950 127 1MB
Pages 133 Page size 432 x 648 pts Year 2005
Cultural Studies Theorizing Politics, Politicizing Theory VOLUME 17 NUMBER 5 SEPTEMBER 2003 Editorial Statement Cultu
822 113 1MB Read more
Editorial Board EDITORS Lawrence Grossberg Della Pollock ASSOCIATE EDITOR Mark J.Olson ASSISTANT EDITOR Ted Striphas BO
970 237 1MB Read more
Editorial Board EDITORS Lawrence Grossberg Della Pollock ASSOCIATE EDITORS Mark J.V.Olson Ted Striphas BOOK REVIEW EDIT
1,599 19 1MB Read more
CULTURAL STUDIES Volume 7 Number 2 May 1993 EDITORIAL STATEMENT Cultural Studies seeks to foster more open analytic,
860 101 3MB Read more
Editorial Board EDITORS Lawrence Grossberg University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign USA Janice Radway Duke University US
2,092 226 2MB Read more
CULTURAL STUDIES Volume 11 Number 1 January 1997 EDITORIAL STATEMENT In the ten years since this journal was founded,
1,068 586 3MB Read more
CULTURAL STUDIES Volume 2 Number 3 October 1988 CULTURAL STUDIES is a new international journal, dedicated to the notion that the study of cultural processes, and especially of popular culture, is important, complex, and both theoretically and politically rewarding. It is published three times a year, with issues being edited in rotation from Australia, the UK and the USA, though occasional issues will be edited from elsewhere. Its international editorial collective consists of scholars represent ing the range of the most influential disciplinary and theoretical approaches to cultural studies. CULTURAL STUDIES will be in the vanguard of developments in the area worldwide, putting academics, researchers, students and practitioners in different countries and from diverse intellectual traditions in touch with each other and each other’s work. Its lively international dialogue will take the form not only of scholarly research and discourse, but also of new forms of writing, photo essays, cultural reviews and political interventions. CULTURAL STUDIES will publish articles on those practices, texts and cultural domains within which the various social groups that constitute a late capitalist society negotiate patterns of power and meaning. It will engage with the interplay between the personal and the political, between strategies of domination and resistance, between meaning systems and social systems. CULTURAL STUDIES will seek to develop and transform those perspectives which have traditionally informed the field—structuralism and semiotics, Marxism, psychoanalysis and feminism. Theories of discourse, of power, of pleasure and of the institutionalization of meaning are crucial to its enterprise; so too are those which stress the ethnography of culture. Contributions should be sent to either the General Editor or one of the Associate Editors. They should be in duplicate and should conform to the reference system set out in the Notes for Contributors, available from the Editors or Publishers. They make take the form of articles of about 5000 words, of kites (short, provocative or exploratory pieces) of about 2000 words, or of reviews of books, other cultural texts or events.
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to http://www.ebookstore.tandf.co.uk/.” Advertisements: Enquiries to David Polley, Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE. Subscription Rates (calendar year only): UK and rest of the world: individuals £20; institutions £37; North America: individuals $38; institutions $60. All rates include postage; air mail rates on application. Subscriptions to: Subscriptions Department, Routledge, North Way, Andover, Hants, SP10 5BE. Single copies; from above address £14/$28. ISSN 0950–2386 © Routledge, 1988 ISBN 0-203-99079-X Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 0-415-00957-X (Print Edition)
CONTENTS ARTICLES The Chippewa and the Other: living the heritage of Lac du Flambeau Gail Guthrie Valaskakis Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture Henry A.Giroux and Roger I.Simon Audre Lorde’s lacquered layerings: the lesbian bar as a site of literary production Katie King Locating listening: technological space, popular music, Canadian mediations Jody Berland Reception study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects Janice Radway Wandering audiences, nomadic critics Lawrence Grossberg
1 23 47 68 82
KITE Undercut Ian Spring
REVIEWS Postmodern, post-political, post caring? Sean Cubitt Projecting Ireland Brian Doyle The making of ‘real men’ Stevi Jackson
Index to volume 2
ARTICLES THE CHIPPEWA AND THE OTHER: LIVING THE HERITAGE OF LAC DU FLAMBEAU GAIL GUTHRIE VALASKAKIS Englishman! you ask me who I am. If you wish to know, you must seek me in the clouds. I am a bird who rises from the earth, and flies far up into the skies, out of human sight; but though not visible to the eye, my voice is heard from afar, and resounds over the earth! Englishman! you wish to know who I am. You have never sought me or you should have found and known me. (Keesh-ke-mun, Crane Clan, hereditary chief of the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa, quoted in Warren, 1885:373)
Since the earliest days of anthropology, ethnographers have tried to incorporate the experience of the researched through biography. This is reflected in the range of writings about individual Indians, the study of whose cultures has long been at the heart of ethnography. But biographies have always been marginal to cultural analysis, persisting as interesting documentation of individual memories, feelings, and beliefs. Unlike language, kinship systems, or social structure, narrative has not been valued as a source of scholarly analysis or as the lived experience of collectively constructed cultures. Recent discussions about the practice of culture in everyday life have restored the value of narrative. Writing in cultural studies has reconceptualized culture itself as everyday action, discourse, and events: lived experience and public text. And ethnographers have considered anew the significance of the relationship between personal experience and authority, accuracy and objectivity, narrative and understanding (Pratt, 1986). This represents a tentative move away from the notion of the narrative Other as an object, reified through time-distancing in writing which reflects an ‘ethnographic present’ (Fabian, 1983:80), or research which is embedded in structures abstracted from action through anthropological analysis. This search moves toward what native people have long incorporated as lived experience: culture in the present woven with a kaleidoscopic past of intertwined experiences, representations, signifiers, and boundaries; history as heritage, living traditionalism.
In the writing of outsiders, native American traditional practice is often misunderstood as feathers and fantasy or, worse, as oppressive reification of the distant past. But Indian traditionalism is not these; nor is it lost in transformation or revived as a privileged expression of resistance. It is an instrumental code to action knitted into the fabric of everyday life, the ‘lived historicity of current struggles and the interminable intertwining of past and present’ (Walkerdine, 1986:182). It is cultural experience, ‘contested, temporal and emergent…. Representation and explanation—both by insiders and outsiders’ (Clifford, 1986:19), which situates the social field of current practice. Traditionalism is experienced collectively and individually as heritage, a multivocal past, re-enacted daily in the ambiguous play of identity and power. Today, as in the past, Indian heritage is linked to Others in cultural struggle. Today, the arena is treaty rights, traditionalism contested, transformed, and enacted in the enveloping cultural distance between the Indian and the Other. In the always incomplete process of reconstructing the ‘collective reflexivity’ (Fabian, 1983:92) of lived cultural experience, biography is central to an ethnography which recognizes that ‘notions of the past and future are essentially notions of the present…an idea of one’s ancestry and posterity is really an idea of the self’ (Momaday, 1976:97).
I We were very young when we began to live the ambivalence of our reality. My marbleplaying, bicycle-riding, king-of-the-royal-mountain days were etched with the presence of unexplained identity and power. I knew as I sat in the cramped desks of the Indian school that wigwams could shake with the rhythm of a Midéwiwin ceremonial drum, fireballs could spring from the whispers of a windless night, and Bert Skye could (without warning) transform himself into a dog. I knew that my great-grandmother moved past the Catholic altar in her house with her hair dish in her hand to place greying combings of her hair in the first fire of the day, securing them from evil spirits. And I knew that I was yoked to these people through the silence of ancient actions and the kinship of the secret. Later I realized that we were equally and irrevocably harnessed to each other and this Wisconsin reservation land through indigence, violence, and ulcerated exclusion, recoiling among outsiders and ourselves; and that I was both an Indian and an outsider. This land was reserved to the Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa in the Treaty of 1854. The treaty didn’t become a contested charter in our daily lives until a century after its signing; but we have always known that this is Chippewa land. The Chippewa are one of the Three Fires. We, with the nations of the Pottawatomi and the Ottawa, are shot with the Mégis shell in the secret ceremonies of rebirth that signify the Midéwiwin, a way of life ‘more powerful and impressive than the Christian religion is to the average civilized man’ (Hoffman, 1886:356). Together we followed the Mégis shell as it appeared above the water to direct our slow migration from the east. About 1300 we separated at the interface of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, each moving inland to forests and lakes, which we held in trust through our respect for the grace in sighting an eagle and the fearful anxiety of the bear’s appearance. We who followed Keesh-ke-mun, chief of the interior Chippewa, were here at the heart of the Flambeau
The chippewa and the other
Trail, the trade route south from Lake Superior, when the black-robed Jesuits came in the early 1600s (Warren, 1885:114, 192). They came in consort with French furtraders, who became partners in our heritage through their practices of naming, commodifying, drinking, and taking country wives. Our daily lives became entangled in the interchange of furs and souls, of consumption and resistance; but our realities remained separate, bounded. François Malhiot, Northwest Company post manager at Flambeau in 1804 and 1805, wrote in his journal: ‘As a rule they [the Savages] possess all the vices of mankind and only think they are living well, when they live evil lives’ (Malhiot, 1910:204). Our
(The Milwaukee Journal, Oct. 14–17, 1984:2) understanding is stated in the words of a Métis historian: ‘It was prophesied that the consequence of the white man’s appearance would be, to the An-ish-in-aub-ag, an “ending of the world’” (Warren, 1885:117). And these attributes of the foreign intruder and the unknown savage, encased deep within the prism of Chippewa experience, are reflected in the representations of who we are and the nature of Others. We are ‘Lac du Flambeau’ because furtraders, arriving at night during the spring spearing season, isolated this ageless custom and attached it to us for ever. They were awed by the sight of torch-lit canoes moving silently along the shallows of the lakes, silhouetting Indians poised to spear fish. We have identified with their romanticized image of a ‘Lake of Flames’ from that day to this. We were always Waus-wa-im-ing, ‘People of the Torch’. But between 1640 and 1835 one and sometimes two and three
trading posts at Flambeau were sites of exchange, defining us as traditional trappers endlessly attracted to the sociability of rum: the humor, the quarrels, the deadening silence (Bokern, 1987). Now we are Lac du Flambeau, known to each other through reconstructions of the past and Christian names, many French, transformed from our Ojibway language, today pronounced as English. Our names, like this land, were claimed in Chippewa blood when the trading period forced alliances through intertribal warfare. We fought for ourselves, for the French, and, refusing the demands of the British, we fought for the Americans. In 1737 the Chippewa, the Fox, and the Dakota Sioux began 150 years of dispersed, desperate battle to hold this land with its intrinsic resources and its trading empires. When the Fox were driven south in the mid-1700s, we fought the Dakota (Bokern, 1987:11, 14). The last memorable battle between the two tribes took place in Flambeau in 1745, and we are forever pierced by what we experienced. After days of scattered fighting, the Dakota were driven to Strawberry Island in Flambeau Lake just as evening fell. The Chippewa regrouped, waiting for the dawn’s final attack. Surrounding the island at the first light of day, we found the enemy had vanished, leaving a presence more powerful than bodies, scars on the land, or worldly artifacts. Near the Dakota campsite stood an enormous rock, a panoptic gargoyle, white in its newness, confronting the Old Village across the water with the ambiguity of our spiritual heritage. Like the violence which spawned it, Medicine Rock became involved in the migrations of newcomers, Indians and Others, who found their way to Flambeau. My great-grandparents were among the first to stay, thirty years after the reservation was established in 1854. They were Christian half-breeds living near Chippewa Falls, where my great-grandfather was an interpreter for a French furtrader. They married in 1883, and came up-river at the urging of Ke-nis-te-no, my great-grandmother’s grandfather, who was a signatory of the treaty which, in 1887, enrolled the Lac du Flambeau band and granted land to tribal members. The practices signified by my great-grandparents’ religion and bloodlines set them apart as the Indians’ struggle to defend their presence shifted to the inner arena of community. It was two years before my great-grandparents were allowed to approach Medicine Rock, and they never left the customary tobacco there. And this difference conceived in experience was fixed by a policy of appeasement. When individual Chippewa were granted land through the Allotment Act, full-bloods were given 160 acres, disclaimed half-breeds 80 acres. Our family’s posterity was preserved when my great-grandmother’s name, written on the tribal roll of 1895, was omitted as the membership was read aloud to the old full-blood chiefs. My great-grandfather’s land was allotted at Lac Courte Oreilles reservation; my greatgrandmother’s sister was enrolled in the Bad River band. We were a region of Chippewa even then, clans and cousins of the An-ish-in-a-beg nation, gathered and restricted from a migratory cycle of hunting to the south in winter, moving north in summer to gather maple sap and wild rice and to fish. We were called a ‘timber people’ (Hoffman, 1886:149); but this land, so attractive to outsiders for its cover of white pine, lacked underbrush to support large game. Especially here, where ‘the Pokegama arm of the Lac du Flambeau…abounds with fine fish, which the Indians take in great numbers in gillnets and with the spear’ (Owen, 1852:280), our lifeblood was sustained in the nurture of spring harvesting and the presence of Gitche Manitou, the Great Spirit.
The chippewa and the other
The Treaty of 1854 created six Chippewa reservations, small, irregular configurations of land reserved from territory ceded or sold to the United States in 1837 and 1842, when treaties became ritualized means for the extraction of copper, iron, and timber. A furtrader wrote: ‘To my certain knowledge the Indians never knew that they had ceded their lands until 1849, when they were asked to remove therefrom’ (Armstrong, in Bartlett, 1929:68). We remained sutured to this land through the starved silence of the abandoned fur trade and two government removal orders before the reservation was conceded. Little Bee, the Flambeau chief, walked with Chief Great Buffalo on the footpath of resistance worn by the patience of delegations to Washington in 1852 to protest the order to leave Wisconsin; and in 1862 to petition for a larger land base on the new reservation, and the promised annuity payments (Bartlett, 1929:74, 82). Our elders witnessed the starvation of the Chippewa who marched west to Minnesota. We from Flambeau did not move, and, finally, letters to the President broke the stubborn stillness. One was from the Wisconsin Legislature requesting reservations, for ‘Chippewa Indians are peaceable, quiet and inoffensive people’ (Rutlin, 1984:16). In 1854 our elders signed in relief, framing the heritage of our traditional practices: ‘the privilege of hunting, fishing and gathering wild rice upon the lands, the rivers and the lakes included in the territory ceded is guaranteed to the Indians, during the pleasure of the President of the United States’ (Klapper, 1904:492). When the Chippewa were enrolled as tribal members, the quiet indifference was shattered by the boom and bust of sawmills. Loggers began to cut timber from land allotted to individual Indians in 1887, and, when we were decreed competent to sell our allotments in 1910, Flambeau stood at the epicenter of the logging era. We who had always dreaded the anxiety of confronting a mythical, man-eating Windigo, a bear or a stranger, now encountered a town, magnetic in the bustle and brawl of work and whiskey; repulsive in the corruption and control of agency and enterprise. In 1909, when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs came to Flambeau, one after another, Headflyer, John Martin, Louise Chapman, Ma-kwe-gon, John Wildcat, my great-grandmother, and many others told Senator Robert la Follette of their problems with land allotments, payment of timber annuities and credit at the company store. My great-grandmother testified that she (like Headflyer) had a license to start a store, but Mr Herrick [the mill owner] said that anybody that went into business like that, that he would starve them out…. He also said that no one could start a store here, that he was the ‘Rock of Ages’ in this place, and that frightened me, and I thought that it would not be very well to go against him. (Conditions of Indian Affairs in Wisconsin, 1910:775) Loggers brought settlers, outsiders from a distance who came to stay. In the acrimony of this intrusion, we drove the first Protestant missionary off the reservation in 1886. But the Catholic and Protestant churches, which now stand staring at each other on opposite sides of the road between the Old Village and the new town, emerged in the ambivalence of the last decade of the century. We from the clans of the Crane, the Snipe, and the Marten wrapped the Midéwiwin drum in white cloth and secured it in Jim Bell’s house-of-thekeeper, in the shadow of Medicine Rock. We incanted the hymns and prayers of Christian rebirth through the typhoid epidemic of 1887 and the smallpox epidemic of 1902. My
great-grandmother witnessed 500 baptisms, names ornately framed on the walls surrounding the Catholic altar in her house. Like the names, we were suspended between Christian ritual and Chippewa custom, including the newly incorporated practice of drinking. But we never surrendered the secrets of the Mégis shell, with its dreams and fasting and sweats for ‘pimadiziwin, life in the fullest sense; life in the sense of health, longevity and well-being’ (Hallowell, 1967:294).
Settlers and tourists in northern Wisconsin in the first decade of this century In 1895 a government residential school in Flambeau folded new generations of Chippewa into the discipline and distance of acculturation enforced through English, farming, and contact with children of foreign tribes. And Flambeau grew as a construction of Others between 1908 and 1934, when the Indian Agency centralized the bureaucratic power of writing and wardship in a compound of white-frame buildings. But, long after, my great-grandfather told of Old Man Sky at Odanah who could shake three wigwams at once; my great-grandmother took my father to the drumming of the Midéwiwin, wearing her cross; and, when the medicine man An-a-wa-be died, the fear of his power was immobilizing. Four days passed before his women dressed him and buried him in the intercession of night. My great-grandparents moved closer to the new town, consigned to loggers in sawdust and sweat for the invited and the non-Indian. There they learned English, witnessed the disruption of development, and eventually built a rambling structure of yearly additions for the millowners. They sent their only child to a Catholic school in St Paul, Minnesota, when she was 7. She never came back to the reservation except in summer and, like her
The chippewa and the other
children and their children, she married a non-Indian. My father was a Flambeau Chippewa during the summer, a student in Minneapolis during the winter. He chose the ancestry of his Indian name, Ke-nis-te-no, when he came to Flambeau during the Depression of the 1930s; and he stayed, first for his grandparents, then for himself. He is here still with my mother, who came to Flambeau as a tourist from Chicago at 14 and has lived here for fifty years. Like many others since, my brother and I are living boundaries between the city and the reserve, the Chippewa and the outsider. In 1912 the judgment of Gitche Manitou settled upon the deteriorating reservation. The sawmills closed, the owners left, and a giant, man-eating Windigo bellowed a cyclone which destroyed the Old Village. In the silence that followed, the young and the mixed-blood were the first to move into the deserted mill houses of the new town. The Old Village and the families of the full-bloods remaining there were constituted for ever traditional. Our land was largely stumps and cutover brush meandering among 126 lakes within the township of Lac du Flambeau decreed by the state in 1900. The new underbrush now supported deer; but it was the lakes and the fish of our spring spearing grounds which, through the logger’s legacy of alienated land, now attracted outsiders. In 1897, the same year that liquor was forbidden on the reservation, the Chicago and Northwestern railroad
Big George Skye and my father, Ben Guthrie, at my great-grandparents boarding house, 1913 snaked through Flambeau, at first to carry logs out, then to carry tourists in. Chippewa land within our borders became the currency of contact until land allotments and sales were stopped for the last time in 1933 (McKinsey, 1937:2). By then, almost half of our reserved lands were privately owned, mostly by non-Indians:
The most desirable and valuable portions of lands along the lake shores have practically all been alienated [from Indians] by white owners and much of the remaining land, owned by Indians, is swamp lands, cut over or burned over timberlands and for the most part is of little value. (McKinsey, 1937:1) We still brood with the burial mounds on Strawberry Island, now owned by a businessman from Chicago who has never dared to disturb the spirits there. In 1913 my great-grandparents began building a new hotel, a beacon for city fishermen and city families which spawned into cottages, boats, and a bar. During the next two decades the new Flambeau unfolded in integrating structures: roads, stores, a day school, a Depression CCC Camp for Indians from across Wisconsin, and our now venerable fish hatchery. By the late 1940s there were 100 resorts installed next to 1,000 summer homes on the reservation, and summer came to mean tourists. Chippewa spearers were transformed into fishing guides, specialists of the storm warning, the brush pile, and the shore lunch. And women, the hearth of our culture pursued for their bodies or their souls, now sold beadwork and domestic service. We lived the ambiguity between town, where we were baptized, educated, sometimes employed, and often drunk, and the vestiges of the Old Village. There were outsiders who valued the passing objects of our presence: the walkingstick, plug-chewing elders, the floral beadwork, the fishing friendships. But, in fear of the foreign, the dark, the drunk, few tourists followed the rutted road to the gathering grounds of our powwows at Bear River. There the Flambeau drum sat beside visiting nations and Chippewa cousins surrounded by moving images of the identifiable: beaded buckskin, appliquéd ribbon, silver bullet cones. But the drums of the Old Village, the covered graves, and the ceremonial Round House continued to represent the Indian as aboriginal Other: Across Lac du Flambeau, you will find it, strange and picturesque, this ceremony of the aborigines with rhythmic tum-tum of drum and pounding of moccasined feet in lengthening sunbeam through western window…. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to snap your camera and gain a coveted picture of aboriginal costume, smiling squaw or quaint papoose— perhaps not. Most of those of the older generation retain their primal aloofness and decline to be subjects for the kodak. (The September Outer’s Book, 1917:178–9) With the curtailment of our seasonal harvesting, intertwined with migration, fewer families gathered wild rice or maple sap, and fewer trapped. But we always hunted, and each spring was marked by spotlit spearers, now women and men, inching wooden boats and canoes along ancient shorelines in the Flambeau night. In disregard for our sovereignty, we were declared citizens of the United States in 1924 and two years after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 established bureaucratic tribal government, the inheritance of Keesh-kemun was reified with the whispered name of Jim Grey, our hereditary chief, and the election of a new tribal council. Fourteen chairmen have led the enigmatic restoration of tribal empowerment, always hearing and
The chippewa and the other
heeding apart from the town board governing private property owners, first elected in 1901. We have moved in fifty years of process from silence, through the rosary of resentments, to decisions on housing and working, on controlling and living in Lac du Flambeau, all in the shadow of the government of Others, and always angry. We are still often angry, with imposed policy and decided practice, with non-Indians and other Indians and with each other. And this anger erupts into violent events of word and body: fighting, gossip, accidents, which cut into the substance of our efforts and ourselves. We are only partly the image of earthy nobility etched in the artifacts of others; but we are much less the relics of integration described in the written ethnography which proclaims: ‘At Flambeau, a high level of acculturation conceals a psychological skeleton’ (Hallowell, 1967:366).
The Bear River powwow at Lac du Flambeau in the 1930s In the 1940s and 1950s there was an assumption of acculturation in Flambeau. A hundred and fifty Chippewa left the reservation for World War II. Those who returned brought fragments of other experience, other people, and images of the military masculine, all still present here, along with the interests of agency: Education at Lac du Flambeau has been inadequate to meet the needs of local Indians. Transition from Indian to White has been slow. Indians have not learned what is proper social intercourse according to white standards. Maintenance of law and order has been rotten. Some untrained youths on the reservation are unaware of right and wrong. Men and women have not acquired the trait called, ‘Stick-to-it-iveness’. Many are poor employees and cannot be depended upon. Many live too much on a today-tomorrow philosophy. Many cannot plan. Many cannot save. Many expend foolishly and are poor. (Great Lakes Agency, 1944:15–16).
The attraction of town expanded to include Minocqua and Woodruff, non-native bars and banks, shops and services several miles to the southeast. The road maneuvered past the sign ‘You are leaving the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation’, alive in the sight of some lone old man walking home, rusty reservation cars labouring the load without a muffler, and the whiz of wary tourists. We still joke about finding our way home in the deep night by following the lights that line the road, a Flambeau Trail of reflecting beer cans; but going home is important. We travel to these towns for groceries and clothes and televisions, for court and high school and hospital, always as outsiders and never very comfortable. The more Minocqua and Woodruff merged in a Disneyland of riding stables and water-ski shows, movies and McDonald’s, the greater our felt distance from these constructions for the touristic consumption of others, and the more urgent the economic necessity of our participation, forever clouded by the need to ‘compete, eliminate or reduce the bad publicity we get relative to hunting and fishing out of season …the neighboring public keep attention focused on the reservations all the time’(Gauthier, 1938:4).
Lac du Flambeau Indians in the 1930s. The Medicine Man An-a-wa-be stands fifth from right, wearing a bear-claw necklace, holding a drum of the Snipe Clan Our summer town, too, was flush with tourists when, in 1951, the Indian Bowl was built as a monument to our shared discontinuity. This gentle amphitheater, carved into the lakeshore where the sawmill once stood, remains a tribal landmark celebrating the disjuncture of powwow for profit. Sometimes we still sit on cement with the Others, haunted by beached canoes and dancing bonfire silhouettes; Bob Link’s playful tales of super-smart Indians; and George Brown’s ponderous voice welcoming the carnival crowds to experience all this. Over the summers, spotlights were larger and dancing was faster. Powwow became a pan-Indian melange of the no-longer-identifiable western and
The chippewa and the other
woodlands cultures: bustled fancy-dancers with roach headpieces, slim-skirted shawldancers, all whirling in rhythm around the mincing movements of buckskinned traditionals. And even before the twice-weekly festivals-of-the-foreign upstaged the gatherings at Bear River an anthropologist wrote: The younger people at Flambeau seldom join in the Indian dances given as exhibitions, even for fun. Many of them do not know the Indian steps’ (Hallowell, 1967:342). The perception that we were being absorbed by the Other brought ethnographers to Flambeau just as muscatel wine became legal for those whose daily lives were regulated by the practice of its rituals. In 1952 we were decreed equal under state law through the legal sale of liquor, a maneuver of federal disengagement under President Eisenhower, who in 1965 stood on the scaffold of our heritage and became an honorary member of the Flambeau band. The anthropologists who came to Flambeau were never interested in my greatgrandfather. His memories were too eye-twinkling and slow-paced and droll for them to extract the factual from the interpretive. It was my great-grandmother, now called Grandma by everyone, who attracted enthnographers. She acted as interpreter and sang songs recorded on wax cylinders for Frances Densmore (1910, 1913), and gave her ceremonial dress to the Smithsonian for exhibit (Densmore, 1929). She puzzled over Rorschach inkblots as Barnouw (1950) and Hallowell (1967) studied the personality of the Chippewa; talked about health for Ritzenthaler (1953), about buckskin and beadwork for Hunt (1954). No one asked about her hair dish or her altar, about the ambivalent and binding power in the unspoken meaning she assigned to Medicine Rock, Bert Skye’s transformations, the Midéwiwin, or spring spearing. No one asked about her father, who died in Andersonville prison during the Civil War; her daughter in Minneapolis and the other children she raised; or my great-grandfather’s occasional disappearing binges. No one asked about the heritage, historical and recent, Chippewa and Other, ambivalent and prescribed, from which she acted. No one asked who she was. My brother and I were raised at my great-grandparents’ resort in the heart of town, climbing trees and fishing through the pier in the city that is Flambeau summer, walking to school in the unpredictable winter, sometimes being Indian, sometimes white. My great-grandmother was 97 when she died a willed death in the calm of the Indian summer of 1958, a decade after my great-grandfather died, when the resort was sold and my father built a summer-season restaurant and liquor store filled with antiques and artifacts, material representations of his endless interest in Great Lakes Indian history. His vocation has always been avocations, school boards, town board, tribal committees, and projects, all bridges between Indians and outsiders built in reverence for the past and impatience with the present. My mother taught high-school English in the removed environment of Woodruff as my brother and I left, he for university, the Marine Corps, and eventually the ministry, I for school and city, all other places to Chippewa, who are rooted together in the reality of returning home. In 1973, my brother wrote: I chose to be an Indian. That is my right. The right my grandfathers have given me (Guthrie, 1973:1)
He moved back to Flambeau just as tourism and our fragmented collective experience began to change.
II To the new generation of two-week tourists motoring north to McDonald’s laden with children, Indians were less exotic and more dangerous. Reservations represented the unromantic warriors of Indian protests at Wounded Knee and Rosebud and Alcatraz. Tourists maneuvered quietly through Flambeau, no longer stopping to ask, ‘Where are the Indians?’, attributing their distance as outsiders to an exaggerated sense of our violence among insiders. The drums of the Indian Bowl echoed in the abandoned night, and Flambeau receded into the 1970s behind the boarded windows of empty shops. But the raised fists of the American Indian Movement were never welcome here. Sympathizers confronted the binding conventions of heritage and the incrustations of our political process. Flambeau is defined by an interpretation of parentage that implodes from rom the government definition of Indians as people who can prove one-quarter blood. We are distinct, bound through common Chippewa grandfathers rooted to this place. Generations of intermarriage with Winnebagos, Oneidas, Potawatomis, and Menominees have lodged others here who float as timeless members of their tribes, one in daily life and the government’s prescription, but untransfixed to Flambeau. They are here, but do not possess this place. Unlike tribal members now living in the city, they cannot come home and hunt or fish or run for office. And there are band members who live on the border like my brother, who served on tribal council before a referendum ruled that Indians without a quarter Flambeau blood cannot hold office. Other Lake Superior Chippewas are acknowledged for the common experience of cousins and causes; but they too are removed. Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles: the names conjure the friends and fights of projects and parties, powwows and politics. This delicate membrane that holds Flambeau in by keeping others out is honeycombed with ancient strategies to redefine power in the present. Colour, language, custom; schooling, dress, bloodlines; religion, craftsmanship, residence: all contribute to effervescent definitions of who is an Indian now. Patricia Manor has experienced the transparent bell jar that is being Indian: We got talking and stuff and I mentioned something about being Indian. And he goes: ‘Don’t tell me. Your grandmother is a Cherokee princess.’ Oh, I was so mad. I said ‘No! No!…I’m a Chippewa, from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin’…and then, I finally showed him my tribal ID and I said: ‘See. I’m Indian. I’m Indian.’ I don’t know why sometimes it seems like it’s so important for other people to know that. (Wausau Daily Herald, 1 November 1987:9) Political constituency in Flambeau appropriates identity and fragments of community in the endless, all-consuming contest that is Indian politics. Our Red Power is elected wearing the armbands of family, carrying the shotguns of government grants and Indian jobs. And the overpowering dynamic of tribal politics emerges from the daily sustenance
The chippewa and the other
that depends on short-term grants: daycare and Head Start and HUD housing; the clinic, the expanding fish hatchery, and the elderly food program. Politics is the framework for scholarships and business loans, tourism, tribal jobs, and tax-free cigarettes, all of them strategies against poverty, all of them supporting the income-producing projects of the tribe: the old land leases and the new bingo. We have moved toward an anchorage of economic independence, sheltered by revenues from bingo. We probe for tribal power beyond the Indian Self-Determinism Act of 1975, which allows us to administer local programs (Handrick, 1987:39–40). We are partners in a process linked to other reservations through the Great Lakes intertribal Council. And the politics interwoven with all our action is grounded in articulations of self-determination and Indian control, treaty rights and traditionalism. In the spring of 1980 Strawberry Island released a relic of great age in the form of a 24-foot dugout canoe. This mitigo-jiiman, with its carved turtle bow and metal tools of 150 years of travel and trade, embodied a silent recollection of our heritage. Preserved in the quiet of the Ben Guthrie Public Library, ‘our prized white pine dug-out canoe’ (Soaring Eagle, October 1986:40) is the heart of a growing montage of birchbark and beadwork and photographs, artifacts alive in the personification of the present through the past. In 1982 the drums at Bear River echoed the renewal of our communal recognition at Flambeau. Our annual powwow is now part of a circuit of Indian socialization reconstructed in the fourteen years since Chippewas drummed ‘Honor the Earth’ at Lac Courte Oreilles. Bear River powwow represents the range of identification, Indians in buckskin or bermuda shorts, all here or home for the honor song of our traditional present. And our transforming sense of who we are is represented in a range of ambiguous power, mysterious actions, or concrete strategies in the struggle with alcohol and self-sufficiency, community and self-determination: weekly socials at the Round House of the Old Village; Wisconsin Indian Artists’ shows; whispers of medicine and the Midéwiwin; action against alcohol through the Niji Centre and TRAILS (Testing Realities and Investigating Lifestyles); the new tribal ownership of Simpson’s Electric Company and the recurring interest in a Flambeau high school. The road to the Old Village is widened and resurfaced. Fewer Indians drink in the cool of the trees near the historical marker facing Medicine Rock. And there are more ‘Indian-abish’, a twinkling acknowledgment of the young and ageless who place tiny teepees on the ice for winter spearing; or sew a hundred shells upon a powwow dress; or search out the silent spirit of the Bear River. These representations of The Enduring Ways of the Lac du Flambeau People are reflected in a television program (Slabbaert, 1988), which became a three-year process of representing and rediscovering the traditional in the 1980s. And in these years of renewed and reconstructed Chippewa practice our heritage (Indian and Indian-abish) became involved with outsiders in the whirlwind of a new Windigo: treaty rights.
III In the circling seasons of 1974, two Chippewa from Lac Courte Oreilles were arrested for spearing fish through the ice on a lake near their reservation. Like the discovery of the dugout, their fish exposed our permanence and a disagreement over political purpose that is as old as the naming of Lac du Flambeau. With the arrest of Fred and Mike Tribble, six
tribes eventually filed suit against the county, the state, and the Department of Natural Resources for violation of Chippewa treaty rights. During a decade when Indians remembered and tourists forgot, the case meandered through the courts. In 1978 the District Court ruled in favor of a hundred years of policy restricting us to reservation harvesting. Then in January 1983 the Federal Court of Appeals reversed the rights, pronouncing in the ‘Voigt Decision’ what we have always held within our heritage: we the Chippewa nations in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Minnesota kept our rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice when we deposited our lands in trust through the treaties of 1837 and 1842. In a concession to the times, the court affirmed the power of the state to regulate within the supersession of Chippewa treaties should we become a threat to natural resources, and referred the definition of our rights to District Court. When the US Supreme Court declined to overturn the state’s appeal, ‘The Chippewa eventually won, and the victory touched off a conflict that a decade after the Tribbles incident still is crackling through the North Woods like a forest fire’ (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1985:3). The fire began in friction, the worry and racism of outsiders pressed against the spreading empowerment of practice among Indians. Tourist towns surrounding Flambeau and Courte Oreilles began a battlecry with images of excess: ‘Wisconsin—a Wildlife Wasteland—the Chippewa Can Do It’(Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:2). Discourse swelled across the boundaries of heritage and history, icons of overkill playing upon the genuine concern for lifestyles and livelihood built upon a base of lakes and trees, fish and deer. In Flambeau’s Vilas County, where 26 per cent of the residents work the rounds of tourism, treaty rights represented open-ended dispossession: I fear the loss of our deer herd in the North…the Indians will be shooting at everything—does, fawns and bucks. The Indians will be able to spear on the four largest lakes on the Manitowish Waters chain. We might be catching muskies around here now but wait’ till the Indians start spearing. (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:9) Protest privileged numbers, yearly takes of fish and deer judged in isolation from the experience of our emerging practice. And every year the rhetoric rose along with tribal harvest ratios, figures ignoring the vast open-season harvest or the estimated 30,000 deer killed each year by cars (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:8). Deer became a symbol of tribal visibility, building on fear of the drunk and the dark embedded in a heritage which has positioned us through representations of the noble or the savage, or in the studied, systematic constructions of the aboriginal Other: ‘Some resort owners, prompted by bar talk of armed Indian hunters gone wild, warn customers not to walk in the woods’ (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:2). Winter was rife with signs of unambiguous hostility: bumper stickers saying ‘Kill an Indian Save 25 Deer’; signs of ‘Save a Deer Shoot an Indian’ and ‘Open Season on Indians, Bag Limit 10 per day’. The season moved toward spring with sloganed fishing hats: ‘Save a Walleye Spear an Indian’ (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:1–2). Spears became the Others’ effigies of a pagan past, as Indian families slid aluminum canoes and boats along the darkened shorelines, children spearing next to bifocaled uncles and couples keeping company. Miner’s caps spotlit spawning fish protected only by the deceptive depth of
The chippewa and the other
water. First for nine and now for fifteen days, we speared in retribution for identity or community, for food or just for the fun of it, surrounded by resentment articulated in a code of overkill attributed to Indians.
Table 1 Legal deer harvest in the ceded territories of Wisconsin Tribal season
Bow and gun season
Source: Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission (1988)
Ben Chosa winter spearing on Squirrel Lake, 1987 Throughout the seasons we sat within the shadow of our elders negotiating this practice of contested culture with the state, our lawyers talking to their lawyers. We allocated 8,000 deer in twenty-nine northern counties to Chippewa on six reserves, disallowed shooting from cars, and restricted hunting to a 71-day season. We agreed not to gill-net fish on inland lakes beyond the reservation, nor to harvest fish in state refuges; and imposed a six-tribe limit of 5,000 pounds of Walleye (Milwaukee Journal, 14–17 October 1984:6). We agreed to harvest on selected lakes and to observe quotas; and then some Indians stood in determination: ‘We’re not going to hide anymore…. We are not going to take the back roads to our fishing sites. We’ll go right through the middle of Woodruff and Minocqua if we have to’ (Milwaukee Journal, 17 April 1987:3B).
The fire spread, articulating other issues linked along the trail of treaty rights. Minocqua became an epicenter of argument packaged in the liberal lobby of Protect Americans’ Rights and Resources. PARR became the password for a range of smaller groups like Totally Equal Americans and Equal Rights for Everyone, all appropriating constructions of Others and ourselves that focused on the heritage of Lac du Flambeau:
Table 2 Walleye harvest in Wisconsin Tribal harvest
Estimated sport harvest
Source: Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission (1988)
Table 3 Muskellunge harvest in Wisconsin Tribal harvest
Estimated sport harvest
Source: Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission (1988)
The Lac du Flambeau…are skilled aggressive fishermen. Last year the band turned out 115 fishermen. They speared…more than 80% of all Walleyes and Muskies speared by Chippewa bands…. Perhaps because of the Lac du Flambeau band’s fish kill record or maybe because they do not mix very well with the white community, public hostility to Indian treaty fishing is most intense here in north central Wisconsin. (Milwaukee Journal, 14 April 1987:1, 10) The perception that we were rejecting the Other brought rounds of reporters to Flambeau to write about the currency of confrontation. And some anthropologists (Cleland, 1985; Hendrick, 1987) researched the historical patterns of resource use among the Chippewa. But ethnographers have not found their way to Flambeau to ask about the modern meaning of practice transformed through time and treaty rights. No one has asked about the confirmation of walking to hunt in woodlands ceded by the thumbprints of our grandfathers, or our romanticized image of Flambeau’s ‘People of the Torch’, stitched in ambiguity to Strawberry Island and Medicine Rock, Bert Skye and the Midéwiwin. No one has asked about the impact of accidental deaths, of fighting, or family living in the city; the beer cans rusting in the water at Boy Scout Beach; or the traditional heritage of Flambeau’s Christian churches. No one has asked about the maze of tribal membership and politics; the empowerment of intertribal process; or the social act of spearing with a formerly feuding cousin. No one has asked about the purpose represented in fifty years of
The chippewa and the other
the fish hatchery; or the practices through which ‘Flambeau currently is the center of winter spearing’; and the 33 out of 79 Wisconsin carvers in a book on fish decoys who are Flambeau Indians (Kimball and Scott, 1987:180–4). No one has asked about the heritage, experienced and imagined, Flambeau and foreign, tentative and transforming, from which we act. No one has asked who we are or what it signifies to hunt and spear through treaty rights. PARR erected protest rallies, invoking sign-carrying settlers and enclaves of drumming Indian spearers. The organization urged politicians to stop the practice of our treaties, adopting two Indians (one from Flambeau) who spoke in the exclusionary language of our heritage: Congress is derelict in its duties to abrogate the treaties which were made for full-blooded Indians…. There are no longer full-bloods, the treaties should be abrogated because they no longer apply. Indians with very little Indian blood are receiving benefits because of ultra-liberal interpretations of the treaties in recent years. (Daily News, 27 April 1986:1) Then, in February 1987, the District Court ruled upon a preliminary definition of our treaty rights: The Chippewas have a right to harvest all natural resources used at the time of the treaties; a right to use methods both traditional and modern; and the right to extract a modest living from the sale of the harvest. (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, n.d.: 7) At the union high school located in Minocqua, our students were drawn into spearing before the season started, in the printed distribution of a poem which ‘contained sexually, socially and economically derogatory remarks about Indians and their treaty rights’ (Milwaukee Sentinel, 20 April 1987:5). In the aftershock of Indian accusations that ‘racial slurs have become a way of life’, our tribal planner spoke for those in Flambeau who stand between resignation and revenge: ‘There is a lack of knowledge, a fear of the unknown…people don’t understand the reservation’ (Milwaukee Sentinel, 20 April 1987:5). The tribal judge, spokesman for our spearers, began the season counting quota through the night, spearing with his son: Stocky like his father but blond-haired like his mother, Fred is a high school freshman who already has his own car and intends to join the Army after graduation…. ‘He’s a good spearer,’ Fred’s father said. ‘He’s been doing this ever since he was 7.’ (Daily Press, 18 April 1987:3) PARR rallied against spring spearing, 1,200 people wearing protest orange reassuring us: ‘We don’t blame the Indians, this is a federal issue’ (Lakeland Times, 28 April 1987:4). The event was flavored with patriotism beginning with a pledge of allegiance and the singing of the national anthem’ (Milwaukee Journal, 26 April 1987:2B). In the nowfamiliar litany of signs, one PARR member carried a speared, stuffed walleye pierced through the gut. Marching Indians pointed out, ‘That spear’s upside down’ and ‘It’s
supposed to be in the back of the head, not the belly’; some non-Indians declared ‘Whites for Rights’ and ‘Treaty Rights Protect Us All’ (Lakeland Times, 28 April 1987:9). As polarization spread to Flambeau, a petition accused the tribal judge of ‘totally misrepresenting the tribe as a whole’ (Milwaukee Sentinel, 29 April 1987:1). And, as the season accumulated talk of quota violation and gunshots aimed at Indians in the sullen darkness of the spearing grounds, Butternut Landing became a contested reference to the appropriated past of treaty rights: Six hours of racial taunts and beer drinking marked a protest by nonIndians at Butternut Lake in Ashland County during the worst incident of the 15-day Chippewa spearfishing season Sunday night. The Lac du Flambeau Chippewa spearfishing there were far outnumbered by the protesters. Throughout the protest they remained in their boats, out of reach of the protesters straining against a police chain. (Lakeland Times, 5 May 1987:1) Four non-Indians were arrested, and in the constituted language of repeated rallies the voice of PARR was answered by the Chippewa: Representatives from Lac du Flambeau and several other tribes marked the end of the 1987 spearfishing season with a show of strength, unity and ceremony at Butternut Lake in Ashland county. A heavy show of law enforcement also prevented many anti-treaty rights protesters from showing up at the landing. In the midst of questions of abuse of power by the tribal judge, protests at spearfishing boat landings, complaints about treaty rights comments allegedly made by a grade school aid, and adult and youth baseball teams boycotting Lac du Flambeau, there was a calm in the eye of the storm. Chippewa tribes from northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan returned Thursday to the scene of an ugly racial protest by whites to reaffirm their heritage. Approximately 200 tribal members from three states were there, including tribes from Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, Bad River, Mole Lake and Red Cliff. Throughout the night the strong steady thread of the ceremonial drum knit the tribal people together in a show of unity. (Lakeland Times, 5 May 1987:1) My brother tells about the caravan of cars, 350 Indians of all ages wearing armbands of red, white, and blue, maneuvering past jeering beer-drinkers; the eagle sighted at the landing just before four boats slipped into the darkness, each spearing one symbolic fish from the waters, surrounded by racial reaction, and the differing realities of ourselves and Others expressed in treaty rights: I still remember what someone said to us, that it has taken us a hundred years to get back to this lake. That expressed the whole mood you could feel that night—that this was what our great-grandfathers did, and now it
The chippewa and the other
is what I’m doing. It became an identity thing and a rallying point. (McBride, 1987:17) We watched repeated summers swell this tourist territory, families on vacation uninterested in the underlying chant for change. On the fourth of July, the season was pronounced ‘frantic’ (Lakeland Times, 10 July 1987:22), and a thousand people found their way to Flambeau’s Wisconsin Indian Artists’ Show. And, almost inaudible above the motorboats dragging water-skiers and fishermen along the lakes, a Republican congressman from Milwaukee introduced a bill to abrogate the treaties. The question of abrogation was answered by the Governor in 1985, who ‘told opponents of treaty rights…that they were wasting their time trying to get Congress to change century-old agreements with Wisconsin tribes’ (Milwaukee Journal, 12 January 1985:1). As this political impossibility settled over PARR, politicians spoke in the timeless language of treaty negotiations everywhere: The tribes must recognize that they cannot expect members of Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation to support federal aid for tribal economic development or other tribal programs if they insist on remaining separate from the United States when it comes to hunting and fishing. (Kasten, 1987:3) We were sitting at the treaty table negotiating with the state when PARR produced a lasting symbol of the distance between ourselves and Others: ‘Treaty Beer’. Cans in the Christmas colors of red and green on white depicted a walleye pierced through the gut by a five-pronged spear, bordered by burning dollars and the words ‘tru brew of the working man’, ‘equal rights’, and ‘stop treaty abuse’. In Minocqua signs as big as store windows sold the essence of our struggle since the traders; radio ads played powwow drums to underscore the target; and protesters marched with signs proclaiming ‘Treaty Beer not Tribal Bingo’. A guileless voice from Flambeau spoke about the boycott of our unique arena of openness to outsiders: ‘A lot of our customers come early to socialize…. Bingo isn’t political. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Voigt Decision’ (Lakeland Times, 11 August 1987:2). Summer deteriorated into fall with PARR announcing at a gathering in Illinois, ‘It is now very possible that we could lose the whole United States to the Indians’: ‘He [the PARR president] sees Indians fishing off homeowners’ piers, bagging all the allowable game for themselves and gradually choking off everyone else’s rights everywhere’ (Chicago Tribune, n.d.: 2).
IV There are outsiders who value the lasting distance of our presence: woodland skills and spirit-soaring powwows, teasing humor targeting the too serious or self-important, mixed with the spiritual mystery of our leaving tobacco at Medicine Rock. There are those who appreciate our past and praise displays of glass-cased artifacts. And some within our
borders support the one-man movement entitled ‘White People Who Live on the Reservation and Wouldn’t Live Anywhere Else’. But we are still visible and disconnected, positioned through generations of shared discontinuity. Few fascinated outsiders persevere to pass the ambush of daily interaction that reflects inward isolation, the tests of toughness and motives, the sharing with others and laughing at yourself. Fewer still are interested in penetrating the concentric circles established in the grocery store, the restaurants, the post office, the tribal council meetings, arenas open to the daily contestation of discourse: a sharp raising of the head, a glazed stare, a frozen smile, all invitations to silence or conversation. Immutable settlers and intermittent tourists tend to stay in compounds by the lake or drive in determination to Minocqua, never touching the experienced reality of Indian life in Flambeau or recognizing the daily signs of transformation. And every year we feel less comfortable in the tourist towns spread across our ceded land. In 1988 there are five new businesses on the main street of Flambeau, all Indianowned. The tribal council hopes to build a vocational technical center and asserts: ‘Tourism plays an important role in the northwoods economy, and the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council has recognized this industry’s vital role in our future economic development by annually reaffirming our intent to aggressively promote tourism here’ (Soaring Eagle, October 1986:40). The tribe has formed a speaker’s bureau to talk about treaty rights with Others and with Indians, beyond the rhetoric of rallies. The sign for the Ben Guthrie Public Library has expanded to include ‘Museum and Cultural Centre’; and the tribal council, with Indians and many Others, has raised $500,000 as a matching grant to build a museum. This museum is a living construct of reconciliation spearheaded by the tribe and my father, for whom ‘It has been a dream for so long’ (Lakeland Times, 7 August 1987:25). The brochure states, ‘We have seen the future—and it is the past’, a recognition of transforming practice affirmed in the words of our tribal council chairman: ‘We have a growing revival of our precious cultural heritage here on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation, and I feel that revival is as important to the people here as anything we are doing’ (Soaring Eagle, Oct. 1986:40). In Flambeau, many Chippewa disapprove of spearing, declaring it a disaster for Indians they say we’ve brought upon ourselves. And other Indians, suspicious of the museum and economic enterprise, work to reconstruct the lived traditionalism of the Old Village. But every Flambeau Chippewa recognizes our reality in the words of our tribal planner: ‘The old ways are fading…. We are grasping at what is left or what we know of it.’ Although the controversy over rights has increased tensions with non-Indians, Maulson says there have also been positive effects. ‘People are asking questions now…a lot more people have become aware of Indians, and we are more aware of ourselves.’ (McBride, 1987:9) Treaty rights express traditionalism appropriated deep within the prism of Flambeau life, not as a form of resistance, privileged through some stereotypical reproduction of the past; but as a thread of transformation enacted daily among Indians and outsiders engaged in the arena of ambiguous identity and power that is fundamental to our enduring heritage. Traditionalism is the expression of a multivocal past of lived
The chippewa and the other
experience, of an Indian heritage which is ‘intricate with motion and meaning… legendary as well as historical, personal as well as cultural’ (Momaday, 1969:4). Concordia University, Montreal
References Barnouw, Victor (1950) ‘Acculturation and personality among the Wisconsin Chippewa’. Memoir of the American Anthropological Association, 72. Bartlett, William W. (1929) ‘Armstrong reminiscences’. History, Tradition and Adventure in the Chippewa Valley. Eau Claire, Wis.: Wm W.Bartlett. Bokern, James K. (1987) ‘The history of primary canoe routes of the six Chippewa bands from the Lac du Flambeau region’. MS thesis, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill. Cleland, Charles E. (1985) ‘A research report on the 19th century patterns of resource use and economic strategy of the Lake Superior Chippewa’. Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa, Odanah, Wis. Clifford, James (1986) ‘Introduction: partial truths’. In J.Clifford and G.Marcus (eds), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Conditions of Indian Affairs in Wisconsin (1910). Hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs, US Senate on Senate Resolution 263. Washington: Government Printing Office. Daily News, Rhinelander, Wis. Daily Press, Ashland, Wis. Densmore, Frances (1910) ‘Chippewa music, I’. Bulletin of the US Bureau of American Ethnology, 41. ——(1913) ‘Chippewa music, II’. Bulletin of the US Bureau of American Ethnology, 53. ——(1929) ‘Chippewa customs’. Bureau of the US Bureau of Ethnology, 86. Fabian, Johannes (1983) Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York: Columbia University Press. Gauthier, Ben C. (1938) ‘Memorandum to Superintendent Cavill’. Lac du Flambeau, 9 July. Great Lakes Agency (1944) ‘Wisconsin program, Lac du Flambeau reservation, Wisconsin: Part I—Basic data; Section I—Resources’, March. Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission (n.d.) ‘Chippewa treaty rights: hunting …fishing…gathering on ceded territory’. Odanah, Wis. ——(1988) Data on fish and game harvesting on Chippewa-ceded territory. Odanah, Wis. Guthrie, Gregg (1973) ‘Our grandfathers’, unpublished. Hallowell, A.Irving (1967) Culture and Experience. New York: Schocken Books. Handrick, Philip (1987) ‘A Chippewa case: resource control and self-determinism’. Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2 (2). Hoffman, William J. (1886) ‘The Midéwiwin or “Grand Medicine Society” of the Ojibway’. Annual Report of the US Bureau of American Ethnology, 7. Hunt, W.Ben (1954) Indian Crafts and Lore. New York: Simon & Schuster. Kasten, Bob (1987) ‘Special report: Indian treaty rights’, United States Senate, Washington, DC, 6 July. Kimball, Art, and Scott, Brad (1987) The Fish Decoy. Boulder Junction, Wis.: Aardvark Publications. Klapper, Charles J. (ed.) (1904) ‘Indian affairs’. Laws and Treaties, vol. 2 (Treaties). Washington: Government Printing Office. Lakeland Times, Minocqua, Wis. McBride, Elizabeth (1987) ‘Wisconsin’s Chippewa struggle to reclaim old ways and resources’. Isthmus, 12 (44), Madison, Wis., 30 October–5 November.
McKinsey, Shirley N. (1937) ‘An economic survey of the Lac du Flambeau reservation of Wisconsin’. Great Lakes Agency. Malhiot, François Victor (1910) ‘A Wisconsin fur-trader’s journal, 1804–5’, in Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, vol. 19, ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society. Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, Wis. Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis. Momaday, N.Scott (1969) The Way to Rainy Mountain. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. ——(1976) The Names. New York: Harper & Row. Owen, David Dale (1852) Report of a Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co. Pratt, Mary Louise (1986) Fieldword in common places’. In J.Clifford and S. Marcus (eds), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ritzenthaler, Robert (1953) ‘Chippewa preoccupation with health’. Bulletin of the Milwaukee Public Museum, 19 (4). Rutlin, Terry (1984) ‘Fishing and hunting rights of Wisconsin Indians: a history’. Natural Resources, 6 (4). The September Outer’s Book (1917) Chicago, 111.: The Outer’s Book Co. Slabbaert, Lorraine (1988) The Enduring Ways of the Lac du Flambeau People. Wisconsin Region Public Broadcasting System. Soaring Eagle, Lac du Flambeau Wis. Walkerdine, Valerie (1986) ‘Video replay: families, films and fantasies’. In V. Burgin, J.Donald, and C.Kaplan (eds), Formations of Fantasy. London: Methuen. Warren, William (1885) ‘History of the Ojibways’. Minnesota Historical Collections, 5. Wausau Daily Herald (1987) ‘Anishinabe: the Chippewa of Wisconsin’. Wausau, Wis., 1 November.
