Banality in Cultural Studies
What goes around, comes around.
This paper takes a rather circuitous route to get to the point. I'm not sure that banality can have a point, any more than cultural studies can properly constitute its theoretical object. My argument does have a point, but one that takes the form of pursuing an aim rather than reaching a conclusion. Quite simply, I wanted to come to terms with my own irritation about two developments in recent cultural studies.
One was Jean Baudrillard's revival of the term "banality" to frame a theory of media. It is an interesting theory that deals in part with the tele-visual relationship between everyday life and catastrophic events. Yet why should such a classically dismissive term as "banality" re-appear, yet again, as a point of departure for discussing popular culture?
The other development occurs in the quite different context that John Fiske calls "British Cultural Studies," and is much more difficult to specify. Judith Williamson, however, has bluntly described something that also bothers me: "left-wing academics ... picking out strands of 'subversion' in every piece of pop culture from Street Style to Soap Opera."(2) In this kind of analysis of everyday life, it seems to be criticism that actively strives to achieve "banality," rather than investing it negatively in the object of study.
These developments are not a priori related, let along opposed (as, say, pessimistic and optimistic approaches to popular culture). They also involve different kinds of events. "Baudrillard" is an author, British Cultural Studies is a complex historical and political movement as well as a library of texts. But irritation may create relations where none need necessarily exist. To attempt to do so is the real point of this paper.
First,l want to define the position of "cultural studies" in the cultural context in which I study it. In a small way, cultural studies in Australia has been for some time in the state that the Japanese call a boom.
This is not merely to say that it's "booming" in the innocuous and exciting sense that lots of people are doing it or talking about it. It is also to say that the marketing of cultural studies is beginning to define and restrict what it is possible to do and say in its name. Fortunately for the future of cultural studies, a "boom" in this sense is not a reflection of broader economic conditions at any given time. It is a massive wave of collective, but culturally localised, passion - for a musician, a film star, an intellectual topic or figure which is as ephemeral as it is absolute for participants while it happens. Japanese booms may generate a great deal of money, and the art of predicting and secondguessing them becomes the basis of a whole new industry of expertise.
There is a difference between the Japanese concept of cultural boom, and the older European notion of "fashion" (which is often still what we think we mean by "boom" in intellectual or cultural activity). I prefer "boom" to "fashion" because it admits greater frankness in discussion about the politics of intellectual work as it relates to, and moves in and out of, commodity circulation. I once saw a TV documentary about booms in Japan, and how useful they could be to Australian bands which couldn't get a hearing anywhere else without Americanising their music. The programme warned that "no future" is allowed in the mythology of boom - at least, not for the stars. Time is on the side of the promoters only. Next season, instead of a return tour of Japan, the bands would probably get the apologetic refusal, "very sorry, boom over." But if it is impossible for stars to sustain a condition of boom, it is very difficult for anyone to achieve it in the first place. New players would also be rejected: "Very sorry, no boom.
This Catch-22 principle was explained on the show by a cartoon- Japanese businessman, who spoke cartoon- Japanese English. This is a way of saying that my notion of Japanese boom is a creation of Australian TV. But shortly after seeing this programme, I discussed a translation project with a real Japanese media analyst. When he saw that the Australian collection contained several essays on Foucault, he said, "Ah Foucault ... I'm very sorry, but there's no boom."
So what I'm calling "frankness" is an admission that cultural boom involves a pre-emptive prohibition and limitation of activity, as well as passion and enthusiasm. The notion of "intellectual fashion," in contrast, is usually used to denigrate passion and enthusiasm as "fickle" --in order to imply that real, solid scholarship is going on somewhere in spite of the market, within which it will nonetheless find its true place of recognition once the fuss of fashion subsides. A boom, however, overtly defines and directs what can be done at a given moment. Once it is conceded that booms positively shape the possible, by stabilising a temporary horizon in relation to which one cannot claim a position of definite exteriority, then it also becomes possible to think more carefully the politics of one's own participation and complicity.
To frame cultural studies as a boom of this kind - in however small a way - may seem excessively cynical, especially to those for whom "cultural studies" means the rigorous pedagogical and political programme of the Birmingham school in England. So I'll complete these preliminary remarks with a comment on how I see the institutional status of cultural studies in Australia. As a constituted discipline, it has a fragile to non-existent academic status. It isn't really a subject area, or a school project in its own right as it can be in the UK. But it has a strong practical force, mostly in media, art, and journalism schools with an associated production unit (for film/radio/TV trainees), or through the work of individuals dispersed in a number of subject areas in universities and colleges.
That means two things. First, cultural studies increasingly has a weak degree of proximity to institutionalised literary criticism, although many individual practitioners may still have received their own first training in English (or French). One immediate consequence is that certain inherited problems -- like the high art/mass culture/dichotomy, for example, or the debate about the necessity f or canons-- need not necessarily be posed as defining frameworks of argument and research, though they can recur as questions about the history of the present.
A second consequence of a strong or strengthening relation between cultural studies and media production is that our students are likely to be dreaming of a career in the culture industries (including art). This means that as participants in cultural studies as boom, we are helping to train students in the commodification skills that we are also, hopefully, claiming to teach them to criticise. This can create a very complex situation, especially since there is a booming magazine and paperback market for popular essays in cultural studies. Recently, a Sydney gig guide which is handed out free at venues and has a street circulation of 20,000 copies a week had an item under a simulated screaming banner-headline: "THE CULT DISCOVER SEMIOTICS! LIVE EQUIPMENT DECONSTRUCTION."' The article never referred back to semiotics or deconstruction. It was in fact a friendly but patronising review of a Brisbane (i.e., in this code, "provincial") performance by a visiting band called The Cult, which had re-invented the smashing equipment-on-stage routine. So the gist of the review was: "cults/semiotics/deconstruction/Hendrix/The Who/ punk/post-punk/... snooze, snooze, cliché, very sorry, boom over. "
This sort of thing happens all the time in most places. However it defines for me the basic context of my own activity as a writer in Australia, rather than an amusing side-effect, and I take its problems as well as its amusements into serious account when formulating theoretical, as well as pedagogical, problems in practising cultural studies.
The seriousness of booms for intellectual work can be gauged by comparing the old slogan "publish or perish" with the newer version, "commodify or die." "Publish or perish" still suggests that it doesn't matter what you publish (and of course a lot of academic production still obeys that principle). "Commodify or die" defines a scarier, if perhaps less hypocritical, principle for academic practice. It also defines the context in which I want to consider "banality" as a problem in and for cultural theory. For what I see emerging from the recent cultural studies boom is the beginning of a move to "commodity" an appropriate theoretical style for analysing everyday life - and consequently a proper (and in my view, "banal") speaking- position for the theorist of popular culture.
