Letter from the Chair

Technologies of image, sound, word, and number rule the world.  They always have to one degree or another but recent events have brought a new turn in the mediation of our lives.  Screens bring us our classes and distant loved ones.  Unmute has become a verb many of us have reason to use regularly.  Devices fill the spaces between “socially distanced” bodies.  The ubiquity of screens, apps, and digital feeds in everyday life underscores the vital importance of our field to the problems we face locally, nationally, and globally.    

The work of film and media studies is vitally relevant for understanding the pressing problems of systemic racism, climate charge, economic inequity, the pandemic, and anti-democratic chicanery.  None of these problems would press upon us the way they do without handheld video, computer networks, or global tracking apps. And none of them could operate the way they do without a global information infrastructure.  The current crisis points to the urgent need for deep and critical understanding of and creative facility with the audiovisual and digital media through which we live, move, and breathe.   

What are my hopes as chair?  In a time of crisis, we first need stability and continuity, and I want the program to keep flourishing in its research, teaching, and public missions.  Just keeping the trains running on time will be a significant achievement!  And yet, as the endlessly repeated cliché has it, every crisis is also an opportunity.  Amid all the disruption, we’ll have chances to reconsider old practices and embrace new visions. Our move from 53 Wall Street to 320 York will stir up plenty of dust: new spaces always bring new thinking, and everyone is excited about the state-of-the-art screening facilities there.  Two particular hopes dear to my heart are strengthening the media side of the program–the M in FMS–and maintaining and developing ties with partners old and new across campus.  I also believe that ongoing discussions at Yale about the nature of graduate education will prove energizing and fruitful for our doctoral program, which has always had to be innovative because of its multiple and diverse alliances.  We will fortunately continue to admit doctoral students this coming year, and continue our commitment to diversity and intellectual excellence. 

FMS has a great team, and I thank Francesco Casetti for serving as DGS, Katerina Clark as DUS, and Katherine Kowalczyk for holding the whole thing together. 2020-2021 is no doubt going to continue to be very weird, and while everyone should make sure they are taking care of themselves and each other, we might also recognize that weirdness is our business.  The times are exhausting, but they certainly do yield a lot of material for people studying film and media!  Let us tentatively embrace the chance fate has given us to make some noise about the good things film and media studies can bring to a confused world!

John Durham Peters, Chair