CRITICAL PEDAGOGY AND THE POLITICS OF POPULAR CULTURE HENRY A.GIROUX AND ROGER I.SIMON In the past decade radical educators have begun to take seriously the issue of student experience as a central component in developing a theory of schooling and cultural politics (Willis, 1981; Apple, 1982; Giroux, 1983; McLaren, 1986).Thewaysin which student experience is produced, organized, and legitimated in schools has become an increasingly important theoretical consideration for understanding how schools function to produce and authorize particular forms of meaning and to implement teaching practices consistent with the ideological principles of the dominant society. Rather than focusing exclusively on how schools reproduce the dominant social order through forms of social and cultural reproduction or how students contest the dominant logic through various forms of resistance, radical educators have attempted more recently to analyze the terrain of schooling as a struggle over particular ways of life. In this view the process of being schooled cannot be fully conceptualized within the limiting parameters of the reproduction/resistance model. Instead, being schooled is analyzed as part of a complex and often contradictory set of ideological and material processes through which the transformation of experience takes place. In short, schooling is understood as part of the production and legitimation of social forms and subjectivities as they are organized within relations of power and meaning that either enable or limit human capacities for self- and social empowerment (Livingstone et al., 1987; Weiler, 1988). While the theoretical service that this position has provided cannot be overstated, radical educational theorists have none the less almost completely ignored the importance of popular culture both for developing more understanding of student experience and for posing the problem of critical pedagogy in a critical and theoretically expanded fashion. The irony of this position is that, while radical educators have argued for the importance of student experience as a central component for developing a critical pedagogy, they have generally failed to consider how such experience is shaped by the terrain of popular culture. Similarly, they have been reluctant to raise the question why popular culture has not been a serious object of study either in the school curriculum or in the curriculum reforms put forth by critically minded liberal educators. These lacunae can be partly explained by the fact that radical educators often legitimate in their work a theory of pedagogy in which the ideological correctness of one’s political position appears to be the primary determining factor in assessing the production of knowledge and exchange that occurs between teachers and students. Guided by a concern with producing knowledge that is ideologically correct, radical theorists have revealed little or no understanding of how a teacher can be both politically correct and pedagogically wrong. Nor can there be found any concerted attempts to analyze how relations of pedagogy and relations of power are inextricably tied not only to what people know but to how they come to know in a particular way within the constraints of specific social forms.1
We want to argue here that the lack of an adequate conception of critical pedagogical practice is in part responsible for the absence of an adequate politics of popular culture. Within critical educational theories the issue of pedagogy is often treated in one of two ways: as a method whose status is defined by its functional relation to particular forms of knowledge; or as a process of ideological deconstruction of a text. In the first approach, close attention is given to the knowledge chosen for use in a particular class. Often the ways in which students actually engage such knowledge is taken for granted. It is assumed that, if one has access to an ideologically correct comprehension of that which is to be understood, the only serious question that needs to be raised about pedagogy is one of procedural technique; that is, should one use a seminar, lecture, or some other teaching style?2 In the second approach, pedagogy is reduced to a concern with an analysis of the political interests which structure particular forms of knowledge, ways of knowing, and methods of teaching. For example, specific styles of teaching might be analyzed according to whether or not they embody sexist, racist, and class-specific interests, serve to silence students, or promote practices which deskill and disempower teachers.3 In both approaches, what is often ignored is the notion of a pedagogy as a form of cultural production and exchange that addresses how knowledge is produced, mediated, refused, and re-presented within relations of power both in and outside of schooling. In our view the issue of critical pedagogy demands an attentiveness to how students actively construct the categories of meaning that prefigure how they produce and respond to classroom knowledge. By ignoring the cultural and social forms that are authorized by youth and that simultaneously serve to empower or disempower them, educators run the risk of complicitly silencing and negating their students. This is unwittingly accomplished by refusing to recognize the importance of those sites and social practices outside of schools that actively shape student experiences and through which students often define and construct their sense of identity, politics, and culture. The issue at stake is not one of relevance but one of empowerment. We are not concerned with simply motivating students to learn, but rather establishing the conditions of learning that enable them to locate themselves in history and to interrogate the adequacy of that location as both a pedagogical and a political question (Walkerdine, 1985; Simon, 1987; Giroux, 1988). Educators who refuse to acknowledge popular culture as a significant basis of knowledge often devalue students by refusing to work with the knowledge that students actually have, and in doing so eliminate the possibility of developing a pedagogy that links school knowledge to the differing subject relations that help to constitute their everyday lives. A more critical pedagogy demands that pedagogical relations be seen as relations of power structured primarily through dominant but always negotiated and contested forms of consent. We wish to stress that the basis for a critical pedagogy cannot be developed merely around the inclusion of particular forms of knowledge that have been suppressed or ignored by the dominant culture; nor can it focus only on providing students with more empowering interpretations of the social and material world. Such a pedagogy must be attentive to ways in which students make both affective affective and semantic investments as part of their attempts to regulate and give meaning to their lives (Grossberg, 1986; Mercer, 1986; Jameson, 1983). This is an important insight that makes problematic and provides a corrective to the traditional methods whereby radical educators have explained how dominant meanings and values work as part of a wider
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
ideology to position, address, and limit the ways in which students view themselves and their relationships to the larger society. The value of including popular culture in the development of a critical pedagogy is that it provides the opportunity to further our understanding of how students make investments in particular social forms and practices. In other words, the study of popular culture offers the possibility of understanding how a politics of pleasure serves to address students in a way that shapes and sometimes secures the often contradictory relations they have to both schooling and the politics of everyday life. If one of the central concerns of a critical pedagogy is understanding how student identities, cultures, and experiences provide the basis for learning, we need to grasp the totality of elements that organize such subjectivities. In this paper we shall particularly emphasize that, while the production of meaning provides one important element in the production of subjectivity, it is not enough. The production of meaning is also tied to emotional investments and the production of pleasure. In our view, the production of meaning and the production of pleasure are mutually constitutive of who students are, the view they have of themselves, and how they construct a particular version of their future. In what follows, we want to argue that critical educators need to re-theorize the importance of popular culture as a central category for understanding and developing a theory and practice of critical pedagogy. In developing this position we first want to examine some conservative and radical views of popular culture and then analyze the pedagogical practices implicit in these positions. Second, we shall attempt to develop the basic elements that constitute a theory of popular culture, one that would support a critical pedagogical practice. Third, we shall analyze a particular Hollywood film as a popular form, treating the film as an exemplary text in order to demonstrate how the formation of identities takes place through attachments and investments which are as much a question of affect and pleasure as they are of ideology and rationality. Finally, we shall discuss the implications of this analysis for the practice of a critical pedagogy. Radical and conservative approaches to popular culture Historically, the concept of popular culture has not fared well as part of the discourse either of the left or of the right (Brantlinger, 1983). For the left, two positions have held center stage in different instances of Marxist theory. In the first, popular culture lacks the possibility for creative, productive, or authentic forms of expression. In this view, popular culture simply represents a view of ideology and cultural forms imposed by the culture industry on the masses in order to integrate them into the existing social order. Within this discourse, popular culture becomes commodified and produces people in the image of its own logic, a logic characterized by standardization, uniformity, and passivity. The structuring principle at work in this view of popular culture is one of total dominance and utter resignation. People become synonymous with cultural dupes incapable of mediating, resisting, or rejecting the imperatives of the dominant culture. The paradigmatic example of this position comes from Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1944/1972). Within this discourse, popular culture was equated with mass culture. This was seen as a form of psychoanalysis in reverse; that is, instead of curing socially induced neuroses, mass culture produced them. Similarly, popular forms such as television, radio, jazz, or syndicated astrology columns
were viewed as nothing more than a form of ideological shorthand for those social relations that reproduced the social system as a whole. For Adorno (1967/1981), in particular, popular culture was simply a form of mass culture whose effects had no redeeming political possibilities. The people or ‘masses’ in this view lacked any culture through which they could offer either resistance or an alternative vision of the world. Horkheimer and Adorno’s (1944/1972) views represent one of the central paradoxical theses of the Frankfurt School theorists. According to them, reason not only is in eclipse in the modern age, but is also the source of crisis and decline. Progress has come to mean the reification, rationalization, and standardization of thought itself, and the culture industry plays a key role in transforming culture and reason into their opposite. Within this perspective, the distinction between high culture and mass/popular culture is preserved. In this case, ‘high culture’ becomes a transcendent sphere, one of the few arenas left in which autonomy, creativity, and opposition can be thought and practiced. While arguing that mass culture is an expression of the slide into barbarism, Frankfurt theorists such as Adorno and Horkheimer fall back upon an unfortunate legitimation of high culture in which particular versions of art, music, literature, and the philosophic tradition become a utopian refuge for resisting the new barbarism.4 The second view of popular culture that is given predominance in Marxist theory is developed mostly in the work of historians and sociologists who focus on various aspects of ‘people’s history’ or the practices of subcultural groups. In this view, popular culture becomes a version of folk culture and its contemporary variant. That is, as an object of historical analysis, working-class culture is excavated as an unsullied expression of popular resistance. Within this form of analysis the political and the pedagogical emerge as an attempt to reconstruct a ‘radical and…popular tradition in order that “the people” might learn from and take heart from the struggles of their forebears’ (Bennett, 1986b: 15), or it appears as an attempt to construct ‘the people’ as the supporters of a ‘“great culture” so that they might eventually be led to appropriate that culture as their own’ (Bennett, 1986b:15). A similar and more contemporary version of this discourse opposes the high or dominant culture to the alternative culture of the working class or various subcultural groups. This is the culture of authenticity, one which is allegedly unsullied by the logic and practices of the culture industry or the impositions of a dominant way of life. At work here is a romanticized view of popular experience that somehow manages to escape from the relations and contradictions at work in the larger society. This view falls prey to an essentialist reading of popular culture. It deeply underestimates the most central feature of cultural power in the twentieth century. In failing to acknowledge popular culture as one sphere in a complex field of domination and subordination, this view ignores the necessity of providing an understanding of how power produces different levels of cultural relations, experience, and values that articulate the multilayered ideologies and social practices of any society (Jameson, 1979; Hall, 1981; Fiske, 1986). Both of these traditions on the left have played a powerful role in the definition of popular culture within a theoretical framework that helps to explain why the people have not risen up against the inequities and injustices of capitalism. Ironically, the right has not ignored the underlying logic of such a position, and, in fact, has appropriated it for its own ideological interests. For example, as Patrick Brantlinger points out, the category of popular culture has been ‘just as useful for helping to explain and condemn the failures of
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
egalitarian schools and mass cultural institutions such as television and the press to educate “the masses” to political responsibility’ (Brantlinger, 1983:23). Conservative critics such as Arnold Toynbee, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Ezra Pound, and T.S.Eliot have viewed popular culture as a threat to the very existence of civilization as well as an expression of the vulgarity and decadence of the masses. In the conservative attack on mass and popular culture, the category of true culture is treated as a warehouse filled with the goods of antiquity, waiting patiently to be distributed anew to each generation. Knowledge in this perspective becomes sacred, revered, and removed from the demands of social critique and ideological interests (Aronowitz and Giroux, 1988; Scholes, 1986). The pedagogical principles at work here are similar to those at work in the left’s celebration of high culture. In both cases, the rhetoric of cultural restoration and crisis legitimates a transmission pedagogy consis-tent with a view of culture as an artifact and students as merely bearers of received knowledge. Though starting from different political positions, both left and right advocates of high culture often argue that the culture of the people has to be replaced with forms of knowledge and values that are at the heart of ruling culture.5 In these perspectives, the modalities of revolutionary struggle and conservative preservation seem to converge around a view of popular culture as a form of barbarism, a notion of ‘the people’ as passive dupes, and an appeal to a view of enlightenment which reduces cultural production and meaning to the confines of high culture. Questions regarding the multidimensional nature of the struggles, contradictions, and reformations that inscribe in different ways the historically specific surface of popular cultural forms are completely overlooked in both the dominant radical and conservative positions developed above. Dominant left views of popular culture have not provided an adequate discourse for developing a theory of cultural analysis that begins with the issue of how power enters into the struggles over the domains of commonsense and everyday life. Nor do such accounts provide sufficient insight into how the issues of consent, resistance, and the production of subjectivity are formed by pedagogical processes whose structuring principles are deeply political. Of course, in the exaggerations that characterize popular culture as either a culture imposed from above or a culture generated spontaneously from below, there are hints of the political reality of cultural power both as a force for domination and as a condition for collective affirmation and struggle. The point is not to separate these different elements of cultural power from each other as binary oppositions but to capture the complexity of cultural relations as they manifest themselves in practices that both enable and disable people within sites and social forms that give meaning to the relations of popular culture.6 Hegemony as a pedagogical process The work of Antonio Gramsci (1971, 1985) represents an important starting-point for redefining the meaning of popular culture and for advancing its pedagogical and political importance as a site of struggle and domination. Gramsci did not directly address himself to modern manifestations of popular culture such as cinema and radio, nor did he write anything of profound worth on the symbolic forms of popular culture that existed in the urban centres of Europe in the early part of the twentieth century; but he did formulate an original theory of culture, power, and hegemony which provides a theoretical basis for
moving beyond the impasse of viewing popular culture within the bipolar alternatives of a celebratory popularism or a debilitating cultural stupor.7 By substituting hegemonic struggle for the concept of domination, Gramsci points to the complex ways in which consent is organized as part of an active pedagogical process within everyday life. In Gramsci’s view such a pedagogical process must work and rework the cultural and ideological terrain of subordinate groups in order to legitimate the interests and authority of the ruling bloc. Gramsci’s hegemony needs to be articulated as both a political and a pedagogical process. Moral leadership and state power are tied to a process of consent as a form of practical learning, which is secured through the elaboration of particular discourses, needs, appeals, values, and interests that must address and transform the concerns of subordinate groups. In this perspective, hegemony is a continuing, shifting, and problematic historical process. Consent is structured through a series of relations marked by an ongoing political struggle over competing conceptions and views of the world between dominant and subordinate groups. What is worth noting here is that this is not a political struggle framed within the polarities of an imposing dominant culture and weak or ‘authentic’ subordinate cultures. On the contrary, by claiming that every relation of hegemony is necessarily an educational relationship, Gramsci (1971) makes clear that a ruling bloc can engage in a political and pedagogical struggle for the consent of subordinate groups only if it is willing to take seriously and articulate some of the values and interests of these groups. Inherent in this attempt to transform rather than displace the ideological and cultural terrain of subordinate groups, dominant ideology itself is comprised and exists in a far from pure, uncontaminated state. Needless to say, the culture of subordinate groups never confronts the dominant culture in either a completely supine or a totally resistant fashion. In the struggle to open their own spaces for resistance and affirmation, subordinate cultures have to negotiate and compromise around both those elements they give over to the dominant culture and those they maintain as representative of their own interests and desires (Bennett, 1986a). From this view of struggle within the hegemonic process, it is clear that the relationship between popular culture and the processes of consent requires the rejection of any concept of popular culture articulated in essentialist terms. That is, the concept of popular culture cannot be defined around a set of ideological meanings permanently inscribed in particular cultural forms. On the contrary, because of their location within and as part of the dynamics of consent, the meaning of cultural forms can be ascertained only through their articulation into a practice and set of historically specific contextual relations which determine their political meaning and ideological interests. Break dancing, punk dress codes, or heavy metal music may be sufficiently oppositional and congruent within one social and historical context to be considered a legitimate radical expression of popular culture and yet in another social field may be mediated through the consumer ideology and investments of mass culture. What is important to recognize here is that the key structuring principle of popular culture does not consist in the contents of particular cultural forms. Stuart Hall illuminates this issue well: The meaning of a cultural form and its place or position in the cultural field is not inscribed inside its form. Nor is its position fixed once and
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
forever. This year’s radical symbol or slogan will be neutralised into next year’s fashion; the year after, it will be the object of a profound cultural nostalgia. Today’s rebel folksinger ends up, tomorrow, on the cover of The Observer colour magazine. The meaning of the cultural symbol is given in part by the social field into which it is incorporated, the practices with which it articulates and is made to resonate. What matters is not the intrinsic or historically fixed objects of culture, but the state of play in cultural relations. (Hall, 1981:235) We want to extend this insight further and argue that popular cultural forms not only are read in complex ways but also mobilize multiple forms of investment. In other words, the popular has a dual form of address: it not only serves as a semantic and ideological referent for marking one’s place in history; it also brings about an experience of pleasure, affect, and corporeality. This is not to suggest that these forms of address posit a distinction in which pleasure takes place outside of history or forms of representation. What is being posited is that the popular as both a set of practices and a discursive field has a variety of effects which may be mediated through a combination of corporeal and ideological meanings or through the primacy of one of these determinants. For instance, while popular cultural forms are productive around historically constructed sets of meanings and practices, their effects may be primarily affective. That is, how these forms are mediated and taken up, how they work to construct a particular form of investment, may depend less on the production of meanings than on the affective relations which they construct with their audiences (Grossberg, forthcoming). For example, pleasure as a terrain of commodification and struggle never exists completely free from the technology of gendered representations (De Lauretis, 1987), but its power as a form of investment cannot be reduced to its signifying effects (Grossberg, forthcoming). This means that practices associated with a particular cultural form such as punk can never be dismissed as being merely ideologically incorrect or as simply a reflex of commodity logic. The importance of both the semantic and the affective in structuring the investments in popular cultural forms provides new theoretical categories for linking the terrain of the everyday with the pedagogical processes at work in the notion of consent. In summary, we are arguing that there is no popular culture outside of the interlocking processes of meaning, power, and desire which characterize the force of cultural relations at work at a given time and place in history. What this suggests more specifically is that its content cannot be understood as prespecified content; instead, the content of popular culture is produced as the ideological and institutional structuring relations of a given society function to sustain the differences between what constitutes the dominant culture and what does not. In North America today, underlying this struggle to maintain both a difference and an accommodation of dominant and subordinate cultures is a set of institutions, ideologies, and social practices that constitute those features that mark a generic distinction between the realms of popular and dominant culture. In the context of this distinction, popular culture is, in a sense, an empty cultural form. That is, its form or representation does not guarantee an unproblematic, transcendent meaning. At the same time, popular culture can be understood as a social practice constituted at a particular site and by a set of features which point to a distinctive field of
political action. The general distinctiveness of popular culture as a sphere of social relations can be made clearer by further elaborating its basic theoretical features. To begin with, the concept of hegemony clarifies how cultural power is able to penetrate into the terrain of daily life, transforming it into a struggle over and accommodation to the culture of subordinate groups. Second, it is important to acknowledge that the cultural terrain of everyday life is not only a site of struggle and accommodation, but one in which the production of subjectivity can be viewed as a pedagogical process whose structuring principles are deeply political. Third, the notion of consent which lies at the heart of the process of hegemony underscores the importance of specifying the limits and possibilities of the pedagogical principles at work within cultural forms that serve in contradictory ways to empower and disempower various groups (Mercer, 1986). In what follows, we want to extend these insights by pointing to those features and activities that illuminate more specifically what constitutes popular culture as both a site and a field of pedagogical work. Culture as a site of struggle and power relations We enter the process of theorizing the relation between popular culture and critical pedagogy by arguing for educational practice as both a site and a form of cultural politics. In this regard, our project is the construction of an educational practice that expands human capacities in order to enable people to intervene in the formation of their own subjectivities and to enable them to exercise power in the interest of transforming the ideological and material conditions of domination into social practices which promote social empowerment and demonstrate possibilities. Within this position we are emphasizing popular culture as a site of differentiated politics; a site with multiple ideological and affective weightings. It represents a particular historical place where different groups collide in transactions of dominance, complicity, and resistance over the power to name, legitimate, and experience different versions of history, community, desire, and pleasure through the availability of social forms structured by the politics of difference. Some of the theoretical and political implications at work in this view of popular culture are captured in Larry Grossberg’s discussion of a theory of articulation: people are never totally manipulated, never entirely incorporated. People are engaged in struggles with, within, and sometimes against, real tendential forces and determinations, in their efforts to appropriate what they are given. Consequently, their relations to particular practices and texts are complex and contradictory: they may win something in the struggle against sexism and lose something in the struggle against economic exploitation; they may both gain and lose something economically; and while they lose ideological ground, they may win a bit of emotional strength. If people’s lives are never merely determined by the dominant position, and their subordination is always complex and active, then understanding [popular] culture requires us to look at how they are actively inserted at particular sites of everyday life and at how particular articulations empower and disempower its audience. (Grossberg, forthcoming: 4–5)
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
The key theoretical concepts for further specifying popular culture as a particular site of struggle and accommodation can be initially organized around the category of what we label ‘the productive’.8 In the more general sense, we use the term ‘productive’ to refer to the construction and organization of practices engaged in by dominant and subordinate groups to secure a space for producing and legitimating experiences and social forms constitutive of different ways of life forged in asymmetrical relations of power. The term ‘productive’ points to two distinctly different sets of relations within the sphere of the popular. The first set of relations refers to the ways in which the dominant culture functions as a structuring force within and through popular forms. In this case, the dominant culture attempts to secure both semantically and affectively, through the production of meaning and the regulation of pleasure, the complicity of subordinate groups. Rather than merely dismiss and ignore the traditions, ideologies, and needs that emerge out of the cultures of subordinate groups, the dominant culture attempts to appropriate and transform the ideological and cultural processes that characterize the terrain of the popular. At issue here are processes of selective production, controlled distribution, and regulated notions of narrative and consumer address. In the second set of relations, the notion of productive refers to the ways in which subordinate groups articulate a distinct set of contents and/or a level of involvement in popular forms that is less distancing and more social in nature than that found in the cultural forms of bourgeois dominant groups. This articulation and set of relations is characterized by a refusal to engage in social practices defined by an abstract rationality, a theoretical mapping, so to speak, that structures cultural forms through a denial of the familiar affective investments and pleasures. For the dominant class, such refusal is often understood as a surrender to the moment, the fun of the event, or the ‘horror of the vulgar’. A more critical reading might suggest that the affective investment and level of active involvement in popular forms such as neighborhood sports, punk dancing, or working-class weddings represent an important theoretical signpost. In this case, it is a particular form of sociality that signals something more than vulgarity, cooption, or what Ernst Bloch (1959/1986) calls the swindle of fulfillment. Instead, the sociality that structures popular forms may contain the unrealized potentialities and possibilities necessary for more democratic and humane forms of community and collective formation. This can be made clearer by analyzing the structuring principles that often characterize dominant cultural forms. Pierre Bourdieu (1979/1984) argues that the cultural forms of dominant bourgeois groups can be characterized by the celebration of a formalism, an elective distance from the real world, with all of its passions, emotions, and feelings. The social relations and attendant sensibility at work in bourgeois cultural forms are those which often maintain an investment of form—a celebration of stylized detachment. On the other hand, there is often a space in cultural forms embraced by subordinate groups that is organized around a sensibility in which the needs, emotions, and passions of the participants resonate with the material and ideological structures of everyday life. Underlying these social relations, one often finds a richly textured collective investment of play and affective engagement in which there is no great disjunction/interruption between the act and its meaning. In other words, there is an active, communal set of experiences and social practices at work in subordinate cultural forms, including a form of public participation in which the
dominant practice of distancing the body from reflection is refused. This is the productive moment of corporeality. Mercer illuminates this point in his discussion of Bourdieu’s concept of ‘popular forms’. ‘Nothing’, argues Pierre Bourdieu, ‘more radically distinguishes popular spectacles—the football match, Punch and Judy, the circus, wrestling or even in some cases the cinema—from bourgeois spectacles, than the form of participation of the public.’ For the former, whistles, shouts, pitch invasions are characteristic, for the latter the gestures are distant, heavily ritualised—applause, obligatory but discontinuous and punctual cries of enthusiasm—‘author, author’ or ‘encore’. Even the clicking of fingers and tapping of feet in a jazz audience are only a ‘bourgeois spectacle which mimes a popular one’ since the participation is reduced to ‘the silent allure of the gesture’. A certain distance, Bourdieu argues, has been central in the bourgeois economy of the body: a distance between ‘reflexion’ and corporeal participation. (Mercer, 1986:59) Since corporeality may be inscribed in either repressive or emancipatory actions, any uncritical celebration of the body is theoretically and politically misplaced. At the same time, it is important to recognize that what is needed is a discourse of the body that recognizes a sensibility and set of social practices that both define and exhibit a possibility for extending unrealized and progressive moments in the production of corporeality. For example, punk culture’s lived appropriation of the everyday as a refusal to let the dominant culture encode and restrict the meaning of daily life suggests the first instance of a form of resistance that links play with the reconstruction of meaning. This particular popular form, filled as it is with abortive hopes, signifies a ‘tradition of the scorned’. That is, punk culture (or for that matter any lived relation of difference that doesn’t result in dominance or infantilization) ruptures the dominant order symbolically and refuses to narrate with permission. It is scorned by the bourgeoisie because it challenges the dominant order’s attempt to suppress all differences through a discourse that asserts the homogeneity of the social domain (Lefort, 1986). However, it is also scorned because it presents the possibility of a social imaginary in which a politics of democratic difference offers up forms of resistance in which it becomes possible to rewrite, rework, re-create, and re-establish new discourses and cultural spaces that revitalize rather than degrade public life. Whether conscious or not, punk culture expresses social practices which contain the basis for interrogating and struggling to overthrow all those forms of human behavior in which difference becomes the basis for subjecting human beings to forms of degradation, enslavement, and exploitation. Of course, there is more at work in punk culture than the affirmation of difference; there is also the difference of affirmation—that is, affirmation becomes the precondition for claiming one’s experience as a legitimate basis for developing one’s own voice, place, and sense of history. It is this dialectic of affirmation, pleasure, and difference that constitutes some of the basic elements of the notion of the productive. Pierre Bourdieu is helpful here, for he defines the productive as that dialectical mixture of pleasure, consent, and unselfconscious involvement that maps out a significant aspect of the popular within everyday life. As Bourdieu points out:
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
The desire to enter into the game, identifying with the characters’ joys and sufferings, worrying about their fate, espousing their hopes and ideals, living their life, is based on a form of investment, a sort of deliberate ‘naïvety’, ingenuousness, good-natured credulity (‘we’re here to enjoy ourselves’) which tends to accept formal experiments and specifically artistic effects only to the extent that they can be forgotten and do not get in the way of the substance [dignity and affirmation of daily life]. (Bourdieu, 1979/1984:33) As we have stressed, it would be a political mistake to place too much faith faith in the level of participation and the nature of spontaneity that characterize many cultural forms of subordinated groups. Many of these forms are not politically innocent. As an arena and site of exchange between the dominant and subordinate classes, popular culture embodies a violence inherent in both sides of the processes of hegemony as well as the unrealized potentiality of those needs and desires which reflect a respect for human dignity and a commitment to extend their most ethical and empowering capabilities. We stress here that innocence is not an intrinsic feature of the popular. There is a violence inextricably inscribed in popular forms that must also be addressed as part of the multilayered and contradictory investments and meanings that constitute its changing character. Popular culture and consent: the dialectic of ideology and pleasure If the popular is to be understood in terms of the unrealized potentialities that inform it, critical educators need to analyze how the production of subjectivity and cultural alliances can emerge within the grammar and codes that make the terrain of the popular significant in people’s everyday lives. Popular culture as a site of struggle and possibility needs to be understood not only in terms of its productive elements, but also in terms of how its cultural forms articulate processes through which the production, organization, and regulation of consent takes place around various social practices and struggles at the level of everyday life. These processes can be elaborated through the category we call ‘the persuasive’. In the most general sense, the term refers to the ways in which hegemony functions on the terrain of popular culture through a variety of pedagogical processes that work not only to secure dominant interests but to offer as well the possibility of a politics of resistance and social transformation (Mercer, 1986). The notion of the persuasive illuminates the insight that political power never works without the interplay of ideological and affective investments. For example, instances of domination and hegemony raise questions as to how domination is produced and organized within processes of motivation and legitimation. By introducing the element of persuasion—that is, how ideological mediation actually functions as a pedagogical process—domination along with resistance can be connected to a broader notion of cultural politics in which the very act of learning can be analyzed as a fundamental aspect of hegemony. More specifically, the category of the persuasive in popular culture is important because it provides a starting-point for understanding how the complex relations of dominance and resistance are organized and structured through particular pedagogical forms and practices. Theorizing popular culture in this way helps to lay bare
the practical grounds on which transformations are worked and represented through the important and related categories of consent, investment, ideology, and pleasure. Consent is an important feature of the practice of persuasion. As the term is generally defined in radical theories of hegemony, it refers to two somewhat different perspectives on how people come to be engaged within the ideologies and social relations of the dominant culture. In the more orthodox version, consent often refers to the ways in which the dominant logic is imposed on subordinate groups through the mechanizations of the culture industry. In the revisionist radical version, consent is defined through more active forms of complicity, in that subordinate groups are now viewed as partly negotiating their adaptation and place within the dominant culture. In both cases, whether as imposition or negotiated complicity, consent defines the relationship between power and culture as nothing more than the equivalance of domination. We want to modify these notions of consent so as to illuminate its dialectical importance as a political and pedagogical process. In our view the notion of consent rightly points to the ways in which people are located within and negotiate elements of place and agency as a result of their investments in particular relations of meaning constructed through popular forms. At work in this notion of consent is the central question of what it is that people know, how they come to know, and how they come to feel in a particular way that secures for the hegemonic or counter-hegemonic order their loyalties and desires. This perspective is important as a political and social practice and as a framework of inquiry because it raises important questions about how the modern apparatuses of moral and social regulation, as well as resistance and counter-discourse, define what kind of knowledge counts, how it is to be taught, how subjectivities are defined, and how the very dynamic of moral and political regulation is constantly worked and reworked. The political implications of these insights for a politics of popular culture are significant and need further theoretical elaboration. That consent is learned begs the question of what kinds of pedagogical processes are at work through which people actively rather than passively identify their own needs and desires with particular forms and relations of meaning. Unfortunately, the pedagogical issue of how people come to learn such identities and pleasures through particular forms of identification and cathexis has not been the central focus of study in most radical analysis of culture. Instead, radical analyses have often focused either on deconstructing the ideologies at work in particular cultural forms or on how readers organize texts according to their own meanings and experiences. In both cases, the issue of pedagogy has been subordinated to and subsumed within a rather limited notion of ideology production. In this approach, the concern over ideology is limited to a particular view of consent in which the study of popular culture is reduced to analyses of texts or to popular culture as merely forms of consumption.9 Ideology as a pedagogical process in this case is restricted to how meanings are produced by texts and mediated by audiences or to analyses that attempt to uncover how the market organizes needs in order to commodify popular culture. What is particularly missing from these perspectives are questions about how cultural forms are engaged in order to mobilize desire. For example, through what process do cultural forms induce an anger or pleasure that has its own center of gravity as a form of meaning? How can we come to understand learning outside of the limits of reason as rationality, as a form of engagement that mobilizes and sometimes reconstructs desire?
