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Title: 1. Culture (high, low, popular, and mass), Cultural Studies


1
Culture (high, low, popular, and mass), Cultural
Studies, race and ethnicity
  • September 25-27, 2006

2
This weeks lens Cultural Studies
  • Academic movement started in UK in 1960s
  • Spread quickly Europe, US, Australia
  • Combines aspects of
  • Media studies - Political science
  • Commn studies - Sociology
  • Linguistics - Gender studies
  • Anthropology - Literary criticism

3
Key concerns of Cultural Studies
  • Relations of culture and power
  • Particularly, power inequalities related to race,
    class, gender, colonialism
  • Role of symbols (language, visual images) in
    creating meaning
  • Particularly as related to power issues

4
Key concerns of CS (ctd.)
  • Representation
  • how forms of communication (spoken and written
    language music, TV, print media, etc.) present,
    represent, shape, and distort cultural meaning
  • Political economy of mediaand relationship to
    messages and meanings
  • How ownership of cultural production affects
    products and interpretations

5
Key concerns of CS (ctd.)
  • Texts and audiences
  • What possible meanings do we draw out of (media)
    texts?
  • How do (media) audiences interpret texts
    differentlyand why?
  • Cultural (and personal) identity
  • How do we identify ourselves and others?
  • How do cultural/media products contribute to
    identification?

6
Definitions of culture
  • Classical (British 19th and 20th century)
    literary definitions
  • Anthropological traditions definition
  • Newer, CS-oriented definitions
  • Rejected literary
  • Built on and expanded anthropological

7
Culture in the classical literary tradition
  • Culture was linked to cultivation
  • Agriculture
  • Growing (crops)
  • The cultivated mind (properly trained) and the
    cultured person

8
Matthew Arnolds influence
  • 19th-century UK poet and cultural critic
  • Arnolds definition of culture
  • The best that has been thought and said in the
    world
  • Belief that reading, thinking, and observing
    (human cultivation) would bring about moral
    perfection
  • A better, more civilized, social world

9
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English poet and
cultural critic
10
Implications of Arnolds view
  • The world can be divided into the cultured and
    the uncultured
  • Or the civilized and the uncivilized
  • Culture and civilizationthe domains of the
    educated (and wealthy)are superior to the
    anarchy of the raw and uncultivated masses
  • Thus, culture is class-dependent
  • And only available to the upper classes

11
Expanding Arnold Leavisism
  • 1930s literary critics Frank Raymond Leavis
    (1895-1978) and Queenie Roth Leavis (1906-1981)
  • Among their famous writings Mass Civilization
    and Minority Culture
  • Culture is high point of civilization
  • Culture is the concern of the educated minority

12
Leavisisms claims
  • Elite classes have certain obligations
  • Defineand defendthe best of culture
    (literary, musical, artistic)
  • Criticizeand, arguably, eliminatethe worst of
    mass culture
  • Advertising, movies, popular fiction

13
Culture in the anthropological tradition
  • An entireand distinctiveway of life
  • In other words lived experience

14
Enter Cultural Studies (1960s?)
  • Direct reaction against views of Arnold and
    Leavises adaptation of anthropological
  • Raymond Williams (1921-1988), CS pioneer
    anti-elitist
  • Re-visioned culture as a whole way of life
  • Concerned especially with working classs
    experience
  • And how working class people actively construct
    their own cultures

15
Culture as redefined by CS
  • As a whole way of life,
  • It includes everyday practices AND learning,
    arts, and other expressive aspects
  • How we dress, our holidays, our daily rituals
  • Our everyday meanings and values
  • Our norms
  • How we express ourselves
  • In short, culture is ordinary (Williams)

16
Result of CSs re-definition
  • Studying or talking about a groups culture
    could include
  • Everyday practices
  • Arts, media, entertainment modes previously
    dismissed as low or mass were studied with
    respect and even sympathy
  • Newspapers, television, boxing matches, soap
    operas, NASCAR, romance novels, prom dresses

17
In other words
  • Everyday cultureincluding the culture of
    non-elite classes within our own societieswas
    given legitimacy
  • Scholars (and cultural critics) began to value
    the shared traditions of ordinary people
  • Not only the elite classes

18
Williamss paradoxical claims
  • A groups (re-defined) culture is its complex of
  • Meanings generated by ordinary individuals
  • Lived experiences of its members
  • Texts and practices engaged in by people as they
    lead their lives

19
BUT
  • Culture does not float free of the material
    conditions of life
  • Meanings and practices are enacted on terrain
    not of our own making even as we struggle to
    creatively shape our livesWhat did Williams
    mean by this?

20
To address this paradox
  • We must detour into other key CS concepts
  • Then well circle back to issues of
  • high vs. low culture
  • mass, folk, and popular culture

21
Other key CS concepts relevant to ICC (including
mass comm)
  • Ideology
  • Hegemony
  • Race, racialization, and racisms
  • Ethnicity
  • The nation-state
  • The imagined community
  • Hybridity
  • Identity
  • Subject position
  • And how all of these relate to POWER

22
Ideology exercise
  • Divide into groups
  • Each group discusses (lists) ONE question
  • How does one class justify dominating another?
  • How does one race justify dominating another?
  • How does one sex justify dominating another?
  • How does one nation justify dominating another?
  • Provide examples from popular culture

23
Ideology
  • What does this word mean to you?
  • What is an ideology?
  • The term ideology was coined (by a 19th-century
    French philosopher) to mean the science of
    ideas
  • Since then, has taken on many other meanings
  • Here are some of the most common

24
1. Value-neutral conception
  • Systematic body of ideasa worldviewarticulated
    by a particular group of people
  • Pattern of ideas, belief systems, or
    interpretive schemes found in a society or among
    a specific social group (Hall).

25
What this implies
  • an individual doesnt have an ideology
  • but an individual may reflect the ideology of the
    group shes a member of

26
2. Karl Marxs definition
  • False consciousness a masking, distortion, or
    concealment
  • The way some cultural texts and practices present
    distorted images of reality
  • Ideology works in interest of the powerful
  • and AGAINST interests of the powerless

27
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
28
Results of ideological distortion, in Marxs view
  • Conceals reality of domination from those in
    power
  • dominant class do not see themselves as
    exploiters
  • Conceals reality of domination from the
    powerless
  • they dont see themselves as exploited

29
3 focus on ideological forms
  • Texts (mediated) always present a particular
    picture of the world, always take sides, thus
    reflect producers ideology
  • All texts are ultimately political they offer
    one view or another (but not a multiplicity of
    views!) of how the world is
  • Differing ideological significations of reality
    compete with one another

30
4 ideology as material practice
  • French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser
    (1918-1990) said
  • Ideology isnt simply a body of ideas, but rather
    material practice
  • Ideology is encountered in practices of everyday
    life

31
Louis Althusser (1918-1990)
32
Examples of material practice that reflects
ideology
  • Rituals and customs that bind us to the social
    order, a social order marked by enormous
    inequalities of wealth, status, and power
  • Examples taking summer vacations, giving gifts
    at Christmas

33
Yes, Althusser would say
  • These things give us pleasure, release tensions
  • But ultimately they return us to our places in
    the social order
  • Because they reproduce the social conditions
    necessary for capitalism to continue

34
What produces and maintains (dominant) ideology
in society?
  • Althusser talked about ideological state
    apparatuses (ISAs)
  • Family
  • Education system
  • Church
  • Mass media
  • These ISAs train us to follow and perpetuate
    the values and rules of the dominant classes

35
ISAs vs. RSA
  • Althusser because of the power (and willingness)
    of the ISAs to do the work of the powerful
  • The Repressive State Apparatus (government,
    military, courts) dont have to resort to force
  • The ISAs do their jobs
  • And make us into good, law-abiding students,
    family members, citizens, church members,
    capitalists
  • Who dont complain, dont try to overthrow the
    government, dont try to overthrow the
    corporation heads (and our bosses)

36
As a result
  • Ideology (worldview maintained and taught to us
    by the ISAs) comes to be seen as
  • natural (as opposed to constructed)
  • universal (as opposed to particular)
  • complete (as opposed to incomplete)
  • neutral (as opposed to partial/biased)
  • legitimate (as opposed to illegitimate)
  • common sense (as opposed to a particular,
    chosen, preferred sense)

37
5 ideology as myth
  • French social philosopher Roland Barthes
  • Called ideologies the myths of our
    culture/society
  • In this sense, myth isnt (necessarily) fictional
  • But its a story we tell ourselves about
    ourselves
  • What are some American myths (in Barthess sense)?