I want to begin with a couple of anecdotes about banality, fatality, and television. But since story-telling itself is a popular practice that varies from culture to culture, I shall again define my terms. My impression is that American culture easily encourages people to assume that a first person anecdote is primarily oriented towards the emotive and conative functions, in Jakobson's terms, of communication: that is, towards speaker-expressive and addressee-connective activity, or an I / you axis in discourse. However, I take anecdotes, or yarns, to be primarily referential. They are oriented futuristically towards the construction of a precise, local, and social discursive context, of which the anecdote then functions as a mise en abyme. That is to say, anecdotes for me are not expressions of personal experience, but allegorical expositions of a model of the way the world can be said to be working. So anecdotes need not be true stories, but they must be functional in a given exchange. Most of my anecdotes in this paper are proposed in that spirit.
It's also in what I take to be an American sense that these (mostly true) stories are offered as a personal response to Patricia Mellencamp's article, "Situation Comedy, Feminism and Freud: Discourses of Gracie and Lucy." I discovered this article after thinking for some time about banality and fatality and what these terms had to do with each other, and with my own feeling that there is something both "fatal" and "banal" about British Cultural Studies.
Mellencamp's article clarifies the problem for me in two ways. First, it discusses the "pacification" of women in American situation comedy between 1950 and 1960 by developing a metaphor that entangles military and domestic scenes, catastrophic and everyday scenarios: "foreign policy of 'containment'." It does this not to retrieve a presupposed sociological or historical model of the past, but in order to question the rhetoric of liberation through comedy and pleasure used in theoretical debates in the present. Second, it also analyses the contradictions in specific Gracie and Lucy programes, not simply to prove the resistant possibilities of female comedians "being out of control via language (Gracie) or body (Lucy)," but in order to define, in the "double bind" of the female spectator and comedian, "dilemmas which..... no modern critical model can resolve" (81, 87). It is to the difficulty of maintaining and articulating that sense of dilemma in cultural studies today that my anecdotes are also addressed.
The first is a fable of origin about situation comedy, foreign policy, and domestic catastrophe.
TV came rather late to Australia: 1956 in the cities, later still in country regions where the distance between towns was immense f or the technology of that time. So it was in the early 1960s that in a remote mountain village -- where few sounds disturbed the peace except for the mist rolling down to the valley, the murmur of the wireless, the laugh of the kookaburra, the call of the bellbird, the humming of chainsaws and lawnmowers, and the occasional rustle of a snake in the grass -- the pervasive silence was shattered by the voice of Lucille Ball.
In the memory of many Australians, television came as Lucy, and Lucy was television. There's a joke in Crocodile Dundee where the last white frontiersman is making first contact with modernity in his New York hotel, and he's introduced to the TV set. But he already knows TV: "I saw that twenty years ago at so-and-so's place."He sees the title "I LOVE LUCY," and quips "yeah, that's what I saw." It's a throwaway line that at one level works as a formal definition of the "mediarecycle" genre of the film itself. But in terms of the dense cultural punning that characterises the film, it's also, for Australians, a precise historical joke. It's the more dense in that Paul Hogan was himself one of the first major Australian TV stars, finding instant stardom in the late 1960s (since Australian-made TV precedes postwar Australian cinema) by faking his way on to a talent- quest show, and then abusing the judges. Subsequently, he took on the Marlboro Man in a massive cigarette-advertising battle that lasted long enough to convert the slogan of Hogan's commercials ("Anyhow, have a Winfield") into a proverb inscrutable to foreigners. So Hogan's persona already incarnates a populist myth of indigenous Australian response to "Lucy" as synecdoche of all American media culture.
But in the beginning was Lucy, and I think she is singled out in memory -- since obviously hers was not the only available programme -- because of the impact of her voice. The introduction of TV in Australia led not only to the usual debates about the restructuring of family life and domestic space, and to predictable fears that the Australian "accent" in language and culture might be abolished, but also to a specific local version of anxiety about the effects of TV on children. Lucy was heard by many Australians as a screaming hysteric: as "voice," she was "seen" to be a woman out of control in both language and body. So there was concern that Lucy-television would, by some mimesis or contagion of the voice, metabolically transform Australian children from the cheeky little larrikins we were expected to be, into ragingly hyperactive little psychopaths.
My own memory of this lived theoretical debate goes something like this. My mother and I loved Lucy, my father loathed "that noise." So once a week, there would be a small scale domestic catastrophe, which soon became routinised, repetitive, banal. I'd turn Lucy on, my father would start grumbling Mum would be washing dishes in the next room, ask me to raise the volume, I'd do it, Dad would start yelling, Mum would yell back, I'd creep closer to the screen to hear, until Lucy couldn't make herself heard, and I'd retire in disgust to my bedroom, to the second-best of reading a novel. On one of the rare occasions when all this noise had led to a serious quarrel, I went up later as the timid little voice of reason, asking my father why, since it was only half an hour, did he make such a lot of noise. He said that the American voices (never then heard "live" in our small town) reminded him of the Pacific war. And that surely, after all these years, there were some things that, in the quiet of his own home, a man had a right to try to forget.
Looking back from the contradictions of the present -- a locus of concerns which I share with Patricia Mellencamp -- I can define from this story a dilemma which persists in different forms today. On the one hand, Lucy had a galvanising and emancipating effect because of her loquacity, and her relentless tonal insistence. Especially for Australian women and children, in a society where women were talkative with each other and laconic with men, men were laconic with each other and catatonic with women, and children were seen but not heard. Lucy was one of the first signs of a growing sense that women making a lot of noise did not need to be confined to the harem-like rituals of morning and afternoon tea, or the washing up. On the other hand, my father's response appears, retrospectively, as prescient as well as understandable. The coming of Lucy, and of American TV, was among the first explicit announcements to a general public still vaguely imagining itself as having been "British" that Australia was now (as it had in fact been anyway since 1942) hooked into the media network of a different war machine.
My second anecdote follows logically from that, but is set in another world. Ten years later, after a whole cultural revolution in Australia and another war with Americans in Asia, I saw a TV catastrophe one banal Christmas Eve. There we were in Sydney, couchpotatoing away, when the evening was shattered by that sentence which takes different forms in different cultures, but is still perhaps the one sentence always capable of reminding people everywhere within reach of TV of a common and vulnerable humanity - "We interrupt this transmission for a special news flash."
