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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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elements of a cultural studies approach
Elements of a Cultural Studies Approach

Production & Political Economic Analysis

Textual Analysis

Audience/Reception Analysis

slide3

What is “culture”?

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.

keywords in popular culture analysis
Keywords in Popular Culture Analysis

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.

slide5
text

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

various combinations.

ideology
ideology

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.

ideological bias
ideological bias

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.

hegemony
hegemony

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.

hegemonic processes
hegemonic processes

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.

slide10
Myth

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

subculture
subculture

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

encoding codes decoding
encoding/codes/decoding

Encodings are the meanings made by the

producers of texts

Codes are the material “signs” present in a

a text.

Decodings are the meanings made by audiences

subject position
subject position

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”

key social variables in popular culture analysis
Key social variables in popular culture analysis

Social class

Race/ethnicity

Nationality/Region

Gender

Sexual orientation

Age

Political ideology

formation
formation

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.

gender sexism
gender; sexism

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

power.

race racism
race; racism

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.

racism vs prejudice
Racism vs. prejudice

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.