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Article

The field of cultural studies in Latin America has had a long history and a series of both productive and convoluted developments. Today, its widespread academic commodification and institutionalization in graduate programs deter incisive, critical, and politically daring works that question the limits of the field. Even when there has never been just one way of understanding and practicing cultural studies—its internal differences are mainly due to its local geo-cultural and sociohistoric contextualization—cultural studies in Latin America cannot be understood without the transnational circulation of knowledge, hegemonized by Anglo-Saxon—British as well as American—influences and overdeterminations. Four specific and abridged transformations help sieve through this complex history intricately enmeshed in specific sociopolitical, economic, and cultural processes vis-à-vis epistemic and hermeneutic theoretical projects. These moments are unraveled from the specific articulations built from local traditions of critical thinking mixed with exogenous theories and discourses from the time when self-reflexive postmodern irony and globalization began materializing in a qualitative higher degree around the globe to its critically silent acquiescence.

Article

Kristina Riegert, Anna Roosvall, and Andreas Widholm

Cultural journalism is a subfield of journalism that encompasses what is known as arts journalism. While arts journalism is characterized by reviews, critique, news, and essays about the arts and popular culture, cultural journalism has a broader take on culture, including lifestyle issues, societal debate, and reflective ethical discussion by cultural personas or expressed in a literary style. Both arts and cultural journalists see their work as “journalism with a difference,” evoking different perspectives and worldviews from those dominating mainstream news reporting. At the same time, cultural journalism shares with journalism issues like boundary work, genre blurring, digitalization, globalization, professionalization, and “the crisis of journalism.” There are three main ways cultural journalism has been studied: one research strand defines cultural journalism as material produced by the cultural desks or material that is explicitly labelled cultural journalism; another defines it as journalism about culture, regardless of how it is labelled or produced; and a third strand includes only arts journalism, examining journalistic content on the fine arts and popular culture. Studies from all of these approaches are included in this article due to the effort to include a wide variety of countries at different time periods and an effort to track joint defining features and developments in cultural journalism. The emphasis is on the Nordic context, where the term “cultural journalism” is well established and where research is relatively comprehensive. The research is divided into three themes: the cultural public sphere and the contribution to democracy; cultural journalism’s professionalism and the challenges of digitalization; and transnational and global aspects of cultural journalism, including tendencies such as cultural homogenization and hybridization. International research on cultural journalism as a subfield has been complicated by its varying designations (arts journalism, feuilleton, journalism about culture, entertainment), and its numerous aesthetic forms, disciplines, or types of culture, all of which are changing over time. Despite these issues, research points in the same direction: the amount of cultural journalism is increasing, and the boundaries against other types of journalism are becoming more porous. There is also a decline in editorial autonomy. In common with journalism, there is an increase in generalists working with culture and greater central managerial control in new multiplatform media organizations. The research points to an increase in a more transnationally oriented cultural journalism, mainly through a larger share of cultural news and popular culture—while its core, review and critique, has changed in character, or arguably lost ground. The increasing “newsification” of cultural journalism should prompt future research on whether the “watchdog” role vis-à-vis the cultural industries is growing. New forms of art and culture are beginning to get coverage, but also, in some cases, the intermixing of “lifestyle” with cultural journalism. The commercialization and celebrity aspects of this are clear, but new digital platforms have also enabled new voices and different formats of cultural journalism and a wider dissemination and intensity in cultural debates, all of which emphasize its democratic potential. New research on this subject appears to focus on the longitudinal changes in cultural journalism, the implications of digitalization and globalization, and cultural journalism in broadcasting.