Usually, on hearing that, you get an adrenalin rush, you freeze, you wait, you hear what's happened, and then the mechanisms of bodily habituation to crisis take over to see you through the time ahead. This occasion was alarmingly different. The announcer's voice actually stammered: "er ... um ... something's happened to Darwin." Darwin is the capital of Australia's far north. Most Australians know nothing about it, and live thousands of miles away. It takes days to get into by land or sea, and in a well-enriched national imaginary it is the "gateway" to Asia, and, in its remoteness and "vulnerability," the likely port of a conventional invasion. This has usually been a racist nightmare about the "yellow peril" sweeping down, but it does also have a basis in flat-map logic. There's no one south of Australia but penguins.
So people panicked, and waited anxiously for details. But the catastrophe was that there was no information. This was not catastrophe on TV -- like the Challenger sequence -- but a catastrophe of and for TV. There were no pictures, no reports, just silence -- which had long ceased to be coded as paradisal, as it was in my fable of origin, but was now the very definition of a state of total emergency. The announcer's stammer was devastating. Losing control of all the mechanisms for assuring credibility, his palpable personal distress had exposed us, unbelievably, to something like a truth. (5) When those of us who could sleep woke up the next day to find everyday life going on as usual, we realised it couldn't have been World War |||. But it took another twenty-four hours for "true" news to be re-established, and to reassure us that Darwin had merely been wiped out by a cyclone. Whereupon we went into the "natural disaster" genre of TV living, and banality resumed for everyone, except for the victims. But in the aftermath, a question surfaced. Why had such a cyclone-sensitive city not been forewarned? It was a very big cyclone -someone should have seen it coming.
Two rumours did the rounds. One was an oral rumour, or a folk legend. The cyclone took Darwin by surprise because it was a Russian weather warfare experiment that had either gone wrong or -- in the more menacing variant -- actually found its target. The other rumour made it into writing in the odd newspaper. There had been foreknowledge: indeed, even after the cyclone there was a functioning radio tower and an airstrip which might have sent news out straight away. But these belonged to an American military installation near Darwin, which was not supposed to be there. And in the embarrassment of realising the scale of disaster to come, a decision had been made by someone somewhere to say nothing, in the hope of averting discovery. If this was true, "they" needn't have worried. The story was never, to my knowledge, pursued further. We didn't really care. If there had been such an installation, it wasn't newsworthy; true or false, it wasn't catastrophic; true or false, it merged with the routine stories of conspiracy and paranoia in urban everyday life; and,true or false, it was -- compared with the darwin fatality count and the human interest stories to be had from survivors -- just too banal to be of interest.
My anecdotes are also banal, in that they mark out a televisual contradiction which is over-familiar as both a theoretical dilemma, and an everyday experience. It is the contradiction between one's pleasure, fascination, thrill, and sense of "life," even birth, in popular culture, and the deathly shadows of war, invasion, emergency, crisis, and terror that perpetually haunt the networks. Sometimes there seems to be nothing more to say about that "contradiction," in theory, yet as a phase of collective experience it does keep coming back around. So I want to use these two anecdotes now to frame a comparison between the late work of Baudrillard, and some aspects of "British" (or Anglo-Australian) cultural studies - two theoretical projects that have had something to say about the problem. I begin with Baudrillard, because "banafity" is a working concept in his lexicon, where as it is not a significant term for the cultural studies that today increasingly cites him.
In Baudrillard's terms, my anecdotes marked out a historical shift between a period of concern about TV's effects on the real -- which is thereby assumed to be distinct from its representation (the Lucy moment) -- and a time in which TV generates the real to the extent that any interruption in its process of doing so is experienced as more catastrophic in the lounge room than a "real" catastrophe elsewhere. So I have simply defined a shift between a regime of production, and a regime of simulation. This would also correspond to a shift between a more or less real Cold War ethos, where American military presence in your country could be construed as friendly or hostile, but you thought you should have a choice, and that the choice mattered; and a pure war (or, simulated chronic cold war) ethos, in which Russian cyclones or American missiles are completely interchangeable in a local imaginary of terror, and the choice between them is meaningless.
This analysis could be generated from Baudrillard's major thesis in L'échange symbolique et la mort (1976). The later Baudrillard would have little further interest in my story about Lucy's voice and domestic squabbles in an Australian country town, but might still be mildly amused by the story of a city disappearing for thirty-six hours because of a breakdown in communications. However, where I would want to say that this event was for participants a real, if mediated, experience of catastrophe, he could say that it was just a final flicker of real reality. With the subsequent installation of a global surveillance regime through the satellisation of the world, the disappearance of Darwin could never occur again. Everything is now already seen and filmed before it actually happens anyway.
So Baudrillard would collapse the "contradiction" (in itself, an archaic term) that I want to maintain: and he would make each semantic pole of my stories (the everyday and the catastrophic, the exhilarating and the frightful, the emancipatory and the terroristic) invade and contaminate its other in a process of mutual exacerbation. This is a viral, rather than an atomic, model of crisis in everyday life. If for Andreas Huyssen, modernism as an adversary culture constitutes itself in an "anxiety of contamination" by its Other (mass culture),(6) the Baudrillardian text on (or of) mass culture is constituted by perpetually intensifying the contamination of one of any two terms by its other.
So like all pairs of terms in Baudrillard' work, the values "banality" and "fatality" chase each other around his pages following the rule of dyadic reversibility. Any one term can be hyperbolically intensified until it turns into its opposite. Superbanality, for example, becomes fatal, and a superfatality would be banal. It's a very simple but, when well done, dizzying logico-semantic game which makes Baudrillard's books very easy to understand, but any one term most difficult to define. A complication in this case is that "banality" and "fatality" chase each other around two books, De la sèduction (1979) and Les stratèies fatales (1983).
One way to elucidate such a system is to imagine a distinction between two sets of two terms -- for example, "fatal charm" and "banal seduction". Fatal charm can be seductive in the old sense of an irresistible force, exerted by someone who desires nothing except to play the game in order to capture and to immolate the desire of the other. That's what's fatal about it. Banal seduction, on the other hand, does involve desire: desire for, perhaps, an immovable object to overcome. That's what's fatal for it. Baudrillard's next move is to claim that both of these strategies are finished. The only irresistible force today is that of the moving object as it fices and evades the subject. This is the "force" of the sex-object, of the silent zombiemasses, and of femininity (not necessarily detached by Baudrillard from real women, but certainly detached from feminists).
This structure is, I think, a "fatal" travesty, or a ',seduction" of the terms of Althusserian epistemology and its theory of the moving object. In Les stratégies fatales, it is rewritten in terms of a theory of global catastrophe. The human species has passed the dead point of history: we are living out the ecstasy of permanent catastrophe, which slows down as it becomes more and more intense (une catastrophe au ralenti, slowmotion, or slowing motion catastrophe), until the supereventfulness of the event approaches the uneventfulness of absolute inertia, and we begin to live everyday catastrophe as an endless dead point, or a perpetual freeze frame.
