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EoI Callout for Special Issue on Postcolonial Airliners as Cultural Mediators

Christopher Marcatili | Published on 9/5/2022

Postcolonial Airliners as Cultural Mediators: Corporate Branding and Cultural Governance in Transnational Contexts


Call for Expressions of Interest for Contributions to a Special Issue
Bart Vanspauwen (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa) & Iñigo Sánchez-Fuarros

For most airline companies, 2020 came in like a wrecking ball. Recent centenary
celebrations of some of the world’s oldest airliners such as KLM and Qantas, just a year
before, forcedly made room for grounded personnel, humanitarian or repatriation
flights and government rescue packages for survival. The global pandemic swept away
previous dreams of global mobility and stressless tourism. In addition, cultural outputs
– from inflight magazines to government-backed tourist attraction programs – were put
on hold too. Halfway 2022, a heigthened postcovid 'revenge travel boom' and workforce
shortages at several hub airports then led to thousands of canceled holiday flights and
a new delicate setback for international travel. As a result, airlines in particular, and the
travel industry in general, are restructuring to face a new scenario of uncertainty.

Taking the airplane as a chronotope, a moving element which represents a political and
cultural unity, and connects fixed but geographically disperse spaces in fluid, imaginary
ways, this special issue seeks original research that studies the intersections between
corporate branding and cultural governance in flag carriers with a colonial past.

This special issue focuses on cultural mediation from an anthropological and
postcolonial perspective, by investigating into the ways in which former colonial flag
carriers have represented/embodied transnational cultures, national identities,
memories and heritage, as well as their interstitial spaces in which these issues are
negotiated and/or contested.

As has emerged from preliminary research results from a case study on TAP Air Portugal
(Vanspauwen & Sánchez-Fuarros forthcoming), inflight magazines, corporate social
media channels (such as Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook), and other outreach
activities may offer a privileged research lens to explore tangible and intangible (sonic,
visual, textual) cultural narratives around the issues at stake.

Potential themes for articles include (but are not limited to):
  • The instrumentalisation of (postcolonial) intangible cultural heritage
  • The promotion of (postcolonial) diversity and affective formations
  • (Trans-)national culture in airlines as opposed to airline cultures
  • The interstitial connections between geographically disperse communities
within a language community (e.g. Commonwealth, Francofonie, Hispandidad,
  • Discourses and cultural outputs at centenary celebrations of national airliners
  • Popular culture in national airliners (e.g. namegiving of airplanes, expressive
practices at special occasions)
  • Government programs to attract tourists backed by national airliners (e.g.
Stopover programs)
  • Marketing campaigns on social media and in the regular press.

Our working hypothesis is that a similar pattern may be present for flag carriers operating
in language systems other than Portuguese (Commonwealth, Francophonie, Hispanidad)
which may offer new perspectives on how cultural governance and brand marketing work
to articulate identities that either depart from or confirm received narratives of national
cultures. On a metalevel, with this special issue we intend to perceive the narratives of
modern Western empires as constructions that reflect concrete social and cultural
negotiations, particularly but not exclusively, over traumas of colonialism and domination.

Practical details
Please send a title and a 200-word (maximum) abstract to Dr. Bart Vanspauwen
( and Dr. Iñigo Sánchez-Fuarros (

The document should also include each author's name, email address, affiliation, and
50-word biographical statement.

Expected timeline:
  - Deadline for submission of abstracts: September 30th, 2022
  - Notification of acceptance: October 15th, 2022
  - Pitch Special Issue proposal to selected peer-reviewed journals: October 20th, 2022.
  - 1st draft article submissions: March 1st, 2023
  - Planned symposium with participants (Lisbon or Santiago de Compostela): June-July,

We are currently in the process of approaching various journals within the fields of
mobility studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, heritage studies, transport
studies and business administration studies that may be interested in this special issue.

Selected references
Adey, P. (2010), Aereal Life: Spaces, Mobilities, Affects, London: Wiley-
Castellano, C. G. (2018), ‘Curating and cultural difference in the Iberian context:
from difference to self-Reflexivity (and back again)’, Journal of Iberian and Latin
American Research, 24: 2, 103-122.
Castellitti, C. 2019. 'Varig, 'a Real Brazilian Embassy Outside’: Anthropological
reflections on aviation and national imaginaries. The Journal of Transport
History, 40: 1, 82-105.
Coller, K., J. H. Mills and A. J. Mills (2016), ‘The British Airways Heritage
Collection: an ethnographic ‘history’’, Business History, 58 (4): 547-570.
Cresswell, T. (2006), On the move. Mobility in the modern western world,
London and New York: Routledge.
Cwerner, S., S. Kesselring and J. Urry. (eds.) (2009), Aeromobilities, London and
New York: Routledge.
Feldman-Bianco, B. (2007), ‘Empire, postcoloniality and diasporas’, Hispanic
Research Journal, 8 (3): 279-290.
Govil, N. (2004), ‘Something spatial in the air. In-flight entertainment and the
topographies of modern air travel’, in N. Couldry and A. McCarthy (eds.),
Mediaspace. Place, scale and culture in a media age, 223-252, London and New
York: Routledge.
Kivijärvi, M., A. J. Mills and J. H. Mills (2019), ‘Performing Pan American Airways
through coloniality: an ANTi-History approach to narratives and business
history’, Management and Organizational History, 14 (1): 33-54.
Manning, P. (2010), ‘The semiotics of brand’, Annual Review of Anthropology,
39: 33-49.
Matsanuga, L. (2016), ‘The Corporate Brand: Toward an Anthropology of
Branding’, in H. Nakamaki, K. Hioki, I. Mitsui and Y. Takeuchi, Enterprise as an
Instrument of Civilization: An Anthropological Approach to Business
Administration, 227-243, Tokyo: Springer.
Paludi, M. (2017), ‘Representation of Latin America in Pan American Airways:
Decolonial Feminism on a Multi-national’, PhD diss., Halifax, Saint Mary’s
Peralta, E. (2011), ‘Fictions of a creole nation: (re) presenting Portugal’s
imperial past’, in H. Bonavita (ed.), Negotiating identities: constructed selves
and others, 193-217, Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.
Ponzanesi, S. and B. B. Blaagaard (eds.) (2011), Deconstructing Europe.
Postcolonial Perspectives, London and New York: Routledge.
Radano, R. and T. Olaniyan (eds.) (2016), Audible empire: music, global politics,
critique, Durham: Duke UP.
Staniland, M. (2003), Government birds: air transport and the state in Western
Europe, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Vanspauwen, B. and I. Sánchez-Fuarros (in press), 'Embracing postcolonial
diversity? Music selection and affective formation in TAP Air Portugal’s in-flight
entertainment system'. In E. Peralta and N. Domingos (eds.), Colonial legacies
of the Portuguese Empire: memory, citizenship and popular culture. New York: