Tonight we have the following fun things to go over:
- What is Cultural Studies?
- Anything from last week?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to consider the difficulty in defining cultural studies. Much like postmodernism and postructuralism, cultural studies has no definitive definition. This is a strength, however, of the concept and not a failure. Forcing our discussion into a prescribed, truth would be antithetical to the theories creating meaning for cultural studies.
Ch. 1: Introduction to Cultural Studies
I want to make sure you’re able to pick out quotations and draw our attention to specific areas of the reading, so I’m going to not have specifics on today’s page. What did you find interesting? What questions do you have?
- p. 5: “Concepts are tools for thinking and acting in the world.”
- p. 7: “Cultural studies…examine[s] the relations of culture and power.”
- p. 13: polysemy of texts
- p. 23: social conventions and truth
- p. 31: “culture is understood to be a facet of place.”
- But then there’s globalization…
- p. 33: What are the attributes of a liberal democracy? Consider these areas:
- Promote the general Welfare
Ch. 2: Questions of Culture and Ideology
One thing you’ll notice is that the authors will repeat information. This is good repetition and a welcomed practice. They throw a lot of names at you in Ch. 1, but they’ll come back to them in the next 565 pages. Happy reading!
- p. 47: “Meanings are generated not by individuals alone but by collectives. Thus, the idea of culture refers to shared meanings.”
- But do we share them in the same way…
- p. 51: “…class is a historical phenomenon forged and created by people. It is not a ‘thing’ but a set of social relations and experiences.”
- It’s not race but class…myth used by my fellow PhD students circa 2002; they didn’t recognize that such language pushed aside the history of systemic racism in order to homogenize (what they thought was) contemporary class consciousness.
- p. 52: Music fans!!! “The mode of production of popular music would include the technical means of studio recording and the capitalist social relations within which such practices are embedded.
- Music is an interesting cultural subject because how we consume music matters. Consider the different experiences:
- Live music (club, orchestra, arena, etc.)
- Deliberate listening (CD, mp3, vinyl, etc.–you purposely play to enjoy)
- Background music (those earworms in stores, restaurants, attractions, etc.)
- The above are by no means the ONLY ways to consume music. How about producing music?
- p. 54: “Art as an aesthetic quality is that which has been so labelled by western cultural and class elites.”
- “Art is an industry…”
- “Art is not a copy of the world but a specific socially constructed representation.
- Both the audience and the artist are socially constructed. Remember, language is socially constructed.
- p. 57: “A Pierre Bourdieu [boord-yoo] (1984) has argued, cultural taste marks out class boundaries, cultural competencies and cultural capital.”
- NASCAR, WWE, UFC, sports
- The theatre, symphony, steeplechase
- Vacations: Europe, Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg, Vegas, Playa del Carmen
- p. 59: “…meanings are produced, altered and managed at the level of use by people who are active producers of meaning….the widespread circulation of polysemic signs makes it harder for any dominant meaning to stick.”
- p. 63: McGuigan on cultural populism: “…’the intellectual assumption…that the symbolic experiences and practices of ordinary people are more important analytically and politically than culture with a capital C.'”
- Define an ordinary person.
- p. 65: “What is a historically specific set of social relations between people appears as a natural, universal set of relations between things.”
Let’s focus on Ideology and Hegemony
- p. 72: “ideology is involved in the reproduction of social formations and their relations of power.”
- p. 74: “The educational system…is the site of contradictory ideologies and of ideological conflict rather than a place for the unproblematic and homogeneous reproduction of capitalist ideology.”
- Although we can point to a few capital-I ideologies, it’s more defensible to consider ideology as not stable yet influential for a culture.
- p. 75: “[Antonio] Gramsci[‘s]….theory of cultural hegemony describes the way a ruling class is able to maintain power because the values which support its continued dominance circulate as common sense” (italics added).
- Common sense, conventional wisdom, normal behaviors…
- p. 76: “For Gramsci, all people reflect upon the world and, through ‘common sense‘ of popular culture, organize their lives and experience” (italics added).
- p. 78: “…advertising creates a world of differences between products and lifestyles which we ‘buy into.’ In purchasing products we also buy the image and so contribute to the construction of our identities through consumption.”
- Are we the sum of our purchases?
- What can we assume based on another’s purchases? (Think house, car, minivan, sports car, latest smartphone, latest iPhone, designer bag, etc.)
- p. 81: Anthony Giddens (1984) structuration theory: “…social systems shape individuals, even though these structures do permit degrees of freedom.”
- For instance, we vote for whom we want to represent us; however, the two-party monopoly, gerrymandering, and electoral college curtail that freedom.
- Additionally, an individual’s vote is irrelevant, but many citizens votes together matter.
- This does not mean you shouldn’t vote. Not voting is almost as anti-intellectual as denying anthropogenic global warming.
- Also, if the cultural menu is large enough, one might believe they’re* choosing something different, but the culture has already circumscribed the possibilities.
- p. 83: “…ideology…should be regarded as discourse that have specific consequences for relations of power at all levels of social relationships (including the justification and maintenance of ascendant groups).”
- Ideology isn’t absolute “truth”; however, it can seem to be one’s own truth through socially constructed reproductions of values.
*Yes, “they, their, them” are perfectly acceptable gender-neutral singular pronouns. “You” is both singular and plural, so “they” can also function as singular and plural.
Based on time, we’ll move onto Marxism and see where we can go from there.
- p. 64: ” Marxism, or historical materialism, is a philosophy that attempts to relate the production and reproduction of culture to the organization of the material conditions of life.”
- p. 71: “…ideology began as an exploration into why capitalism, which was held to be an exploitative system of economic and social relations, was not being overthrown by a working-class revolution.”
- Of course! After all, everyone benefits in a capitalist society. I’m sure you’ve heard that capitalism has provided us necessary resources better than any other system.
- Base and Super Structure
- Post-industrialism and the Digital World
In case we didn’t get to this last week, let’s discuss how these texts reflect anti-intellectualism and trite, nationalistic ideology. This is where we should be taking our break (7:25-7:45). In addition to the links below, if you have time, you can read a short piece about “American Contradiction” from a rather interesting book (opens as a PDF).
Now, let’s head back to January 26th’s page for more discussion on McLuhan, Rhetoric, and locating values.
Are You Normal?
I mentioned this last week, but here’s some more data and food for thought. As people taking a graduate-level class, you’re elite. At least, you’re intellectual elites (I don’t know if you’re economic elites). According to the US Census Bureau…
- One-third of the US populations has a bachelor’s degree (or higher)
- In 2018, “13.1% of U.S. adults have an advanced degree”
- In 2018, it looks like 2.6% have doctoral degrees (same link)
For some reason, Spring Break is next week: Feb. 8th-14th, so we won’t have a class meeting, but you can certainly use the extra time (or during a break while in Cancun) to finish Misunderstanding the Internet, our next reading. We’ll discuss the entire book during our next class meeting on Tuesday, 2/16.
Don’t for get to post Weekly Discussion #3’s response before 11:00 pm on Friday, 2/5.