Elements of a Cultural Studies Approach Production & Political Economic Analysis Textual Analysis Audience/Reception Analysis Culture in Motion What is “culture”? Culture is one of the most complex words in the social theory.
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Production & Political Economic Analysis
Culture is one of the most complex words in the social theory.
For our purposes, we will emphasize culture as a narrative process.
Definition: a culture consists of the collection of stories people tell each other about the meanings of their lives.
NOTE: Strangely enough, definitions are seldom definitive.
Rather, almost any important word has multiple, often conflicting definitions. These keywords will, along with the “Glossaries” in our course texts represent “working definitions” to give us a common vocabulary for discussion.
Any unit of meaning isolated for
the purposes of cultural analysis.
The “text” in a given analysis could be a small as
a single image in one commercial, or as
large as a whole day of television programs.
Texts can include words, images, sounds, even touch, in
1. Consciously held and systematic political ideas.
2. Unconscious or hidden tendencies to offer a
viewpoint of that supports the self-interest of a particular
group of people Thus, the “ideology” of a “text” is its
unconscious or hidden political bias in favor of one
group over another.
All texts, whether intentionally or overtly political
or not, have built into them certain views
of how the world is or should be.
Those views are thus inherently “ideological,” not
simply neutral depictions or representations.
The process through which elite or dominant groups
gain consent to their rule from subordinate social
groups without force or physical violence.
Usually this is done by convincing the subordinate
group that the dominant group “knows best” or is
acting in the best interests of the subordinate group.
Hegemony is largely an unconscious, social process, not
a conscious conspiracy.
Hegemony is often achieved through saturation. It is not
that alternatives to the “mainstream” do not exist, but rather
that they tend to drown in that main stream amidst so
many messages favorable to those with power (75 women’s
Fashion magazines on the rack, versus one or
two feminist ones).
Hegemony is never fully achieved, never complete,
always there is some resistance, some counter-hege-
monic process. Sometimes the dominant forces use this
to their advantage by pointing to the freedom to dissent, while continuing to control most institutions.
Repeated stories that take on a central pattern of significance in a culture by linking many smaller stories together
Myths are the narrative form of ideology, the way ideology is turned into stories that are taken for granted as truths about the culture
Myths are usually neither wholly“true” nor wholly “false” but rather partial truths made to seem like absolute ones
A “subculture” is a coherent, smaller collective within a
A larger culture, be an ethnic subculture, a religious
One, an occupational one, or one based on media consumption (fan subculture).
Some subcultures can be characterized as “oppositional” or “alternatived” when they explicitly or implicitly (often through style) challenge mainstream cultural values, forms, ideas, or styles
Encodings are the meanings made by the
producers of texts
Codes are the material “signs” present in a
Decodings are the meanings made by audiences
The socially structured positioning of an individual
vis-à-vis the wider culture according to the key variables.
Production side: the “ideal receiver” of a text “encoded”
into that text
Audience side: the “actual social position” through
which a text is “decoded”
A “formation” is a historically changing, but relatively stable structure of practices and ideas by which social categories of identity (racial, gender, class, sexuality) come into being and become dominant for a time.
The term formation, as we will be using it, was first used in association with race as in “racial formation” (Omi and Winant). We will generalize this idea to talk about, gender formations, class formations, as well as racial formations, among others.
The system of meanings and representations
attached in a given culture to sexed bodies as
fixed or “natural” identities
In U.S. cultural norms, gender is fixed as masculine
and feminine qualities attached to male
and female bodies
Sexism is the practice by which one gender is given
systematically greater social, economic and political
Race is a socially constructed category by which certain physical characteristics common to most members of a group are ascribed to all members and given positive (racial supremacy) or negative (racial degradation) social value.
Race is a biologically insignificant fact given great social significance.
Racism is a power relationship by which racial prejudice is systematically structured to the advantage of one group and the disadvantage of another.
Where “prejudice” has to do with “attitudes,”
Racism exists when attitudes have been
Systematically structured into institutions
(political, economic, social, and cultural)
It is possible to have “racism” without “prejudice”
When a no longer attitudinally racist culture continues
To be shaped by racist structures and institutions.