This is the kind of general scenario produced in Baudrillard's work by the logic of mutual contamination. However, an examination of the local occurrences of the terms "banal" and "fatal" in both books suggests that "banality" is associated, quite clearly and conventionally, with negative aspects of media: overrepresentation, excessive visibility, information overload, an obscene plenitude of images, a gross platitudinousness of the all-pervasive present.
On the other hand, and even though there is strictly no past and no future in Baudrillard's system, he uses "fatality" as both a nostalgic and a futuristic term for invoking a classical critical value, discrimination (redefined as a senseless, but still rule-governed, principle of selectiveness). "Fatality" is nostalgic in the sense that it invokes in the text, for the present, an "aristocratic" ideal of maintaining an elite, arbitrary, and avowedly artificial order. It is futuristic because Baudrillard suggests that in an age of overload, rampant banality, and catastrophe (which have become at this stage equivalents of each other), the last Pascalian wager may be to bet on the return, in the present, of what can only be a simulacrum of the past. When fatal charm can simulate seducing banal seduction, you have a fatal strategy. The animating myth of this return is to be, in opposition to critical philosophies of Difference (which have now become identical), a myth of Fatum -- that is, Destiny.
So read in one sense, Baudrillard's theory merely calls for an aesthetic order (fatality) to deal with mass cultural anarchy (banality). What makes his appeal more charming than most other tirades about the decay of standards is that it can be read in the opposite sense. The "order" being called for is radically decadent, super-banal. However, there is a point at which the play stops.
In one of Baudrillard's anecdotes (an enunciative mise en abyme of his theory), set in some vague courtly context with the ambience of a mid- eighteenth century French epistolary novel, a man is trying to seduce a woman. She asks, "Which part of me do you find most seductive?" He replies, "Your eyes." Next day, he receives an envelope. Inside, instead of the letter, he finds a bloody eye. Analysing his own fable, Baudrillard points out that in the obviousness, the literalness of her gesture, the woman has purloined the place of her seducer.
The man is the banal seducer. She, the fatal seducer, sets him a trap with her question as he moves to entrap her. In the platitudinous logic of courtliness, he can only reply "your eyes" - rather than naming some more vital organ which she might not have been able to post since the eye is the window of the soul. Baudrillard concludes that the woman's literalness is fatal to the man's banal figuration: she loses an eye, but he loses face. He can never again "cast an eye" on another woman without thinking literally of the bloody eye that replaced the letter. So Baudrillard's final resolution of the play between banality and fatality is this: a banal theory assumes, like the platitudinous seducer, that the subject is more powerful than the object. A fatal theory knows, like the woman, that the object is always worse than the subject ("je ne suis pas belle, je suis pire ... ").
Nonetheless, in making the pun "she loses an eye, but he loses face," Baudrillard in fact enunciatively reoccupies the place of control of meaning by deliteralising the woman's gesture, and returning it to figuration. Only the pun makes the story work as a fable of seduction, by draining the "blood" from the eye. Without it, we would merely be reading a horror story (or a feminist moral tale). So it follows that Baudrillard's figuration is, in fact, "fatal " to the woman's literality, and to a literal feminist reading of her story that might presumably ensue.
This embedding of an inscription of woman as literalness in a discourse that admires it, but denies it power, is not specific to Baudrillard. It could be compared to Jean-Francois Lyotard's myth of femininity as a fatal collapse of metalanguage, or as bearer of that terrible destiny, that general liquidation of discourse, that Derrida calls "catastrophe." I suspect that the problem of woman as literalness (ultimately, as we know, an undefinable concept) could be a more "fatal" object of study than femininity and metaphor. At any rate, the privilege of "knowing" the significance of the woman's fatal-banal gesture is securely restored to metalanguage, and to the subject of exegesis.
Recent cultural studies offers something completely different. It speaks not of restoring discrimination, but of encouraging cultural democracy. It respects difference, and sees mass culture not as a vast banality-machine, but as raw material made available for a variety of popular practices.
In saying "it", I am treating a range of quite different texts and arguments as a single entity. This is always unfair to any individual item, but it is a mode of perception endemic to, and possibly valid for, the experience of cultural booms. Sometimes, reading magazines like New Socialist or Marxism Today from the last couple of years, flipping through Cultural Studies, or scanning the pop-theory pile in the bookshop, I get the feeling that somewhere in some English publisher's vault there is a master-disk from which thousands of versions of the same article about pleasure, resistance, and the politics of consumption are being run off under different names with minor variations. Americans and Australians are recycling this basic pop-theory article, too: with the perhaps major variation that English pop-theory still derives at least nominally from a left populism attempting to salvage a sense of life from the catastrophe of Thatcherism. Once cut free from that context, as commodities always are, and recycled in quite different political cultures, the vestigial critical force of that populism tends to disappear or mutate.
This imaginary pop-theory article might respond to my television anecdotes by bracketing the bits about war and death as a sign of paranoia about popular culture, by pointing out that it's a mistake to confuse conditions of production with the subsequent effects of images, and by noting that with TV one may always be "ambivalent". It would certainly stress, with the Lucy story, the subversive pleasure of the female spectators. (My father could perhaps represent an Enlightenment paternalism of reason trying to make everything cohere in a model of social totality.) With the Darwin story, it would insist on the creativity of the consumer / spectator, and maybe have us distractedly zapping from channel to channel during the catastrophe instead of being passively hooked into the screen, and then resisting the war machine with our local legends and readings. The article would then restate, using a mix of different materials as illustration, the enabling theses of contemporary cultural studies.
In order to move away now from reliance on imaginary bad objects, I'll refer to an excellent real article which gives a summary of these theses --Mica Nava's "Consumerism and Its Contradictions." Among the enabling theses -- and they have been enabling -- are these: consumers are not "cultural dopes," but active, critical users of mass culture; consumption practices cannot be derived from or reduced to a mirror of production; consumer practice is far more than just economic activity: it is also about dreams and consolation, communication and confrontation, image and identity. Like sexuality, it consists of a multiplicity of fragmented and contradictory discourses."(8)
I'm not now concerned to contest these theses. For the moment, I'll buy the lot. What I'm interested in is firstly, the sheer proliferation of the restatements, and secondly, the emergence in some of them of a restrictive definition of the ideal knowing subject of cultural studies.
John Fiske's historical account in "British Cultural Studies and Television" produces one such restatement and restriction. The social terrain of the beginning of his article is occupied by a version of the awesomely complex Althusserian subject-in-ideology, and by a summary of Gramsci on hegemony. Blending these produces a notion of subjectivity as a dynamic field, in which all sorts of permutations are possible at different moments in an endless process of production, contestation, and reproduction of social identities. By the end of the article, the field has been vastly simplified: there are "the dominant classes" (exerting hegemonic force), and "the people" (making their own meanings and constructing their own culture "within, and sometimes against" the culture provided for them) (Fiske 286).