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
These questions suggest that pedagogy is not so neatly ensconsed in the production of discourse. Rather, it also constitutes a moment in which the body learns, moves, desires, and longs for affirmation. These questions also suggest a rejection of the pedagogy of modernism, one which serves up ‘ideal’ forms of communication theory in which the tyranny of discourse becomes the ultimate pedagogical medium (Habermas, 1973), that is, talk embodied as a logic disembodied from the body itself. In opposition to the latter position, we need to re-emphasize that the issue of consent opens up pedagogy to the uncertain, that space which refuses the measurable, that legitimates the concrete in a way that is felt and experienced rather than merely spoken. In this argument, we are not trying to privilege the body or a politics of affective investments over discourse as much as we are trying to emphasize their absence in previous theorizing as well as their importance for a critical pedagogy. It is worth stressing that the relationship we are posing between affective and discursive investments is neither ahistorical nor ideologically innocent. Nor are we suggesting that ideology and affect as particular forms of investment can best be understood by positing a rigid conceptual opposition between meaning and desire. The cultural forms that mobilize desire and affect as well as the struggles that take place over re/producing and investing desire, pleasure, and corporeality are constructed within power relations which are always ideological in nature but which produce an experience or form of investment that cannot be understood merely as an ideological construction— an experience re/presented and enjoyed through the lens of meaning. Put another way, interpellations in the Althusserian sense are not merely ideological. They are also a summons to particular forms of pleasure, which are always historically situated but not discursively privileged. In what follows, we shall argue that, by retheorizing the notion of ideology through a reconstructed theory of pleasure, educators can begin to develop a pedagogy that offers a more critical possibility for addressing the purpose and meaning of popular culture as a terrain of struggle and hope. We are arguing that the relationship between power and complicity is not framed simply around the organization of knowledge and reason. The power of complicity and the complicity of power are not exhausted simply by registering how people are positioned and located through the production of particular ideologies structured through particular discourses. The relationships that subordinate groups enter into with respect to cultural forms cannot be understood and exhausted simply through what often amounts to a search-and-destroy mission based on uncovering the particular meanings and messages that mediate between a particular film, popular song, or text and its audience. The limits of ideology as a mode of reasoning, as the knowledge-specific interests which structure behavior and move us within particular social forms, are neither understood nor made problematic in this position. This position represents a basic misrecognition of the central and important role that pleasure (or its absence) plays in structuring one’s relations to and investments in a particular cultural form. Colin Mercer emphasizes the point we are trying to make: Barthes has it that ‘ideology passes over the text and its reading like the blush over a face (in love, some take erotic pleasure in this colouring)’ and this signals something of the contemporary concern for the contradictory play of ideology. There is a general unease that, within the
plethora of ideology analysis which has emerged in recent years, something has quite crucially been missed out: that it may now be important to look over our shoulders and try to explain a certain ‘guilt’ of enjoyment of such and such in spite of its known ideological and political provenance…. Any analysis of the pleasure, the modes of persuasion, the consent operative with a given cultural form would have to displace the search for an ideological, political, economic or, indeed, subjective meaning and establish the coordinates of that ‘formidable underside’ (i.e. pleasure, joy)…because what we are really concerned with here is a restructuring of the theoretical horizon within which a cultural form is perceived. (Mercer, 1986:54–5) Drawing upon the work of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and others, Colin Mercer (1983, 1986) has called attention to an issue that is central to a politics of popular culture. That is, he has focused on the ways in which consent is articulated not only through the structuring of semantically organized meanings and messages, but also through the pleasures invoked in the mechanisms and structuring principles of popular forms. The theoretical insight at work in this position is in part revealed through the question why ‘we not only consent to forms of domination which we know, rationally and politically, are “wrong”, but even enjoy them’ (Mercer, 1983:84). The importance of this issue is made somewhat clear in the limits of an ideological analysis that might reveal the sexist nature of the lyrics in a popular song or video. Such a critique is important, but it does not tell us or even seem capable of raising the question why people enjoy the song or video even though they might recognize the sexist ideologies that the latter embody. At stake here is the recognition that an overreliance on ideology critique has limited our ability to understand how people actively participate in the dominant culture through processes of accommodation, negotiation, and even resistance. In short, the investments that tie students to popular cultural forms cannot be ascertained simply through an analysis of the meanings and representations that we decode in them. On the contrary, affective investments have a real cultural hold, and such investments may be indifferent indifferent to the very notion of meaning itself as constructed through the lens of the ideological. This suggests a number of important political and pedagogical principles. First, in hegemonic and counter-hegemonic struggles, the production and regulation of desire are as important as the construction of meaning. This means that the constitution and the expression of such desire are an important starting-point for understanding the relations that students construct to popular and dominant forms. Second, the idea and experience of pleasure must be constituted politically so that we can analyze how the body becomes not only the object of (hispatriarchal) pleasure but also the subject of pleasure (Rose, 1986). In this case ‘pleasure becomes the consent of life in the body’ (Jameson, 1983:10), and provides an important corporeal condition of life-affirming possibility. This argues for a discriminatory notion of pleasure which not only is desirable in and of itself but which also suggests ‘at one and the same time…a figure for utopia in general, and for the systemic revolutionary transformation of society as a whole’ (Jameson, 1983:13). Third, we must recognize how popular culture can constitute a field of possibilities within which students can be
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
empowered so as to appropriate cultural forms on terms that dignify and extend their human possibilities. We realize that this raises enormously difficult questions about how, as teachers, we come to analyze a politics of feeling within sites that are at odds with the very notion of the popular. To make the popular the object of study within schools is to run the risk not only of reconstituting the meaning and pleasures of cultural forms but also of forcing students into a discourse and form of analysis that are at odds with their notion of what is considered pedagogically acceptable and properly distant from their everyday lives outside the school. At the same time, the popular cannot be ignored, because it points to a category of meanings and affective investments that shape the very identities, politics, and cultures of the students we deal with. Subjectivity and identity are in part constituted on the ground of the popular, and their force and effects do not disappear once students enter school. The political issue at stake here and its pedagogical relevance are suggested by Larry Grossberg: It is only if we begin to recognize the complex relations between affect affect and ideology that we can make sense of people’s emotional life, their desiring life, their struggles to find the energy to survive, let alone struggle. It is only in the terms of these relations that we can understand people’s need and ability to maintain a ‘faith’ in something beyond their immediate existence. (Grossberg, forthcoming: 17) In the section that follows, we shall consider a particular Hollywood film as a demonstrative text in order to illuminate how the formation of multiple identities takes place through attachments and investments which are structured as much by affect and pleasure as they are by ideology and rationality. The importance of this cultural text is in part due to the opportunity it offers for further elaborating the elements of a critical pedagogical practice and our affirmation of the centrality of the body in the process of knowing and learning. Investment and pleasure in Dirty Dancing We have argued throughout this article that popular forms both shape and are mediated through the investments of rationality and affect. In order to make this observation more concrete and to demonstrate how it can enable the analysis of popular forms and their use as part of a critical pedagogical process, we want to take up a specific consideration of the film, Dirty Dancing, written by Eleanor Bergstein and released into the North American market during the summer of 1987. As we have stressed earlier in this paper, the concept of popular culture cannot be defined around a set of ideological meanings permanently inscribed in particular cultural forms. Rather, the meaning of cultural forms can only be ascertained through their articulation into a practice and set of historically specific contextual relations which determine their pleasures, politics, and meanings. This position straightforwardly implies Roland Barthes’s encouragement that ‘whenever it’s the body which writes, and not ideology, there’s a chance the text will join us in our modernity’ (Barthes, 1985:191). Thus our comments on the text of Dirty Dancing are offered not as abstract observations
without an observer but rather as a fully embodied account. The pedagogical significance of this statement should not be minimized. It means that when we engage students through a critical consideration of particular cultural forms (whether they be commodity texts like films or lived social relations like local peace or environmental movements) we must begin with an acknowledgement and exploration of how we—our contradictory and multiple selves (fully historical and social)—are implicated in the meanings and pleasures we ascribe to those forms. The interest here is not so much self-knowledge as it is the understanding and consideration of the possibilities and limitations inherent in lived social differences. The following interpretation of Dirty Dancing has been produced through a recognition of our own investments in this film. This combination of reason and pleasure is organized not only by our shared work as educators interested in elaborating the complexities of a critical pedagogical practice but as well by biographies within which our earliest sense of social contradiction was formed within the juxtaposition of body movements, textures, timbre, and clothing. We have lived our lives within and against the grain of very different different conjunctions of class, gender, and ethnic relations. But what we have shared is the shock, awe, and production of desire in confronting bodies that knew something we did not. For Simon, this experience of difference and desire was organized, in part, through being born the son of a marriage constituted across class divisions. Thus the infrequent visits and family celebrations with working-class relatives and the more frequent moments when adult bodies—father and friends—(in the syntax, semantics, and very volume of speech; in the expansive gestures and use of space) articulated forms of passion and pleasure suppressed by the detachment offered within middle-class rituals of politeness and formalism. For Giroux, the experience of having a different culture inscribe the body in terms that were at odds with his own social positioning occurred when affiliations organized through high-school sport led to hanging out with working-class blacks. Attending weekend parties, dancing to the music of black blues singers such as Etta James, and learning how to dance without moving one’s feet made manifest the fact that the body could speak with a rhythm vastly different from that which structured the Catholic Youth Organization dances organized for white workingclass youth. In both of our situations, our bodies were positioned within different sets of experiences and practices that embodied contradictions that we neither understood nor were able to articulate. Unlike many of the teenage films currently sweeping the American and Canadian markets, Dirty Dancing locates the formation of youth within a material and social set of contradictory and conflicting practices. That is, this film does not treat youth as an isolated social stratum lacking any wider referent than itself. Questions of class and sexism, culture and privilege, come together in a tapestry of social relations that emerge within the unlikely location of an affluent summer resort for the families of the rising class of Jewish businessmen and professionals.10 The year is 1963, and Francis ‘Baby’ Houseman, her sister, mother, and father arrive at Kellerman’s resort for their summer vacation. We sense after a few moments into the film that Baby (who is soon to start a university program in the economics of international development and later plans to join the US Peace Corps) is bored and alienated from the pleasures and pastimes of the nouveau Jewish bourgeoisie which makes up the majority of the patrons at Kellerman’s. But we also quickly learn that
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
Baby’s idealistic political commitments to equality and fairness are just as surely rooted in the rhetorical discourse of liberal democracy historically embraced by her class (embodied particularly by her physician father). Baby is proudly introduced as someone who ‘is going to change the world’ and do it with reason and intelligence. Except for the collegemen hired by Kellerman to work the dining room, the hotel staff consists of young people whose experience and corporality define a location across a solid class and ethnicity barrier that marks the landscape of the resort. Such barriers are familiar to us; collectively we have been on both sides. One evening after escaping the inanities of ‘entertainment night’ at Kellerman’s Baby wanders the grounds and inadvertently discovers what to her is an unknown, astonishing, and mesmerizing corner of the terrain of the popular. What she discovers is the site of ‘dirty dancing’, a form of music and movement whose coded desires and productive pleasures crumble what to her seem like an empty bourgeois body, only to reconstitute it with new meanings and pleasures. What Baby discovers at this working-class party is the overt sensuality of rock and soul. She learns what we have learned in that shock of displacement when one’s ignorant body is called to new forms of participation that promise unfamiliar pleasures. She discovers, in Barthes’s words, that ‘the human body is not an eternal object, written forever in nature…for it is really a body that was constructed by history, by societies, by regimes, by ideologies’ (Barthes, 1982:10). The articulations between Baby’s class position and the class location of the workingclass help are first felt as differences of affective investment in the body. By placing her body within the terrain of working-class pleasures, Baby begins to feel and identify her body itself as a site of struggle, one which suggests a need to reject her family’s view of bodily pleasure and desire for the more pronounced form of sexuality and bodily abandonment offered by the culture of the working-class help. It is through the sociality of ‘dirty dancing’ that Baby first engages her own class-specific cultural capital and attempts to reclaim her body as a site of struggle through a redefined sense of pleasure and identity. For Baby, the body becomes the referent not only for redefining and remaking a sense of her own class and gender identity, but also for investing in a notion of desire and pleasure that reconstitutes her sense of self-formation and empowerment. It is from this position of being amazed and attracted to a particular body knowledge that the film’s narrative begins to unfold. Baby is attracted to both the male and the female personifications of the new cultural terrain, the dance instructor, Johnny Castle, and his partner, Penny. As the story proceeds, Baby is transformed by both a new body knowledge and a new knowledge of her body and its pleasures. Baby seems to embrace the ‘abandon’ of working-class cultural terrain, finding in it perhaps an arena of feeling and emotion that cannot be totally colonized by the expectations of rationality within which her identity has been formed.11 Baby learns that Penny is pregnant and that money is needed to terminate the pregnancy illegally. A ‘doctor’ is available only on the night Penny and Johnny are to perform at a nearby hotel. If they miss the performance, Penny would most likely be fired. Deceiving her family (who place perfect faith in her reason and honesty), Baby obtains the abortion money from her father and agrees to take Penny’s place as Johnny’s partner. As Johnny begins to teach her the dance routine, their relationship develops. Baby’s substitution for Penny as Johnny’s partner is a form of lived fantasy that reconstitutes exactly who and what she is. As McRobbie has written:
Dance evokes fantasy because it sets in motion a dual relationship projecting both internally towards the self and externally towards the ‘other’; which is to say that dance as a leisure activity connects desires for the self with those for somebody else. It articulates adolescence and girlhood with femininity and female sexuality and it does this by and through the body. This is especially important because it is the one pleasurable arena where women have some control and know what is going on in relation to physical sensuality and to their own bodies. Continually bombarded with images and with information about how they should be and how they should feel, dance offers an escape, a positive and vibrant sexual expressiveness. (McRobbie, 1984:144–5) That Baby’s investment in the dance of the Other is being anchored through affect seems clear enough from the often clichéd dialogue. As Johnny emphasizes, ‘it is not enough to know the steps, you have to feel the music’. And as Baby acknowledges as their relationship deepens: ‘I’m afraid of never feeling the rest of my whole life as I do when I’m with you.’ Even in a setting so well defined to privilege the wealthy, the constraints of class and power move across the terrains of pleasure and work so as to lay bare the relationship between wider social constraints and the formation of differentiated class-specific dreams. In Dirty Dancing the desire mobilized by relations of domination runs both ways. Johnny confides to Baby, ‘I dreamt you and I were walking along and we met your father and he put his arm around me just like Robby’ (one of the Kellerman dining-room staff who attends medical school). Baby’s new investments, however, are not independent from the identity position regulated and organized by liberal discourse. Within the complications of the plot (when Johnny is falsely accused of theft) she acts on the belief that she can and should help those in trouble and less fortunate than herself, fully expecting Johnny and his friends to be treated with the same credibility and fairness as anyone else. When they are not, her naïvety is shattered and the film seems about to conclude with an honest appraisal of the relations of class power. Even though he is cleared of the theft charge, Johnny is fired when Baby admits to their relationship. They say goodbye to each other and he drives off. But author Bergstein was evidently unsatisfied by such a limited sense of possibility. Consequently, she closes the film with what can be either dismissed as Hollywood shmaltz or celebrated as a glimpse of utopian hope keyed by the recognition of the importance of investments in the pleasures of sensuality. Johnny returns to find the season-closing talent night in progress. Confronting Baby’s parents, he leads her on to the stage for a final dance performance which evolves into total audience participation. The film thus ends magically erasing all social divisions (including the patriarchical one between Mr and Mrs Houseman) as all the assembled staff and guests rock and roll to the final dissolve into the film’s credits. This concluding scene constitutes dance as a collectivizing process within which individual differences disappear. Rock and roll, like religious singing, seems deftly to bind people together, uniting young and old, performers and audiences, white and black,
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
the rulers and the ruled, in a celebration of the American dream in which the relationship between social power and inequality simply fades away. What, then, does our understanding of Dirty Dancing display regarding the processes of persuasion? Our argument is that Baby’s lived relation to the working-class people she engages is mediated by a dual investment mobilized both by the subject position she takes up within the discourse of liberalism and by the popular cultural forms of workingclass life within which she experiences the pleasures of the body. The point of emphasis here is the importance of popular cultural forms in constituting the identities which influence how we engage new challenges and construct new experiences. In this context we are referring to popular culture as a field within which a form of investment is mobilized which is an elaboration of how any given cultural form (text, song, film, event) is engaged. It is worth noting how important it is to be able to hold analytically separate both semantic and affective aspects of investment, since they can be mutually contradictory. Thus it is not uncommon to experience contrary investments in relation to a specific cultural text; for example, rock music can provide pleasure while being comprehended as sexist and racist. Such internal contradictions are integral to experiences of guilt (Grossberg, 1986). Implications for critical pedagogical practice Everyday moments of teaching…incorporate the minds and bodies of subjects, as knowers and as learners. When we are at our best as teachers we are capable of speaking to each of these ways of knowing in ourselves and our students. We may override precedents in the educational project that value the knowing of the mind and deny the knowing of the heart and of the body. Students, the partners in these enterprises of knowing, are whole people with ideas, with emotions and with sensations…the project must not be confined to a knowing only of the mind; it must address and interrogate what we think we know from the heart and the body. (McDade, forthcoming: 1–2)
While we are in agreement with McDade, it is important to clarify that when we consider the relationship between popular cultures and pedagogy, we have a particular form of teaching and learning in mind. This is a critical pedagogical form that affirms the lived reality of difference as the ground on which to pose questions of theory and practice. It is a form that claims the experience of lived difference as an agenda for discussion and a central resource for a pedagogy of possibility (Simon, 1987). The discussion of lived difference, if pedagogical, will take on a particular tension. It implies a struggle over assigned meaning, a struggle over the direction of desire, a struggle over particular modes of expression, and ultimately a struggle over multiple and even contradictory versions of ‘self’. It is this struggle that makes possible and hence can redefine the possibilities we see both in the conditions of our daily lives and in those conditions which are ‘not yet’. This is a struggle that can never be won, or pedagogy stops (Lewis and Simon, 1986).
What we are stressing is the absolutely crucial dimension of a critical pedagogy in which knowledge is conceived as an integral aspect of teaching-learning. As David Lusted writes: Knowledge is not produced in the intentions of those who believe they hold it, whether in the pen or in the voice. It is produced in the process of interaction, between writer and reader at the moment of reading, and between teacher and learner at the moment of classroom engagement. Knowledge is not the matter that is offered so much as the matter that is understood. To think of fields or bodies of knowledge as if they are the property of academics and teachers is wrong. It denies an equality in the relations at moments of interaction and falsely privileges one side of the exchange, and what that side ‘knows’ over the other. (Lusted, 1986:4–5) This position does not require teachers to suppress or abandon what and how they know. Indeed, the pedagogical struggle is lessened without such resources. However, within this position teachers and students are challenged to find forms within which a single discourse does not become the locus of certainty and certification. Rather, teachers need to find ways of creating a space for mutual engagement of lived difference that does not require the silencing of a multiplicity of voices by a single dominant discourse. Indeed, this is precisely the pedagogical motive in stressing that our account of Dirty Dancing must be seen as an embodied interpretation that provides an invaluable resource from which to engage lived difference as a possibility for critical dialogue and self- and social formation. What might a teacher need to understand in order to pursue such a pedagogy? What might she or he wish to find out? If we take popular culture as that terrain of images, knowledge forms, and affective investments within which meaning and subjectivity function, there are several questions a teacher might think about. What are the historical conditions and material circumstances within which the practices of popular culture are pursued, organized, asserted, and regulated? Do such practices open up new notions of identities and possibilities? What identities and possibilities are disorganized and excluded? How are such practices articulated with forms of knowledge and pleasure legitimated by dominant groups? Which interests and investments are served by a particular set of popular cultural practices and which ones are critiqued and challenged by the existence of such? What are the moral and political commitments of such practices and how are these related to one’s own commitments as a teacher (and, if there is a divergence, what does this imply)? What all this means is that we think the analysis of popular culture is not simply a question of ‘reading’ off ideology from either commodity forms or forms of lived everyday relations. Rather, we are moving toward a position within which one would inquire into the popular as a field of practices that constitute Foucault’s indissoluble triad of knowledge, power, and pleasure (Foucault, 1980a, 1978/1980b). At the same time we want to raise a note of caution. The teacher engaged in a pedagogy which requires some articulation of knowledge and pleasures integral to student everyday life is walking a dangerous road. Too easily, perhaps, encouraging student voice can become a form of voyeurism or satisfy a form of ego-expansionism constituted by the pleasures of
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
understanding those who appear as ‘other’ to us. This is why we must be clear about the nature of the pedagogy we pursue. Popular culture and social difference either can be taken up by educators as a pleasurable form of knowledge/power which allows for more effective individualizing and administration of forms of physical and moral regulation or can be understood as the terrain on which we must meet our students in a critical and empowering pedagogical encounter. As teachers committed to the project of a critical pedagogy, we have to read the ground of the popular for investments that distort and constrict human potentialities and for those that give ‘voice’ to unrealized possibilities. This is what the pedagogical struggle is all about: opening up the material and discursive basis of particular ways of producing meaning and representing ourselves, our relations to others, and our relation to our environment so as to consider possibilities not yet realized. This is a utopian practice to be both embraced for its urgent necessity and scrutinized for its inherent limitations. Miami University, Ohio Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Notes 1 Exceptions include the work done in Screen Education in England during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the U203 Popular Culture course and writings first offered by the Open University in 1982 (and only recently terminated). 2 Both of these positions can be found in Norton and Ollman (1978); a classic example of the privileging of knowledge in the educational encounter can be found in Bourdieu and Passeron (1977). 3 Much of the radical work dealing with the hidden curriculum fell into the theoretical trap of privileging social relations and pedagogical processes over the relations between knowledge and power. The best-known example is Bowles and Gintis (1976); see more recent examples in Shor (1980); Bullough, Goldstein, and Holt (1984). 4 Although this position is well known, it is worth repeating because it represents a form of elitism that has a strong potential to degenerate into a politics and a pedagogy that are characteristic of their conservative counterparts, which also subscribe to such a distinction. What is lost here is not merely the subversive potential of popular culture but also the possibility for understanding how subjective existence and ideological pressure interact as part of a pedagogical dynamic constructed and mediated between the discursive and social spaces that constitute the terrain of the popular and those spaces and representations made available by the hegemonic discourses. This is not to suggest that the Adorno-Horkheimer analysis of the culture industry should be simply dismissed. We share Jameson’s (1979) view that the Frankfurt School’s critique of the commodification and reification of the form and content of the cultural artifacts represents an important theoretical insight into cultural production under late capitalism, and that the complex implications of this type of analysis have yet to be fully worked out. 5 Of course, this is not meant to suggest that the left has embraced the notion of high culture indiscriminately; needless to say, what constitutes high culture for the left has always been problematic and runs the gambit from the critical realism of George Lukács to the modernist avant-garde supported not only by some older members of the Frankfurt School but by many contemporary followers of the left. See, for example, Huyssen (1986). 6 Jameson (1979) provides a powerful argument against the high/mass culture opposition. 7 Larry Grossberg (1986) provides a useful theoretical elaboration of hegemony as a struggle for the popular.
Hegemony is not a universally present struggle; it is a conjunctural politics opened up by the conditions of advanced capitalism, mass communication and culture…. Hegemony defines the limits within which we can struggle, the field of ‘common sense’ or ‘popular consciousness’. It is the struggle to articulate the position of ‘leadership’ within the social formation, the attempt by the ruling bloc to win for itself the position of leadership across the entire terrain of cultural and political life. Hegemony involves the mobilization of popular support, by a particular social bloc, for the broad range of its social projects. In this way, the people assent to a particular social order, to a particular system of power, to a particular articulation of chains of equivalence by which the interest of the ruling bloc come to define the leading positions of the people. It is a struggle over ‘the popular’. (Grossberg, 1986:69) 8 The notions of the productive, the persuasive, and consent as used in this article were first used by Mercer (1986), though we have chosen to develop them theoretically in a different and more extensive sense to fit this article. 9 The emphasis on the study of texts can be seen most clearly in Barthes (1975); the emphasis on the relationship between popular culture and consumption is exemplified in Williamson (1978, 1986). 10 Two qualifications must be made here. First, the notion of class portrayed in Dirty Dancing embodies a class nostalgia that we reject. That is, class formations in this case are not developed along representative ethnic lines and as such portray class conflict in relatively white, waspy terms. Second, there is a complex articulation of gender differences in this film that we have not addressed. These represent an important subtext regarding the articulation of class and gender relations, particularly Baby’s relationships with Penny. 11 The worst aspect of Dirty Dancing is its construction of the polarities of reason and passion as congruent with the class dichotomy potrayed in the film.
References Adorno, Theodor W. (1981) Prisms. Trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (Originally published 1967.) Apple, Michael (1982) Education and Power. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Aronowitz, S. and Giroux, H. (1985) Education underSeige. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey. ——(1988) ‘Schooling, culture and literacy in the age of broken dreams: an essay review of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and E.D.Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy’. Harvard Educational Review, 58(2):172–94. Barthes, Roland (1975) S/Z. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill & Wang. ——(1982) ‘Encore le corps’. Critique, 35 (425):4–12. ——(1985) The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962–80. Trans. Linda Coverdale. New York: Hill & Wang. Bennett, Tony (1986a) ‘Introduction: popular culture and “the turn to Gramsci”’. In Tony Bennett, Colin Mercer and Janet Woollacott (eds), Popular Culture and Social Relations. London: Open University Press, xi–xix. ——(1986b) ‘The politics of the “popular” and popular culture’. In Tony Bennett, Colin Mercer, and Janet Woollacott (eds) Popular Culture and Social Relations. London: Open University Press, 6–21.
Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture
Berger, John (1987) Once in Europa. New York: Pantheon. Bloch, Ernst (1986) The Principle of Hope, vols 1–3. Trans. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (Originally published in 1959.) Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (Originally published 1979.) Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J. (1977) Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture. Trans. Richard Nice. London: Sage. Bowles, S. and Gintis, H. (1976) Schooling in Capitalist America. New York: Basic Books. Bratlinger, Patrick (1983) Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Bullough, Jr, R., Goldstein, S., and Holt, L. (1984) Human Interests in the Curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press. De Lauretis, Teresa (1987) Technology of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Fiske, John (1986) ‘Television: polysemia and popularity’. Critical Studies in Mass Communications,3 (4): 391–408. Foucault, Michel (1980a) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1980. Ed. Colin Gordon. Trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, and Kate Soper. New York: Pantheon. ——(1980b) The History of Sexuality, volume 1: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books. (Originally published 1978.) Giroux, Henry A. (1983) Theory and Resistance in Education. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey. ——(1988) Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life: Critical Pedagogy in the Modern Age. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Gramsci, Antonio (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Trans. Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers. ——(1985) Antonio Gramsci: Selections from Cultural Writings. Trans. William Boelhower. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Grossberg, Larry (1986) ‘Teaching the popular’. In Cary Nelson (ed.), Theory in the Classroom. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 177–200. ——(forthcoming) ‘Putting the pop back into postmodernism’. In Andrew Ross (ed.), Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Habermas, Jürgen (1973) The Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press. Hall, Stuart (1981) ‘Notes on deconstructing “the popular”’. In Raphael Samuel (ed.), People’s History and Socialist Theory. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 227–41. Horkheimer, Max, and Adorno, Theodor (1972) Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. John Cummings. New York: Herder & Herder. (Originally published 1944.) Huyssen, Andreas (1986) After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jameson, Fredric (1979) ‘Reification and utopia in mass culture’. Social Text, 1(1): 130–48. ——(1983) ‘Pleasure: a political issue’. In Fredric Jameson et al., Formations of Pleasure. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1–14. Lefort, Claude (1986) The Political Forms of Modern Society: Bureaucracy, Democracy, Totalitarianism. Ed. John Thompson. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Lewis, Magda and Simon, Roger (1986) ‘A discourse not intended for her: learning and teaching with patriarchy’. Harvard Educational Review, 56 (4): 457–72. Livingstone, David, and contributors (1987) Critical Pedagogy and Cultural Power. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey. Lusted, David (1986) ‘Why pedagogy’. Screen, 27 (5): 2–14. McDade, Laurie (forthcoming) ‘Sex, pregnancy and schooling: obstacles to a critical teaching of the body’. Journal of Education.
McLaren, Peter (1986) Schooling as a Ritual Performance. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. McRobbie, Angela (1984) ‘Dance and social fantasy’. In Angela McRobbie and Mica Nava (eds), Gender and Generation. London: Macmillan, 130–61. Mercer, Colin (1983) ‘A poverty of desire: pleasure and popular politics’. In Fredric Jameson et al., Formations of Pleasure. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 84–100. ——(1986) ‘Complicit pleasures’. In Tony Bennett, Colin Mercer and Janet Woollacott (eds), Popular Culture and Social Relations. London: Open University Press, 50–68. Norton, Theodore Mills, and Ollman, Bertell (eds) (1978) Studies in Socialist Pedagogy. New York: Monthly Review Press. Rose, Jacqueline (1986) Sexuality in the Field of Vision. London: Verso. Scholes, Robert (1986) ‘Aiming a canon at the curriculum’. Salmagundi, 72 (Fall) : 101–17. Shov, Ira (1980) Critical Teaching and Everyday Life. Boston: South End Press. Simon, Roger I. (1987) ‘Empowerment as a pedagogy of possibility’. Language Arts, (2): 370–82. Walkerdine, Valerie (1985) ‘On the regulation of speaking and silence: subjectivity, class, and gender in contemporary schooling’. In Carolyn Steedman, Cathy Urwin and Valerie Walkerdine (eds), Language, Gender and Childhood. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 203–41. Weiler, Kathleen (1988) Women Teaching for Change. South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey. Williamson, Judith (1978) Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. New York: Marion Boyars. ——(1986) Consuming Passions: The Dynamics of Popular Culture. New York: Marion Boyars. Willis, Paul (1981) Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. New York: Columbia University Press. (Originally published 1977.)