Article

Diane Marie Keeling and Marguerite Nguyen Lehman

Posthumanism is a philosophical perspective of how change is enacted in the world. As a conceptualization and historicization of both agency and the “human,” it is different from those conceived through humanism. Whereas a humanist perspective frequently assumes the human is autonomous, conscious, intentional, and exceptional in acts of change, a posthumanist perspective assumes agency is distributed through dynamic forces of which the human participates but does not completely intend or control. Posthumanist philosophy constitutes the human as: (a) physically, chemically, and biologically enmeshed and dependent on the environment; (b) moved to action through interactions that generate affects, habits, and reason; and (c) possessing no attribute that is uniquely human but is instead made up of a larger evolving ecosystem. There is little consensus in posthumanist scholarship about the degree to which a conscious human subject can actively create change, but the human does participate in change. As distinguished from posthumanism, humanism is credited with attributing the conscious and intentional human subject as the dominant source of agency most worthy of scholarly attention. Since its inception during the Renaissance, humanism has been constituted in various ways throughout history, but as a collective body of literature, the human is typically constituted through humanism as: (a) autonomous from nature given the intellectual faculties of the mind that controls the body, (b) uniquely capable of and motivated by speech and reason, and (c) an exceptional animal that is superior to other creatures. Humanist assumptions concerning the human are infused throughout Western philosophy and reinforce a nature/culture dualism where human culture is distinct from nature. In contrast, a posthumanist scholar rejects this dichotomy through understanding the human as entangled with its environment. A posthumanist scholar of communication typically integrates scholarship from a variety of other disciplines including, but not limited to: art, architecture, cybernetics, ecology, ethology, geology, music, psychoanalysis, and quantum physics.

Article

Myra Washington and Kent A. Ono

Race is important within U.S. society and globally. However, race also plays a significant role in communication, and research on its influence cuts across every conceivable area of the field, ranging from rhetoric to organizational communication to film studies to health communication. Race is discussed so much within communication that this article, although expansive, cannot refer to all the important work that has been done. Research on race and communication considers a broad range of racial, multiracial, and ethnic groups. Scholarship also ranges from more applied research to purely theoretical work. Critical and cultural studies work has significantly affected the way scholars think about communication and race. Specifically, concepts developed and explored have provided new lenses through which to understand communication and race. Nationalism, for example is significant. A nation is a collectively shared and discursively constructed identity. In thinking about nations as imagined communities cultural ties (such as language, ethnicity, and shared memories) are part of that identity. For racially marginalized groups, a nation may be a political organization at the same time as it is a collectively identified political group based on racial ethnic ties, ancestry, or simply politics. The concept of transnationalism, on the other hand, relates to cross or “trans” national relations, ties, and processes, processes that globalization has accelerated and strengthened, such as the movement of capital, media, and people which in turn has shaped local happenings and vice versa. When coupled with nationalism and transnationalism, race plays a mediating role, helping to govern and regulate people, relationships, and sometimes the very reason for relationships existing.

Article

Frantz Fanon was one of the most important voices in decolonial and black liberation struggles of the mid-20th century. Writing about race and colonialism in Martinique, France, and Algeria, he articulated the importance of blackness to Western frameworks of the human. The black studies scholarship influenced by Fanon has continued in a similar vein, arguing that much of modern, Western thought either does not discuss race at all or considers race as an add-on to the larger discussion of Western subjectivity. Alternatively, Fanon and his interlocutors argue that race is the central function of the larger fields of Western philosophy and science, even if race is not mentioned at all. To make this claim, they largely point toward two tendencies in Western thought. First, Fanon and his interlocutors often examine the centrality of time and space in modern Western philosophy. Indeed, much of Western philosophy and science has implicitly and explicitly examined time as a linear trajectory that is largely monopolized by the Western European and North American white male subject; alternatively, space has been theorized as the static and nondynamic measure of the Western subject’s capacity to progress. Second, Fanon and his interlocutors also critically interrogate the related discussion of mutual recognition that is assumed in much of Western thought. As such, Western thinkers have often contended that, historically, the self recognizes itself in the other, and vice versa, and that self/other relationship is the basis for concepts of subjectivity. Yet, Fanon and his interlocutors have also pointed out that the lack of recognition of black people as human or as subjects has done little to foreclose whiteness as the position overrepresented as the human. Rather than recognition, white people have historically enacted racial violence against black bodies as a central mode through which to enter into humanity. As such, time and space and the lack of recognition as outlined by Fanon and his interlocutors suggest that nonwhite bodies have always provided a crisis for Western concepts of universality and subjecthood.

