Call for Contributions

Dossier CFP: Media and ‘Middling’ Cities

Editors: Lavinia Brydon (University of Kent), Bibi Burger (University of Cape Town), Janina Schupp (University of Oxford) and Sanele KaNtshingana (University of Cape Town)

Screenshot from Makhanda Ngoku! (copyright Makhanda Black Kollective)

In the long and complicated relationship between the media and the metropolis, certain cities are often prioritised over others in creative endeavours and academic conversations. Especially in the canon of screen representations of cities, larger ones dominate — from Paris, London, and Los Angeles to Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo. A privileging of the Global North has, in addition, long occurred in media and in academic investigations into urban representations.

While not denying there may be valid reasons for this preferencing, it is remiss not to acknowledge that looking at smaller and otherwise marginalised cities, especially those in the Global South, may provide equally valuable insights into everyday urban living and offer glimpses of innovative media practices that move beyond industry norms including established representational strategies. 

Indeed, taking inspiration from Jennifer Robinson’s framework (Ordinary Cities, 2006), this dossier seeks to foreground the peculiarities of everyday life in ‘ordinary’ cities and the aesthetic forms inspired by them, with the view that these can both complement and complicate dominant trends in how city-media relationships are understood. 

We use the term ‘middling’ for the dossier title for several reasons. First, we want submissions to steer clear of not only larger metropolitan areas (especially ‘global cities’) but also those small cities that have already garnered attention in part due to their appeal in the large/small binary (see, for example, David Bell and Mark Jayne, Small Cities, 2006). In this respect, we seek submissions on cities that are overlooked because of their medium size or average status within a particular nation-state – those positioned somewhere in-between the so-called ‘stellar’ cities and small examples – as well as those that are considered ‘middling’ in more subjective ways. Second, we are interested in tackling the notion that being ‘middling’, i.e. a ‘medium’ or ‘average’ city, frequently brings about negative associations. To this end, we welcome submissions that unpack how certain cities have acquired reputations as ‘dull’ and how this may be resisted or reconfigured (as well as supported) by media.

We welcome submissions on ‘middling’ cities as they are depicted in or engaged with various media forms. This includes creative representations of everyday urban lives and environments. In addition, the dossier intends to identify and bring attention to media works that have sought to explore the overlooked cities, specifically in the Global South. We are particularly interested in ‘middling’ cities within film and television, music videos, video games, advertising and other forms of visual and screen culture, including social media platforms.

We encourage submissions from diverse disciplinary fields, including film and media studies, architecture, urban studies, geography, sociology, and art history, and in addition, invite contributions from creative media practitioners.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to, explorations of:,

  • Portraying/visualising the ‘middling’ city
  • Unexpected appearances of ‘middling’ cities on screen
  • Depictions of social life and communities in ‘middling’ cities
  • Representations of everyday life in ‘middling’ cities
  • Portrayals of cultural practices in ‘middling’ cities
  • Connections between the media industry and the ‘middling’ city
  • Cultural variety in ‘middling’ cities
  • Media innovation originating in ‘middling’ cities
  • ‘Middling’ cities as creative inspiration
  • ‘Middling’ cities as the basis for narrative or personal journeys
  • Contrasting explorations of ‘middling’ and ‘dominant’ cities in screen media
  • Tensions between ‘middling’ and ‘dominant’ cities on the screen

Please submit an abstract of your proposed article (150 words) and a short biographical statement to Lavinia Brydon (l.brydon@kent.ac.uk) and Bibi Burger (bibi.burger@uct.ac.za) by 1 February 2024. Authors will be informed of the selection within two weeks. Full articles (2,500 words) will be due by 1 June 2024 and will subsequently go through an anonymous peer review process. The dossier is scheduled for the September 2024 issue.

Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture is an interdisciplinary online journal that publishes scholarship from a range of academic fields addressing the complex and mutually constitutive relationship between media and the city.