Skip to Content

First academic conference to be held on the Kardashians


Scholars at Brunel University London are holding an international academic conference this week on the American reality TV stars, the Kardashians.

Entitled Kimposium! A Symposium about all things Kardashian, the conference is organised by Reader in Sociology and Cultural Studies, Dr Meredith Jones, and comprises a day-long event on Thursday.

In response to tweets reportedly criticising the Kardashians as not worthy of academic attention, Dr Jones said “The Kardashian-Jenner-West clan is known all over the world, and its members have come to occupy powerful social and cultural positions. 25 years ago people were saying that Madonna wasn’t important to study, but now we know that her influence on popular culture has been profound. The Kardashians are the same.”

Dr Jones explained that the purpose of the symposium was to examine the Kardashians as powerful icons of popular culture. The scholars will be asking: “Do they represent the best or the worst of a mediascape that is dominated by tweets and selfies? What does our fascination with them tell us about ourselves, our desires, and our values?”

Dr Jones said “Here in the UK we have a love/hate relationship with the Kardashian phenomenon, our broadsheets feed on them, glorify them, but also mock them. There is a strong fascination, and at the Kimposium! we intend to investigate why that may be.”

Kim Kardashian-West’s husband, rapper Kanye West, has announced he will run for US President in 2020.

“The sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kim, Kendall and Kylie, and their mother Kris, are superstars of social and popular media. They challenge the very idea of a difference between public and private life by sharing daily activities via television, Instagram and twitter. From family arguments to giving birth to divorcing to coming out as trans, it seems that nothing this family does can’t be marketed,” Dr Jones commented.

Conference papers include such titles as, ‘Colour and curves: this big bum thing has taken over the world,’ by Dr Katherine Appleford and Cecilia Cappel, of Kingston University, London. Sessions will be grouped into themes including’ reality TV,’ ‘photography and images,’ ‘trauma and safety,’ ‘past post-feminism’, ‘spectacular femininities,’ and ‘fatness, thinness and race.’

Dr Jones added: “The Kardashians are arguably the USA’s self-made ‘royal’ family, famous only for being who they are, their every move scrutinised and assessed.”

But,” she said, “unlike the British Royals these people invite the public in to observe their everyday lives. In the course of doing this they have redefined reality television and had profound social impacts. Notably, Kim is at the forefront of an international change to what an ‘ideal’ woman’s body is, and Cate has brought trans into the mainstream like nobody before her.”