Article

Paul Gilroy is a central figure in British cultural studies. From There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack to Darker than Blue, his work has consistently interrogated what the political means for cultural studies, particularly with an eye toward making the world anew at some point in the near future. Indeed, Gilroy’s work suggests that the construct of the “political,” for cultural studies, has at least two interrelated meanings, both future-focused: (1) the political involves one form of investigation as a mode of entering into the conjunctural analysis; and (2) the political is also a nod toward black futurities as a mode of forever transforming said conjuncture. First, as noted by Stuart Hall, the cultural studies scholar has the responsibility to “necessarily abstract” from the conjuncture to begin an analysis. What this means is, whereas disciplinary scholarship focuses on the cultural, social, economic, or the political as set boundaries, the cultural studies scholar can begin with the political, in the first instance, and this may (or may not) lead to an investigation of the social, economic, or cultural elements of the conjuncture. This is an inherent element of the interdisciplinary approach of cultural studies. For Gilroy, nationalism and fascism are political constructs that he begins with, in the first instance. These political constructs, then, disproportionately lead to questions of racism and colonialism, which are disproportionately left out of the larger British cultural studies project. Gilroy’s career outlines a position that arguably has changed very little in contemporary British cultural studies: that white men are largely the gatekeepers of what constitutes cultural studies, many of whom completely ignore race in their theorizations of nationalism and fascism, even when it serves as an absent presence. Further, this liberal position of cultural studies requires intervention. Thus, second, and as noted by Lawrence Grossberg, the political for cultural studies also assumes that one’s work should do something in the world; it should seek to forever transform the conjuncture. In short, cultural studies is not just a theoretical exercise, but it is about telling a “better story” that can lead to transformation in the world. Indeed, Gilroy’s treatise on “racelessness,” often considered a nod toward colorblindness, is actually his attempt to speak the world anew. Put differently, Gilroy’s project has always been concerned with “routes” toward a new construct of humanism to disrupt Western engagements with the human. Despite its potential for white liberalism, then, Gilroy views cultural studies as uniquely positioned to speak the world anew, to challenge the solidity of the Western human and its connections to the Western nation. This, for Gilroy, requires rethinking the future, not through Karl Marx’s communist future, but Frantz Fanon’s decolonial future. In short, black futurities are everyone’s future.

Article

The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies refers to the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which was housed at Birmingham University from 1964 to 2002. The shorthand “Birmingham School” refers to a site, a moment, a movement, and a method. Emerging alongside other intellectual and activist currents in the British New Left, it posed a radical democratic alternative to traditional higher education and the available methods and methodologies of communication and media studies. Centre researchers expanded the possible objects worthy of critical academic research—arguing it was imperative that we look at the products of the mass media or so-called popular arts—as well as the means through which those objects and their potential effects were understood. Central to the methodological approach espoused by CCCS scholars is the need to look at the way the meanings and values of cultural texts are articulated to and through a “cultural circuit”: A text emerges from a context, and its meanings are contingent on the frameworks of ideology and experience of both that context and audiences that read it. Under the leadership of Stuart Hall, and then Richard Johnson, the CCCS developed pathbreaking research into cultural politics more generally, looking at the way identities and subjectivity were developed, reinforced, and lived, and intersecting with emergent theories from and research in postcolonialism, poststructuralism, nationalism, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, studies of race and ethnicity, and a variety of other subfields in the humanities and social sciences. Despite the closure of the Centre, these tendencies and emphases remain important, especially to the many academic monographs, journals, and conferences in cultural studies each year.

Article

At the core of what we know as popular culture studies today is the work of scholars associated with or influenced by the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Popular culture itself and intellectual interest in its risks and possibilities, however, long predate this moment. Earlier in the 20th century, members of the Frankfurt School took an active interest in what was then referred to as “mass culture” or the culture industry. Semiotics, emerging in the latter half of the 20th century as an exciting new methodology of cultural analysis, turned to popular culture for many of its objects as it redefined textuality, reading, and meaning. The works of Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco are exemplary in this regard. The work of the Birmingham school, also known as British cultural studies, drew from both of these intellectual traditions but went on to forge its own unique methods drawing on Marxist and poststructuralist theoretical legacies. Quickly spreading across the Anglophone world, Cultural Studies is now widely recognized, if not as a discipline proper, as a distinctive branch of the humanities. Other methodologies contemporaneous with this trend are also now clubbed together as part of this generalized practice of cultural studies. Important among these are feminist approaches to popular culture exemplified by work on Hollywood cinema and women’s melodrama in particular, the study of images and representations through a mass communications approach, and ethnographic studies of readers of popular romances and television audiences. A minor, theoretically weak tradition of popular culture studies initiated by Ray Browne parallelly in the Unites States may also be mentioned. More recently, Slavoj Zizek has introduced startlingly new ways of drawing popular cultural texts into philosophical debates. If all of these can be taken together as constituting what is generally referred to as popular culture studies today, it is still limited to the 20th century. Apart from the Frankfurt School and semiotics, British cultural studies also counts among the precursors it had to settle scores with, the tradition of cultural criticism in Britain that Matthew Arnold and in his wake F. R. Leavis undertook as they sought to insulate “the best of what was thought and said” from the debasing influence of the commercial press and mass culture in general. But the history of popular culture as an object of investigation and social concern goes further back still to the 18th and 19th centuries, the period of the rise and spread of mass literature, boosted by the rise of a working-class readership.

