Contemporary popular culture, from books to film to television to music to the deepest corners of the internet, has provoked much criticism, some of it well deserved. Yet, popular culture is culture for many Americans—particularly younger Americans. It is the only kind of cultural experience they seek and the currency in which they trade.
In Acculturated, twenty-three thinkers examine the rituals, the myths, the tropes, the peculiar habits, the practices, and the neuroses of our modern era. Every culture finds a way for people to tell stories about themselves. We rely on these stories to teach us why we do the things we do, to test the limits of our experience, to reaffirm deeply felt truths about human nature, and to teach younger generations about vice and virtue, honor and shame, and a great deal more. A phenomenon like the current crop of reality television shows, for example, with their bevy of “real” housewives, super-size families, and toddler beauty-pageant candidates, seems an unlikely place to find truths about human nature or examples of virtue. And yet, on these shows, and in much else of what passes for popular culture these days, a surprising theme emerges: Move beyond the visual excess and hyperbole, and you will find the makings of classic morality tales.
As the title suggests, readers will find in these pages “A-Culture Rated.” This lively roundtable of “raters” includes renowned cultural critics like Caitlin Flannigan and Chuck Colson and celebrated culture creators like the producers of the hit ABC comedy Modern Family and the host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Editors Christine Rosen and Naomi Schaefer Riley have tasked these contributors—both the critics and the insiders—with taking a step or two back from the unceasing din of popular culture so that they might better judge its value and its values and help readers think more deeply about the meaning of the narratives with which they are bombarded every waking minute. In doing so, the editors hope to foster a wide-reaching public conversation to help us think more clearly about our culture.
CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE Judy Bachrach, Megan Basham, Mark Bauerlein, Pia Catton, Chuck Colson, Paul Corrigan, Caitlin Flanagan, Meghan Cox Gurdon, Margo Howard, Kay S. Hymowitz, Jonathan V. Last, Herb London, Stacy London, Rob Long, Megan McArdle, Wilfred M. McClay, Caitrin Nicol, Joe Queenan, Emily Esfahani Smith, Brad Walsh, and Tony Woodlief.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ideas that most Americans lived by started to fragment. Mid-century concepts of national consensus, managed markets, gender and racial identities, citizen obligation, and historical memory became more fluid. Flexible markets pushed aside Keynesian macroeconomic structures. Racial and gender solidarity divided into multiple identities; community responsibility shrank to smaller circles. In this wide-ranging narrative, Daniel T. Rodgers shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain.Age of Fracture offers a powerful reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America. Through a contagion of visions and metaphors, on both the intellectual right and the intellectual left, earlier notions of history and society that stressed solidity, collective institutions, and social circumstances gave way to a more individualized human nature that emphasized choice, agency, performance, and desire. On a broad canvas that includes Michel Foucault, Ronald Reagan, Judith Butler, Charles Murray, Jeffrey Sachs, and many more, Rodgers explains how structures of power came to seem less important than market choice and fluid selves.Cutting across the social and political arenas of late-twentieth-century life and thought, from economic theory and the culture wars to disputes over poverty, color-blindness, and sisterhood, Rodgers reveals how our categories of social reality have been fractured and destabilized. As we survey the intellectual wreckage of this war of ideas, we better understand the emergence of our present age of uncertainty.
This interdisciplinary collection brings together contributors working in Asian American studies, English, anthropology, sociology, and art history. They consider issues of cultural authenticity raised by Asian American participation in hip hop and jazz, the emergence of an orientalist “Indo-chic” in U.S. youth culture, and the circulation of Vietnamese music variety shows. They examine the relationship between Chinese restaurants and American culture, issues of sexuality and race brought to the fore in the video performance art of a Bruce Lee–channeling drag king, and immigrant television viewers’ dismayed reactions to a Chinese American chef who is “not Chinese enough.” The essays in Alien Encounters demonstrate the importance of scholarly engagement with popular culture. Taking popular culture seriously reveals how people imagine and express their affective relationships to history, identity, and belonging.
