Although Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope may have started out on shaky ground, its cinematic release in 1977 forever changed the landscape of American pop culture. As Douglas Brode has argued, “Star Wars, simply put, had turned out to be not merely the latest momentary blip on the entertainment screen but an essential element of how we define ourselves through the movies and related media” (2012, 7). Far from simply reflecting a particular film genre, Star Wars has become a cultural phenomenon that has impacted pop culture for over four decades.
Throughout the original trilogy, the prequels, and most recently the sequels, the films have focused on the struggle between Imperial forces and rebellious fighters who seek to throw off the yoke of an authoritarian regime. In the opening crawl of Episode VII–The Force Awakens, we are told that the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, is fighting against the First Order so that peace and justice may be restored to the galaxy. This conference seeks to critically explore what it means to be “with the Resistance” by focusing on Episodes VII, VIII, and (to the extent possible) IX, as well as the various ways these films reflect, contribute to, or even fail to show “how we define ourselves through the movies and related media.” In other words, this conference aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines to examine the three most recent Star Wars films as cultural texts, with an explicit focus on themes of resistance and justice, and on how these films contribute to, reflect, or depart from broader contemporary cultural practices and social discourses.