Article

Power constitutes discourse and is in turn, constituted by discourse. Power mediates the relationship between economics and discourse, working through discourse to reproduce the extractive interests of capital. It is on hand, embedded in economic structures; on the other hand, it is often enacted through discursive processes, discursive spaces, and discursive tactics. A conceptual framework for theorizing power is offered in this overview in order to understand the various approaches to power in communication studies, the divergences between these approaches and the convergences between them. A Marxist analysis of power as rooted in economic structures and exerted in oppression is positioned in relationship with post-structuralist reading of power as fragmented and multi-sited. Reading power and control through a framework of intersectionality foregrounds the intersections between class, race, gender, caste, and colonial formations. The various sites of workings of power are examined, from interpersonal relationships, to groups, to organizations and communities, to mediated spaces. The roles of communication strategy, communicative inversions, and communicative erasure are articulated in the context of power, depicting the ways in which power plays out through communication. These concepts then grapple with the contemporary context of power and communication in the realm of the digital, and outline potential anchors for communication scholarship seeking to explain & resist power amid the digital turn in the neoliberal transformation of the globe. Attention is paid to the extractive industries, poor working conditions, big data industries driving behavior change, and digital development markets that are continually consolidating new forms of capitalist profiteering.

Article

The relationship between the practice and field of journalism and the interdisciplinary field of memory studies is complex and multifaceted. There is a strong link between collective memory production and journalistic practice, based on the proposition that journalists produce first drafts of history by using the past in their reportage. Moreover, the practice of journalism is a key agent of memory work because it serves as one of society’s main mechanisms for recording and remembering, and in doing so helps shape collective memory. Journalism can be seen as a memory text, with journalists constructing news within cultural-interpretive frames according to the cultural environment. Journalism also plays a key role in the production of visual memory and new media, including social media. Journalism is thus a key agent of memory work, providing a space for commentary on institutional and cultural sites of memory construction.

Article

Sean Phelan and Simon Dawes

Neither liberalism nor neoliberalism can be grasped coherently without talking about capitalism and democracy. If liberalism names the political ideology aligned to the historical emergence of “free market” capitalism and Western-style representative democracy, neoliberalism signifies a particular regime of liberalism, capitalism, and democracy that has been globalized since the 1970s, in the form of an active state promotion of market and competition principles that critics see as antithetical to democracy. Liberalism also can be described as the hegemonic common sense of communication research. The political philosophy and ideology that shaped the establishment and trajectory of American democracy was inscribed in the US-foundations of the field. It was internalized in a teaching curriculum—the vaunted liberal arts degree—that inculcated the liberal reflexes of the professions and institutions that employed communication graduates. However, for critical communication scholars—all the way back to the Frankfurt School—liberalism has functioned as an exemplary ideological antagonist: a signifier of political values inseparable from the workings and class dynamics of the capitalist system. This interrogatory view of liberalism underpinned the historical distinction between critical and administrative or empirical communication research; the former signified a desire to interrogate the presuppositions of a liberal democratic capitalist social order that were essentially taken for granted by the latter. It also textured the emergence of British cultural studies in the 1970s and 1980s, which questioned the pluralist assumptions and motifs of liberal media and journalism cultures. In contrast, neoliberalism is sometimes constructed as an ideological antagonist of both critical theorists and progressive liberal identities. Marxist scholars conceptualize neoliberalism as a particular historical regime of capitalism, more corrosive and iniquitous than the “embedded liberalism” of the post-war era in Europe and the United States. Similarly, socially progressive liberals criticize neoliberalism for subordinating public life to market forces and for displacing the welfare state commitments of the Keynesian era. Some on the political left collapse the distinction between liberalism and neoliberalism, seeing them as simply two ways of ideologically justifying capitalist rule. Conversely, some of those most likely to be identified as neoliberals are motivated by a deep hostility to political liberals, particularly in right-wing political discourses where liberal operates as code for left-liberal, even socialist, values that are opposed to a free market identity. Any discussion of the relationship between liberalism and neoliberalism must therefore start by recognizing the contested and nebulous nature of both categories, and their variegated use as signifiers of political identification and disidentification. This article begins by outlining some of the philosophical foundations of liberal thought, highlighting the historical tensions between discourses that privilege economic freedom and those that stress the social character of liberalism. The next section considers different critical perspectives on liberalism, including discussions of the limitations of the account of free speech and press freedom inherited from 19th century liberals. Neoliberalism’s status is examined as a distinct political project that reshaped Western and global political economy from the 1970s onwards, but which had its intellectual origins in 1920s and 1930s debates about the nature of liberalism and its antagonistic relationship with socialism. Following that is an overview of research on neoliberalism and media, where, as in other fields, neoliberalism is commonly invoked as a name for the dominant ideology and social formation. The penultimate section identifies the outlines of a future research program for critical communication researchers, based on critical interrogation of the relationship between neoliberalism and liberalism. The article ends with an overview of further reading suggestions for those interested in making their own contributions to the field. The nature of the topic necessitates an interdisciplinary register that moves between general reflections on liberalism and neoliberalism to questions of particular interest to communication, media, and journalism researchers. There is no attempt to refer to all the communication research of relevance to our topic; liberalism’s hegemonic status would make that an impossible task. Liberal assumptions are arguably most authoritative when they are not named at all, but simply presupposed as part of the common sense framing of the research question.