AUDRE LORDE’S LACQUERED LAYERINGS: THE LESBIAN BAR AS A SITE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION KATIE KING From a feminist poststructuralist perspective authorship cannot be the source of the authority of meaning any more than the individual speaking subject, the agent of discourse, is its origin. This is not, however, to say that there is no place in feminist criticism for a study of authors, provided the critics recognize that accounts of authors are themselves discursive constructs and not a key to meaning…. In choosing a mode of reading we need to ask what useful political questions it answers. To be politically effective a reading needs to address the ideological and political concerns of the present-day reader. (Weedon, 1987:162–3) History is not kind to us/we restitch it with living/past memory forward/into desire/into the panic articulation/of want without having/or even the promise of getting. (Lorde, ‘On my way out I Passed over you and the Verrazano Bridge’, 1986:57) Producing biomythography This essay is an inquiry into literary ideology and feminist practice. It begins an examination of what I call ‘the apparatus of literary production’, the intersection of art, business, and technology which currently determines literature—both literary works and the disciplines of literature. Looking at the apparatus of literary production resituates the author in the discursive fields producing literature. Interpretation, one form of the consumption of literature, is an element itself within the apparatus. A study of the apparatus of literary production potentially locates our cultural expressions in a global economy of language, technology, and multinational capital. This is also an essay about reinscription, the creation and erasure of historical memory and literary identity within fields of power invoked and deployed by texts. It follows from an earlier discussion of contesting origin stories about current women’s movements in the United States (King, 1986). There I argued that lesbianism has served as a constantly shifting sign in our histories of feminism, and that to sharpen our sense of its
momentary specificity in conflicting discourses is to accept new forms of political accountability and new possibilities of political meaning. The essay here continues this analysis by identifying the lesbian bar of the 1950s as a site of the production of historical memory and literary identity for feminist and gay movements. McCarthy’s America, intertwining the spectres of homosexuality and communism, focuses another set of origin stories which also make collective political and institutional identities. Two contemporary but divergent texts exemplify competing meanings of the lesbian bar and of the 1950s in the USA, Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) and John D’Emilio’s Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 (1983). I superimpose texts and histories in order to tease out webs of action, collusion, misread codes, alliances; in other words, instances of political courage and political judgment shifting across time which oppositionally address race, sex, and politics in renewed and repositioned contexts. Audre Lorde and her term ‘whitelisting’ come to attract these ranges of texts and histories in this essay, serving to focus and to proliferate concerns for political accountability. Audre Lorde is a black lesbian feminist poet, novelist, and essayist whose work has slowly gained prominence in the USA and Great Britain since the 1960s. She was nominated for the National Book Award in the USA in 1973 for her volume of poetry From a Land Where Other People Live, and has been and currently is published by both small arts presses and commercial mainstream publishers. Lorde’s poetry and prose have had increasing impact on feminist theory in the United States. A powerful speaker and reader of poetry, she mobilizes audiences beyond aesthetic appreciation into political action through her performances. Her various genres of writing and performance— pamphlets and polemical essays, novels, speeches, interviews, published letters, poetry, prose-poetry, taped poetry readings—create and reflect her various audiences and her multiple identities—black woman, lesbian feminist, socialist activist, cancer survivor, single mother—passionately focusing deep commitments to global feminism and the international struggle against apartheid. Lorde’s work raises helpful questions about the apparatus of literary production, offering some examples of aspects of its operation. Her publication in small arts and mainstream presses and her manipulation of genres highlight the convergence of ‘audience’ and ‘market’ in their political, racial, and gender distinctions, and in the codes of elite and popular culture. Studying the apparatus of literary production necessarily debunks the use of the term ‘reading’ as a gloss for the academic practices of ‘interpretation’ which construct and reflect systems of power-charged value. Instead, it requires of us the acknowledgement of the cultures and varieties of literary consumption. My interpretation here deliberately uses some of the strategies of academic close reading in order to appropriate their forms of authority and to empower Lorde’s texts; in short, to enable their literary canonization. Yet the politics of consumption cannot be erased by such academic practice. Lorde’s public and private writing identity is as ‘poet’, and the political investments in the object, ‘poetry’, in feminism tend to naturalize the author as the source of authentic experience and to privilege poetry whose language is immediate and seemingly transparent (Clausen, 1982; King, 1987). What I have done, then is to decenter Lorde’s ideological investments in poetry by looking at her selfdesignated ‘prosepiece’, to focus on historical specificity as a political practice and on the
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
multiplicity and heterogeneity of Zami as a text, as texts interweaving its literal rewritings with its ideological reinscriptions, and to embed Lorde’s and D’Emilio’s texts in current controversies in US feminism over identity and sexuality. In this first section I set the context for the meanings of the lesbian bar, suggesting implicit contemporary political agendas, including my own. Then I move to Lorde’s Zami, investigating the process of rewriting with its proliferation of texts and the use of race and sex in the field of power located as the lesbian bar. This first close reading is joined by some theoretical comments on the construction of ‘biomythographies’ of gay pasts, introducing strategies for examining gay historiography. Finally I return to Zami, interlacing and contrasting its/my investments in ‘whitelisting’ with the events recounted in Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities and with its alternative conversations. 1982, the year of the first publication of Audre Lorde’s ‘biomythography’, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, was also the year of another feminist landmark, the controversial Scholar and the Feminist IX Conference, ‘Towards a Politics of Sexuality’, held on 24 April at Barnard College, New York City (Vance, 1984). Both Zami and the Barnard conference ‘wrote down’ struggles over sexual identity that had been simmering within US feminist communities and conversations, struggles which today might be described by terms like ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’. Today these two terms stabilize a variety of contesting feminist discourses in the United States, discourses which I call ‘conversations’ in order to heighten their momentary, local specificity. Often unselfconsciously generalized, ‘conversations’ are continually rewritten or reinscribed with new meanings by feminist practitioners as they attempt to describe ideology theoretically, to construct specific feminist ideologies, and to ground feminist action and practice in ideology. ‘The politics of sexuality’—or, alternatively, ‘the sexuality debates’, or even ‘Sex Wars’—intertwines a feminist reappraisal of sexual practices, the sex industry, sexology, and sex laws with a critique of the anti-pornography movement and of feminist sexual orthodoxies (Linden et al., 1982; off our backs, June, July, September, November 1982; Snitow et al., 1983; Vance, 1984; B.R.Rich 1986). Also prominent in this reappraisal of sexuality is the valorization of sexual minorities, particularly lesbian sado-masochism (SAMOIS, 1981) and the feminist recuperation of butch/femme roles in lesbian practice and history. Top/bottom, butch/femme coalesce and separate in historical specifics and ideological conflations. At stake are competing images of ‘the lesbian’—as Outlaw (Rubin, 1981; Wittig, 1981; Nestle, 1984), as Mother (A.Rich, 1976), as Woman (A.Rich, 1980; Irigaray, 1977), as what I call ‘Magical Sign’ (King, 1986)—and competing periodizations in the United States of recent feminist history, rewriting ‘the radical feminist’, including the taxonomic system producing the category ‘socialist feminism’ (Echols, 1983a, 1983b, 1984; Vance, 1984; Jaggar, 1983). The other term, ‘the politics of identity’, begins in the emerging discourse on antiracist practice. It elaborates the notion of ‘difference’, now often associated with cultural particularism and with race and class criticism of ‘the white women’s movement’ (Moraga and Anzaldua, 1981; Smith, 1983; Hooks, 1984). Audre Lorde’s formulations of difference have been particularly powerful in this theoretical/practical elaboration (1984, see esp. 1977, 1979a; and Moraga and Anzaldua, 1981; Joseph and Lewis, 1981). The work of Lorde and other women of color requires and permits feminists to recognize and practice theory in literary/philosophical genres other than the rationalist essay.
‘Difference’ deconstructs the category ‘white’ as it continues the deconstruction of the category ‘woman’ (Reagon, 1983). Models of racial ethnicity and of sexual identity provide strategies proliferating non-unified, contingent identities: Jewish lesbian, Chicana as La Mestiza, poverty/disability (Beck, 1982; Bulkin et al., 1984; Moraga, 1983; Connors, 1985). These feminist conversations problematize present taxonomies of feminism (liberal/radical/socialist), now unable to describe adequately the terrain of ideologies, either historically or currently; they also call into question any unitary ‘history’ of ‘the women’s movement’, suggesting instead the simultaneity of women’s movements, interlacing struggles for social justice (King, 1986). Chicana theorist Chela Sandoval has described the movement of power over these discursive fields, these ‘conversations’, in her work on oppositional consciousness (n.d.; see acknowledgments in Haraway, 1985). Participating in these conversations and knowingly contesting for the meanings created and employed in them, I want to make it difficult to see the political ranges represented by ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’ as mutually exclusive. I want to use Zami, in fact, to suggest some of the contesting contradictions and often playful, often painful productions of meaning that these phrases connote. And I shall do this by looking to a particular place, mythic and historic, with specific signifying practices: the lesbian bar of the 1950s. For Lorde, the gay bar stands for the contradictions of identity and solidarity/solitariness. Her individual statements about ‘the gay-girl scene’ often sound definitively descriptive or evaluative, but, when compared from one section of Zami to another, these descriptions and evaluations change. In this processually fragmented work, constantly deferring key meanings, Lorde keeps rewriting the focus, the meanings of the bar scene, and especially the significations of butch/femme codes in the nexus of race and sex. The current controversies in ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’ come together in the work of Third World feminists like Cherrie Moraga, where the specific sexualities of the intersections of race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, class, and education are particularized and made flesh (Moraga, 1983, 1985). Lorde’s return to the complexities of race and sexuality in the gay-girls bar is also best understood in the intersections of ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’. Over and over, Lorde has to re-create the possibilities of being both gay and black—this in a bar culture that is dominated by white women, and in which black women have powerful reasons for making connections, sexual and strategic, with white women and not with other black women. Throughout Zami, Lorde uses the idea of ‘women who work together as friends and lovers’, uses it although we do not know its meaning until the next to the last page of the book (‘my life had become increasingly a bridge and field of women. Zami. Zami. A Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers’; Lorde, 1982:255). In the bar, ‘Zami’ is the field of difference that structures the power-charged relationships among women: not just white women with black women and black women with black women and white women with white women, but Ky-Ky white women with Ky-Ky black women, white and black women together outside the codes of role, femme white women with butch black women, femme white women with butch white women, black women together beyond codes. (Ky-Ky is the stigmatized term for lesbians who don’t adopt the
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
identities of butch or femme in a bar scene dependent upon these meanings; while ‘women together beyond codes’ represents simultaneously a historically later judgment about this hegemony, and a utopian hope for relationships innocent of power.) How to return to this scene, how to enter into the relations of power and visibility and collusion and rejection and attraction/repulsion and lust and loving is Lorde’s event—an event not possible except in piling historical moment on top of historical moment. This is not one instance of time-space particularity, nor is it the utopian construction of a transhistorical myth, but instead the layerings of instance, of political meanings constrained in particularity, lacquered over so finely that they are inseparable and mutually constructing while distinct. I want to try here in this essay to show some of the grain of that finely lacquered ‘history’, ‘restitched’ ‘past memory forward/into desire’. But first a deep involvement with Lorde’s rewritings is necessary. Zami rewritings: the field of power and difference Gay girls selectively reveal and conceal the paradoxes of race and sex. Lorde wants to remember the connections among women; doing so requires putting together the sexual and psychic attractions to white women with the realities of racism and survival. A little desperately, since the assurance is only partial, but also generously, Lorde offers: ‘Lesbians were probably the only Black and white women in New York City in the fifties who were making any real attempt to communicate with each other’ (1982:179). Writing it over at another point, Lorde adds qualifications and alters emphasis—‘So far as I could see, gay-girls were the only Black and white women who were even talking to each other’—and generalizes beyond New York City (‘in this country in the 1950s’) while dismissing the possibilities of other political solidarities: ‘outside of the empty rhetoric of patriotism and political movements’ (1982:225; my italics). The sacred bond of gayness, always insufficient, is still motivating and hungry. Inside the lesbian bar the meanings of the intersections of race and sex implicitly shift from circumstance to circumstance, and these shifts are reflected in subtle rewritings, partial repetitions, revealing editings, reordered valuations, and reordered connections. These shifts destabilize the oppositions black/white, butch/femme, Ky-Ky/role-playing, celebration of women’s community/ internalization of homophobia. One could easily read Zami’s depiction of the bar as an indictment of role-playing, even as a 1982 historical reinscription, a response against lesbian S/M with an assimilation of 1950s role-playing into a paradigm of dominance/submission that must be politically rejected.1 This is surely one lacquered written layer of history in Zami. Some of Lorde’s judgments and interpretations of the meanings of role-playing are straightforwardly rejecting and certainly spoken from the early 1980s in retrospective analysis: For some of us, role-playing reflected all the depreciating attitudes toward women which we loathed in straight society. It was a rejection of these roles that had drawn us to ‘the life’ in the first place. Instinctively, without particular theory or political position or dialectic, we recognized oppression as oppression, no matter where it came from. (Lorde, 1982:221)
As Lorde writes on here, she offers two simultaneous connections, connections both retrospective and historically separated out. First, she puts role-playing in association with ‘the pretend world of dominance/ submission’. At the same time, she also depicts its former hegemony in lesbian culture, a hegemony effectively routed now as reflected in the current weight of judgment against it. Lorde continues: ‘But those lesbians who had carved some niche in the pretend world of dominance/subordination, rejected what they called our ‘confused’ life style, and they were in the majority’ (1982:221.)2 Lorde dramatically utilizes this play of ground/foreground, of dominant ideology/heterodoxy, in the service of making complex, passionate, and uneasily honest the terrors and attractions of the intersection of race and sex. These same sentiments are recast in another version of this paragraph (published separately, 1976b:34; maybe directly a pre-write, or possibly simply an earlier editing), where Marion and Audre (‘Marion’ becomes ‘Muriel’ in Zami)—an interracial couple, young and a bit ‘out of it’— are protectively nursed in this ‘pretend world’ and by these butch/femme women, and where the judging and the judged shift back and forth across time: As a couple Marion and I were out of it a lot since much of the roleplaying that went on was beyond us. It seemed to both of us that butch and femme role-playing was the very opposite of what we felt being gay was all about—the love of women. As we saw it, only women who did not really love other women nor themselves could possibly want to imitate the oppressive and stereotyped behaviour so often associated with being men or acting like men. Of course, this was not a popular view. There were butches and there were femmes but Lesbian, like Black, was still a fighting word. Yet, Gerri’s friends never put us down completely. Yes, we were peculiar, Marion and I, from our different colors right down to our raggedy-ass clothes. We had no regular jobs and queer heads—inside and out. The Afro hadn’t been named yet, much less become popular, and Marion’s shaggy-bowl haircut was definitely not considered dyke-chic. But we were also very young at 19 and 21, and there was a kind of protectiveness extended to us for that reason from the other women that was largely unspoken. Someone always checked to see if we had a ride back to the city, or somewhere to stay over for the night. There was also some feeling that as self-professed poets we could be a little extra peculiar if we needed to be.3 Complications beyond those of age and nurturance are found in the troubling and sometimes tormented relationships among black women: The Black gay-girls in the Village gay bars of the fifties knew each other’s names, but we seldom looked into each other’s Black eyes, lest we see our own aloneness and our own blunted power mirrored in the pursuit of darkness. Some of us died inside the gaps between the mirrors and those turned-away eyes. (1982:226)
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
Here our feelings are focused on a world in which black women are separated from each other by external and internalized racism. As a picture standing for the whole of black lesbian community, it is bleak and haunted by death. This picture of racism as essence and presence is pulled apart in three directions in other tones and writings in Zami. On the one hand, the power of the structures keeping black women from each other is represented by the color-coding of butch/femme, the codes of race and power: The Black women I usually saw around the Bag were into heavy roles, and it frightened me. This was partly the fear of my own Blackness mirrored, and partly the realities of the masquerade. Their need for power and control seemed a much-too-open piece of myself, dressed in enemy clothing. They were tough in a way I felt I could never be. Even if they were not, their self-protective instincts warned them to appear that way. By white america’s racist distortions of beauty, Black women playing ‘femme’ had very little chance at the Bag. There was constant competition among butches to have the most ‘gorgeous femme’ on their arm. And ‘gorgeous’ was defined by a white male world’s standards. (1982:224) Here Lorde opens up some of the permutations that the combinations of black/white and butch/femme reveal, and she displays the field of difference as a net of power. She faces her own fear of her own blackness, a fear of power and control and their needs internalized as the objects of the realities of racism and the effective strategies of survival. She also faces the attraction and terror of the roles which seem to have no place open in them: Audre is not ‘white woman “gorgeous” ’enough for a femme, and fears to identify with butch/control.4 But the second direction which resists racism as essential uses the field of power to reveal the field of difference, difference haunted by lack of connections but prefiguring new meanings of multiplicity for Lorde: Being women together was not enough. We were different. Being gay-girls together was not enough. We were different. Being Black together was not enough. We were different. Being Black women together was not enough. We were different. (1982:226) The permutations of race and sex construct this ‘difference’—which offers new possibilities for connection, opposition, and resistance: It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather than the security of one particular difference. (And often, we were cowards in our learning.) It was years before we learned to use the strength that daily surviving can bring, years before we learned fear does not have to incapacitate, and that we could appreciate each other on terms not necessarily our own. (1982:226)
The ‘litany of difference’ leading to ‘the very house of difference’ supplies another lacquered historical interpretation of the past, creating it new in the deployment of the meanings of role-playing. The final chapter of Zami suggests a third pulling away from racism as presence in the celebration of a party of black lesbians together and a new black lesbian lover. A happy conflation of food and sex and sensual descriptions of the physical codes of black butches and femmes—touches, smells, textures—make up and break up the negative contours of role-playing, dissolving the powers of butch/femme codes to represent essentially white/black domination. the centerpiece of the whole table was a huge platter of succulent and thinly sliced roast beef, set into an underpan of cracked ice. Upon the beige platter, each slice of rare meat has been lovingly laid out and individually folded up into a vulval pattern, with a tiny dab of mayonnaise at the crucial apex. The pink-brown folded meat around the pale creamyellow dot formed suggestive sculptures. (1982:242) Femmes wore their hair in tightly curled pageboy bobs, or piled high on their heads in sculptured bunches of curls, or in feather cuts framing their faces. That sweetly clean fragrance of beauty-parlor that hung over all Black women’s gatherings in the fifties was present here also, adding its identifiable smell of hot comb and hair pomade to the other aromas in the room. Butches wore their hair cut shorter, in a D.A.shaped to a point in the back, or a short pageboy, or sometimes in a tightly curled poodle that predated the natural afro. But this was a rarity. (1982:242) Zami begins its ending with conflations of sex and ‘exotic’…no, tropical…no, actually, West Indian market food: cocoyams, and cassava in dreams, red finger bananas, avocado. Kitty, Audre’s lover, is simultaneously mundanely particularized and mythologically elaborated. Around Kitty Lorde rewrites black women’s choices: from ‘Tar Beach’ in conditions five to Zami, Lorde reinterprets the locations of black women’s struggles outside the places of their particular strength. In ‘Tar Beach’ she writes: [of Kitty’s 7-year-old daughter living in Georgia with her grandmother] ‘She’s going to be able to love anybody she wants to love,’ Afrekete said, fiercely, lighting a Lucky Strike. ‘Same way she’s going to be able to work any place she damn well pleases. Her mama’s going to see to that.’ Once we talked about how black women had been committed by choice to waging our campaigns in the enemies’ strongholds, too much and too often, and how our and our sisters’ psychic lands had been decimated and scar-wearied by those repeated battles and campaigns. (Lorde, 1979b: 44; my italics)
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
In Zami this changes to: Once we talked about how Black women had been committed without choice to waging our campaigns in the enemies’ strongholds, too much and too often, and how our psychic landscapes had been plundered and wearied by those repeated battles and campaigns. (Lorde, 1982:250; my italics) Kitty’s offhand introduction of herself is drawn in Zami as ordinary and specific: ‘Audre…that’s a nice name. What’s it short for?’ My damp arm hairs bristled in the Ruth Brown music, and the heat. I could not stand anybody messing around with my name, not even with nicknames. ‘Nothing. It’s just Audre. What’s Kitty short for?’ ‘Afrekete,’ she said, snapping her fingers in time to the rhythm of it and giving a long laugh. That’s me. The Black pussycat….’ (1982:243) But of course we already have some idea that Afrekete is portentously named: in the dedication of Zami To Helen, who made up the best adventures To Blanche, with whom I lived many of them To the hands of Afrekete In the recognition of loving lies an answer to despair at the end of the extended epigraph preceding Zami’s prologue To the journeywomen pieces of myself. Becoming. Afrekete (1982:5) and in the mingling of romantic/mythological/erotic imagery surrounding sexuality with Kitty, in dreams of gifts of food (1982:249) and ecstatic invocations: Afrekete Afrekete ride me to the crossroads where we shall sleep, coated in the woman’s power. The sound of our bodies meeting is the prayer of all strangers and sisters, that the discarded evils, abandoned at all crossroads, will not follow us upon our journeys. (1982:252) And like the meaning of the word Zami, which we encounter only in the epilogue to the ‘biomythography’, so we learn the meaning of Afrekete as included in that epilogue in the litany of ‘women who helped give me substance’:
Ma-Liz, DeLois, Louise Briscoe, Aunt Anni, Linda, and Genevieve; MawuLisa, thunder, sky, sun, the great mother of us all; and Afrekete, her youngest daughter, the mischievous linguist, trickster, best-beloved, whom we must all become. (1982:255) Racism as deadly essence and presence is deconstructed in the deployment of the complexities of the meanings of role-playing, its presence and absence. The color codes of butch/femme reveal and play with power, thus structuring desire; this play of power is transformed into the strangely awesome/dangerous ‘very house of difference’. There, no unitary self resides but instead selves mapping the field of power and difference. Finally, the deeply troubling/fascinating lesbian bar is left behind for the home of celebrating black lesbians who, in wonderful contradiction, suddenly and without explanation become both butch and femme. Their use of these codes becomes distinctively black in sensory description and seems unmarked by the destructive corrosions of ‘the gaps between the mirrors and those turned-away eyes’. Rather than a bar scene in which the white lesbian community covers over black women’s survival in separation, instead mundane and inspiring worlds are superimposed in Lorde’s creation of Audre’s new lover, Kitty. In these superimposed worlds, possibilities are not ‘mythologized’ as choices but made mundane in the recognitions of histories. At the same time distinctly black myths give meanings to a reconceived world of newly produced substance, where they ‘shine through’ the details of everyday life: making ‘biomythography’—a writing down of our meanings of identity (for Lorde, as black woman, as poet, as lesbian) with the materials of our lives. Making histories and sexual identities: ‘the passing dreams of choice…at once before and after’ For those of us who live at the shoreline/standing upon the constant edges of decision/crucial and alone/for those of us who cannot indulge/the passing dreams of choice/who love in doorways coming and going/in the hours between dawns/looking inward and outward/at once before and after. (‘Litany for Survival’, in Lorde, 1978:31)
‘Biomythography’ might well name a variety of generic strategies in the construction of gay and lesbian identity in the USA. In his 1983 call for ‘a new, more accurate theory of gay history’ John D’Emilio remarks that current ideas about gay people’s past are mythologies marked by particular political struggles and assumptions: ‘in building a movement without a knowledge of our history, we instead invented a mythology. This mythical history drew on personal experience, which we read backward in time’ (D’Emilio, 1983b:101).5 While I too would like to see a more accurate and historically specific account of the gay ‘past’, I’m also interested in remarking on the resources and materials out of which
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
all our histories are made, including D’Emilio’s own fascinating work. As feminists, as gay people, we are accountable for our historical reinscriptions which are produced inside particular political moments, their ‘accuracy’ another dream ‘of choice…looking inward and outward/at once before and after’. It is in this spirit that I would like to use Lorde’s term for her autobiographical novel, ‘biomythography’, to refer to the histories (in the plural) of lesbian and gay pasts, as they all construct our momentary identities, our current ‘us’. This use of biomythography also creates a continuum across Lorde’s own distinctions between poetry and prose and across the ‘letters’ of literature and history. The generic strategies of the biomythography of lesbian and gay history currently include historical monograph and book, polemical critique, film and video and slide show, oral history, review essay, introspective analysis, academic/polemical anthology, novel and poem and short story, and undoubtedly others as well.6 My focus on the lesbian bar in the 1950s in Lorde’s Zami is an example of a kind of examination of the resources and strategies out of which these biomythographies are produced and an example of how genres are ‘made’, here from the feminist political practices of lesbianism and antiracism. I’m pulling out the lesbian bar in the 1950s as a site of producton of a range of biomythographies, of which Lorde’s Zami is exemplary. The lesbian bar of the 1950s and the meanings of the codes of butch/femme roles are used productively in the current controversies named as ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’. Allan Bérubé’s and John D’Emilio’s work defines gay identity, for lesbians and gay men, as ‘a product of history’ coming ‘into existence in a specific historical era’ (D’Emilio, 1983b: 101). That era is framed, on the one hand, by World War II and, on the other hand, by the McCarthy era. The lesbian bar figures prominently in this originary moment. I think it is no accident that Lorde’s biomythographical construction of her identity as lesbian and poet, the story of Zami, looks to this originary era—where current gay histories powerfully make collective political and institutional identities. It is in this currently contested time/place where ‘the passing dreams of choice’ are mobilized that Lorde looks for the secrets of the making of her personal identity; the passing dreams of choice, where sexual identity is neither an existential decision nor biochemically/psychoanalytically programmed, but instead produced in the fields of difference constructed individually and collectively. Whitelisting in the McCarthy past: rereadings through powercharged codes Noticing ‘whitelisting’ at the origins, in the McCarthy past, reinscribes race as a significant feature in the intersections of sexuality, radical politics, and class which provide the elements mobilized in current biomythographies of gay identity. Lorde’s sensitivities and making of her own person require that so-called ‘blacklisting’ be permutated, its transformation becoming a new lens making and exposing contact with people and the world. CONTACT LENSES
Lacking what they want to see
makes my eyes hungry and eyes can feel only pain. Once I lived behind thick walls of glass and my eyes belonged to a different ethic timidly rubbing the edges of whatever turned them on. Seeing usually was a matter of what was in front of my eyes matching what was behind my brain. Now my eyes have become a part of me exposed quick risky and open to all the same dangers. I see much better now and my eyes hurt. (Lorde, 1978:94) ‘Whitelisted’ in Zami are the white ‘single women of moderate means, mostly from California and New York’, who make up ‘the american colony in Cuernavaca’. Their economic circumstances map their class and educational resources, their sexual and political histories, as some owned shares in the little tourist shops that lined the Plaza; others supplemented whatever income they had by working in those shops, or teaching and nursing a few days a week in Mexico City. Some of these women were divorced and living on alimony; others were nurses…who had served in the Lincoln Brigade and run into trouble with the american government because of it…. There were members of the red-baited Hollywood Ten and their families, whitelisted out of work in the movie industry, and eking out a living in less-expensive Mexico by editing and ghostwriting. There were victims of other McCarthyist purges, still going on in full swing. (Lorde, 1982:159)
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
Lorde’s witty permutation on ‘blacklisting’, like the reversal of a necker cube, juxtaposes and exposes the power relation between marked and unmarked categories—here, ‘black’ and ‘white’. Using the lens of ‘whitelisting’, she places in focus both the white agents enforcing political sanctions and the race-conscious membership of the progressive circles Lorde connects and disconnects with. The permeable edges of these circles, the source of persecution, the actual relation to the Communist Party, are still (protectively?) ambiguous in Zami. The phrase ‘Communist Party’ itself is used only once, only in recounting the terrorizing Question: ‘Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?’ (1982:149). In this context, ‘whitelisting’ also alludes to the intersections of multiple oppressions in the recognition of multiple identities. Sexuality, class, politics are all complex threads in Lorde’s biomythography and in the biomythography of gay identity (exemplified by D’Emilio’s Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, 1983). Pointing out ‘whitelisting’ deepens this history by its consistent inscription of race into the webs of power. Between New York and Mexico the shifting meanings of political affiliation and sexual preference are recentered. In 1953, Audre leaves New York, escaping from both ‘emotional scrapes’ and ‘the deepening political gloom and red-baiting hysteria’ (1982:148) after working with other ‘progressives’ in the Committee to Free the Rosenbergs. There Lorde notices the play between race and sex: The Rosenbergs’ struggle became synonymous for me with being able to live in this country at all, with being able to survive in hostile surroundings. But my feelings of connection with most of the people I met in progressive circles, were as tenuous as those I had with my co-workers at the Health Center. I could imagine these comrades, Black and white, among whom color and racial differences could be openly examined and talked about, nonetheless one day asking me accusingly, ‘Are you or have you ever been a member of a homosexual relationship?’ For them, being gay was ‘bourgeois and reactionary’, a reason for suspicion and shunning. Besides, it made you ‘more susceptible to the FBI’. (Lorde, 1982:149) Similarly overdetermined elements of sexuality and politics are woven and rewoven in D’Emilio’s complex biomythography of the contemporaneous Mattachine society. First we learn of the political, cultural equations made by McCarthy conservatives between communism and homosexuality: a demonology in which both poison the minds and bodies of American youth, both are invisible and infiltrating, both mock morality and social values and finally effeminize American manhood (D’Emilio, 1983a:49). Then we learn the secret ‘true’ history of the radical origins of the Mattachine society, founded by individuals who were indeed CP members (1983a:53). These first secret meetings occurred in 1950, the same year in which both the Internal Security Act was passed and the Senate reported on ‘sexual perverts’ in government—in the last, claiming homosexuals were more susceptible to the blackmail of Soviet agents (1983a:41–2). But we also learn from this secret history that the two CP members, Henry Hay and Bob Hull, severed their party memberships in 1951. Hay had also reported his organizing of homosexuals to the CP (1983a:69). The CP had no interest in a homosexual-rights movement, indeed no longer had tolerance for homosexuality in its ranks since the 1930s reversal under Stalin of Soviet policy on homosexuality (1983a:59). So the gay ‘demons’
were unwanted in any political camp, scapegoated between McCarthy America and the American CP; compromised, on the one hand, as more ‘susceptible to the FBI’ and, on the other, as more susceptible to communist blackmail; equally caught between terrorizing Questions of affiliation: ‘Are you or have you ever been…?’ The 1953 electrocution of the Rosenbergs—which made ‘the idea of Mexico’ shine ‘like a beacon’ for Lorde (1982:148), an escape from hostile America—occurred on the east coast; on the west coast—still partially underground—the Mattachine society reached its peak membership and attracted the corrosive attention of the red-baiting press (D’Emilio, 1983a: 75–91). D’Emilio narrates the events of the west-coast public ‘democratic’ convention in which the newly elected gay leaders of Mattachine purged their own organization of ‘communist infiltration’. Notice the profound differences between ‘radical origins’—D’Emilio’s potent location—and these new leaders’ cannibalizing history of ‘communist infiltration’.7 D’Emilio points out that the women and men who joined Mattachine after 1954 knew nothing about early radical or CP connections; this information was withheld by Mattachine officers (1983a: 90). As the ‘progressives’ purged themselves of homosexual associations (Lorde 1982:148), so the homosexuals purged themselves of those ‘seeking to overthrow or destroy any of [American] society’s existing institutions, laws or mores’, unrealistically imagining themselves as being able ‘to be assimilated as constructive, valuable, and responsible citizens’ (D’Emilio, 1983a:84).8 D‘Emilio’s biomythography redraws the lesbian bar. Bar life in general stands for the possibilities of militant community and collective identity promised by the ‘radical origins’ of Mattachine. This vision of militant action and a political definition of gay identity formed the basis of the opening remarks made by the radical leaders of Mattachine at the 1953 founding convention in LA. But D’Emilio’s history paints this vision as betrayed by gay people themselves, desperately longing for respectable membership in a patriotic America.9 The lesbian version of this respectability is especially class-bound, according to D’Emilio. He historicizes the butch/femme codes of the lesbian bar, and its place as a public expression of gay identity: cross-dressing promised economic independence as well as allowing lesbian couples to live together under the guise of husband and wife. After the 1920s, working-class lesbian life assumed a more public, undisguised expression that included as its central feature bars for gay women. As a subcultural institution, bars for lesbians appeared later than bars for male homosexuals…. As the only clearly identifiable collective manifestation of lesbian existence, the bars filled a unique role in the evolution of a group consciousness among gay women. They alone brought lesbianism into the public sphere. (D’Emilio, 1983a:97–9) When the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) began to organize lesbians in 1955, the organization’s leaders offered it as an alternative to the bars. Butch/femme roles were among the aspects of bar culture from which DOB wanted lesbians to be ‘weaned’ (D’Emilio’s term, 1983a: 106). ‘Gay women “aren’t barhoppers”, one officer declared, “but people with steady jobs, most of them with good positions”’ (D’Emilio, 1983a: 113).
