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CSCT 1CS3.docx

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McMaster University
James Stinson

CSCT 1CS3 What is Culture? IenAng: “For most people, ‘culture’is extraordinary, set apart from daily life. It is either synonymous to art, something elevated and lofty, of refers to ‘other people”….in other words culture is either aesthetics or anthropology….” Raymond Williams: “Culture is Ordinary” (1958): • Page 93: key paragraph: “Every human society has (1) its own shape, its own purpose, its own meanings. (2) Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning.” (They might also be produced here) • “Awhole way of life” • Both traditional and creative • “high” and “low” culture: Williams’teashop story • Class • “There is a distinct working-class way of life” • Culture is not “bourgeois” culture • “mass” culture • Asense of alienation with the rise of industrialization • The value of commercial culture; the equation of this culture with the people who consume it: “bad” culture • Theodor Adorno/Frankfurt School Williams: “The only defence is in education, which will at least keep certain things alive, and which will also, at east in a minority, develop ways of thinking and feeling which are competent to understand what is happening and to maintain the finest individual values.” Ang: “’Culture’in cultural studies relates to the production and negotiation of meaning and value, and this is an ongoing, plural, often conflictive process taking place in all dimensions of social activity, be it at the workplace, in education, the media, in international relations, even in the hairdresser’s salon.” “’Culture” has become and increasingly intense and multidimensional ‘site of struggle’in this complex, postmodern world.” • “Increasing commercialisation, buereaucratisation and corporatisation of universities” • Research priorities: “partnerships” $$$$$$$ • The obligation of cultural studies, and Humanities research in general to question: • “It is the function of the humanities to provide an understanding of the world of social experience.” • Sydney, Australia: research onArab youth and crime Case Study: Lorde's Royals Williams: “Every human society has (1) its own shape, its own purpose, its own meanings. (2) Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning.” (They might also be produced here) Products of commercial culture not “neutral” or “just entertainment” (although they can serve as a means of escape, which is also political) Multiple readings: expressions of culture are complex Understanding a point of view other than your own Critique of commercial culture? New York Times review: Ms. Perry and Ms. Cyrus sing about something teenage girls are presumed to have on their minds: what’s left of self-esteem after a breakup…. Lorde, meanwhile, is singing about class consciousness and conspicuous consumption: the gap between pop-culture fantasies of Cadillacs and diamonds and the reality of being someone who “didn’t come from money.” It’s a thoughtful, calmly insubordinate song; it’s also written by an actual teenager. Racist? From Verónica Bayetti Flores ( “While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist. Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East?” Lorde: “I was just sort of reeling off some of the things which are commonly mentioned in hip-hop and the Top 40.” “I’ve always loved hip-hop, but as a fan of hip-hop, I’ve always had to kind of suspend disbelief because, obviously, I don’t have a Bentley. There’s a distance between that and the life I have with my friends going to parties and getting public transport and doing the things that every other teenager does.” Ideology • “Royals” makes the following *ideological* assumptions: • That “authenticity” means shunning commercial culture • That participation in commercial culture *means* or *signifies* in the same way for everyone • When, in fact, Lorde’s view is one that comes from *the dominant culture* and made to seem universal • That capitalism is a given Ideology & Hegemony • Another way of saying this: • The media and political, economic, educational, religious, and entertainment institutions shape our consciousness. People are told, inspired, coerced, and manipulated to think in certain ways, usually ways that support the economic and political interests of the rich and powerful. Hegemony This legitimization of certain ideas is managed through the widespread social adoption of ideas about the way things are, how the world 'really' works and should work. These ideas (often embedded in symbols and cultural practices) orient people's thinking in such a way that they accept the current way of doing things, the current sense of what is 'natural,' and the current understanding of their roles in society. This socialization process, the shaping of our cognitive and affective interpretations of our social world, is called, byAntonio Gramsci, "hegemony" • hegemony denotes the predominance of one social class over others. • not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world (ideology) so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'. Roland Barthes: “The whole of France [you can substitute “world”] is steeped in this anonymous ideology, our press, our films, our theatre, our pulp literature, our rituals, our Justice, our diplomacy, our conversations, our remarks about the weather, a murder trial, a touching wedding, the cooking we dream of, the garments we wear, everything in everyday life is dependent on the representation which the bourgeoisie has and makes us have of the relations between men and the world” • Barthes: used the term “myth” to refer to the hidden set of rules and conventions through which meanings, which are specific to certain groups, are made to seem universal and given for a whole society • Semiotics: • Signifier + Signified = Sign Neoliberalism • Predominant economic system of last 40 years • Market economy; free trade • Focus on privatization • Focus on the individual: • Individual freedoms • “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” • “American dream” Semiotics  signifier(happy face) + Signified (happiness) = Sign (Denotative meaning) (Connotaive meaning =Barthes' "myth") signifier= form, signified= idea/concept.. both are required to produce meaning. The relationship between them sustains representation Representation is the production of meaning through language (written, spoke, image, event, gesture, sound, etc) Encoding and Decoding (S. Hall) • Codes o The conventions or practices by which signs are strung together