38
Roland Barthes (1915-1980)
                              
39
In all of these definitions (except 1), ideology
is
  • Meaning in the service of power
  • not just a value-neutral set or system of ideas
  • Rather, a system that underlies, supports, and
    justifies a groups
  • Exercise of power
  • Maintenance of power
  • Struggles for power

40
Is this clear?
  • Maybe Antonio Gramsci can help

41
Antonio Gramsci (1930s) Hegemony
  • Kind of power that arises from ideological
    tendencies of mass media to support established
    power system
  • and exclude opposition and competing values
  • Not imposed via coercion
  • But constantly sought after, struggled over,
    negotiated, and re-negotiated

42
Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)
                          
43
Key insight of Gramscis hegemony theory
  • The ruling classes in capitalist society (unlike
    Hitlers Germany or Stalins USSR) dont HAVE to
    resort to physical force, violence, or martial
    law
  • Direct coercion is unnecessary!
  • And, in fact, is LESS effective in the long term
    for maintaining social power

44
Hegemony (ctd.)
  • In hegemonic systems, dominance of ruling group
    is STRENGTHENED because people (non-dominant)
    consent to their own submission!
  • We come to accept existing (and unequal) power
    relationships as normal, natural, common sense,
    the only way

45
How?
  • The ruling class doesnt directly force us to
    accept its will
  • Rather, the dominant present themselves (often
    through the media) as the group best equipped to
    meet our needs
  • and we come to agree (for a while)
  • e.g., we accept that corporations, government act
    in our best interests

46
Meaning that
  • the masses (common people) consent to their own
    domination, seeing it as completely normal (or
    failing to question it)!
  • the dominated will find their own reasonswhich
    DO actually make sense!to go along with their
    domination
  • For example

47
Hegemony in our daily lives
  • Grades
  • Christmas presents
  • Body image
  • Work

48
So what happens in hegemonic systems?
  • Dominant classes exercise social and cultural
    leadership
  • We consent to, and perpetuate, a system that
    disadvantages us
  • In finding our own good reasons to go along with
    the system
  • We fail to challenge or question the system
  • Let alone call for its overthrow!

49
However
  • Hegemonic domination is a constant struggle
  • Consent must be continually won and re-won
  • Concessions are made so that the dominated will
    not overthrow the entire system
  • But instead will be given new reasons to accept
    it
  • New things to consent to
  • The media are often the sites of this struggle

50
Hegemony is maintained
  • Because dominant have advantages
  • Easier access to media
  • More input into media representations of
    reality
  • And media themselves are huge corporate powers

51
Given all this
  • CS on culture
  • CS on ideology and power
  • We might not be surprised by CSs explanations of
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Nation
  • Identity

52
CS on race, racialization, and racisms
  • Stuart Hall races dont exist apart from
    representation
  • What does this mean?

53
To paraphrase
  • Race is a social (and communication) construct
    rather than a biological fact
  • Race is constructed by looking at observable
    characteristics
  • And then working backwards to create a race

54
The fluidity of race
  • New Mexico
  • The Irish in New York (mid 1800s)
  • The Jews in US (late 1800s)
  • black blood

55
CS on race and power
  • CS argument race is a construct (multi-faceted
    concept) developed in order to justify power
    differentials
  • Labor market
  • Economy
  • Housing market
  • Education system
  • Media
  • Legal system
  • Immigration

56
Race and nationhood
  • If youre a member of a minority race in a nation
  • Are you truly a member of the nation?
  • Blacks in US
  • Blacks in UK
  • Blacks in South Africa during apartheid

57
CS on ethnicity
  • A cultural concept
  • An ethnic groups members share
  • Norms
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Cultural symbols and practicesall of which
    developed under specific historical, social,
    political contexts

58
What ethnicity does
  • Encourages sense of belonging
  • Based (at least in part) on common mythological
    ancestry (why mythological?)
  • Shared (or believed to be shared) history,
    language, culture

59
Ethnicity as relational concept
  • Im a member of ethnic group X because Im not a
    member of Y or Z
  • We define our ethnicity by contrasting ourselves
    to out groups
  • Implies power relations
  • Some groups are at the center, while others are
    at periphery
  • Examples in US?

