Malaysia (and elsewhere).

ASEACC welcomes presentations related to the conference theme or to Southeast Asian cinemas more broadly. Past conferences have included site visits, screenings, and presentations from academics, critics, filmmakers, archivists, and others interested in Southeast Asian screen media.

Please check our website archives and conference programs for past paper topics as we are less likely to accept topics that have been covered before:

Abstract Submission Deadline: November 7, 2017. Please send an abstract (max. 300 words) and short bio (max. 100 words) to: Katinka Van Heeren (, Patrick Campos (, and Sophia Harvey (