In the last few years, the witch has re-emerged as a powerful political symbol. Across cinemas and television, in books and podcasts, and via hashtag activism, the proliferation of the witch in media signals a critique of the existing world order and its reliance on the subjugation of marginalized peoples. In order to better understand the meaning and impact of current media representations of the witch, we will hold an expanded conversation among activists, artists, filmmakers, curators, historians, scholars, witches, feminists, healers, and more.
The Witch Institute is a collaborative meeting space for those who are interested in responding to contemporary imaginings of the witch in popular and visual culture. It is a place to share diverse understandings of witches and witchcraft, and to complicate, reframe, and remediate media representations that often continue to perpetuate colonial, misogynistic, and Eurocentric stereotypes of the archetypal figure.
The Witch Institute will present seven packed days of events, including 18 roundtables, 14 workshops, and many exciting screenings, talks, and performances, occurring August 16 to 22, 2021. These include a lecture by Dr. Silvia Federici on the role of witch hunts in colonization and globalization processes, a conversation between star of the iconic 90’s witch film The Craft, Rachel True, and Dani Bethea about the representation of black femininity in witch horror, a screening and conversation around Anna Biller's feminist satire The Love Witch, and an expanded version of the short film program Spellbound, with an accompanying workshop and raffled multimedia Collective Spell Package, curated by Geneviève Wallen. All events will be free, open to the public, and accessible online, but you must reserve a ticket for each event, as participant numbers are limited.
The symposium was programmed around a Call for Proposals, circulated in Fall of 2020. As a starting point, we asked for work around the following topics:
Witchcraft and Colonization: colonial denigration and erasure of Black or Indigenous spiritual knowledges and practices; reclamation of Black or Indigenous spiritual knowledges, practices, and more-than-human relationalities as anti-colonial resistance or as decolonial projects; cultural evolutions, exchanges, and appropriations among historical and contemporary witch practices.
Witch Hunts and the State: on-going witch hunts and their interconnected histories of colonization and globalization; witch-hunting as state-sanctioned violence; enforcement of anti-witchcraft legislation in colonial, postcolonial, and settler-colonial nation-states.
Technology and Magic: traditions of magic, alternative healing practices, and/or spirituality as technology; visual effects, illusions, and magic on screen and stage; technological mediation and the supernatural; technology and the senses; the body and other mediums for spiritual messages.
Witchcraft as Ritual, Practice, and Pedagogy: ritual as a form of learning-by-doing; oral traditions and decolonial practices of knowledge transmission; pedagogical uses of the witch, witchcraft, and/or ritual practices; the perspectives of contemporary practitioners; religious lineages of Wicca and Paganism; intergenerational exchange, kinship, more-than-human relations, and covens; the relationship between witchcraft and feminism.
The Witch as Text: representations of the witch, witchcraft, and spiritual practices in literature, film, music, fashion, art, and popular culture; the commodification of the witch; texts as restoring, or healing the denigration of colonization; shifting perceptions, receptions, and circulations of witchcraft in the context of colonization and globalization.
The Witch Institute is a one-time symposium hosted by the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University in Katarokwi/Kingston, Ontario, Canada, as the 2021 summer institute of the new Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies graduate program. The institute is partly funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Outreach Connection grant, whose mandates include facilitating interdisciplinary, intersectoral knowledge exchange. In addition to departmental support from Cultural Studies, Film and Media, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen's, we also received funding from the Faculty of Arts and Science Conference Fund, the Integrated Learning Fund, Queen's University's George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund to support and promote the arts for the Queen's and Kingston communities, Chancellor Dunning Trust Lectureship to promote "the understanding and appreciation of the supreme importance of the dignity, freedom and responsibility of the individual person in human society".
We want to ensure the Witch Institute conversations continue well beyond the symposium through special journal issues and expanded web content. All events at our symposium are free but, if you have the means and would like to contribute to this project, we welcome donations! The Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University will support archiving and dissemination of Witch Institute proceeds through any donations received between August 16th and September 30th, 2021. Here is the link if you wish to donate: https://www.givetoqueens.ca/project/view/221