to make meaning o Cultural producers encode messages and we decode them (reception- not neutral) o We can decode in different ways  Dominant- hegemonic reading  Negotiated position  Oppositional or Counter- hegemonic reading Discourse (Michel Foucault) • shift away from "language" to "discourse" • a group of statements which provide a language for talking about a particular topic at a particular historical moment. Discourse is about the production of knowledge through language o WHAT gets talked about, defined? o HOW is a topic talked about? o WHO gets to get the parameters for how it's talked about? • The same disclosure, characteristic of a way of thinking will appear across a range of texts, forms of conduct, in a number of institutions: assume existence independent of particular speaker Discourse (Foucault) • Our subjectivity is constructed through discourse(s) • this shapes our acceptance of unequal power relations • "Nothing meaningful exists outside of discourse" • emphasis on the connection between knowledge and power • power doesn't rest in one place and it shifts • Examples, medicine, law, sexuality, science Everyday Life • Michel de Certeau: The Practice of Everyday Life o examination of "routine practices" or "the art of doing: o walking, talking, reading, dwelling, cooking.. o creative resistance to repressive aspects of modern society o strategies/ tactics Music and Everyday Life • Performance and Subjectivity • DeNora's categories: o Mood Change o Venting o Mental Concentration o Remembering/ Constructing the self o Why do we gravitate to certain kinds of music? Resistance and Its Difficulties • What are we trying to resist? o Corporate Culture Culture Jamming • The practice of parodying advertisements and hijacking billboards in order to drastically alter the message (280) • Culture jams are interceptions--- counter-messages that hack into a corporation's own method of communication to send a message starkly at odds with the one that was intended (281) • Culture jamming baldly rejects the idea that marketing, because it buys its way into our public spaces, must be passively accepted a one-way information flow (281) Jean Baudrillard, "Precession of Simulacra" • We inhabit a hyperreality, a hall of media mirrors in which reality has been lost in an infinity of reflections. We experience events as electronic reproductions of rumoured phenomena many time removes; originals fall short Umberto Eco: “semiological guerrilla warfare” o “The receiver of the message seems to have a residual freedom: to read it in a different way…I am proposing an action to urge the audience to control the message in its multiple possibilities of interpretation. One medium can be employed to communicate a series of opinions on another medium….Restoring a critical dimension to passive reception.” Adbusters • "We are a global networks of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators, and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we live in the 21st century." Subculture • In opposition to "mainstream" or "dominant" culture • subversive • often based on style Graffiti Art • construction of "virtual" alternate identity • tags • use of public space (Reclaiming?) • impermanence • dialogue Space and Place • place is crucial to the understanding of culture; cultural life doesn't take place in a vacuum • arranging, managing shaping and transforming places in accordance to belief agendas and political values • those in power make decisions about the use of space • forces of capitalism important way through which space get constructed/ controlled • enclaves of privilege; zones of exclusion Public and Private • a public is a space of discourse, which involves a relation among strangers • public sphere (Jurgen Habermas): a site in which the public (private citizens separate from the state) debates and discusses the issues relevant to its time • conterpublic sphere(s) Workspaces • "Modern Life:" Critique of crushing effects of modern work • "The Office:" disciplinary structures seemingly less onerous o blurred lines between work and leisure o "nurturing" and "validation" of workers as individuals in contemporary workplaces "Imagined Community" • "[The Nation] is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow- members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion"-Benedict Anderson Nature/ Environment • discourse o Michel Foucault • Discourse is about the production of knowledge through language • WHAT gets talked about, defined? • HOW is a topic talked about? • WHO gets to get the parameters for how it's talked about? • John Muir (founder of Sierra Club) 1898: “The tendency nowadays to wander in wilderness is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over- civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity….Awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoing with those of nature, and to get rid of rust and disease.” Wilderness • As other (in binary opposition to "society" etc.; separateness, difference from human world) • for use against normal, everyday space- stands apart from this • posted as a site of escape from society and escape from design • romanticized: conquering wilderness and being reinvigorated by primitive energy and independence • counter to control or discipline of society • site of resistance/opposition in the 1960's, eg. • Nostalgic: idealized (different for people who work "in nature") solitude, masculine ruggedness o associated with privilege o glosses over violent dispossession of Indigenous people o can absolve us from responsibility of living sustainably elsewhere • wilderness is "managed" (eg. "preservation" from disappearance): tension btw. Idea of untouched nature and management referred to as "open secret" • What we do "in nature" is also designed ( "relax" "hike" etc) • imagining nature as heterotopia Heterotopia( Michel Foucault) • a heterotopia is a real place which stands outside of know space o brings together into a single space things that are not usually together o heterotopias are able to oppose, in the same place, different places (like the zoo or botanical gardens) o a heterotopia separates us from our usual sense of time, like libraries which are accumulated time or festivals which are transient o other examples, prisons, hospitals, cemeteries, gardens o Foucault also talks about conceptualization of ourselves in terms of inner/outer Globalization Wilderness • Wilderness is “managed” (eg. “preservation” from disappearance): tension btw. Idea of untouched nature and managem
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