Article

Christina Ceisel

Understanding the procurement, preparation, and consumption of food as a form of communication, critical/cultural scholars approach food and food related activities as texts, asking questions about power, identity, political economy, and culture. The emergent field of critical food studies represents a growing interdisciplinary interest in taking food seriously. Approaching cultural practices as the site of resistance to and incorporation into hegemonic social structures, cultural studies orients us towards questions regarding the politics of food practices with an eye towards social justice. Framed by an awareness of the performativity of cultural practices, both food studies and critical cultural studies engage questions of subjectivity, symbolic meaning, institutional power, identity, and consumption. Broadly speaking, critical cultural studies scholars examine foodways—the cultural, social, and economic aspects of the production and consumption of food—as (a) symbolic repertoires for the production of social identity; (b) a site of cultural performance; and (c) a metaphor for race, class, gender, and sexuality within popular culture. These areas overlap, reinforce, and problematize each other, and are not intended to provide an exhaustive account of the approaches critical cultural scholars take when integrating food studies into their research. As symbolic repertoires, food, foodways, and cuisine are often understood as integral to articulating identity around nationhood, race and ethnicity, class, and gender. Food, foodways, and cuisine provide potent examples of how symbols construct knowledge and meaning. As a site of cultural performance, foodways are understood as part of a cultural system embedded within a matrix of rituals, values, and practices that comprise the rhythm of daily life. Paying attention to food as performance reveals the intricacies of our understandings of and negotiations between self and community; nostalgia and the present moment; home and away; family and individual. Finally, cultural studies deconstructs the metonymic functions of food as presented in media texts. Methodologically, this research provides a textual analysis of how particular foodstuffs function rhetorically within media texts. Theoretically, it provides an important addition to our understanding of the workings of hegemony within the context of food as a metaphor for race, ethnicity, and gender, particularly on cable networks, reality TV, and in film.

Article

The need to de-Westernize and decolonize communication and media studies is based on criticisms on a dominant elitist “Western” axiology and epistemology of universal validity, leaving aside indigenous and localized philosophical traditions originating in non-Western settings. Scholars of the Global South continue to question a dominant inherent Eurocentric bias that was—and continuous to be—underlying many Anglo-American and European research projects. Scholars warn against a persistent influence of foreign-imposed concepts such as modernity and development, as well as universal assumptions regarding the use of certain categories and ontologies to deconstruct and understand the media around the globe. While the West is understood more as a center of power than as a fixed geographical entity, de-Westernization asks for a revision of the power relations in global academic knowledge production and dissemination. The most prominent call for de-Westernizing media studies goes back to Curran and Park who, in the early 2000s, encouraged a Western academic community to revise and re-evaluate their theories, epistemologies, methods, and empirical research approaches, especially in research targeting the Global South. In a similar way, the call for decolonization asks to investigate and question continuing colonial power imbalances, power dependencies, and colonial legacies. It challenges the uncritical adoption of research epistemologies and methods of former colonial powers in solving local problems, as they fail to explain the complexities of non-Western societies and communities, asking for practicing “decolonial epistemic disobedience.” Contrary to de-Westernization aimed at a Western research community, scholars from the Global South have struggled for decades for international recognition of their voices and intellectual contributions to a global academic community. Their ideas draw on post-colonialism, subaltern studies, or a critical-reflective sociology. Different efforts have been made to address the global imbalance in media studies knowledge generation. However, neither replacing theories with indigenous concepts alone nor being relegated to cases studies that deliver raw data will gain ground in favor of countries of the Global South, as research efforts need to incorporate both local realities and wider contextualization, or the call for a research with a region, not just about or from it. More successful are cooperative South-South efforts, as the thriving scholar networks in Latin America, Africa, or Asia demonstrate. The de-Westernization and decolonization project is ongoing. Where inequalities appear most pressing are in resource access and allocation, in conference participation, or in publishing opportunities. In this sense, journalism and media studies curricula still reflect largely an Anglophone centrism and a lack of understanding of local issues and expectations. Here, more reflective de-Westernizing approaches can help to lessen the gaps. However, as de-Westernization relies on vague geographical categorizations, the term cannot be the final path to re-balance the academic knowledge exchange between powerful and less powerful actors.