Contributors. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Kevin Fellezs, Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, Joan Kee, Nhi T. Lieu, Sunaina Maira, Martin F. Manalansan IV, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Sukhdev Sandhu, Christopher A. Shinn, Indigo Som, Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, Oliver Wang
When defining culture, one must indeed take into account even the minutest of details. What of a lighter, for example, or a telephone? The essays in this new collection examine just that. The contributors pose not only a historical, pragmatic use for the items, but also delve into more imaginative aspects of what defines us as Americans. Both the lighter and the telephone are investigated, as well as how the lava lamp represents sixties counterculture and containment. The late nineteenth-century corset is discussed as an embodiment of womanhood, and an Amish quilt is used as an illustration of cultural continuity. These are just a few of the artifacts discussed. Scholars will be intrigued by the historical interpretations that contributors proposed concerning a teapot, card table, and locket; students will not only find merit in the expositions, but also by learning from the models how such interpretation can be carried out. This collection helps us understand that very thing that makes us who we are. Viewing these objects from both our past and our present, we can begin to define what it is to be American.
This collection of essays taken from a series of papers given at the Popular Culture division of the MLA convention in 1987 consists of a serious investigation of Popular Culture and in simplest terms investigates what people do and why they do it. Rolin's collection deals with the national identity of consumer countries and comes to grips with the fact that the consumption of foreign products could generate emoions of disjunction and displacement.
Cultural diplomacy—“winning hearts and minds” through positive portrayals of the American way of life—is a key element in U.S. foreign policy, although it often takes a backseat to displays of military might. Americans All provides an in-depth, fine-grained study of a particularly successful instance of cultural diplomacy—the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), a government agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and headed by Nelson A. Rockefeller that worked to promote hemispheric solidarity and combat Axis infiltration and domination by bolstering inter-American cultural ties.
Darlene J. Sadlier explores how the CIAA used film, radio, the press, and various educational and high-art activities to convince people in the United States of the importance of good neighbor relations with Latin America, while also persuading Latin Americans that the United States recognized and appreciated the importance of our southern neighbors. She examines the CIAA’s working relationship with Hollywood’s Motion Picture Society of the Americas; its network and radio productions in North and South America; its sponsoring of Walt Disney, Orson Welles, John Ford, Gregg Toland, and many others who traveled between the United States and Latin America; and its close ties to the newly created Museum of Modern Art, which organized traveling art and photographic exhibits and produced hundreds of 16mm educational films for inter-American audiences; and its influence on the work of scores of artists, libraries, book publishers, and newspapers, as well as public schools, universities, and private organizations.
America’s Vietnam challenges the prevailing genealogy of Vietnam’s emergence in the American imagination—one that presupposes the Vietnam War as the starting point of meaningful Vietnamese-U.S. political and cultural involvements. Examining literature from as early as the 1820s, Marguerite Nguyen takes a comparative, long historical approach to interpreting constructions of Vietnam in American literature. She analyzes works in various genres published in English and Vietnamese by Monique Truong and Michael Herr as well as lesser-known writers such as John White, Harry Hervey, and Võ Phiến. The book’s cross-cultural prism spans Paris, Saigon, New York, and multiple oceans, and its departure from Cold War frames reveals rich cross-period connections.
America’s Vietnam recounts a mostly unexamined story of Southeast Asia’s lasting and varied influence on U.S. aesthetic and political concerns. Tracking Vietnam’s transition from an emergent nation in the nineteenth century to a French colony to a Vietnamese-American war zone, Nguyen demonstrates that how authors represent Vietnam is deeply entwined with the United States’ shifting role in the world. As America’s longstanding presence in Vietnam evolves, the literature it generates significantly revises our perceptions of war, race, and empire over time.
The United States has always imagined that its identity as a nation is insulated from violent interventions abroad, as if a line between domestic and foreign affairs could be neatly drawn. Yet this book argues that such a distinction, so obviously impracticable in our own global era, has been illusory at least since the war with Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century and the later wars against Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines. In this book, Amy Kaplan shows how U.S. imperialism--from "Manifest Destiny" to the "American Century"--has profoundly shaped key elements of American culture at home, and how the struggle for power over foreign peoples and places has disrupted the quest for domestic order.The neatly ordered kitchen in Catherine Beecher's household manual may seem remote from the battlefields of Mexico in 1846, just as Mark Twain's Mississippi may seem distant from Honolulu in 1866, or W. E. B. Du Bois's reports of the East St. Louis Race Riot from the colonization of Africa in 1917. But, as this book reveals, such apparently disparate locations are cast into jarring proximity by imperial expansion. In literature, journalism, film, political speeches, and legal documents, Kaplan traces the undeniable connections between American efforts to quell anarchy abroad and the eruption of such anarchy at the heart of the empire.