Cultural studies for Fiske aims to understand and encourage cultural democracy. One way of understanding the demos is "ethnography" -- finding out what the people say and think about their culture. But the methods cited are "voxpop" techniques common to journalism and empirical sociology: interviewing, collecting background, analysing statements made spontaneously by, or solicited from, informants. So the choice of the term "ethnography" for these practices emphasises a possible "ethnic" gap between the cultural student and the culture studied. The "understanding" and ,encouraging" subject may share some aspects of that culture, but in the process of in terrogation and analysis is momentarily located outside it. "The people" is a voice, or a f igure of a voice, cited in a discourse of exegesis. For example, Fiske cites "Lucy", a fourteen year old fan of Madonna ("She's tarty and seductive ... but it looks alright when she does it, you know, what I mean..."); and then goes on to translate, and diagnose, what she means: "Lucy's problems probably stem from her recognition that marriage is a patriarchal institution and, as such, is threatened by Madonna's sexuality" (273).
If this is again a process of embedding in metadiscourse a sample of raw female speech, it is also a perfectly honest approach for any academic analyst of culture to take. It differs from a discourse that simply appeals to "experience" to validate and universalize its own conclusions. However, such honesty should also require some analysis of the analyst's own investment some recognition of the double play of transference. (Lucy tells us her pleasure in Madonna: but what is our pleasure in Lucy's?) This kind of recognition is rarely made in populist polemics. What takes its place is firstly a citing of popular voices (the informants), an act of translation and commentary, and then a play of identification between the knowing subject of cultural studies, and a collective subject, "the people".
In Fiske's text, however, "the people" have no necessary defining characteristics - except an indomitable capacity to "negotiate" readings, generate new interpretations, and remake the materials of culture. This is also, of course, the function of cultural studies itself (and in Fiske's version, the study does include a "semiotic analysis of the text" to explore how meanings are made) (Fiske 272). So against the hegemonic force of the dominant classes, "the people" in fact represent the most creative energies and functions of critical reading. In the end they are not simply the cultural students's object of study, and his native informants. The people are also the textually delegated, allegorical emblem of the critic's own activity. Their ethnos may be constructed as other, but it is used as the ethnographer's mask.
Once "the people" are both a source of authority for a text and a figure of its own critical activity, the populist enterprise is not only circular but (like most empirical sociology) narcissistic in structure. Theorising the problems that ensue is a way to break out of the circuit of repetition. Another is to project elsewhere a misunderstanding or discouraging Other figure (often that feminist or Marxist Echo, the blast from the past) to necessitate and enable more repetition.
The opening chapter of lain Chambers'Popular Culture provides an example of this, as well as a definition of what counts as "popular" knowledge that is considerably more restrictive than John Fiske's. Chambers argues that in looking at popular culture, we should not subject individual signs and single texts to the "contemplative stare of official culture." When applied to the tactile, transitory, expendable, visceral world of the popular, contemplation would be a misunderstanding called Vanity. Instead, it is a practice of "distracted reception" that really characterises the subject of "popular epistemology". For Chambers, this distraction has consequences for the practice of writing. Writing can imitate popular culture (life ... ) by, for example, "writing through quotations," and refusing to "explain ... references fully". To explain would be to reimpose the contemplative stare, and adopt the authority of the "academic mind". (9)
Chambers's argument emerges from an interpretation of the history of subcultural practices, especially in music. I've argued elsewhere my disagreement with his attempt to use that history to generalise about popular culture in The Present.(10) Here, I want to suggest that an image of the subject of pop epistemology as casual and "distracted," obliquely entails a revival of the figure that Andreas Huyssen, Tania Modleski, and Patrice Petro have described in various contexts as "mass culture as woman".(11) Petro in particular further points out that the contemplation/distraction opposition is historically implicated in the construction of the female "spectator" as site, and target, of a theorisation of modernity by male intellectuals in Weimar. (12)
There are many versions of a "distraction" model available in cultural studies today: there are housewives phasing in and out of TV or flipping through magazines in laundromats as well as pop intellectuals playing with quotes. In Chambers's text, which is barely concerned with women at all, distraction is not presented as a female characteristic. Yet today's recycling of Weimar's distraction nonetheless has the "contours," in Petro's phrase, of a familiar female stereotype. Distracted, absent-minded, insouciant, vague, flighty, skimming from image to image ... the rush of associations runs irresistibly towards a figure of mass culture not as woman but, more specifically, as bimbo.
In the texts Petro analyses, "contemplation" (of distraction in the cinema) is assumed to be the prerogative of male intellectual audiences. In pop epistemology, a complication is introduced via the procedures of projection and identification that Elaine Showalter describes in "Critical Cross-Dressing."(13) The knowing subject of popular epistemology no longer contemplates "mass culture" as bimbo, but takes on the assumed mass cultural characteristics in the writing of his own text. Since the object of projection and identification in post-subcultural theory tends to be black music and "style" rather than the European (and literary) feminine, we find an actantial hero of knowledge emerging in the form of the white male theorist as bimbo.
White male theorists today have their problems, and I don't want to diminish them. I'm not averse to crossdressing -- indeed, the wonderful American word "bimbo" was actually suggested to me by Kathleen Woodward when I was struggling to articulate my own contemplative interest in the Sylvester Stallone of Rocky l and ll. I think the real problem with the notion of pop epistemology is not, in this case, the vestigial antifeminism of the concept of distraction. The problem is that in anti-academic pop-theory writing (much of which, like Chambers's book, circulates as textbooks with exam and essay topics at the end of each chapter), a stylistic enactment of the "popular" as distracted, scanning the surface, and short on attention-span, performs a retrieval, at the level of enunciative practice, of the thesis of "cultural dopes." In the critique of which -- going right back to the early work of Stuart Hall, not to mention Raymond Williams -- the project of cultural studies effectively and rightly began.
One could claim that this interpretation is only possible if one continues to assume that the academic traditions of "contemplation" really do define intelligence, and that to be "distracted" can therefore only mean being dopey. I would reply that as long as we accept restating the alternatives in those terms, that is precisely the assumption we continue to recycle. No matter which of the terms we validate, the contemplation / distraction, academic / popular, oppositions can only serve to limit and distort the possibilities of popular practice.
Furthermore, I think that this return to the postulate of cultural dopism in the practice of writing may be one reason why, beyond the pressure on individual producers to supply the demand created by booms, pop-theory is now generating over and over again the same article which never goes beyond recycling and restating its own basic premises. If a cultural dopism is being enunciatively performed (and valorised) in a discourse that tries to contest it, then the argument in fact can not move on, but can only retrieve its point of departure as "banality" (a word pop theorists don't normally use) in the negative sense.