60
CS on the nation-state
  • The nation-state is an invention
  • Not a natural (naturally occurring) group
  • Rather, a contingent historical-cultural
    formation
  • Prime example? The US!

61
Nation-states and national identity
  • Nation-state a political concept
  • An administrative apparatus
  • Group of people with shared government, laws,
    leaders who have sovereignty over defined body of
    land
  • National identity imaginative identification
    with the symbols and discourses of the
    nation-state

62
Careful!
  • National cultural identities are not co-terminous
    with state borders
  • Consider Jewish, African, Indian, cultural
    identities

63
Nation as imagined community
  • Benedict Anderson (1983) argued that nations are
    imagined communities
  • What might this mean?
  • Not false
  • But simply, an ideasomething that exists in our
    heads if not in physical space
  • We dont know most of our fellow Americans
  • But we have shared ideasand we believe ourselves
    to be a unity

64
Hybridity
  • Basically, cultural mixing
  • Few cultures are homogeneous
  • Our culture reflects hybridity
  • Few individuals have ancestors from only one
    culture
  • We are hybrids as individuals
  • As a result of mixing, we create new identities
  • African-American, Italian-American,
    Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani-British

65
Multiple identities
  • No one of us has an identity that is pure or
    fixed
  • We are each a hybrid
  • At any moment, we each can be described as
    belonging to one or more
  • Ethnicity
  • Nation
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Occupation
  • class

66
Hence, multiple subject positions
  • How are you, or can you be, addressed?
  • What roles do you play?
  • Mother, sister, daughter
  • Boss, employee
  • Student, teacher
  • Friend, co-worker
  • Fellow church member, club member, team member

67
Recap key CS concepts
  • Ideology
  • Hegemony
  • Race, racialization, and racisms
  • Ethnicity
  • The nation-state
  • The imagined community
  • Hybridity
  • Identity
  • Subject position

68
Link to our course?
  • Popular cultureparticularly as transmitted via
    the mass mediais arguably the most important
    site in our lives in which these issues are
    played out, spelled out, and contested
  • So lets get back to culture
  • High, low, popular, and other

69
Recap high culture, etc.
  • Arnold and the Leavises (19th-20th C. UK) define
    culture as the best
  • View that culture is the domain only of the
    minority
  • Educated, moneyed elite
  • What has come to be called high culture
  • By contrast, what the non-educated, non-moneyed
    everyday folk do is uncivilized, uncultured low
    culture

70
CS mid-1960s and beyond
  • New approach to culture
  • Culture as ordinary, everyday
  • Entire ways of life
  • Regardless of class/status

71
Moreover, CS argues
  • There is no legitimate grounds for drawing
    distinction between high and low culture
  • Artistic forms, whether Shakespeare or WWF
    broadcasts
  • all expressive and creative
  • all are socially created
  • Who is to decide which is more worthy?

72
While many people still do distinguish high vs.
low . . .
  • High cultural activities of the wealthy or
    elite opera, ballet, symphony, great literature,
    fine art
  • Low all other
  • In other words, activities of the non-elite
    music videos, TV game shows, professional
    wrestling, NASCAR, graffiti art, Jackie Chan
    movies

73
CS (and many other scholars) prefer to speak of
  • popular culture
  • rather than demeaning non-elite culture as low

74
How might we define popular culture?
  • Systems or artifacts that most people share and
    that most people know about
  • Made popular by and for the people
  • Speaks toand resonates fromthe people
  • But NOT usually created BY the people!
  • Why not?