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
These class prejudices reflected not lesbians as a group but DOB as a group, made up of ‘white-collar semi-professionals disenchanted with a bar subculture whose population included many women who labored in factories and appeared butch in dress and behavior. The Daughters looked askance at both bar life and the butch lesbian’ (1983a:106). DOB also enforced anti-butch dress codes.10 D’Emilio suggests that these middle-class values were what kept DOB from becoming a successful location for lesbian community and political action. I want to intertwine these kinds of complexities too with ‘whitelisting’, expanding its meaning to include the betrayals and survival skills which put oppressed people at odds with each other in their needs to survive and to align with points of power; the permutation, ‘whitelisting’, reminds us in this context who really has power when marked groups are caught in the webs of collusion, intended and unintended. Lorde emphasizes that this activity of naming who has the power is both dangerous and essential. The bewildering and collaborating dance of disassociation, the struggle to survive in spiraling circumstances of possible betrayals, creates the environ-ment whose effects Lorde judges among the expatriates in Cuernavaca, the environment in which gay identity is a riddling object of gossip, and a secret of the experienced: The women I met through Frieda were older and far more experienced than I. I learned later that they speculated at length in private as to whether or not I was gay, and whether or not I knew it. It never occurred to me that they were gay, or at least bisexual, themselves. I never suspected because a large part of their existence was devoted toward concealing the fact. These women pretended to be straight in a way they never would have pretended to be conservative. Their political courage was far greater than their sexual openness. To my provincially New York and naïve eyes, ‘gay-girls’ were just that—young, obvious, and definitely bohemian. Certainly not progressive, comfortable, matronly, and over forty, with swimming pools, dyed hair, and young second husbands. As far as I knew all the american women in the Plaza were straight, just emancipated. Weeks later, I mentioned as much to Eudora on our way to the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and she almost laughed us off the road into a ditch. (Lorde, 1982:160) The joke that amuses Eudora so much, the network of codes that Audre misreads in Cuernavaca, maps out politics, age, regionalism, lifestyle, class, heterosexual privilege (which becomes visible at the intersection of these various codes; Lorde’s oppositional judgments are reflected in the coolly evaluative nuance in paralleling ‘political courage’ and ‘sexual openness’), and (unspoken) race. The judgments shifting across time, revealed in the play of background/ foreground that the dimension of time offers and that Lorde’s style of writing/rewriting persists in, expose their own inconsistencies. These elements are the traces of ‘whitelisting’ and its responses, responses easily liable to error and requiring constant reassessment.
Lorde’s connection to and judgment of the ‘gay-girl’ bars follows her experiences in Mexico; the butch/femme rituals are matched alongside the whitelisted political codes of ‘the progressives’.11 Race, sex, and politics offer backdrops for each other, for evaluation and judgment. In one scene (the gay bar) Lorde suggests that lesbians are the only black and white women talking to each other, dismissing discussion inside what she calls ‘the empty rhetoric of patriotism and political movements’ (1982:225); while in another scene (among the New York left) she judges (‘whitelists’?) ‘these comrades, Black and white, among whom color and racial differences could be openly examined and talked about’, yet who cannot be trusted one day not to confront her ‘accusingly, “Are you or have you ever been a member of a homosexual relationship?”’ (1982:149). Lorde’s inconsistent location of talk about race only foregrounds the highly charged interlacings of systems of power and the need to address oppositionally race, sex, and politics each in renewed and repositioned contexts. Layers of meanings, layers of histories, layers of readings and rereadings through webs of power-charged codes mark biomythography. My series of superimposed histories here is intended to tease out these layers and, indeed, to add to them. My discussion, first of the gay girls’ bars and then of the collaborating codes of political identity, reverses Lorde’s own sequences, while I also append to Zami D’Emilio’s history of the construction of public gay identity in the McCarthy years. All of this interweaving is meant to elucidate those ‘passing dreams of choice’—to show how the lesbian bar functions as a site of the production of sexual identities currently, and to demonstrate how it is that sexual identity is neither an ‘existential decision’ nor, as I said before, ‘biochemically/psychoanalytically programmed’, but rather profoundly constructed in the meshings of individual and collective identities. In my hands, the exploration of ‘whitelisting’ becomes a cautionary description of the judgments mobilized by the progressives and the gay-girl scene in Zami and the gay movement in D’Emilio. They also encode elements of debate today, particularly within the conversations on the politics of sexuality. I think it is important to read Rubin’s ‘The leather menace’ (1981) as a critique of internalized homophobia within lesbian feminism, as an injunction that lesbians and gay men have political interests in common, something that ‘lesbianism as feminism’s magical sign’ (King, 1986) denies. Continuing this elucidation of historical reinscriptions of the lesbian, and exploring as ‘biomythographies’ the events, texts, persons, and interests that make up the conversations creating ‘the politics of sexuality’, my next article in this series of three connects deployments of power suggested by the term ‘whitelisting’ here and these issues of political accountability raised in the first (King, 1986). My current book project responds more specifically to the issues I raised at the beginning of this essay on the apparatus of literary production and the work of Audre Lorde, and will more directly address politicized publication sites and markets, literary consumption, and the ideological uses of poetry as well. D’Emilio’s biomythography tells a story of the formation of the social and cultural resources that were eventually mobilized in the 1970s by gay liberation and lesbian feminism. He suggests that the class prejudices of DOB, sufficient to prevent lesbians’ organizing in the 1950s and 1960s, were manipulatable by 1970s feminism, as lesbian feminists were recruited not from the lesbian bar ‘but from the heterosexual world, with the women’s liberation movement as a way station’ (D’Emilio, 1983a:237). The success
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
of (a middle-class?) lesbian feminism overshadowed the earlier terms and strengths of a largely working-class gay women’s identity formation in the 1950s (1983a:240). Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami, with its focus on the intersection of race and sexuality in the lesbian bar, does not at all reflect the same story as D’Emilio’s history, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, which is told at the intersection of class and political affiliation. None the less, Zami, with its lacquered histories—restricted, salvaged, dreaming of choice and its absence, even at times also ‘whitelisting’ the gay past—constructs lesbian personal and political identity out of many of the same resources and materials. These resources, materials, and also political investments mark our current productions of gay identities. Zami manages too to exemplify what Chicana theorist Chela Sandoval calls ‘oppositional consciousness’.12—in the rewritings themselves of the meanings of the bar scene and in the transparent processes of rewriting which reveal the locations of the intersections of race, sexuality, language, culture, class, education, age, and politics. The value of this kind of process-bound political specificity I’ve learned about most clearly from Sandoval and Cherrie Moraga. I believe these two theorists describe especially convincingly the complexities of political identity, as they use creative and intellectual tools made within those overlapping feminist territories, ‘the politics of identity’ and ‘the politics of sexuality’. Lorde belongs with these and other political workers, often women of color, who are now powerfully reconstructing feminism. University of Maryland, College Park
Notes 1 This first and easiest reading can be contextualized by Susan Leigh Star’s interview with Audre Lorde in Against Sadomasochism (Linden et al., 1982:66–71). Against Sadomasochism is a polemical response to the notorious (and more risky) book Coming to Power: Writings and Graphics on Lesbian S/M (SAMOIS, 1981), which contains the influential essay by Gayle Rubin, The leather menance: comments on politics and S/M’, critiquing lesbian sexual orthodoxies, suggesting the shared interests of lesbians and other ‘perverts’, and valorizing lesbian S/M. Both Coming to Power and Against Sadomasochism predate and set the agendas for the Barnard conference (see above). 2 The significance of the stigmatized label Ky-Ky becomes clearer in this context: ‘We were both part of the “freaky” bunch of lesbians who weren’t into role-playing, and who the butches and femmes, Black and white, disparaged with the term Ky-Ky, or AC/DC. Ky-Ky was the same name that was used for gay-girls who slept with johns for money. Prostitutes’ (Lorde, 1982:178). 3 These three paragraphs appear in an earlier version of the final chapter of Zami (chapter 31) in conditions five: the black women’s issue (Lorde, 1979b:34), as ‘“Tar Beach” from Prosepiece, part iii’. They do not appear in the version published in Zami. (They are related, however, to writing in Zami on pp. 221 and 206.) The contributor’s notes to conditions five say: ‘This piece is an excerpt from her [Lorde’s] forthcoming fiction entitled I’ve Been Standing On This Streetcorner A Hell of A Long Time!’ When conditions five was re-edited (by Barbara Smith) as Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (Smith, 1983), Zami had already been released, and, instead of the version that appeared in conditions five, chapter 31 from Zami was substituted (and the contributor’s notes were rewritten). 4 However, she mentions her earlier desires to make love to others, not be made love to, which lover Eudora in Mexico challenges (Lorde, 1982:169). Even so, many of Lorde’s sexual
descriptions are of this love-making to another woman. Notice that Newton and Walton (1984:242–50) identify this ‘behavior’ as ‘dominant’, signaling the ‘erotic role’ of ‘top’. Audre’s own self-description can be mischievously reread with this terminology; in contrast, Lorde’s descriptions are generally more subtle and complex than is allowed for by this simple top/bottom distinction. 5 The time periods and audiences for this essay are explained in D’Emilio’s endnotes: ‘This essay is a revised version of a lecture given before several audiences in 1979 and 1980.’ The essay’s audiences were ‘the Baltimore Gay Alliance, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, the organizers of Gay Awareness Week 1980 at San Jose State University and the University of California at Irvine, and the coordinators of the Student Affairs Lectures at the University of California at Irvine’. 6 Examples are John D’Emilio’s exciting book Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 (1983); Alice Echols’s powerful polemics in ‘the Taming of the id: feminist politics, 1968–83’ (1984); films like The Word is Out, videos such as Before Stonewall, and the slide show Marching to a Different Drummer, which Allan Bérubé says funded his research, for example, ‘Marching to a different drummer: lesbian and gay GIs in World War II’ (1981/1983). Oral histories contributing to a number of these efforts have been collected by, among others, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project. B.R.Rich’s review essay in Feminist Studies (1986), Amber Hollibaugh’s and Cherrie Moraga’s ‘What we’re rolling around in bed with: sexual silences in feminism’ (1981/1983), and Esther Newton’s and Shirley Walton’s ‘The misunderstanding: toward a more precise sexual vocabulary’ (1984) are examples of introspective analysis. The two anthologies (Snitow et al., 1983; Vance, 1984) are both academic and polemical. Finally, Lorde and Moraga exemplify a proliferating literature in novel, poem, and story on the histories of gay identity. 7 D’Emilio’s narrative depends upon his interviews with convention participants and examination of their personal papers (see footnotes, 1983a:77–91). 8 Quoted by D’Emilio from the text of a pamphlet entitled ‘Aims and principles’, released by the Southern California Area Council of Mattachine; see D’Emilio (1983a:84, footnote 28). 9 Like a tolerated membership in a patriotic military during the height of World War II? See Bérubé and D’Emilio (1984). 10 ‘Barbara Gittings, who joined DOB in 1958, recalled an incident in which “a woman who had been living pretty much as a transvestite most of her life was persuaded, for the purpose of attending [a DOB convention], to don female garb, to deck herself out in as “feminine” a manner as she could, given that female clothes were totally alien to her. Everybody rejoiced over this as though some great victory had been accomplished—the “feminizing” of this woman’ (D’Emilio, 1983b:106; bracketed inclusion is D’Emilio’s). 11 Lorde’s description in Zami of her involvement in progressive politics and her trip to Mexico overlaps her description of the lesbian bar scene. A Zami chronology (which may or may not reflect Lorde’s own chronology—remember this is ‘biomythography’) would suggest that Audre’s close connection with progressive politics is first remarked when she moves in with an acquaintance Rhea in 1953, a bit before Audre visits Washington demonstrating in support of the Rosenbergs. The Rosenbergs were electrocuted in June 1953. The internal events of Zami suggests that Audre’s visit to Mexico is in 1953. (Lorde’s own vita are inconsistent about the dates here by a year: cf. entry in Shockley and Chandler (1973:101) and entry in Evans (1984:292); Zami’s history and Lorde’s history simply may not be rigidly parallel.) Zami history suggests that Audre returns to New York City on 4 July 1953, and becomes more involved in bar life (as described earlier) during 1954. It is in 1955 that her room-mate Rhea leaves New York, after being denounced to the Communist party for her association with a black lesbian. A chronology of the events described by D’Emilio (to which I have referred extensively) goes something like this: the Internal Security Act is passed by Congress in September 1950, and the Senate Report on ‘sexual perverts’ is
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
copyrighted in 1950 too. In November 1950 the first secret meetings of Mattachine take place. By 1951 open meetings of study groups for Mattachine are occurring, and Hull and Hay sever their party connections. By 1953 the CP origins have become a real liability, subject of newspaper speculation, while Mattachine’s membership peaks and an organizational convention is held in LA. There a new, anti-communist leadership is elected. So effective is the suppression of the radical origins of Mattachine that after 1954 those joining know nothing about it. In 1955 the women’s organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, is formed. Both Mattachine and DOB are firmly ‘respectable’ politically, and focus efforts on ‘education’ through the mediation of social science experts, offering their memberships as populations for scientific study. 12 Commenting and theorizing on events at the NWSA’s annual meetings in 1981, Chela Sandoval makes an argument for a political stance which she calls ‘oppositional consciousness’ (Sandoval, n.d.). See also Sandoval (1984).
References Beck, Evelyn Torton (ed.) (1982) Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology, Watertown: Persephone. (Repr. Trumansburg: Crossing, 1984.) Bérubé, Allan (1983) ‘Marching to a different drummer: lesbian and gay GIs in World War H’. In Snitow et al., (eds) (1983): 88–99. (Originally published in The Advocate, 15 October 1981.) Bérubé, Allan, and D’Emilio, John (1984) ‘The military and lesbians during the McCarthy years’. Signs, 9:759–75. (Repr. in Freeman et al. (1985):279–95.) Bulkin, Elly, Smith, Barbara, and Pratt, Minnie Bruce (eds) (1984) Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism. New York: Long Haul. Clausen, Jan (1982) A Movement of Poets: Thoughts on Poetry and Feminism. Brooklyn: Long Haul. Connors, Debra (1985) ‘Disability, sexism and the social order’. In Susan E. Browne, Debra Connors, and Nanci Stern (eds), With the Power of Each Breath: A Disabled Women’s Anthology. Pittsburgh: Cleis, 92–107. D’Emilio, John (1983a) Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ——(1983b) ‘Capitalism and gay identity’. In Snitow et al., (1983):100–13. Echols, Alice (1983a) ‘Cultural feminism: feminist capitalism and the anti-pornography movement’. Social Text, 3:34–53. ——(1983b) ‘The new feminism of yin and yang’. In Snitow et al., (eds) (1983):439–59. ——(1984) ‘The taming of the id: feminist sexual politics, 1968–83’. In Vance (ed.) (1984):50–72. Evans, Mari (ed.) (1984) Black Women Writers. New York: Anchor/Doubleday. Freeman, Estelle B., Gelpi, Barbara C., Johnson, Susan L., and Weston, Kathleen M. (eds) (1985) The Lesbian Issue: Essays from SIGNS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Haraway, Donna J. (1985) ‘Manifesto for cyborgs: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s’. Socialist Review, 80:65–108. (Repr. Australian Feminist Studies, 4 (1987): 1–42; to be repr. in Elizabeth Weed and Joan Scott (eds), Feminism/Theory/Politics. Pembroke Center for Research on Women, forthcoming.) Hollibaugh, Amber, and Moraga, Cherrie (1983) ‘What we’re rolling around in bed with: sexual silences in feminism’. In Snitow et al., (1983):394–405. (Originally published in Heresies, 12 (1981), ‘The sex issue’.) Hooks, Bell [Gloria Watkins] (1984) Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Boston: South End. Irigaray, Luce (1977) This Sex Which Is Not One. New York: Cornell University Press. Jaggar, Alison M. (1983) Feminist Politics and Human Nature. Brighton: Harvester; Totawa: Rowman.
Joseph, Gloria L., and Lewis, Jill (1981) Common Differences: Conflicts in Black and White Feminist Perspectives. Garden City: Anchor/Doubleday. King, Katie (1986) ‘The situation of lesbianism as feminism’s magical sign: contests for meaning and the US women’s movement, 1968–1972’. Communication, 9:65–91. Special issue: ‘Feminist critiques of popular culture’, ed. Paula Treichler and Ellen Wartella. ——(1987) ‘Canons without innocence: academic practices and feminist practices making the poem in the work of Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde’. Unpublished dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz. Linden, Robin Ruth, Pagano, Darleen R., Russell, Diana E.H., and Star, Susan Leigh (eds) (1982) Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis. East Palo Alto: Frog in the Well. Lorde, Audre (1973) From a Land Where Other People Live. Detroit: Broadside. ——(1977) ‘Poetry is not a luxury’. Chrysalis, 3. (Repr. in Lorde (1984):36–9.) ——(1978) The Black Unicorn. New York: Norton. ——(1979a) ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’. Personal is Political Panel, The Second Sex Conference, New York, 29 September 1979. (Repr. in Moraga and Anzaldua (eds) (1981):98–101. Repr. in Lorde (1984):110–11.) ——(1979b) ‘“Tar Beach” from Prosepiece, part iii’. conditions five: the black women’s issue (Autumn). ——(1982) Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Watertown: Persephone. (Repr. Trumansburg: Crossing, 1983.) ——(1984) Sister Outsider. Trumansburg: Crossing. ——(1986) Our Dead Behind Us. New York: Norton. Moraga, Cherrie (1983) Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca paso por sus labios. Boston: South End. ——(1985) ‘The rape scene, excerpt from “Giving Up the Ghost”, a play in progress’. Conditions, 11/12:110–16. Moraga, Cherrie, and Anzaldua, Gloria (eds) (1981) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Watertown: Persephone. (Repr. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1984.) Nestle, Joan (1984) ‘The fem question’. In Vance (ed.) (1984):232–41. Newton, Esther, and Walton, Shirley (1984) ‘The misunderstanding: toward a more precise sexual vocabulary’. In Vance (ed.) (1984):242–50. Reagon, Bernice Johnson (1983) ‘Coalition politics: turning the century’. In Smith (ed.) (1983):356–68. (Originally spoken at the West Coast Women’s Music Festival, Yosemite National Forest, California, 1981.) Rich, Adrienne (1976) Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Norton. ——(1980) ‘Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence’. Signs, 5:631–60. Rich, B.Ruby (1986) ‘Feminism and sexuality in the 1980s’. Feminist Studies, 12 (Fall):525–61. Rubin, Gayle (1981) ‘The leather menace: comments on politics and S/M’. In SAMOIS (1981):192–225. SAMOIS (1981) Coming to Power: Writings and Graphics on Lesbian S/M. Palo Alto: Up Press. Sandoval, Chela (n.d. [probably 1983]) ‘Woman respond to racism: a report on the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Storrs, Connecticut’. Occasional paper series: The Struggle Within. Oakland: Center for Third World Organizing [4228 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609]. ——(1984) ‘Comment on Krieger’s “Lesbian identity and community: recent social science literature”’. Signs, 9:725–9. (Repr. in Freeman et al., (eds) (1985): 241–8.) Shockley, Ann Allen, and Chandler, Sue P. (eds) (1973) Living Black American Authors. New York: Bowker.
Audre Lorde's lacquered layerings
Smith, Barbara (ed.) (1983) Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. (Originally published as conditions five: the black women’s issue, 1979.) Snitow, Ann, Stansell, Christine, and Thompson, Sharon (eds) (1983) Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality. New York: Monthly Review/New Feminist Library. Vance, Carole S. (ed.) (1984) Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Boston: Routledge. Weedon, Chris (1987) Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory. New York: Blackwell. Wittig, Monique (1981) ‘One is not born a woman’. Feminist Issues, 1:47–54.
LOCATING LISTENING: TECHNOLOGICAL SPACE, POPULAR MUSIC, CANADIAN MEDIATIONS JODY BERLAND Because of the traditional relationship between places and situations, group identities have usually been closely linked to shared but special access to physical locations…. By severing the traditional link between physical location and social situation, electronic media may begin to blur previously distinct group identities by allowing people to ‘escape’ informationally from place-defined groups and by permitting outsiders to ‘invade’ many groups’ territories without ever entering them. (Meyrowitz, 1985) Space has its own reality in the current mode of production and society, with the same claims and in the same global process as merchandise, money, and capital. Natural space is irreversibly gone. And although it of course remains as the origin of the social process, nature is now reduced to materials on which society’s productive forces operate…. Spatial practice defines its space, it poses it and presupposes it in a dialectical interaction. Social space has thus always been a social product, but this was not recognized. (Lefebvre, 1979) When [the child] shifts to a second stage of listening…that of meaning, what is listened for is no longer the possible (the prey, the threat, or the object of desire which occurs without warning), it is the secret; that which, concealed in reality, can reach human consciousness only through a code, which serves simultaneously to encipher and to decipher that reality. (Barthes and Havas, 1985) Making sense of space Media establish a space between the origin of a sound and its listener. That space is not linear, as the crow flies; space and relationship are rendered as one, but not a unified one.
The accelerating conquest of space through media is inseparable from the increasing disunity of our place in it, our relationship to it. Space, in other words, is fractured: as a result, music, indeed any mode of address in sound, seems to articulate time but not space, at least not space as we apprehended it before media intervened. Radio organizes our sense of morning, of activity, of the discipline of time. The temporal seems to dominate the action: it’s comparable to the experience of driving a car along a long and familiar road at high speed, something I used to do each week between Peterborough and Toronto. It seems to be I who remain still and everything around that rushes past me into the past. In fact, it is the landscape that stays still and it is I, locked into a body in the driver’s seat, who rush across the space. But this factual observation doesn’t account for the conceptualization of movement that comes with driving. It doesn’t feel like space that interrupts the affinity between me and my destination but rather time, punctuated by landmarks, which serve only to signal the episodic triumph of individual movement over the unmoving density of landscape, of time over space. This is a conceptual (mis)apprehension, since ultimately it is space that dominates the action— or, rather, the conquering of space—and time that is suppressed, driving being thereby among the most modern of activities. This misapprehension preserves the location of experience in the singular. Listening comes to represent the same kind of necessary (mis)apprehension: we objectify location as that which contains a specific means of reception—the car, room, or bar where the music is heard, the physical site within which one is surrounded by sound. And we subjectify the source of sound as its subject: someone is being creative, or dull; is making an event, or reminding you of one; is creating the emotional state in which you are touched by sounds. We don’t place ourselves or the sounds in a spatially conceived map of diachronic and synchronic movement, evaluate where we are being addressed from, consider how we are being positioned by the instruments that bring that touching address to our ears. This (mis)apprehension of spatial relationships is not a silent one. It is audible in the discourse of sound which penetrates space while choosing to ignore its severance: call it an aggressive expressionism, call it ‘We are the World’. And there is the discourse of sound that invites this spatial severance’s completion: call it postmodern drift, where location is the absence you sink into. In coming to hear the silencing of location, the listener discovers her colonization, which is being both celebrated and evaporated however it is articulated. Space and location can become explicit without attempting to return to nature (whereby live performance assures the physiology of presence): then space is recognized as a social construction, outside of nature, and music as one of its codes. Locating the question The rearticulation of space is crucial to the creation of centers and margins and thus to the administration and expansion of political power. Through the analysis of this process it is possible to tie together two previously separate discourses: the study of audience reception in cultural studies and policy analysis within Canadian communication studies. It is commonly argued that as soon as music is approached in terms of its technological mediation the analysis of musical reception becomes more clearly decisive.
