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Religion & Culture
Chris Klassen

Week 4 10/10/2013 1:33:00 PM Religion and Pop Culture - Week 4  Culturalism promotes the notion from frankfurt school on the culture industry thesis (neo-marxist approach), created for the elite not for the masses, keep us happy, maintain the status quo, make us feel like were individuals, emphasize the naturalness of hegemonic values  a view of the world, when it comes to look at how hegemony works, however it has expanded  going to look at two key figures: Raymond Williams  interested in studying ideas, concepts, and how these concepts come to be 
 understood, how they are use  study the concept of culture, what is culture, what do we mean when you use the 
 world “culture” 
 talks about how we use the term “culture” in modern english in three ways:  Socialculture- particularwayoflifeofaparticularpeople(frenchculture,punk culture, university culture), there is a particular culture that is dominant in the Laurier campus ex. etc. group identity  Idealculture- culturewithacapital“C”,meaningthethingsthatasocietycreates that are considered to be of high value, the best (critically acclaimed) books, novels, music, things that are thought to be “though provoking or intellectual” , represent the best qualities that particular culture wants to present to the world  Documentaryculture- includesidealculture,butitalsoincludeseverycultural product of a given social culture, so it includes symphony and rap music, it includes advertising jingles and operah, it includes best seller novels of all authors, tabloids, serious journalism, any cultural product is apart of documentary culture Cultural studies is about trying to understand a social culture, that is trying to understand what that culture is all about, what are the values, prominent identities of that culture, and how he phrases that is that he is “looking for structures of feeling” of a culture he might want to study, general sense of identity that is core, common to the culture 
  Structures of feelings translated = core identity 
   Previous cultural studies looked at ideal strucutre, williams goes against that notion and says we need to study documentary culture, you need to study it all, because it points to the core identities of societies 
  He goes about studying culture without a sense of saying what is good or bad, britney spears good music or bad music, interested in “what does Britney spears and her performances say about the culture and what she represents?” 
  Not interested in evaluative critiques, interested in trying to figure out the meanings and values in any particular life  Interested in the construction of this documentary culture, as well as the consumption  Becomes significant with the later work of Stuart Hall  Questions we might ask....what does it mean to the people who use it, audience members, what is the relationship with that product to other products, is there a pattern? is it deviant from the pattern, what does that mean? why, how is it deviant, does it reinforce a norm, or does it show a movement of challenge Stuart Hall Who expands on William's by talking about and emphasizing this distinction between the producer and the consumer  So in the culture industry thesis, we have a setup where the producer creates meaning and the consumer takes it, passively accepts these hegemonic values, we are coerced into thinking that everything is okay  We begin to have discussion about how consumers consumer, and whether they consume the meaning that is intended  Talks about the meaning of cultural product, talks about the producers encodes, consumer decodes  Writing a book, you are encoding your own ideas, values into the product, no guarantee that the consumer is going to understand it in the way you intended, consumer is coming to it in a different perspective  Because of this....stuart hall says that popular culture becomes a site of negotiation , the producer has to work at being clear with the kind of message they want to produce, the clearer they are the more likely they will understand, the consumer needs to pay attention to what they are consuming in order to get that message  nevertheless, with groups of different structures of feelings, it still might be decoded differently  Hall say three general options, different readings that are possible (how we read any product or interpret): o Dominant reading-consumer decodes in the way producer intended o Negotiated reading-not completely on board with the producer, not necessarily opposing or dismissing, have adopted elements of cultural product, often going to turn it into your own meanings or own use (“thats nice, but its not a realistic
 story” (play with the meaning, negotiate the meaning) o Oppositional reading-read it as a bad thing rather than a good thing, against the product  Stuart Hall does not disagree with the idea that popular culture is often used to promote hegemonic values, he agrees there are many times where popular culture presents us with hegemonic values that we choose to accept, he disagrees about the notion that we are passive about it  Culturalism is about paying attention to the multiple ways culture is addressed, study of culturalism would be interested in studying the different kinds of negotiated readings  Harry Potter, popular movie that has been interpreted different by different types of people  Are there any differences in say the way women interpret and men?  British or american? do the differences speak to the different structures of feeling?  How do children interpret vs parents?  Study how groups understand or interpret text, see if these social categories actually make a difference in interpretation Occulture, what does it mean?  Can mean the supernatural, what kinds of supernatural culture?  Wizards, aliens, witches  Occult has to do with what is hidden or mysterious  Elements of the supernatural, being beyond the human or the natural  ideas and beings that are beyond this world, mysterious  mythology, stories, legends, creatures that are not in the every day world  characters that are associated with darkness, evil, or sometimes simply associated 
 with something is beyond what we understand, beyond what we can prove with 
 science  range of cultural products that we find particularly in the english speaking world that 
 involves creatures like vampires, witches, werewolves  might also have to do with rituals that are very different then what we are accustom 
 too, particular rituals that we think of as taboo, blood, sacrifice or some sort, rituals 
 that involve a language we don’t understand or seen as ancient  beyond our realm (earth), so like aliens  not always perceived as evil, sometimes we get shows that suggest that the evil 