75
Popular culture as mass culture
  • Most popular culture formsmovies, TV shows,
    magazines, videos, CDsare produced by large
    corporations
  • And are then sold to the people
  • Hence, the music, art, film, television (etc.)
    businesses were called the culture industries
    by Adorno and Horkheimer (1940s cultural critics)

76
The culture industries
  • Acknowledgment of mass-produced nature of popular
    culture products
  • CDs, DVDs, magazines, paperback novels, etc.
  • Acknowledgment of for-profit nature of the
    companies that make and market them
  • Sony, Disney, Time-Warner, etc., arent in it for
    love!

77
Production vs. consumption wheres your focus?
  • Frankfurt School (Critical Theory) of 1940s
    leveled criticism on the production end of the
    chain (critique of mass culture)
  • CS focuses on the consumption end (thus prefers
    the term popular culture), inquires into
  • How do we (consumers, ordinary people) use the
    products of the culture industries?
  • How do we interpret them?
  • What meanings/values do we give them?
  • Why are these things important to us?

78
Depending on your focus
  • If youre focused on the production end (the
    corporate, mass-produced, for-profit aspects),
    youre probably more likely to speak of mass
    culture
  • If youre focused on the consumption/
    interpretation end, youre probably more likely
    to speak of popular culture

79
Why popular culture is so important to ICC
(Martin/Nakayama)
  • Popular culture plays an enormous role in
    explaining relations around the globe
  • It is through popular culture that we try to
    understand the dynamics of other cultures and
    other nations
  • For many of us, the world exists through popular
    culture

80
Why popular culture is so important more generally
  • Its everywhere
  • Disseminated widely (in many cases, globally)
  • Its impossible to avoid
  • We all have easy access to it
  • It comes at us from all directions
  • It comes at us every moment of our lives
  • We wear it, buy it, think about it, listen to it,
    read it, watch it

81
And on the positive side
  • Popular culture serves important social functions
  • Windows onto the world
  • Shared experiences and (parasocial) relationships
  • Forum for public discussion (especially, but not
    only, the news)
  • Shaper of opinions
  • Shaper of identities
  • Shaper of meanings

82
But popular culture does not work monolithically!
  • What do I mean by this?
  • Hint recall Halls encoding/decoding model of
    communication

83
encoding/decoding

programme as meaningful discourse
encoding
decoding
frameworks of knowledge relations of production
technical infrastructure
frameworks of knowledge relations of production
technical infrastructure
84
Claims Hall makes
  • Producers of cultural texts (TV shows, ads,
    movies, books, videos) operate within specific
    cultural contexts
  • And produce out of their own frameworks of
    knowledge
  • But we consumers consume the texts within our own
    contexts
  • We dont find the same meanings as the producers
  • Or each other!

85
However, Hall claimed
  • We dont necessarily have 6 billion reading
    positions
  • Hall identified 3 reading positions, depending
    upon a readers class (and identification with
    producer)
  • Dominant
  • Negotiated
  • Oppositional

86
Popular culture, then
  • Is a site of struggle
  • We have competing, even conflicting,
    interpretations of what a cultural text means
  • And what values it represents
  • And whether we like (approve of) it or not
  • And if its offensive or agreeable
  • We offer different decodings and struggle over
    them
  • We negotiate the meanings of cultural texts

87
How might we interpret
  • U. of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
  • Florida State U. Seminoles
  • Washington Redskins
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Insult/racial slur?
  • Compliment/honor?

88
Popular culture and problems of representation
  • The big question
  • Do popular culture texts (especially those
    depicting cultures other than our own) truly,
    fairly, accurately represent the cultures they
    claim to be showing?

89
For example
  • Is Jackass a representation of America,
    quintessential Americans and quintessential
    American values?
  • or only a selective portrait of a small group of
    Americans?
  • How might Jackass (if viewed outside the US)
    create or reinforce stereotypes about Americans?

90
How CS approaches criticism of popular culture
  • The important questions
  • Not whether a cultural text is good or bad
    (in terms of quality)
  • Rather,
  • What ideologies are conveyed, overtly or subtly?
  • How are individuals and cultures represented?
  • How might representations maintain power
    differentials?
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