Indeed, one could argue, as Mowitt (1987) has done, that the greater the intensity of technological mediation the more that reception precedes and structures production itself. This point is central to popular music, by definition made for and by a technologically mediated community. It is relevant to a discussion of location for several reasons. Most obviously, the cultural, geographical, and ethnic expansion of audiences is necessary to the economic growth and international expansion of the cultural industries; it is a precondition of the deficit financing of American television, for instance, and makes possible the global corporate hegemony of the Big Five in the record industry. The expanded international audience base for record production constitutes the music’s various modes of reception; since there is both a social and an industrial imperative towards internationalization of music audiences, this imperative becomes part of musical discourse from the beginning, especially with music that comes from somewhere else, which is most of the music we hear. Our reception of this music is thus part of and a precondition for the discourse in which it emerges. This recognition of the ‘radical priority of reception’ does not imply ‘a notion of agency that…preserves the autonomy of the subject’ (Mowitt, 1987), whether that autonomy is ascribed to reception or to production as a creative process. Musical and meta-musical (media) language must increasingly situate itself in relation to this powerful constitutive process, take a position on scale, specificity, technology, value, desire, difference. This process can be addressed in terms of musical discourses; it can also be addressed, in the Canadian context at least, in terms of political, economic, and legislative discourses, which are articulated through music and affected by it. In the current musical topography, for instance, ‘Africanness’ is culturally and musically intelligible. We hear it as ‘African’ music and organize a system of reception into which that music finds a place. Country music has also recently experienced what we could call, following Shklovsky, ‘the canonization of the junior branch’, assuming that we can still attribute privileged mythological status to the industrial mechanisms of mainstream popular music. (This is not an unreasonable assumption, since it is now precisely such mechanisms, rather than stylistic or social qualities in the music itself, which justify the radical-optimist populism of much current criticism.) For Canadian musicians, however, simply breaking even with a new record is dependent on two related strategies: distribution with one of the major (i.e. foreign) companies and a successful continental distribution plan. A record not aimed at (designed for) export will (most often) not gain commercial distribution within the country: the canonization process is short-circuited because the junior branch is being turned into firewood before it has a chance to grow leaves. This short-circuit is a product of the regulating mechanisms of the industry itself. It is reinforced and made explicit by the design of a new industry—government partnership aimed at refurbishing the record industry to accord with its general strategy of continental capitalization (Laroche, 1988). This distortion helps to explain why heavy metal is our major musical success story; it’s our industrial climate. Our music TV and press may celebrate their success, but in real terms we don’t make it. They made it somewhere else. Moral: If there is a synchronic and diachronic musical system which accounts for the intelligibility of a particular musical trend, there is also a system of manufacture, movement, and mediation, which provides intelligibility to the musical system. It is constituted by an industrial structure, a contradictory process of technological
rationalization, an interdependent discourse of broadcast and other mediations, and (these last notwithstanding) a geography. Thus the following comments on musical reception in Canada. From the location of a technologically advanced, economically underdeveloped, politically imperialized nation, one has to redefine the structuring process implied by the term ‘cultural formation’, whether this is represented as a collective process tied up with concepts of ‘agency’ or as an individual process tied up with concepts of pleasure. The concept has to be balanced against, or in relation to, its negative non-equivalent, or what can be understood as a drive towards re-formation, or multiple formation (or perhaps even non-formation) in a topographical sense. Musical reception plays a part in cultural formation and re-formation through the emergence of new structures of listening. The mutation of musical reception is accomplished at the simplest level by the physical movement of electronically reproduced messages across space, whereby sound is split from source, and image from sound (Berland, 1986b). There is also a social discourse in sound, articulated in music and in its technological and broadcast mediations, which, by addressing us, combines and disperses us, and so reconstitutes us as social audiences. And there is a broad political discourse about sound, which negotiates the constitution and deployment of collective subjectivity. To identify these is to describe the processes through which location itself is continuously dispersed and redefined. Because of the industrial structure of music production and its high degree of technological mediation, mainstream popular music tends to position listeners in an abstract and/or American-mediated landscape, drawing us into a cultural horizon which is explicitly elsewhere or without any perceptible signification of place. This can be easily attributed to our highly technologized media landscape, which regularly mixes and remodels regional articulations. But, in relation to the explicitly political mediation of technology and culture which has formed our collective history, even a mainstream that speaks multiplicitously like a Tower of Babel’ (Crane, 1986) can make no claim to innocence. The argument that the Top 40 is based on an economic/pluralist logic which is responsive to and parallel with the social logic of populist flux has a limited credibility (in the same way that Manifest Destiny did) in a context where economic logic clearly prevents populism from achieving material form. This is a tangible reality for Canadian songwriters, for instance, who are compelled to record songs with lyrics about dying in Texas or Mornings in Minnesota (rather than Manitoba) as long as the industry forces a dependency on the American market (Lehr, 1985). Americans are well protected from exposure to uncoded foreign influences. More to the point, perhaps, Texas, Nashville, and Georgia are now highly coded place names; their use evokes an (intertextual) history of signs far more than an experience of place. There is an analogy to be pursued between the mode of address in commercially mediated popular music and that which has been so extensively described in cinematic enunciation, which does not ‘normally identify itself as proceeding from anywhere in particular: a film seems simply to be “there” as it unfolds before our eyes’ (Kuhn, 1983:50). While ‘Canada’ is defined more than ordinarily as a unity bonded by technology, our media more than ordinarily draw us into exterior landscapes. Situated in many places at the same time, tuned in, hooked up, wired into, we know how to see ourselves as part of a global village and to see its boundarylessness as the essence of who we are. Thus the
frequent gender analogies for Canada in relation to the USA: in contemporary feminist analysis, woman is always Other to a dominant power in relation to whom she gains (momentary) advantage through submission, becoming consequently untidy in establishing clear boundaries to her self. It is a state which is intimately related to resentment and to silence and which tends to be articulated, if at all, in a discourse of absence. Thus Canadian culture, manifested in much spoken and unspoken ressentiment, a revenge against the present which preserves its own absence by denying its rage (Dorland, 1987)—though women, of course, have a great deal to say, especially about speaking… In Canadian history, development and dependency are indissolubly linked. Despite its apparent modernity, Canada encounters precisely the same structural paradox of any developing country, which is that the development process diminishes the political and economic autonomy of precisely those forces seeking modernization. (This is, in a nutshell, the dilemma of nationalism, described with acuity by Hobsbawm (1972) in his discussion of nationalism in developing countries.) Despite the strong popular movement responsible for the creation and defense of public broadcasting as a precondition for political sovereignty, the deployment of our communications technology provides no exception. Now possessing the most sophisticated broadcast distribution system in the world, Canada’s capacity for importing culture is unsurpassed. We are immersed in a powerful system to which we remain, at the same time, knowingly marginal. In such a horizon and in the current proto-Reaganite political climate, ‘Canada’ threatens to be reduced to the most instrumental type of political myth, in the guise of metaphor, landscape, tourist site, administrative sycophant, and finally bad political joke. This is not progress. Neither the political implications of this nor the state’s responsibility for its outcome can escape critical observers of contemporary culture. Logically, then, technological discourses, unlike music, form the object of extensive critical, political, and legislative attention in Canada, which contributes both implicitly and explicitly to the complex of production and reception which constitutes popular culture. On the one hand, commercial radio replicates American format practices and broadcast sound quality. One of its dominant effects is to reproduce specific musical and production values (in order to produce audiences, in order to reproduce itself by mixing commercial record releases, predominantly American, with audiences) and to demand compliance with such values from domestic record releases to serve format requirements. Thus radio becomes the location signified by its own production, through the particular mix of music, ads, wire news, and so on, though it is a location only in the most abstract and temporary sense. Producers of film soundtracks, public affairs documentaries, CBC radio news programs, and so on, favor an entirely different soundscape. Their recording techniques create vividly real ‘natural sound’ landscapes (gunshots, footsteps, traffic, voices, children, singing, etc.) which punctuate and frame the production. The rhetoric is one of direct address in the pursuit of public interest; the soundscape is meant to incorporate the listener into this pursuit and to align it with physical and political space. The question whether this convention of replicating ‘real space’ in sound had arisen in praise of technology (culture) or of human presence (nature) misses the point: in this technologically mediated landscape the two are inseparable. Their synthesis derives from a historical fact signaled by the technique: the convention signals that the vehicle is public (read ‘Canadian’) culture and thus both oppositional and inhabitable. The
contradictions of technological nationalism find their most eloquent articulation in this convention. There are many other examples of the deployment of technology to provide a sense of shared space. In consequence, perhaps, while the Musician’s Union is Americandominated and apolitical, the Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has taken a strong position on the political administration of cultural production, focusing on the fate of culture in free-trade negotiations with the USA. In ACTRA publications, the technological landscape is recognized and signified as a site of occupation. Like defending the CBC as a public institution, placing location and difference together in one critical trope requires a strong dose of political intentionality, whether the subject is popular music or some other. Few would claim that they can hear a coherent aural grammar of musical difference in English Canada. Here, one provides the mandatory exceptions to the absence (absence itself being a comparably hegemonic construct within theoretical discourse): Quebec, music of the Maritimes, a tradition of successful singer-songwriters, folk music of the Ottawa Valley, and so forth. But one cannot always listen to a piece of recorded music and know that it comes from (English) Canada, unles one knows it already, in which case such recognition, and any emotional claim that might ensue, comes after the fact. Should we care? It simply demonstrates the points I have already made: that the social and industrial imperative towards internationalization informs and structures musical discourse; and that reception, itself shaped by a number of factors, helps to constitute production. A closer look at some of these factors shaping our reception of popular music may suggest how much and about what we should care. The musical apparatus Though the accumulated literature on popular music rarely talks about music, Canadian literature on popular music, in so far as it exists at all, hardly talks about anything. Most of it is industry analysis operating at the lowest level of explanatory density within the framework of political economy. The domination of economics and policy analysis has occurred in part because of the degree to which the study of culture has been conducted under the sponsorship of government and public agencies: royal commissions, policy review committees, consultants, the Department of Communications. Such study has lent its own drama to the literature, intensified by the visual power of graphs tabulating the overwhelming weight of foreign ownership, exported profits, struggling nationals. Where such literature addresses music in Canada, it tends to talk about the industry as a subjectless apparatus. The hegemony of the political-empirical method in analysis of musical culture is at least partly explicable by its content, as illustrated by the following facts. Canadians spend nearly $700 million a year on records and cassettes. Canadians are the second highest (after the Dutch) consumers in the world in per capita expenditures on records and tapes. The total annual revenue of the music industry, if one includes concerts, sheet music, all forms of commercial musical performance and reproduction, is now over one billion dollars. The eight largest record companies in Canada are foreignowned; 89 per cent of the revenues from the Canadian domestic market goes to multinationals. Their interest in Canadian music is restricted to those recordings which
can be marketed across the continent. This preference also shapes current government programs for subsidizing domestic recording. All other recording remains economically, spatially, and discursively marginal. Most Canadian musicians are denied access to the Canadian record-buying public, even if they make records. There are 120 recording studios in Canada and over 140 Canadian-owned record companies. These companies, the independents, produce 70 per cent of what are termed Canadian-content recordings, thus bearing most of the creative and economic risk of music recording in the country. They may be brave, ingenious, and dedicated, they may be infinitely creative, but they are also poor, powerless, and unheard. Most of the records manufactured within Canada (87 per cent) are made from imported master tapes. As with television, it costs roughly ten times more to produce an indigenous product than to import from the States, and the import will have better production values. With record distribution also dominated by the multinationals, the independents receive around 11 per cent of national revenues from record sales. The predominance of cheap imports and of music-format radio among commercial broadcasters weighs the balance of record production and sales contents heavily towards Top 40 releases (Audley, 1984; Canada, Department of Communications, 1987; Berland, 1986a; Berland and Straw, 1987). Whether indistinguishable or marginalized, the relationship of Canadian music to its listeners is established within this context and shaped discursively by it. But the profile is not yet complete. While the marginalization of Canadian music is characteristic of ‘independent’ music from Liverpool to LA, marginality exists in Canada within a specific public discourse which shapes its meaning by positioning it within the political problematic of Canadianicity itself. The link between Canadian music and listeners is inseparable from intervention by the state and cannot escape historical and substantive associations with such intervention. From the beginning, mass media in Canada were received with a passionate rhetoric of anti-continentalism and pro-communications technology. Both Parliament and the political alliances resisting American intrusion believed that communications technology was the necessary instrument for the development of a national public and that this instrument should be qualitatively different from that engendered by American commercial radio. The public broadcasting system was formed to resist foreign and commercial hegemony, to create a national community, and to become a vehicle of public interest in contradistinction to commercial (American) media. Culture has been inflected with debates about political and economic sovereignty since the rise of the mass media, as humorists are expert at pointing out. The relationship between cultural defense and national defense, in the light of the invasive presence of US cultural products, subsequently formed the central thrust of at least two royal commissions. The memorable phrase presented to Parliament to assure the development of a public broadcasting system in the 1930s was ‘The state—or the United States?’ The phrase is still in strong circulation among critics of the current government. As (and to the extent that) culture is privatized, argue critics, it is Americanized. This is not a simple process, given the negative language with which this prospect is inscribed on to ‘culture’ as a politicized discourse. Few will state a preference for American culture as a political principle; even fewer favor restricting access to it. Public sentiment remains strongly in favor of government support for Canadian culture. There is much discussion about
whether market research proves that listening or viewing patterns are hostile to this sentiment. Unlike Americans, then, we have endowed the state with a right and a responsibility to intervene in the cultural arena. Government support for media culture—subsequently applied to film and television production—remains a political as well as an economic imperative, having been introduced and legitimated in response to broadly based anticorporate, anti-free-market sentiment. Cultural agencies now fund independent television drama, film documentary, electronic music, and video, all of which are still easier to fund and produce in Canada than in the USA. And the CBC still employs a powerful rhetoric of national community, though its ability to develop a cultural-musical-technological strategy consistent with the po-pulism that makes such rhetoric work is increasingly curtailed by the powers of the cultural industries on the one hand and a state bent on privatization and continentalism on the other. The communications infrastructure which mediates music is thus formed by, and consistently represented as dependent on, actions of the Canadian state, which supervises the defense of Canadianicity by means of various protective regulations (Canadiancontent quotas for broadcasters, for instance) while simultaneously colluding in the perpetual foreign capitalization of Canada (and of its cultural economy). The political controversies arising in response to the Canada—USA free-trade agreement demonstrate widespread concern about the increasing vulnerability of Canadian culture. But this controversy merely emphasizes the double bind which has been central to the country’s cultural development: the prominence and visibility of state involvement, whereby the state legitimates itself by confirming, valorizing, and appropriating the social and political relevance of indigenous cultural production, coupled with the simultaneous strategic submission of the same state to the operations and artifacts of foreign capital, in the cultural sector as in any other. This structural paradox is reproduced in the ways in which Canadians think or talk about, watch or listen to film, television, radio, music; we like and listen to the same megaproductions that everyone does. An increasingly multiplicitous distribution system is greased with a new official rhetoric advocating free choice and consumer sovereignty, now posited as the public interest, and often better to dance to. In Canada, then, we occupy two dreams simultaneously. One is the dream that we are American; the other is the dream that we are not. The contradiction between the two dreams, lived simultaneously, like a split screen or half-awake hangover, has a definite material form in the structure of cultural production. It’s not just that many years of unequal negotiation have divided broadcasting and the cultural industries economically and legislatively between the private and public sectors. The compromises responsible for this arrangement (wherein broadcasting is legislatively referred to as a ‘single system’), like the wizard technology which propels the whole towards continentalism, are represented as significant achievements of the Canadian nation (and necessary to its unity) in political discourse, and as the triumph of Americanism in entertainment discourse. Every popular hit becomes, in Crane’s cosmos, a ‘floating totem of public pleasure’; and rock radio’s blending of old and new serves as a ‘continual reminder of one’s place in the present state (of rock history)’ (Crane 1986:68). But a very different type of public empowerment can also be aurally (and perhaps musically) totemized. We are subjects of
this through a radio discourse which creates pleasure by placing listeners not (or not only) in relational/present time but in relational/social space. The CBC presents itself as a vehicle of location in its claim to national purpose and in its language: it signals as well as becomes a location. Thus the discourse which emphasizes awareness of time (via the hit parade) processes space as an abstraction, while the discourse which emphasizes space (via regional, spatial, and political demarcation) responds by seeking to maintain cultural continuity over time. Listening to the CBC (this is true in a different way of community radio), with its many place references, its program sources (Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Montreal), and its continuous incorporative narrative, is inseparable from implicit spatial and political demarcation. Music broadcast on the CBC, then, does not ‘mean’ the same as music heard on a commercial station, wherein the mediating context obscures itself precisely because it is the means to an end, the sale of listeners to advertisers. In strictly political terms, commercial broadcasting can never represent itself as the victory of the ‘Canadian way’ (as it does in dominant ideological terms in the USA); according to official state policy, which privileges public broadcasting, commercial broadcasting represents not the triumph of the masses but rather (at least in part) the cumulative loss of a progressive social vision which popular coalitions have fought hard to defend. Of course this public policy has only the most tenuous relationship to its actual application, which is known mostly for its history of capitulations. So the ‘single system’ of public/private broadcasting which defines us as a technologically constituted nation is itself defined by internal contradiction. Each of these two dreams, then, has been actualized in the form of a complex technological, economic, and imaginative apparatus, which then naturally works to reproduce itself. It is because of this dual apparatus that our relationship to popular music is so ambiguous. Schizophrenia There are few boundaries erected in sound at or around the 49th Parallel, except, for Francophones, the diminishing boundary of language. In any case music, it is said, knows no language, though this may be merely an indirect way of saying that, as language, music cannot be known, or that music is unacquainted with difference. The positing of a universal comprehension logically accompanies a condition of universal address which succeeds on the basis of our real pleasure in its beneficent hospitality. As listeners, we have become used to separating our rationally conceived concerns about cultural politics from our visceral responses to popular music. Our economy of affections manifests the inseparability of popular music from specific notions of fun and pleasure and the inseparability of these from what is commonly known as the American dream. This is an uncontroversially powerful dream, as it never fails to remind us. Yet most Canadians believe that they are different different from Americans in some unclear but important way and prefer to maintain that difference. Listening to music reflects this contradiction. It positions us as social subjects, however unstable that position may be; and music mediates between us as individuals and us as collectivities, just as radio mediates between the production of music and the production of us as audiences (Hennion and Meadel, 1986; Berland, 1986a). It is apparent that our listening
positions us simultaneously in different, and even opposing, socio-musicologicalmediated spaces. Within us cohabit several spaces in which we are touched, as listeners, by different and even opposing affections, each with coded intertextualities and other pleasures. It is evident that the paradoxical nature of the institutional apparatus of cultural production finds its analogue in the paradoxical subjectivity with which we respond to music. But this analogue should be posed more forcefully. Listeners, musical texts, and mediating institutions (especially radio) form a complex of mutually determining practices. The tensions between international capital and secondary nation states are not abstractions divorced from processes of cultural formation (or de-formation). Aside from their evident economic materiality and consequences for everyday life (especially that of musicians), each of these powers employs its own form of rhetoric to elicit our desire, to win our allegiance to its myths and pleasures. The internal multiplicity of our musical subjectivity is not an abstraction of potentially infinite variety. We are subjects of the powerful mechanisms of both capital and state—which means we are subjects of the contest between them. Fluctuating daily, hourly, between the seductions of the ‘Tower of Babel’ and the differently unifying voice of Gzowski on the CBC, each of us reproduces (differently, and not always passively or unconsciously) the historic double bind of our national construction. We enjoy the Tower’s products and the technology which connects us to them, notwithstanding the rhetoric of cultural sovereignty with which we resist them in political discourse; we lay claim to receding cultural and political sovereignty whose success we perceive to rest on the binding instrument of cultural technology, which has already, with all its charms, other designs for us (Charland, 1986). Open for business or up for sale? We are only now starting to develop a critical language for talking about musical discourses as active forces in the de-formation/formation of community. For instance, we would have to argue that the geographical agility of the song (and what is that, exactly?) is a prerequisite for ‘major’ production and distribution, that a music’s appropriateness for travel across borders is a discursive feature which characterizes the structure of the industry as a whole. The current and explicit policy of both public and private interests is to facilitate the profitable production of exportable records fitting the contemporary (proto-) American commercial radio formats, rather than to fight to open up access and distribution within the country. Thus economy participates in music’s crystallizations of identity and community. The move towards cultural continentalism is explicit in the administrative design of the current Sound Recording Developing Program, which subsidizes commercially viable recording projects by commercially successful musicians or producers, suggests that applicants pre-test their proposals by considering their suitability for commercial airplay, shapes musical criteria towards continental commercial radio formats, and subsidizes international music tours but not domestic ones (Laroche, 1988). This last is ironic, given recent changes in American immigration law which make tours by foreign musicians prohibitively difficult. The effects of the free-trade agreement are evident here, whether or not this specific agreement is enacted. Canadian business wants to export, but only by preserving and
extending the structure within which internal manufacture complements or replicates international industry. Both contemporary economic forces and the legislative and fiscal practices of the state push musicians (and listeners, who are already far advanced in this respect) towards a musical language which will be equally effective in Vancouver or New Jersey. Citizenship and consumption are newly joined in a mutual enterprise of privatization and de-localization which increasingly render us tenants in our own yards. Once again the state demonstrates its complicity in its own erasure and we, its subjects, are silenced and/or offered up accordingly. And where does popular culture fit here? Is it the cutting edge of the imperialist invasion, or is foreign capital being demonized because it is the vehicle for a commercial culture whose success overwhelms the neo-colonial authority of public culture? Culture has occupied a central and increasingly visible place in public debates about Canadian political autonomy. Is the mobilization of cultural difference an expression of occupational protectionism among artists, performers, and agents who seek access to their own audiences, and the bureaucrats and intelligentsia who support them? Or is it an expression even of an aversion to the culture of the masses? Or is it rather a metaphor for other ascriptions of difference, like the oft-cited aversion to American excesses in violence, competition, free-market ideology, its ‘right to work’ anti-union legislation, its lack of minimum wages, medical insurance, childcare, social services, its militarism and global aggression, its economic blackmail of other countries, its mutterings about ‘scorched earth policy’ in response to Canadian attempts to repatriate film distribution? And how much is it a constellation of affections attached to a definite history, a set of idiosyncrasies and ideals, a place, traced in a thousand stories, paintings, dramas, and songs, saturated with memories of men and women fighting for minimum wages, medical insurance, public broadcasting, building a culture(s) which was deliberately, from the beginning, different? That is why this apparently modest notion (listening does not figure in the encyclopedias of the past, it belongs to no acknowledged discipline) is finally like a little theatre on whose stage those two modern deities, one bad and one good, confront each other: power and desire. (Barthes and Havas, 1985:260) Speaking of space In a survey of (Anglophone) musicians in Windsor, Ontario, a number of patterns emerged which may be taken as characteristic of Canadian musicians. When asked about musical preferences and influences, 12 per cent make references to Canadian nationality, while 18 per cent name Canadian bands as models without mentioning that they are Canadian. There are musical features to such identification, but the source of such identification is not primarily musical. Musicians who identify with folk-related pop are more likely to refer to Canadian music or nationality than those who prefer new wave/new rock sounds; musicians into heavy metal (Canada’s most successful musical export) or progressive blues frequently mention Canadian bands but without reference to nationality. Aside from those identifying with folk-derived, singer-songwriter-influenced pop music and, in several instances ‘political’ punk, whose orientation is local rather than
national, musicians’ consciousness of nationality is not central to pop-musical preferences or tastes in central Anglophone Canada (Berland and Straw, 1987). Where such consciousness is expressed, it is likely to have been affected by the experience of Canada’s north: by ‘wild, untouched nature’ or by ‘northern people and culture’—not surprising, perhaps, since folk-type music, like country, is characterized by lyrical references to place. Yet country music, even when written and recorded in Canada, is more likely to talk about Nashville or Georgia than Nanaimo or St John’s (Lehr, 1984). So I wouldn’t look to this as sufficient explanation. Let’s situate this marginal self-consciousness in a different context. Musicians who manifest a consciousness of ‘social issues’—such as ecology, militarism and industrialism, feminism, native rights, or unemployment—are likely to express a consciousness of their own social, geographical, and/or political location. Musicians who do not express interest in non-musical and non-entertainment issues, and who do not consider such issues relevant to their own musical practices, are not likely to locate themselves lyrically or musically. There are, of course, exceptions, such as Bruce Cockburn, prototypical left-pop songwriter; the fact that he sings about Nicaragua but not about Canada was not overlooked by the fans during recent anti-free-trade mobilizations. The analogy between political orientation (broadly defined) and musical taste is hardly unusual. To situate self-conscious musicians in Canada in this matrix is logical but also problematic. In marginalized countries such as Canada, Scotland, or Australia, evidence of a reflexive politics often includes references to place, whether expressed in terms of topological symbols, landscape, work or travel stories, or cynical descriptions of the national destiny. Whether or how such attitudes are expressed in musical terms introduces another debate entirely. It is easier to define in French-speaking communities, who definitively (but decreasingly) favor the chanson française, and display less interest in mainstream rock, punk, or new wave (Shepherd, 1986). The Anglophone preference for musicians in the singer-songwriter tradition, or with country-inflected music, suggests a similar pattern. Locating listening Popular music studies have tended to concentrate on specific moments of disruption moving diagonally against the mainstream, universalizing the thematics of rebellion and commercial cooptation and projecting them on to musical consumption as a whole; thus the domination of subculture theory in the 1970s. All popular music practices were apprehended as variations on the central theme of disruption and appropriation, even where subcultures themselves were clearly (as in Toronto, circa 1979, complete with black leather and dog collars) a form of disillusioned suburban connoisseurship, emphasizing if nothing else media culture’s multiple forces of displacement. The reign of subculture theory as a central metaphor was dependent upon a romanticized notion of consumption as an active practice, as a source of power—implicitly or otherwise, power for social change. This notion of consumption was projected upon popular music—or at least rock and roll—as a whole. Its universalization meant ignoring the sites of suburbia but, more importantly here, urban ethnic communities, non-Western countries, and other diverse contexts within which popular music is an important vehicle for integration into transnational modernity. Subculture theory permitted an understanding of the margins
only in terms of the otherness of synchronic stylization, a concept of the center without a real (as opposed to metaphorical) map. The preoccupation with theories of fun and pleasure, not long ago mobilized to restore (to critics, at least) the precarious symbiosis between consumption and critique, now seems politically vacant, if not suspect, a continuing trace of Reagan’s spectacular populism. Yet popular music remains, as a term, or as a paradigm, inseparable from precisely these sorts of issues, having been defined, for most of us, in terms of processes like sex and drugs and rock and roll or, more loftily, the engendering of solidarity and difference, the demarcation of discursively defined groups of people, or, at the very least, the demarcation of youthful leisure. Even this last aspect is now problematic, since the demarcation of popular music as a coherent symbolic discourse within the sociological terrain of leisure implies or depends on other kinds of demarcations, including spatial ones, which are problematic given the current explosion of meta-pop-music texts in advertising, television, film, fashion, graphic design, across the whole range of media forms, not to mention across international cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries. A theory of the contradictory nature of location as a site of music reception is crucially important. Otherwise no theory of the differential role of popular culture in modernization, no recognition of the various roles of nation states, and no analysis of the complex interaction of popular culture and imperialism are possible. This is not to say that we can identify an audience collectively and coherently in terms of its physical or national (or any other) location. Only commercial demographers, radio stations, and the national census (and perhaps the CBC) do that, and the coherence represented by any one of these constructions is tenuous indeed, especially since they are not coherent with one another. To the extent that their purpose is to represent collective identity as a unified totality, each construction is a work of pure ideology, continuously disassembled by the famous creative disloyalty of listeners for whom ‘freedom of listening is as necessary as freedom of speech’ (Barthes and Havas, 1985). But the conflicts thereby disguised are not random, arbitrary ones. The tensions between regional or even national identities and the structured discourses of international entertainment represent a pivotal and quite tangible site of conflict in the context of contemporary cultural politics. In that sense (as I have written elsewhere) the presence of Canadian music on radio or television becomes the direct electronic equivalent in the airwaves of land claims on the ground (Berland, 1988). The issue is not musical ‘quality’, antipathy to mainstream music, or illogical nationalism, but the question whether place, location and the local are to be valorized as physical and symbolic sources for language. To the extent that they are not, the issue of territory is erased, made abstract; Lefebvre calls this the producion of reproducible space, a space made abstract in accordance with the laws of capital, a space made abstract in the sense that it is devoid of agency, a space made abstract in the mode and mechanism of its production and of its consumption (Lefebvre, 1979). To the extent that location is not valorized as a site or subject of language, entertainment reproduces itself in a condition of reification, in so far as pleasure defines itself as the exclusion of everything but itself, a privileged discursive feature of both patriarchy and imperialism. Concordia University, Montreal
References Audley, Paul (1984) Canada’s Cultural Industries. Toronto: Lorimer. Barthes, Roland, and Havas, Roland (1985) ‘Listening’. The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation. New York: Hill & Wang. Berland, Jody (1986a) ‘Regulating diversity: radio music, audiences, and the regulatory double bind’. IASPM Working Papers, Ottawa, Canada. ——(1986b) ‘Sound, image, and the media: rock video and social reconstruction’. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10 (1), 34–47. ——(1988) ‘Placing television’. New Formations, 4, 145–54. Berland, Jody, and Straw, Will (1987) ‘Report on the Canadian music industry’ and ‘Summary of interviews’. Windsor, Ontario International Communications and Youth Culture Consortium. (Forthcoming in Marlene Cuthbert, Larry Grossberg, Deanna Robinson, et al., Popular Music and National Cultures. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1988.) Canada, Department of Communications (1987) Vital Links: Canadian Cultural Industries. Department of Communications. Charland, Maurice (1986), ‘Technological Nationalism’. Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 4(1–2) 196–220. Crane, Jonathon (1986) ‘Mainstream music and the masses’. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10 (3), 166–70. Dorland, Michael (1988) ‘A thoroughly hidden country: ressentiment in Canadian culture’. Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 12 (1–2), 130–64. Hennion, Antoine, and Meadel, Cecile (1986) ‘Programming music: radio as mediator’. Media, Culture and Society, 8, 281–303. Hobsbawm, Eric (1972) ‘Nationalism’. In Nossitor, Hanson, and Rottan (eds), Imagination and Precision in the Social Sciences. London: Faber. Kuhn, Annette (1982) Women’s Pictures: Feminism and Cinema. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Laroche, Karyna (1988) ‘The sound recording development program: making music to maintain hegemony’. MA thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario. Lefebvre, Henri (1979) ‘Space: social product and use value’. In J.W.Freiberg (ed.), Critical Sociology. New York: Irvington. Lehr, John (1985) ‘As Canadian as possible…under the circumstances: regional myths, images of place and national identity in Canadian country music’. Border/lines, 2. Meisel, John (1987) ‘Some Canadian perspectives on communication research’. Canadian Journal of Communication, 55–62. Meyrowitz, Joshua (1985) No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behaviour. New York: Oxford University Press. Mowitt, John (1987) ‘The sound of music in the era of its electronic reproducibility’. In Richard Leppert and Susan McClary (eds), Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception. New York: Cambridge University Press. Shepherd, John (1986) ‘Music consumption and cultural self-identities: some theoretical and methodological reflections’. Media, Culture and Society, 8, 305–30.
RECEPTION STUDY: ETHNOGRAPHY AND THE PROBLEMS OF DISPERSED AUDIENCES AND NOMADIC SUBJECTS JANICE RADWAY In recognition of the fact that we who are gathered together at these meetings are constituted as communities of particular sorts by the worlds of words we construct and inhabit, I should like to begin today by focusing briefly on the specific word that has occasioned this session (Brodkey, 1987).1 That word is, of course, ‘audience’. I want to pause long enough to consider its origins and its conceptual legacy because the term itself presently denotes a crucially important and much contested arena in communication studies and therefore deserves re-examination. But I also want to call attention to the word for a moment because I think an acknowledgement of its etymology may help us to think reflexively about our own status as speakers and writers and about the ways in which our situation structures and perhaps inadvertently limits our research efforts. As a careful investigation of the etymology of ‘audience’ would show, the word emerged first in the context of face-to-face communication. The Oxford English Dictionary notes in fact that ‘audience’ was first used abstractly to denote the individual activity of hearing (Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 1971:559). To ‘give audience’ was to ‘give ear’ or attention to what had been spoken by another. By extension, then, the word came to be used nominally to refer to a group of persons within hearing, to an assembly of listeners. They were an audience because, as individuals, they could give audience to the words of another. The fact that it was this word that was later used by metaphorical extension to refer to the readers of a book suggests how naturalized the speech situation had become as the model for all social communication. Although the readers of a book were nowhere physically assembled and thus could not simply hear the words of another, either as individuals or as a group, the very use of the word to refer to readers suggests that all reception had been conceived as a variation of listening. What such a schematic etymology highlights is the original linkage of the word ‘audience’ with human speech and discrete, relatively unmediated situations of communication where one individual, in the presence of another, can hear his or her interlocutor’s oration or conversation. The conceptual legacy embedded in the word ‘audience’ was extended and complicated by formalist literary theories as well as by early mass-communication theories. Virtually all of them retained the notion of the audience as a unified aggregate of similarly endowed individuals who passively read or hear the words and therefore the message of another. Comprehension in such models is conflated more or less with the act of hearing, and, in the case of printed texts, the social practice of reading is conceptualized as the simple reception of a message, however complex. The message itself is conceived as a fixed, enduring entity that remains unchanged by the transmission process which delivers it in identical fashion to that aggregate group of receivers, the audience.