For the thesis of cultural studies as Fiske and Chambers present it runs perilously close to this kind of formulation: people in modern mediatised societies are complex and contradictory, mass cultural texts are complex and contradictory, therefore people using them produce complex and contradictory culture. To add that this popular culture has critical and resistant elements is tautological - unless one (or a predicated someone, that Other who needs to be told) has a concept of culture so rudimentary that it excludes criticism of and resistance from the practice of everyday life.
Given the completely different values ascribed to mass culture in Baudrillard's work and in pop-theory, it is tempting to make a distracted contrast between them in terms of elitism and populism. However, they are not symmetrical opposites. Cultural studies posits a "popular" subject "supposed to know" in a certain manner, which the subject of populist theory then claims to understand (Fiske) or mimic (Chambers). Baudrillard's elitism, however, is not an elitism of a knowing subject of theory, but an elitism of the object -- which is forever, and actively, evasive. There is a hint of "distraction" here, an echo between the problematics of woman and literalness and mass culture as bimbo which deserves further contemplation. A final twist is that for Baudrillard the worst (that is, most effective) elitism of the object can be called, precisely, "theory". Theory is understood as an objectified and objectifying (never "objective") force strategically engaged in an ever more intense process of commodification. Like "distraction" it is distinguished by the rapidity of its flight, rather than by a concentrated pursuit.
Instead of pursuing it, however, I shall come back around to commodification, and the problem of cultural boom.
It is remarkable, given the differences between them and the crisis- ridden society that each in its own way addresses, that neither of the projects I've discussed leaves much place for an unequivocally pained, unambivalently discontented, or aggressive theorising subject. It isn't just negligence. There is an active process going on in both of discrediting -- by direct dismissal (Baudrillard), or covert inscription as Other (cultural studies) -- the voices of grumpy feminists and cranky leftists ("Frankfurt School" can do duty for both). To discredit such voices is, as I understand it, one of the immediate political functions of the current boom in cultural studies (as distinct from the intentionality of projects invested by it). To discredit a voice is something very different from displacing an analysis which has become outdated, or revising a strategy which no longer serves its purpose.
Baudrillard's hostility to the discourses of political radicalism is perfectly clear and brilliantly played out. It is a little too aggressive to accuse cultural studies of playing much the same game. Cultural studies is a humane and optimistic discourse, trying to derive its values from materials and conditions already available to people. On the other hand, it can become an apologetic "yes, but ..."discourse, that most often proceeds from admitting class, racial, and sexual oppressions to finding the inevitable saving grace - when its theoretical presuppositions should require it at least to do both simultaneously, even "dialectically". And in practice the "but....... that is to say, the argumentative rhetoric - is immediately directed not to the hegemonic force of the "dominant classes", but to other critical theories (vulgar feminism, the Frankfurt school) inscribed as misunderstanding popular culture.
This may be partly a result of the notions of "negotiated," "resistant," and "oppositional" readings that still play such a large part in our analyses. In the end, the aim of analysis becomes to generate one of these, thus repeatedly proving it possible to do so. Since there is little point in re-generating a "dominant" reading of a text (the features of which are usually presupposed by the social theory which frames the reading in the first place), the figure of a misguided but on-side Other is necessary to justify the exercise and guarantee the "difference" of the reading. I think that two related rhetorical determinants also enable cultural studies to work this way in spite of the intentions of many of us who do it.
The first of these is a tendency towards emotional simplification. To simplify myself, I'd say that where the fatal strategies of Baudrillard keep returning us to his famous Black Hole -- a scenario that is so grim, obsessive, and in its enunciative strategies, maniacally over- coherent, that instead of speaking, a woman must tear out her eye to be heard -- the voxpop style of cultural studies is on the contrary offering us the sanitized world of a deodorant commercial where there's always a way to redemption. There's something sad about that, because cultural studies emerged from a real attempt to give voice to much grittier experiences of class, race, and gender.
I emotional simplification is one problem, then there is another that helps to produce the simplification. This "problem" is one of the enabling theses of cultural studies: that "consumption" can be treated as a quasiautonomous reality diverging from another "reality" called "production" -- which, after Marxism, we are supposed to know quite enough about for the time being. Production "processes" are well known, but consumption "practices" remain enigmatic.
There are a number of difficulties with this even as a rough working assumption: for example, consumption (albeit as "practice") can only be opposed as an equivalent term to "production" once the concept of "mode of production" has been reduced to "factories making goods, capitalists making profits". Only in this utterly vestigial economic sense can the practice of consumption be predicated as a "separate sphere" rather than one of the necessary, complex, variable phases of a productive process - which is no more autonomous from, than it is metonymic of, that process.
"Difference", after all, is not "autonomy". More concretely, at a time when it is impossible to determine to what extent, and in which places, "practices" like programme-trading and arbitrage in foreign exchange futures are effects or causes of a catastrophic stock market crash which is immediately reconstituted as banal in media also functioning indeterminately as causes and effects in the process, the assumption that production is "known" and consumption enigmatic is, to say the least, unhelpful. Baudrillard, for all his unrelenting bleakness, is in this respect more effective, more fatal, as an analyst of the way the world is working. The kind of explanation from "production" so cheerfully rejected in cultural studies usually boils down to one based on a model of good old-fashioned, family-company industrialism. You can't derive your analysis of what people make of a record from finding out that capitalists own the factory. You can't deduce our uses of TV from knowing who makes the programme and who owns the channels and how they link to other companies and agencies of state.
Indeed, you can't. But in an era of deindustrialisation and increasing integration of markets and circuits alike, the problem of theorising relations between production and consumption (or thinking "production" at all) is considerably more complex than is allowed by a reduction of the effort to do so to anachronistic terms. The computerisation of capitalism is also a factor which makes extremely dubious the literary analogies that underpin, all too often unquestioned, the notion of consumer practice: production is like writing, consumption is like reading, therefore we can write our readings of consumption without reference to the author's (capitalism's) intentions. However, unlike the concept of "writing", the term "production" in cultural theory has atrophied instead of being re-theorised. These days it is often used as a shorthand term for "talking economics".
"Consumption" means talking about sex, art, "cultural politics", and fun. Before completely relegating the former to the realm of the déjà vu, however, it may be as well to consider that in the late twentieth century, after a century of romanticism, modernism, the avantgarde, and psychoanalysis, economics, in fact, may be considerably more enigmatic than sexuality.