Article

Cultural globalization has promoted seemingly opposing forces simultaneously, such as recentering and decentering, standardization and diversification, and renationalization and transnationalization. The intensification of transnational flows of media culture and the associated cross-border connection and communication has been destabilizing national cultural borders and engendering the formation of diverse mediated communities among hitherto marginalized people and groups within and across national borders. At the same time, we have observed the increasing pervasiveness of the inter-nationalized modes of media culture flows and communication—“inter-nationalized” with a hyphen is intentional—in the sense of highlighting the nation as the unit of global cultural encounters that resolidify exclusive national boundaries. The synergism of the process of market-driven glocalization and the state’s policy of soft power and nation branding has further instituted a container model of the nation, as the inter-nationalized circulation and encounter of media culture have become sites in which national identity is mundanely invoked, performed, and experienced. In this process, national cultural borders are mutually reconstituted as transnational cultural flows and encounters are promoted in a way to accentuate a nation-based form of global cultural encounter and exchange. While lacking in a historically embedded, coherent narrative of the nation, it works to institute a new, container form of the nation in which cultural diversity within national borders is not given its due attention and thus sidelined. Facilitation of border crossing of culture and communication does not necessarily accompany the transgression of clearly demarcated national cultural borders.

Article

Josina M. Makau

Communication has the power to heal and to wound, to tyrannize and to liberate, to enlighten and to deceive, to inspire and to corrupt. Subjecting ideas to the scrutiny of others through engagements of difference has long been recognized as a vital resource for the fulfillment of communication’s constructive potential as well as a critically needed antidote to the corrupting influences associated with demagoguery, confirmation bias, ideological rigidity, and partisanship. Demographic shifts and technological advancements afford unparalleled opportunities for such open, deliberative engagements and related inquiries. Enriched by attentive listening, dialogic communication provides a particularly promising means of tapping these and other resources to reach across differences in pursuit of knowledge, understanding, truth, and wise discernment. Despite their potential, however, listening and dialogue face formidable obstacles. Among these are dominant narratives regarding the human condition, power imbalances, and privilege, and their implications for communication ethics. Absolutism, radical relativism, and related false dilemmas pose significant obstacles as well. A transformation of vision—from individual adversarialism to an ethic of interdependence—offers a pathway out of the thicket, enabling humanity to tap communication’s potential in shared pursuit of human flourishing across the globe.

Article

Peter K. Bsumek

Neoliberalism has become a central topic in critical cultural studies and communication. Broadly speaking, neoliberalism refers to economic theories, political discourses, and cultural practices that support free markets and private property. It is a political project dedicated to rolling back “the welfare state” and instituting a society based on market principles, as well as the ideologies and forms of governance that justify and enable such reforms. Neoliberalism is seen by many in the critical cultural tradition as a threat to enduring values such as justice, equality, and the ideals of “the public good” and the “common interest.” Others are critical of it as an explanatory concept, arguing that it lacks coherence and is used promiscuously as an all-purpose category of denunciation. In general, communication scholars have approached neoliberalism in two main ways. On the one hand, they have attempted to analyze communication about neoliberalism by focusing on the ways that communication is utilized to represent, enable, and justify neoliberal ideas, policies, and practices. This scholarship is largely concerned with the persuasive effects of communication and rhetoric. On the other hand, they have focused on the forms of communication that produce the cultural and material realities of neoliberalism. These scholars are generally concerned with the circulation of communication and rhetoric. It should come as no surprise that the distinction between the two approaches is not always neat and tidy. This is so, at least in part, because the critical traditions that inform this scholarship do not necessarily agree upon what exactly neoliberalism is. Communication scholars have engaged neoliberalism by aligning with, building upon, and mobilizing a variety of critical cultural scholarly approaches. Three of the most common approaches are discussed: neoliberalism as hegemonic project and ideology, neoliberalism as governmentality and biopolitics, and neoliberalism as political project and process. Each of these traditions assumes that neoliberalism constitutes, to a significant degree, the world we now inhabit.