 associated with these things are in fact a problem, not as evil as we think they are 
 Partridge argues there is a significant amount of this culture, he is looking for “what are the patterns” why is that we are fascinated by this stuff and what does it say about these people who found it entertaining? what kind of readings do we see? simply entertainment? instrumental? recreational? What would you say is appealing about occulture?  element of escapism, way to step out of the regular  or it could be something more, find something in that, a value that we don’t see in our 
 regular life  something beyond what science tells us  people mind find meaning  more freedom to be imaginative in your interpretation 
 **some decode it as real, and also self-identity with these supernatural products ** Film of people who believe of themselves to be vampires
 TabooUSA - National Geographic  New Orleans, Louisiana  person believes he is a real vampire  bit his uncle, when the blood hit his tongue, he felt alive  the rising popularity of vampires in 2000s, most americans don’t believe in vampires  they are not trying to reiterate the screen vampires, they do have one thing in 
 common, they like to drink blood, person feel normal and alive  Sanguine vampires have to consume blood, people have erotic attraction to blood  sees physical symptoms , almost like withdrawal symptoms, when he hasn't drank 
 blood in a while  new orleans vampire community very disorganized, rather then retreat into the 
 shadows, joined forces to form vampire association 
 this is a negotiated reading, certainly not agreeing with everything, yes i don't like all the images of vampires of popular culture, at the same time I'm adopting some of them 
 further towards oppositional, there is something wrong with the dominant reading of vampires, whats wrong is it portrays vampires as evil 
 wants to present vampires as regular people RE220 Lecture 7 10/10/2013 1:33:00 PM Culturalism  Not actually progressing, but regressing  Pop culture fits in: popular culture around us is created for us, created by the elite rather than by the masses  Created to keep us happy and maintaining the status quo, we are all individuals, emphasize the naturalness of hegemonic values (capitalism) Raymond Williams 1. Social Culture 2. Ideal Culture i. Thought provoking, reflective of best qualities that that particular culture wants to present to the world 3. Documentary Culture i. Any cultural product ii. includes ideal culture and EVERY ideal from social culture (symphony and rap, opera and jingles, Dan Brown and Margaret Atwood, tabloids and serious journalism  for Williams social studies is trying to understand what that culture is all about: values, prominent identities o looking for structures of feeling – core to the culture  to get at the core identities need to study EVERYTHING (documentary culture)  Williams looks at it without any sense of what is good or bad  Interested in what does Brittany spears and her performances say about the culture she represents  Different than Frankfurt school, who EVALUATE/CRITIQUE pop culture in ways that is it good or bad for us  Williams is neutral  What is the relationship between other products? Same as others? Pattern?  If it is different why and how? Does it show a movement of challenge? Stuart Hall  Expands on Williams by emphasizing the distinction between the PRODUCER and the CONSUMER  In culture industry setup, the producer creates meaning and consumer passively takes it (coerced into thinking everything is ok)  Discussion around HOW consumers consume, and whether they consume the MEANING that was intended or how they RELATE to the meaning that was intended  Meaning: in terms of code, producer encodes it, consumer decodes it o Want to write graphic novel, have story and images, some sort of message/idea/value that is motivating you o You’re encoding own values and ideas into your product o According to Williams/hall that if I read it that I will understand it in the intended way – coming into it from a different perspective (class, gender, race, age, etc.) o Dominated reading – understood in way intended o Negotiated reading – turn to own meaning/use o Oppositional reading – oppose the meaning intended/ misinterpret o Most things in pop culture happen in negotiated realm  agrees that pop culture hits us with hegemonic values o he thinks we CONTINUALLY NEGOTIATE THE MEANINGS and make them work for us, or reject them or alter them in some way. Occulture  Supernatural  Hiding/mysterious  Vampires, witches, werewolves  Rituals  Aliens  Modern Day Vampire o Takes precautions, not violent o Negotiated – adopts some elements from popular culture (fangs), but has his own things and quirks. o Towards oppositional – there is something wrong with the dominant reading of vampires, portrays them as evil or violent o He wants to present them as regular people o He does it in a non-religious way o There are such things as temples or churches of vampires o Vampire and donor – spiritual relationship? RE220 Lecture 8 10/10/2013 1:33:00 PM Documentary culture  Core identity o STRUCTURE OF FEELING  Encoding and decoding Zombies, When the Dead Walk (FILM)  3 contexts to look at this film in: o Haiti  Belief in spiritual reality  Identity is wrapped up in physical (this world) but also in the spiritual world  Based on how zombie operates, what is the point of the zombie in Haiti?  Social order, used as punishment, maintain social order, voodoo (social cohesion and order)  Zombie is a potential spiritual punishment, used to keep people from doing things outside of the social norm  Zombie = something outside of the community; stepped away from social norms and become outsider  Haiti resisted the white slave drivers o Hollywood (1930-60’s)  Racism, racial fear  Legacy still lives on  Haiti is representative of resistance of racism  White fear of black people  This whole system gets demonized- it is evil  Zombie becomes figure of evil  Justifies racism and fear in a way o Hollywood (60’s +)  White people are now the zombies  Person who is most resistant is black people  Reversal: concern less about racial issues, concern becomes more about following the capitalist/consumerist identity  Eg. Zombies in mall  Whites the ones who follow rules are the zombies  Heroes aren’t corrupted into mass identity  Mindless acceptance of social norms  Marxist Approaches 10/10/2013 1:33:00 PM Rhonda Byrne – The Secret  Whatever we are thinking is what we will attract  Whatever our life ism we have attracted to ourselves with our thoughts Karl Marx  Economic theories about capitalism  Religion is the opium of the people  Marxism is not necessarily the rejection of religion Marxist Theory and Politica
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