Yet in saying this, my own discourse is taking on the haranguing tone of an already-discredited voice. The sense of frustration that some of us who would inscribe our own work as cultural studies feel with the terms of present debate can be disabling. If one is equally uneasy about fatalistic theory on the one hand, and about cheerily "making the best of things" in the name of a new politics of culture on the other, then it is a poor solution to consent to confine oneself to (and in) the dour position of rebuking both.
In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau provides a more positive approach to the politics of theorising popular culture, and to the particular problems I have discussed.(14) One of the pleasures of this text for me is the range of moods that it admits to a field of study which - rather surprisingly, since "everyday life" is at issue - often seems to be occupied only by cheerleaders and prophets of doom. So from it I shall borrow - in a contemplative rather than a distracted spirit - two quotations to interrupt my own slide into sermonising.
The first quotation is in fact from Jacques Sojcher's La Démarche poétique. De Certeau cites it after arguing for a double process of mobilising the "weighty apparatus" of theories of ordinary language to analyse everyday practices,and seeking to restore to those practices their logical and cultural legitimacy. De Certeau insists, however, that in this kind of research, everyday practices will "alternately exacerbate and disrupt our logics. Its regrets are like those of the poet, and like him, it struggles against oblivion". So I will use his quotation in turn as a response to the terrifying and unrelenting coherence of Baudrillard's fatal strategies. Sojcher:
And I forgot the elements of chance introduced by circumstances, calm or haste, sun or cold, dawn or dusk, the taste of strawberries or abandonment, the half-understood message, the front page of newspapers, the voice on the telephone, the most anodyne conversation, the most anonymous man or woman, everything that speaks, makes noise, passes by, touches us fightly, meets us head on. (xvi)
The second quotation comes from a discussion of "Freud and the Ordinary Man," and the difficult problems that arise when "elitist writing uses the 'vulgar' [or, I would add, the "feminine"] speaker as a disguise for a metalanguage about itself." For de Certeau, a recognition that the "ordinary" and the "popular" can act as a mask in analytical discourse does not imply that the study of popular culture is impossible except as recuperation. Instead, it requires a displacement in the practice of knowledge:
Far from arbitrarily assuming the privilege of speaking in the name of the ordinary (it cannot be spoken), or claiming to be in that general place (that would be a false "mysticism"), or, worse, offering up a hagiographic everydayness for its edifying value, it is a matter of restoring historicity to the movement which leads analytical procedures back to their frontiers, to the point where they are changed, indeed disturbed, by the ironic and mad banality that speaks in "Everyman" in the sixteenth century, and that has returned in the final stages of Freud's knowledge.....(5)
In this way the ordinary, he suggests, "can reorganise the place from which discourse is produced." I think that this means being very careful about our enunciative and story-telling strategies -- much more careful than much cultural studies (and feminist writing) has been in its mimesis of a popular, or "feminine," voice.
In spirit, de Certeau's work is much more in sympathy with the populist, bricoleur impulse of cultural studies than with apocalyptic thinking. The motto of his book could be the sentence, "People have to make do with what they have" (18). Its French title is Arts de faire: arts of making, arts of doing, arts of making-do. What is useful in his book as a charm against emotional and theoretical simplification is its perpetual movement between what he calls "polemological" and "utopian" spaces and practices (15-18).(15) The basic assumption founding any polemological space is summed up by a quotation in the text from a Maghrebian syndicalist at Billancourt: "They always fuck us over". This is a sentence that seems inadmissible in contemporary cultural studies: it defines a space of struggle, and mendacity ("the strong always win, and words always deceive"). But at the same time, a utopian space is reproduced in the popular legends of miracles that circulate and intensify as social repression becomes more absolute and apparently successful. As an example, de Certeau tells the story of a legendary friar in north-eastern Brazil.
I'd cite as an allegory of both a television anecdote about the Sydney Birthday Cake Scandal. 1988 is the celebration of the Australian Bicentenary. But it's really the Bicentenary of Sydney as the original penal colony. "Australia" is in fact only eighty-seven years old, and so the event is widely understood to be an exercise in the simulation, rather than celebration, of a national history.
A benevolent Sydney real estate baron proposed to build a giant birthday cake above an expressway tunnel in the most famous social wastage-and-devastation zone of the city, so we could know we were having a party. The project was unveiled on a TV current affairs show, and there was an uproar Ð not only from exponents of good taste against kitsch. The network switchboards were jammed by people pointing out that, above the area that belongs to junkies, runaways, homeless people, and the child as well as adult prostitution trade, a giant cake would invoke a late eighteenth-century voice quite different from that of our first prison governor saying, "Here we are in Botany Bay." The voice would be Marie Antoinette's: "Let them eat cake". There was nothing casual or distracted about that voxpop observation.
The baron then proposed a public competition, again via TV, to find an alternative design. There were lots of proposals: a few of us wanted to build Kafka's writing machine from "In the Penal Colony". Others proposed an echidna, a water tower, a hypodermic, or a giant condom. The winner was a suburban rotary clothesline: Australia's major contribution to twentieth-century technology, and thus something of a symbol for the current decline in our economy. But in the end, the general verdict was that we'd rather make-do with the cake. As one person said in a voxpop segment, "At least with the cake, the truth about the party is all now out in the open". So had the cake been built, it would have been, after all that polemological narrativity, a very political and problematised, utopian popular monument.
No monument materialised, and the story died down. However, it reappeared in a different form when an extravagant Bicentennial Birthday Party was duly held on January 26, 1988. Two and a half million people converged on a few square kilometres of harbour foreshore on a glorious summer's day to watch the ships, to splash about, to eat and drink and fall asleep in the sun during speeches. The largest gathering of Aboriginal people since the original Invasion Day was also held, to protest the proceedings. The party ended with a fabulous display of fireworks, choreographed to music including "Power and the Passion" by Australia's most polemological rock band, Midnight Oil. The day after this splendid and awful event, a slogan surfaced in the streets and on the walls of the city and in press cartoons: "Let them eat fireworks".
De Certeau's insistence on the movement between polemological and utopian practices of making-do makes it possible to say that if cultural studies is losing its polemological edge - its capacity to articulate loss, despair, disillusion, anger and thus to learn from failure - Baudrillard's work has not lost its utopianism, but has rather produced a convergence between polemological and (nightmare) utopian spaces. But to invoke instead with de Certeau a "mad and ironic banality" of the popular that can insinuate itself in our techniques as theorists, and reorganise the place from which our discourse is produced, is immediately to posit an awkward position for theorising subjects for whom Everyman might not serve as well as I Love Lucy as a political fable of origin. For me as a feminist, as a distracted media baby, and also, to some extent, as an Australian, a reference to Everyman is rather a reminder of the problems of disengaging my own thinking from patriarchal, humanist, and Eurocentric cultural norms.