Article

Jesús Martín Barbero is a philosopher specializing in communication and culture, particularly focusing on Latin America as his major geographical research environment and emphasizing the social meanings and practices of cultural consumption. Although he was born in Spain and his formal academic training was developed in Belgium and France, his entire career has been conducted in Latin America and, specifically, in Colombia, where he has lived since the 1960s, with a brief interruption due to his graduate studies in the 1970s. Along with others, Martín Barbero is considered to be one of the main theorists of the Latin American school of communication. He represents the cultural studies trend within it, and he is one of the few Latin American authors in communication and cultural studies who has been translated or published in English. Some of Martín Barbero’s main contributions have been to resituate communication studies within the broader field of culture, emphasizing a nonmedia-centered approach, proposing a radically historical perspective, arguing that the concepts of popular and mass culture are not actually opposite, but tightly embedded within each other, and recognizing that popular and mass culture practices are indeed worthy of study. This perspective has often been dismissed or neglected by previous research in communication and cultural studies in Latin America, and the recent focus on telenovelas research is one such example. De los medios a las mediaciones: Comunicación, Cultura y Hegemonía (1987), Martín Barbero’s most cited book, has several editions in Spanish and has been translated to Portuguese (Dos meios ‘as mediacoes, 1992) and French (Des médias aux mediations, 2002). The translation to English in 1993 includes a little twist on its title: Communication, Culture, and Hegemony: From Media to Mediations. Although Martín Barbero’s work has been included in edited volumes or special issues in English, it has been overwhelmingly published in Spanish. Drawing on his corpus of work—his books, articles, conferences, and interviews—this article offers an overview of Jesús Martín Barbero’s main concepts, his intellectual trajectory, his major intellectual influences, and how and why he became an influential thinker in the Latin American field of communication and cultural studies. It also highlights some limitations in Martín Barbero’s work.

Article

Toussaint Nothias

The concept of representation is a cornerstone of the field of cultural studies. Representations are symbols, signs, and images used to communicate and construct meaning. They are at stake in a variety of fundamental cognitive processes such as perception and imagination. Language, for instance, is based on a system of representation where words stand for something else, such as an object or an idea. Representations are thus central to the process by which individuals and societies make sense of the world, assign meaning, and delineate norms, rules, and identities. Journalism is a key site of production of representations. Unlike most other fields of cultural production, journalism is grounded in a regime of truth: it claims to represent the world as it is. Scholars interested in representation and journalism have largely opposed those claims. Journalism always involves covering certain events over others. News stories necessarily prioritize certain frames, voices, and contextual information, which creates peculiar kinds of representations. Those representations are constrained by the working conditions of journalists, but they are also shaped by broader political, economic, cultural, and historical contexts. In that sense, journalism creates representations but also reproduces representations that exist elsewhere in society. Because the concept of representation points toward broader social forces involved in meaning construction, it has largely been used to explore the operations of power. Instead of asking “is any given representation true?” cultural studies scholars have been more interested in asking “how do relationships of power, domination, and inequality shape representations?” As a result of its development in the field of cultural studies, the study of representation has largely been oriented towards questions of inequalities and identity, most notably gender, race, ethnicity, and class. With regard to the study of representation and journalism, three broad areas of inquiries are delineated. The first concerns how journalism represents different social groups, places, events, and issues through its coverage. This literature is wide and covers a range of issues in both domestic and international coverage. Most of those studies focus on the linguistic, rhetorical, and visual properties of media texts to deconstruct the ideological operations behind what often appears natural and common sense in the news. Another strand of research looks at similar issues of representation but in the context of journalistic production. In particular, these studies centralize the importance of who makes the news to understand the peculiar representations that journalism ultimately produces. Often relying on surveys, statistical data, or ethnography, these have contributed to an understanding of issues such as gender inequalities and lack of diversity in newsrooms. A final—and more discreet—literature investigates how journalism itself is represented in popular culture. Novels, films, television, commercials, cartoons, art, and video games routinely construct representations of journalism and journalists. These representations play a role in shaping popular mythologies around journalism and its role in society.