Ingenious automatons which appeared to think on their own. Dubious mermaids and wild men who resisted classification. Elegant sleight-of-hand artists who routinely exposed the secrets of their trade. These were some of the playful forms of fraud which astonished, titillated, and even outraged nineteenth-century America's new middle class, producing some of the most remarkable urban spectacles of the century.In The Arts of Deception, James W. Cook explores this distinctly modern mode of trickery designed to puzzle the eye and challenge the brain. Championed by the "Prince of Humbug," P. T. Barnum, these cultural puzzles confused the line between reality and illusion. Upsetting the normally strict boundaries of value, race, class, and truth, the spectacles offer a revealing look at the tastes, concerns, and prejudices of America's very first mass audiences. We are brought into the exhibition halls, theaters, galleries, and museums where imposture flourished, and into the minds of the curiosity-seekers who eagerly debated the wonders before their eyes. Cook creates an original portrait of a culture in which ambiguous objects, images, and acts on display helped define a new value system for the expanding middle class, as it confronted a complex and confusing world.
From every quarter we hear of a new global culture, postcolonial, hybrid, announcing the death of nationalism, the arrival of cosmopolitanism. But under the drumbeat attending this trend, Timothy Brennan detects another, altogether different sound. Polemical, passionate, certain to provoke, his book exposes the drama being played out under the guise of globalism. A bracing critique of the critical self-indulgence that calls itself cosmopolitanism, it also takes note of the many countervailing forces acting against globalism in its facile, homogenizing sense.The developments Brennan traces occur in many places--editorial pages, policy journals, corporate training manuals, and, primarily, in the arts. His subject takes him from George Orwell to Julia Kristeva, from Subcommandante Marcos to Julio Cortázar, from Ernst Bloch to contemporary apologists for transnational capitalism and "liberation management," from "third world" writing to the Nobel Prize, with little of critical theory or cultural studies left untouched in between. Brennan gives extended treatment to two exemplary figures: the Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James, whose work suggests an alternative approach to cultural studies; and the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, whose appreciation of Cuban popular music cuts through the usual distinctions between mass and elite culture.A critical call to arms, At Home in the World summons intellectuals and scholars to reinvigorate critical cultural studies. In stripping the false and heedless from the new cosmopolitanism, Brennan revitalizes the idea.
Despite the growing interest in atomic culture and history, the body of relevant scholarship is relatively sparse. Atomic Culture opens new doors into the field by providing a substantive, engaging, and historically based consideration of the topic that will appeal to students and scholars of the Atomic Age as well as general readers.
Contributors include Michael A. Amundson, Mick Broderick, Peter Goin, John Hunner, Ferenc M. Szasz, A. Costandina Titus, Peter C. van Wyck, and Scott C. Zeman.
Blending cultural studies and the history of communication technology, Sterne follows modern sound technologies back through a historical labyrinth. Along the way, he encounters capitalists and inventors, musicians and philosophers, embalmers and grave robbers, doctors and patients, deaf children and their teachers, professionals and hobbyists, folklorists and tribal singers. The Audible Past tracks the connections between the history of sound and the defining features of modernity: from developments in medicine, physics, and philosophy to the tumultuous shifts of industrial capitalism, colonialism, urbanization, modern technology, and the rise of a new middle class.
A provocative history of sound, The Audible Past challenges theoretical commonplaces such as the philosophical privilege of the speaking subject, the visual bias in theories of modernity, and static descriptions of nature. It will interest those in cultural studies, media and communication studies, the new musicology, and the history of technology.
Australia holds a unique place in the global scheme of fandom. Much of the media consumed by Australian audiences originates from either the United States or the United Kingdom, yet several Australian productions have also attracted international fans in their own right. This first-ever academic study of Australian fandom explores the national popular culture scene through themes of localization and globalization.
Contributors: Kate Ames, Ahmet Atay, Jessica Carniel, Toija Cinque, Ian Dixon, Leigh Edmonds, Sharon Elkind, Jacqui Ewart, Lincoln Geraghty, Sarah Keith, Emerald L. King, Renee Middlemost
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