"Banality" is one of a group of words -- including "trivial" and "mundane" -- whose modern history inscribes the disintegration of old ideals about the common people, the common place, the common culture. In medieval French, the "banal" fields, mills, and ovens were those used communally. It is only in the late eighteenth century that these words begin to accumulate their modern sense of the trite, the platitudinous, and the unoriginal. So it's a banal observation that if banality, like triviality, is an irritant that returns again and again to trouble cultural theory, it is because the very concept is part of the modern history of taste, value, and critique of judgement, that constitutes the polemical field within which cultural studies takes issue with classical aesthetics.
If banality keeps on coming back around in our polemics, it is less because of the residual elitism of individual intellectuals, and populist reaction to it, and more because "banality" as mythic signifier is always a mask for the question of value, and of value-judgement, or "discrimination". If I find myself in the contradictory position of wanting to reject the patronising idea that "banality" is a useful framing concept to discuss mass media, and yet go on to complain myself of "banality" in cultural studies, the problem may arise because the critical vocabulary available to people wanting to theorise the discriminations that they make in relation to their own experience of popular culture -- without debating the "validity" of that experience, even less that culture as a whole -- is still, today, extraordinarily depleted. It seems to me, therefore, that the worst thing one can do in this context is to accuse people trying to develop a critique of popular culture of succumbing to "elitism" or pessimism.
For there is an extra twist to the history of banality. In the Oxford version of this history, before it goes round through old French to come round in medieval English, it has a twin or double heritage in, on the one hand, old English, bannan -- to summon, or to curse -- and a Germanic bannan -- to proclaim under penalty.
So banality is related to banishing, and also to wedding bans. In other words, it is a figure inscribing power in an act of enunciation. In medieval times it could mean two things beside "common-place". It could mean, to issue an edict or a summons (usually to war). That was the enunciative privilege of the feudal lord. Or it could mean to proclaim under orders: to line the streets, and cheer, in the manner required by the demand "Un ban pour le vainqueur!" To obediently perform a rhythmic applause is the "banal" enunciative duty of the common people.
This two-sided historical function of banality -- lordly pronouncement, mimetic popular performance -- is not yet banished from the practice of theorising the popular today. It's very hard, perhaps impossible, not to make the invoked voice of the popular perform itself obediently in just that medieval way in our writing. However, when the voice of that which academic discourses -- including cultural studies, however populist they may be -- constitutes as popular, begins in turn to theorise its speech, then you have an interesting possibility. That theorisation may well go round by way of the procedures that Homi Bhabha has theorised as "colonial mimicry", for example, but may also come around eventually in a different, and as yet utopian, mode of enunciative practice.(16)
For this reason, I think that minoritarian theorising subjects in cultural studies have to work quite hard not to become subjects of banality in that old double sense: not to formulate edicts and proclamations, yet to keep theorising; not to become supermimics in the Baudrillardian sense of becoming, by reversal, the same as that which is mimicked, yet to refuse to subside permanently either into silence or into a posture of reified difference. Through some such effort, pained and disgruntled subjects, who are also joyous and inventive practitioners, can articulate our critique of everyday life.back
So as a vocal spin-off, perhaps, rather than "child" of Lucy- television and its complex effects as a "foreign policy of potential 'containment'" in my culture, I come back around, in the end, to Patricia Mellencamp's stress on engaging with the contradictions of Lucy in the situation "comedy" of the present. "Child" is probably an unfortunate way of thinking about historical relationships: as Sonja Rein has pointed out, one of the difficulties with feminist theorisation of television from the 1950s (and also with the imagery of distraction) is that it easily becomes just another way of talking about our mothers - in a mode of, regression to an imaginary, if utopian, infancy.(17) Mellencamp's analysis, however, polemologically refuses to "contain" Lucy in the past, or to a theory of "subversive" humour, "resistant" pleasure, alone.
In the context of a cultural boom in these propositions, it may well be less fatalistic (if more "fatal" in Baudrillard's sense, more utopian in de Certeau's) to keep spinning off from her insistence on "dilemmas which, for me, no modern critical model can resolve".(18)
1. John Fiske, "British Cultural Studies and Television", Channels of Discourse: Television and Contemporary Criticism, ed.Rober C. Allen (U of North Carolina P, Chapel Hill, 1987) 254-89.
2. JudithWilliamson, "The Problems of Being Popular" New Socialist, Sept. 1986: 14-15
3. On the Street, 21st Oct. 1987.
4. Patricia Mellencamp, "Situation Comedy, Feminism and Freud: Discourses of Gracie and Lucy," Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, ed Tania Modleski (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 80-95.
5. Cf. Margaret Morse, "The Television News Personality and Credibility: Reflections on the News in Transition," Studies in Entertainment 55-79.
6. Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana UP,1986) vii.
7. Jean-Francois Lyotard, "One of the Things at Stake in Women's Struggles", Sub Stance 20, 1978, 9-17; Jacques Derrida, "No Apocalypse, Not Now (Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives)," Diacritics, Summer 1984, 20-31
8. Mica Nava, "Consumerism and Its Contradictions", Cultural Studies 1. no. 2, May 1987, 204-10. The phrase "cultural dopes" is from Stuart Hall, "Notes on Deconstructing 'the Popular'," People's History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981) 227-39
9. Iain Chambers, Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience (NewYork: Methuen, 1986) 12-13.
10. Meaghan Morris, "At Henry Parkes' Motel," Cultural Studies 2, no. 1, 1988
11. Andreas Huyssen, "Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism's Other "After the Great Divide, 44-6). Tania Modleski "Femininity as Mas(s)querade: A Feminist Approach to Mass Culture", High Theorie / Low Culture ed., Colin Mac Cabe (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1986) 37-52; Patrice Petro, "Mass Culture and the Feminine: The 'Place' of Television in Film Studies", Cinema Journal 25, no. 3, Spring 1986, 5-21.
12. Patrice Petro,"Modernity and Mass Culture in Weimar: Contours of a Discourse on Sexuality in Early Theories of Perception and Representation", New German Critique 40, Winter 1987, 115-46.
13. Elaine Showalter, "Critical Cross-Dressing: Male Feminists and the Woman of the Year", Men in Feminism, ed. Alice Jardine and Paul Smith (New York: 1987): 116-32.
14. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Rendall (Berkeley: U of California P, 1984) xvi.
15. A space for de Certeau is the product of, as well as a potential arena for, a practice. See The Practice of Everyday Life Part Ill, " Spatial Practices".
16. Homi K. Bhabha, "O Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse", October 28, Spring 1984, 125-33.
17. Private conversation. One could argue that the topic of punk for the subcultural strand of cultural studies may welI perform much the same role.