Article

Robert T. Tally, Jr.

Fredric Jameson (b. 1934) was the leading Marxist literary and cultural critic in the United States and, arguably, in the English-speaking world in the late 20th century and remains so in the early 21st. In a career that spans more than 60 years, Jameson has produced some 25 books and hundreds of essays in which he has demonstrated the versatility and power of Marxist criticism in analyzing and evaluating an enormous range of cultural phenomena, from literary texts to architecture, art history, cinema, economic formations, psychology, social theory, urban studies, and utopianism, to mention but a few. In his early work, Jameson introduced a number of important 20th-century European Marxist theorists to American audiences, beginning with his study of Jean-Paul Sartre’s style and continuing with his Marxism and Form (1971) and The Prison-House of Language (1972), which offered critical analyses of such theorists as Georg Lukacs, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse, along with the Frankfurt School, Russian formalism, and French structuralism. With The Political Unconscious (1981) and other works, Jameson deftly articulated such topics as the linguistic turn in literature and philosophy, the concepts of desire and national allegory, and the problems of interpretation and transcoding in a decade when continental theory was beginning to transform literary studies in the English-speaking world. Jameson then became the leading theorist and critic of postmodernism, and his Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) demonstrated the power of Marxist theoretical practice to make sense of the system underlying the discrete and seemingly unrelated phenomena in the arts, architecture, media, economics, and so on. Jameson’s concept of cognitive mapping has been especially influential on cultural theories of postmodernity and globalization. Jameson’s lifelong commitment to utopian thought and dialectical criticism have found more systematic expression in such books as Archaeologies of the Future (2005) and Valences of the Dialectic (2009), and he has continued to develop a major, six-volume project titled “The Poetics of Social Forms” (the final two volumes of which remain forthcoming as of 2018), whose trajectory ultimately covers myth, allegory, romance, realism, modernism, postmodernism, and beyond. Jameson’s expansive, eclectic, and ultimately holistic approach to cultural critique demonstrates the power of Marxist critical theory both to interpret, and to help change, the world.

Article

Kevin Douglas Kuswa and Edward Lubich Kuperman

Donna Haraway is a prophet. Not only is her work indispensable to an understanding of science, technology, feminism, environmental studies, and protest, but she is also outlining a vivid description of where society is headed in a simultaneous array of dystopian and utopian futures. To think about human and nonhuman bodies (as well as their machinic and organic trajectories) requires engaging this provocative scholar and her work spanning over three decades. Like other prophets, Haraway has her critics, including many with understandable objections to her politics or her omissions. From any perspective, however, the way she merges genres and negotiates perspectives is unparalleled, even in critical and cultural studies. The insight she offers into the juxtaposition between humans and the environment shows how the interactions between the natural and social worlds are far more intricate and intertwined than previously conceived. The very survival of the planet depends on a new orientation to humanity’s impact on surrounding ecosystems, generating a personal, political, theoretical, and moral imperative to live in tandem with our surroundings, not in opposition. Reading Haraway thus becomes more than an academic exercise or form of intellectual tourism. In short, she is arguing for a sea-change in perspective that centers on animals and ecosystems as an indispensable part of human life on Earth. Whether thinking through the relationships between humans and primates, ants and acacias, art and politics, compost and toxicity, or gods and pigeons, Haraway always finds ways to blur science and fiction, speculation and empiricism, or sustainability and rupture. As she demonstrates that the Anthropocene is better thought of as the Chthulucene, Haraway provokes her readers to think deeply and in unique and reflective ways. The three main clusters that constitute her work are each monumental: first, the merging of human and machine in the form of the cyborg; second, the concept of “natureculture” and the double-edged sword represented by technology that can either help natureculture contribute to a radical emancipation or experience a catastrophic exploitation; and, third, the available means of politics within both ideological structures and new identities. Between the clusters the various criticisms of Haraway’s work will also emerge, both highlighting and interrogating the clusters themselves. Overall, quilting a shelter to brave the ongoing storm is Haraway’s objective, but she knows that such a goal necessitates staying with the trouble.