Of course, we no longer use the term in such a way, we now reassure ourselves, because we have variously begun to question the notion of a single coherent message and to challenge the conception of transmission as mere physical delivery or transfer (Ang, 1987; Fiske, 1987; Gross, 1987; Morley, 1987; Seiter et al., 1987). At the same time we have begun to distinguish rather precisely between passive hearing or reception and the more active move of adopting a particular mode of attending to the communications of others. And yet, even as we have attempted to refine our models of communication and to redefine both the site and process of reception, we have done so largely by seeking to complicate the conception of audience rather than by jettisoning ettisoning the word entirely and its conceptual baggage along with it. The very fact that we have found it so difficult to begin somewhere else suggests that the word and its legacy may be more important to us than we know. Indeed, it seems possible that we have been unable to discard the concept in part because it may be crucially important to our selfunderstanding and to our comprehension of our social role. We may cling to the word in spite of our awareness of the difficulties it presents because of the persistence of an unconscious, naturalized, commonsense understanding of the process of communication which has itself developed in the context of our own concrete social position. I am referring here to the fact that we are people who actually do speak frequently, publicly, and in person, both to students and to peers. We are, after all, situated within an institution grounded most fundamentally on the lecture and on the desire to make ourselves heard. Our audiences are frequently assembled quite literally before us and we enter into the speech situation with particular intentions to convey often quite determinate meanings. We are teachers, we must remember, bent on communicating certain ideas to students. Even when we function as writers, we frequently operate within a highly circumscribed social sphere. When we conceive an article and send it out for review or publication, more often than not we have a very specific sense of who is likely to read our work. Our distant readers may have only mediated access to our pronouncements, but, because we can quite accurately imagine not only the specific faces in that crowd but how those individuals might receive and react to our work, those readers may indeed appear to us as if they were assembled as a highly specific aggregate before our eyes. No wonder we find it so difficult to theorize the dispersed, anonymous, unpredictable nature of the use of mass-produced, massmediated cultural forms. If the receivers of such forms are never assembled fixedly on a site or even in an easily identifiable space, if they are frequently not uniformly or even attentively disposed to systems of cultural production or to the messages they issue, how can we theorize, not to mention examine, the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of cultural circulation and consumption?2 Perhaps it should also be said here that our powerfully naturalized conception of people who use mass-produced cultural texts as an audience of receivers subtly privileges the moment of enunciation as production and focuses attention on the subsequent circuit of exchange. To think of someone as a listener or receiver in an audience, obviously, we must first assume the existence of the speaker/producer and the thing to be received. This may well result from the fact that, as teachers, we inevitably locate ourselves precisely within a circuit of production and reception and no doubt take our own priority for granted.3 Our professional self-definition and success, in fact, depend at least partly on how effectively we have ‘gotten through’ to our students. We have the power to give
tests, after all, and do so in order to ask the question, ‘Have they properly received our ideas?’4 It is perhaps this commonsense understanding of our own activity which has led to the analogical reasoning which specifies that what is worth studying about communication is how particular circuits of cultural exchange are established, how they operate, and to what effect. Thus we understandably have engaged ourselves in the examination of how particular kinds of books, films, television shows, and forms of music are produced and received. What, we have wanted to know, happens to a massproduced text when it is widely circulated among a vast population? In my own case, how are romances taken up by women who constitute their principal audience (Radway, 1984)? In formulating the question that initiates our research in this particular way, we unconsciously limn the image of a social order where power is precisely lodged at the point of enunciation. In such a discursive system, where people are constructed principally as receivers of the messages of others, those people can wield power in only the most circumscribed of ways. They are admitted only the power of refusal, that is, the power to refuse to listen. Even if they are found to exercise that power, the integrity of the original text is never placed in question, its objective status as the real is assumed. Nor are the power and the priority of the speaker challenged in any fundamental way. Furthermore, in so constructing the circuit of exchange as the crucial site of field for research, we inevitably begin by assuming that individuals in the audience are already stitched into a particular kind of relation with the speaker or writer. Consequently we limit the kinds of questions that might be asked about the individuals so conceived. Because they appear in our discourse only as the receivers of messages which are themselves both temporally and theoretically privileged, those individuals are rarely if ever presented as active subjects, let alone as producers of culture. I want to emphasize here that in objecting to the privileging of speech or writing as production I do not mean to imply that those who control cultural production and the culture industries are ineffective or that they do not have the power to endow others with representations that subsequently structure their understanding of themselves and their culture. But I do want to suggest that our conflation of cultural production with the moment of enunciation alone and our coordinate assumption that that moment is always necessarily primary and determining may originate at least in part from our own situation within the apparatuses of cultural production and with our perception of our own power and our self-interest in legitimating it. Thus the conflation may work actively to ratify our commonsense experience of the world. As has happened with so many others, our conceptions may be validating our own social situation even as they are obscuring their own material and social origins in that situation. To thwart more successfully the determining effects of our social position, we may need to rethink the process of cultural circulation from rom a new point of view—now not from our point of view as speakers, but from a point of view we share with others in our everywhere-mediated society, the point of view of the active, producing cultural worker who fashions narratives, stories, objects, and practices from myriad bits and pieces of prior cultural production. Before I elaborate this suggestion and explore the possibilities for an altered research practice which would focus on the complexities of everyday cultural use, I want to reflect briefly upon another feature of academic social organization which tends to reinforce our tendency to conceive cultural practice on the model of a production—reception circuit. I
am referring, of course, to the practice of disciplinization which has its own complex etiology and history, as do the individual disciplines themselves. But, whatever the origins of the habit of carving up the social body into discrete regions, the practice itself has the institutional effect of discursively distinguishing forms of human production from each other and distancing the students of each from one another. Disciplines like English, art history, film studies, or journalism are grounded at least partly on the assumption that they deal distinctively with identifiably distinct objects, and thus their practitioners take for granted the further assumption that others’ languages and practices will not be adequate to the observation, description, and analysis of ‘their’ objects. Thus we are constituted as specialists by the discrete technical languages we wield but also by the very fact that in learning a disciplinary language we are ourselves disciplined, which is to say, taught how to police ourselves by respecting the territorial boundaries and limits already erected as the consequence of a prior survey of the social body. By internalizing that map, what we learn is where and how our authority can be exercised and how to locate the near boundary of the frontier beyond which it is too risky to venture. Of course one might object here that all of this has become a moot point in the present intellectual environment, where the prospects for interdisciplinary work are being explored virtually everywhere. While this is true to a certain extent, it is also the case, it seems to me, that most work on culture still begins by taking for granted the warrants that have founded particular disciplines, which is to say, certain specific assumptions about the essential distinctiveness of particular objects and texts as well as about the specific ways in which they should be approached. Thus even when we make an effort to place cultural production and reception socially and historically, and thus to understand how the complexities of determination produce important variabilities in the way in which historical actors intervene in these processes, we still initiate our inquiry by beginning with texts already categorized as objects of a particular sort. Audiences, then, are set in relation to a single set of isolated texts which qualify already as categorically distinct objects. No matter how extensive the effort to dissolve the boundaries of the textual object or the audience, most recent studies of reception, including my own, continue to begin with the ‘factual’ existence of a particular kind of text which is understood to be received by some set of individuals. Such studies perpetuate, then, the notion of a circuit neatly bounded and therefore identifiable, locatable, and open to observation. Users are cordoned off for study and therefore defined as particular kinds of subjects by virtue of their use not only of a single medium but of a single genre as well. No matter how intense our interest in the subsequent, more dispersed cultural use to which such forms are put in daily life by historical subjects infinitely more complex than our representations of them, our practical and analytical starting-point is still always within the producer-productreceiver circuit. The limitations of our disciplined research practices and our common-sensical interest in communication circuits are increasingly a problem, I have come to believe, because we have had to grapple in recent years with theories of culture, ideology, and subjectivity which ask us to think of social formations and cultural practices in new ways, all of which confound a simple transmission model of cultural communication. There is no time to map the nuances of the present theoretical environment. But I should like to stress the disquieting importance for reception studies and for ethnography of recent theoretical interventions which have foregrounded the constructed, shifting nature of subjectivity—
its ‘nomadic’ character, in the words of Deleuze and Guattari (1972/1977)—and its interpretation with discourse: the fact that it is actively produced in what Stuart Hall (1986), following Antonio Gramsci (1971), calls ‘practices of articulation’. Subjects are nomadic, Larry Grossberg (1988) has added, not simply because individuality is fragmented but rather because individuality is articulated, which is to say, spoken and constructed, ‘out of a…wandering through everchanging positions and apparatuses’. As Hall (Grossberg, 1986b:53) himself has recently put it, ‘a theory of articulation is both a way of understanding how ideological elements come, under certain conditions, to cohere together within a discourse, and a way of asking how they do or do not become articulated, at specific conjunctures, to certain political subjects.’ Although such a theory of subjectivity has many consequences, both for intellectual work and for political strategy, its most immediate result in this context is to effect a subtle but extremely important transformation in how we think of cultural production and use. In its dual recognition of the historical priority of socially produced discourses and the unalterable fact of temporal human existence—a position Grossberg (1986a:65) has characterized, in describing Hall’s position, as one of ‘theoretical antihumanism and political humanism’—such a theory asks us to pursue the question of how multiple, publicly constituted discourses call to social subjects who, in turn, through complicated processes of identification, actively locate themselves within at least several of those discourses. I want to stress two features of this intricate, multilayered process. It is essential to understand that multiple discourses are produced within and permeate a social formation. Although some of these certainly cohere and ultimately support each other, others do not (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985). As a consequence, social subjects can be multiply addressed by discourses that coincide or overlap, but they can also be addressed by discourses that contest and even contradict each other. This possibility for discontinuity highlights the other feature of the larger process of subject formation I want to stress—that is, the fact that social subjects actively participate in the process (although by that participation they do not fully control it or its effects) by deliberately articulating bits and pieces from several, often competing, discourses themselves. Hall captures the duality and active nature of this process nicely in his observation (Grossberg, 1986b:53) that common British usage of the word ‘articulation’ implies both speaking or ‘languaging’ and the activity of making a link. Social subjects, in effect, actively and articulately participate in the production of subjectivity at the moment that they forge articulations between ideological fragments and larger discourses which are always already offered to them because of the priority of the social formation. In effect, they are spoken by discourse even as they speak through multiple discourses themselves. It is for this reason, in fact, that Hall insists that it is impossible to read off a subject’s ideology from any simple construction of his or her social position within a social formation. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau’s particular formulation of the notion of articulation, Hall has observed (Grossberg, 1986b:53) that ‘the political connotation of ideological elements has no necessary belongingness, and thus, we need to think the contingent, the non-necessary, connection between different practices.’ Whatever else such a formulation entails, it certainly enjoins us to try to understand the ways in which historically concrete social subjects articulate together many ideological elements, discourses, and practices across the terrain of daily life. The theory
suggests in fact that it is the specificity of the multiple linkages that accounts for the concreteness as well as for the fluidity of nomadic subjectivity. Indeed, I want to underscore the fluidity of subjectivity here precisely because these linkages are contingently and actively forged in practice and therefore can be altered or replaced by other practices. Indeed, it is the very breaks, fissures, or seams in the bricolage that results from the practices of articulation which can become the site of further political activity, by which I mean deliberately managed processes of disarticulation and rearticulation. However, to identify where rearticulation might be attempted, it becomes essential to focus first on the links or seams that have already actively been made between social practices and thus in our case to resist the habit of constructing subjects as the passive receivers of single unified discourses embodied in specific media and genres (Radway, 1986a). The preconditions for such activity have already been established in recent work that attempts to rethink the reception of central products as itself a form of practice. Thus we have begun to learn more about how specific historical subjects actively engage with the narrative and televisual forms they prefer (Morley, 1986; McRobbie, 1984; Ang, 1982/1985). But the emerging theories of dispersed subjectivity ask us, perhaps even more insistently, to go beyond this as well. They suggest that, if we are to comprehend the intricate piecework of articulation and something of its political consequences, we must investigate the multitude of concrete connections which ever-changing, fluid subjects forge between ideological fragments, discourses, and practices. This is not a wholly original observation, of course, for many students of popular culture have come to the same conclusion almost simultaneously as we have begun to discover the extremely complex nature of the engagement that occurs between social subjects and even one media form. Thus we are hearing more and more calls like this one from Larry Grossberg (1988): The critic has not only to map out the lines of this mobility [among positions and apparatuses] but also [to] recognize that only by entering into this nomadic relation to the media can [she or he] map the complex social spaces of media effects. We need a vocabulary to describe the shifting and contradictory partial relations of nomadic subjectivity which is always moving along different vectors and changing its shape, but always having a shape I agree with both of the points Grossberg makes here. But it does seem to me that even as we work out such a vocabulary for nomadic subjectivity we must also identify a plausible stance or point of view from which these multiple negotiations can be investigated, just as we must craft a research practice that will enable us to accomplish the project. Indeed, there is a crucial ambiguity in his observation that the critic must both chart the terrain of articulations and enter into the nomadic relations to the media, the articulations that ultimately produce media effects. The activity of mapping is, in fact, a complex process that involves representing a terrain from a distant point of view, a point of view that must
be relinquished if one actually wants to move about in the terrain in order to get from one point to another. But, if the map is to work effectively as a guide, it must accurately represent not only the terrain itself but also where previously created routes are joined to others. Production of a useful map, then, necessitates at least some firsthand familiarity with the environment acquired through the temporary assumption of an inhabitant’s point of view. It would seem, then, that mapping is therefore dependent upon, but not equivalent to, an expedition or survey which itself travels the various trails already produced. Leaving the cartographic metaphor for a moment and returning to the theoretical problem of how best to investigate articulation and its role in subject formation, I should say that what has begun to worry me is the possibility that our habitual practice of conducting bounded, regionalized investigations of singular text—audience circuits may be preventing us from investigating, except in a limited way, the very articulations between discourses and practices we deem important both theoretically and strategically. The legacy we may need to dispense with is our commonsense assumption that, no matter what the question, we should begin with the particular circuit carved out of the social and made manageable by our discipline and mastery of it. We may in fact need to confront the possibility that, while our propensity for dissection may foster ease of analysis and therefore serve professional purposes, it may also block the processes of understanding how the parts of social bodies are actively related and therefore hinder any effort to figure out how old linkages might be broken, how new linkages might be made. However, if we are not to begin with reception, that is, with multiple instances of television or film viewing, radio listening, concert going, or book reading, where should we start? Instead of segmenting a social formation automatically by construing it precisely as a set of audiences for specific media and/or genres, I have been wondering whether it might not be more fruitful to start with the habits and practices of everyday life as they are actively, discontinuously, even contradictorily pieced together by historical subjects themselves as they move nomadically via disparate associations and relations through day-to-day existence. In effect, I have begun to wonder whether our theories do not impress upon us a new object of analysis, one more difficult to analyze because it can’t be so easily pinned down—that is, the endlessly shifting, ever-evolving kaleidoscope of daily life and the way in which the media are integrated and implicated within it.5 The map, it seems to me, must be enlarged, but I do not see how its lofty survey can be produced without a prior expedition through the already inhabited, already elaborately built-up cultural terrain. Ethnography may still be the most effective method for organizing such an expedition because it makes a concerted effort to note the range of daily practice and to understand how historical subjects articulate their cultural universe. At the same time, it has traditionally refused to rest content with an account of the simple contents of consciousness, since it has always been preoccupied with determination. Unfortunately, however, the ethnographic method has been applied until now in an extremely limited fashion both to reception studies and to media analysis. In anthropology, of course, an ethnography is a written account of a lengthy social interaction between a scholar and a distant culture. Although its focus is often narrowed in the process of writing so as to highlight kinship practices, social institutions, or cultural rituals, that written account is rooted in an effort to observe and to comprehend the entire tapestry of social life. An extensive literature has been elaborated by anthropologists
attempting to theorize, among other things, the nature of the relationship between culture and social behavior, the epistemological status of ‘data’ gathered in the field, the nature of ‘experience’ itself, and the status of explanatory social theories imported from the ethnographer’s own cultural universe (Clifford and Marcus, 1986; Marcus and Fischer, 1986). Despite these not inconsequential difficulties, however, anthropologists have at least aimed through ethnography to describe the ways in which day-to-day practices of socially situated individuals are always complexly overdetermined by both history and culture. The goals in ethnographic studies of the media have been more narrowly circumscribed largely by that disciplinary construction I spoke of earlier. Despite our interest in practice and use, those of us who have turned to the ethnographic method to understand how specific social subjects interact with cultural forms have none the less always begun with a radically circumscribed site, a field surveyed and cordoned off by our preoccupation with a single medium or genre. Even when we have attempted to understand not simply how women read romances or families watch television but also how those activities intersect with, contradict, or ratify other cultural practices carrying out the definition of gender, for example, we have always remained locked within the particular topical field defined by our prior segmentation of the audience of its use of one medium or genre. Consequently, we have often reified or ignored totally other cultural determinants beside the one specifically highlighted. Thus in my own analysis of a small group of romance readers there is no discussion whatsoever of the ways in which the practice of romance reading might be articulated with practices organized by and centering on race or class. Ethnographers of media use have also tended to rule out as beyond our purview questions of how a single leisure practice intersects with or contradicts others, how it is articulated to our subjects’ working lives, or how it is used to contest the dominance of other cultural forms. This kind of bracketing can be justified legitimately, of course, by citing the virtues of modesty, the limitations of individual expertise, and the material conditions of our professional lives. We are after all limited human beings, masters of only a few ideas, and bound by convention and contract to publish at regular intervals. But it is precisely the way in which these historical, material, and social limitations circumscribe our ability to take the complexities of articulation as our subject which concerns me. Is it not possible to design a research practice that would both take account of our individual limitations and provide for a collective mapping of the social terrain equal to the ambitious, majestic scope of our recent theories of subjectivity and intertextuality? Additionally, can ethnography—which has tended to center its accounts on a conception of the individual as coherent, unified, and present to the self—manage to capture the fluid, destabilized, ever-shifting nature of subjectivity produced through the articulation of discourses and their fragments? Can we, in short, manage a study of the dispersed construction of everyday life by beginning with the multitude of practices engaged in by actual, historically situated social subjects who are neither stable nor unified? As I puzzle over these extremely difficult questions, I have begun to think about the possibilities of a collaborative project that would begin within the already defined boundaries of a politically constituted municipality and attempt to map there the complex, collective production of ‘popular culture’ across the terrain of everyday life. I suggest accepting already established political boundaries not to assign priority to a
community’s manner of constituting itself but rather to take the process of prescribing such a boundary and the concomitant self-definition(s) as one of several subjects of inquiry. How, we might ask, is a single municipality composed of distinct, overlapping, even contentious communities and subgroups? I suggest collaboration not as a panacea solution to all of the problems involved in elaborating an appropriate point of view for the study of the cultural terrain but as a practical, though flawed, way of overcoming some of the limitations of the individual scholar. Finally, I suggest a study of the production of popular culture within the everyday as a way of trying to understand how social subjects are at once hailed successfully by dominant discourses and therefore dominated by them and yet manage to adapt them to their own other, multiple purposes and even to resist or contest them. By studying the extremely heterogeneous set of practices through which the popular is produced in relation to the legitimate culture or within its interstices, we might render visible the unceasing and heretofore unacknowledged cultural work through which nomadic subjects and dispersed groups confound the unity of domination by articulating together discursive fragments and practices from many different sources and regions. We may be able to see them, then, not simply as audiences, as receivers of the messages of others, but rather as active individuals who productively articulate together bits and pieces of cultural material scavenged from a multitude of sites and who, in doing so, nomadically, perhaps even slyly, take up many different subject positions with respect to the dominant cultural apparatuses. To make this even more concrete, I should say that what I have in mind is a project that would take as its object of study the range of practices engaged in by individuals within a single heterogeneous community as they elaborate their own form of popular culture through the realms of leisure and then articulate those practices to others engaged in during their working lives. By beginning with leisure, I am, of course, employing an arbitrary distinction, since popular practices may also be initiated and elaborated within the realm of work. However, I think it is justifiable, for the practical reasons that it suggests a conceptual starting-point and narrows the range of study, and for the more substantial reason that it accoids with the fact that within a society dominated by increasingly rationalized, fragmented, and routinized work the search for some measure of creativity and freedom has been driven out of the public realm into the privatized, individualized realms of leisure, play, and consumption (Susman, 1984: May, 1980; Peiss, 1986; Jameson, 1979). My proposed project, then, is grounded in a more traditional form of ethnographic fieldwork—that is, in a fairly lengthy stay within a community. This would be undertaken now not by a single scholar but rather by a team whose members would fan out across a range of sites. Their purpose would be to understand how the popular realms of leisure and play are constructed conceptually in opposition to the serious and the practical in that community, how leisure and play are elaborated within and across a range of different practices, and how actual subjects within the community themselves articulate a multitude of leisure practices together as well as against practices understood to be part of other cultural regions. Clearly, this sort of project threatens to be potentially unwieldy and unending. Thus I have additionally begun to wonder whether it might be possible to narrow the range of focus a bit more by concentrating on just a few crucial sites where the significant conceptual oppositions are actively labored over and the greatest variety of relevant
articulations might be made. I wonder, therefore, whether a collaborative team could collectively and comparatively survey the production of the popular by examining the elaboration of play within the family, in the school, and in what I would like to call leisure worlds. What I intend this term to refer to here is the entire range of practices elaborated around a hobby, avocation, or leisure activity such as the books, magazines, catalogues, exhibitions, and tours focused on the activity of gardening. The ethnographic team would seek to map the way in which the myriad practices engaged in within all three of these realms are or are not articulated to those of labor or work in an effort fort to understand the political consequences of concrete articulations and particular forms of dispersed subjectivity. But, obviously, I need to explain why I think these sites can be legitimately privileged and I need to specify in greater detail what such a team might want to look for at each site. As Tony Bennett (1986:19) has recently argued, popular culture cannot be defined essentially ‘as a fixed inventory of cultural forms and practices’ but must be conceived relationally with respect to its conceptual others, that is, with respect to all that a social formation deems not popular culture. Looming large within that set, of course, especially within contemporary America, would be legitimate or high culture, the culture of the serious and the important.6 As Bennett further elaborates, popular culture consists of those cultural forms and practices…which constitute the terrain on which dominant, subordinate and oppositional cultural values and ideologies meet and intermingle, in different mixes and permutations, vying with one another in their attempts to secure the spaces within which they can become influential in framing and organising popular experience and consciousness. As he goes on to say, it consists not of two separated compartments—a pure and spontaneously oppositional culture ‘of the people’ and a totally administered culture ‘for the people’—but is located in the points of confluence between these opposing tendencies whose contradictory orientations shape the very organisation of the cultural forms in which they meet and interpenetrate one another. The three sites I have proposed are principal locations at which this confrontation between the popular and the dominant, officially legitimated culture occurs. The first two, in fact—the family and the school—are primary sites for the elaboration of the distinctions between them. The third is an especially important site in contemporary society because the opposition between the popular and the dominant is at once perpetuated and contested, since it is there that their traditional hierarchical relationship is established in order to be momentarily overturned. Although leisure worlds are conceptualized as sites for the pursuit of what are still referred to as ‘merely’ hobbies or avocations, they are increasingly and ironically the very realms in which individuals invest most of their energy, money, and time. For many individuals and subgroups, in fact, the conceptually subordinated leisure world is the primary site for the elaboraton of
what is taken to be meaningful identity. What we need to know, it seems to me, is not only how this particular production of subjectivity is managed and how it does or does not intersect with practices elaborated elsewhere, especially within the realm of the work, but also how the very idea of the leisure site is constructed and isolated off in the first place as the locus of pleasure, play, creativity, and freedom. We need to know, finally, whether the small victories won there in the search for empowerment can ever be transposed into other regions and built upon as a base for further contestation of the dominant social order. The whole process of conceptual distinction between the popular and the dominant, the carnivalesque and the serious, begins, I think, within the family as its members practically distinguish play from other activities and negotiate with each other over who plays at what, where, and when (White, 1983; Bakhtin, 1968). In many families, as play is increasingly defined after infancy as something children do with other children and only occasionally engage in with their parents, the very idea of play is constructed in opposition to adulthood and all that adults do, which is to engage in serious business. This sets in motion, it seems to me, a process Allon White (1983) has called ‘the social reproduction of seriousness’, which he identifies as perhaps the central activity of contemporary schooling. Although schools certainly do cement the distinction by carefully dividing the carnivalesque playground from the serious classroom, I think the process of separating the messiness of play from the order of work begins much earlier in the home. It is begun, it seems to me, as soon as parents discipline play by confining it to special rooms, by associating it with special technologies called toys which adults don’t have, and by engaging in it only when ‘busyness’, or, of course, business, does not intervene first. But it is important to remember that these distinctions are not uniformly enforced and that they very likely vary with respect to class, race, and gender. Our ethnographic team, it seems to me, would want to map as precisely as possible the variations in how these essential distinctions are initiated, constructed, and practiced in the everyday. The team would also obviously want to look at how negotiations are managed over the appropriate use of electronic technologies, especially television. As Dave Morley’s (1986) work has shown us, television is implicated in the social relations of families, and it is employed as a tool to further or to contest power relations already established through other practices. But we also know from our own anecdotal experience and from other research that families take different positions with respect to the legitimacy of television-watching, as some limit their children’s viewing, others confine it to certain times of the day and still others proscribe it entirely. Its particular conceptual construction as at least partly illegitimate entertainment is furthered through parents’ own viewing practices and through their talk about television’s quality, the problems it poses as an escape from their own chores or their children’s homework, and its relationship to other forms of more legitimate leisure occupations such as book-reading. Once again, it seems to me that what our team would want to investigate is how the differences between these technologies of entertainment and play and the technologies and practices surrounding school, work, and chores are produced and elaborated on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, the team would want to ask, I think, how the practices that evolve the distinction between play and work construct a subject more or less favorably disposed to the practices and technologies associated with the dominant, legitimate, serious culture,
how they position that subject in such a way as to be interpellated more or less effectively by its stories, narratives, and discourses. This topic would need to be further pursued within the school, since it is there that the distinction is elaborated most fully and where children are asked quite explicitly to acquiesce to the hierarchy they already understand, although they may not yet have submitted to it completely. As Allon White (1983:12) has observed: from the outset, the modern school system is predicated upon the enclosing and exclusion of the carnivalesque from its territory. The serious act of growing up and acquiring knowledge begins by inculcating the child with a primary law of double exclusion: where knowledge is, play is not: where play is, knowledge is not. The provision of playgrounds in schools puts games, exuberant bodies, scatology, sexual exploration, dirt, jokes and pleasure in an open enclave where they cannot contaminate the realm of ‘pure’ knowledge. Of course, it is also the case that schools vary enormously in the way in which they construct these boundaries and in how diligently they police them. Playgrounds can be no more than concrete slabs, allowing for the importation of all sorts of games, activities, and objects like radios, skateboards, and bikes; or they can be carefully organized and subdivided lots with special spaces for organized games like basketball and softball and for gymnastic play on architecturally designed climbing structures. Similarly, work can be divided so rigorously from play that play itself can be left relatively uncolonized by the strictures of the dominant, serious culture. On the other hand, as White (1983:13) has observed ‘with newer liberal teaching methods the classroom [can be] taken out into the playground: educational games and toys [can] colonise and “clean up” playground culture and appropriate it for the purposes of education’. In pursuing these differences, our team would want to investigate how these patterns of boundary enforcement affect children’s later investments in leisure pursuits, media entertainments, and the popular culture. Obviously it would also want to raise the question how this affects children’s capacity and tendency to locate themselves within the dominant discourses about school and work and thus their ability to produce for themselves, through articulation, subject positions that do or do not accord with the needs of the dominant culture. In proposing the idea of leisure worlds as a third principal site of investigation, I hope to extend the concern with the boundary between the dominant and the popular into the world of adolescence and adulthood. What I have in mind here is a variation on the study of subcultures reconceived now simply as loose, multiple, and fluid social groupings produced around particular leisure interests, activities, or media use. Even a cursory glance at any evening newspaper will suggest how segmented, stratified, elaborated, and organized American leisure has become. Community calendars announce the meetings of stamp collectors, orchidists, van customizers, photography enthusiasts, to name only a few, and they publish the locations of aerobics classes, gardening seminars, yoga classes, and boat shows, among innumerable others. Nearly all of these activities bring together people who pursue these interests avidly and regularly with other enthusiasts, and nearly all of the practices that are involved are dependent on knowledge and information produced elsewhere by legitimated experts. At the same time, the people who define
themselves through such organized activities also take part in other leisure pursuits and use the media in much less focused ways. Although there would be much to explore here with respect to the range of articulations that might be made across a set of leisure pursuits, I suspect our ethnographic team would want to learn how and when individuals tend to develop focused interests and what sorts of social functions they perform. The team would also want to ask what sorts of relationships individuals construct between their multiple leisure worlds and their world of daily work. We would want to know how subjectivity is concretely elaborated within specific leisure practices and then look at the continuities, disjunctures, and contradictions between that subjectivity and the other positions taken up by such subjects as they move into other cultural regions. It should be clear by now that what fuels my suggested project on the place of the popular and play in everyday life is a larger question about the role of the culture of leisure and consumption at the present historical moment. Is it, I want to ask, a site of empowerment where individuals experience pleasure and affective intensity and therefore construct themselves as knowing, powerful subjects? Can they learn there how to act in new ways so as to return to the more successfully dominated realms of human life with renewed purpose and capacities to resist? Or, on the other hand, does this culture function as little more than a playpen, a confined space where the dirt and disorder of the unruly child can be banished and given free reign so that the child might later be better integrated into the adult cultural order, now disciplined, duly washed, and appropriately instructed? Is the culture of leisure and consumption now the principle arena for the securing of hegemony or is it the last site where a measure of freedom can be noisily, deviously, invisibly wrung from necessity and ideology? I pose only questions here because neither have I their answers nor have I succeeded in imagining fully the process through which those answers might be sought. But these are the questions that have begun to preoccupy me as I confront an increasing disjuncture—the disjuncture I see and feel between the windless, already lost world described by theories of postmodernism (theories I find disturbingly persuasive) and a world not yet surrendered, still being struggled over by living subjects. Thus I end always in these troublesome mental dialogues about how to conceive social practice with another, more personal question about what purpose such conceptions should serve. Knowledge to what end? I wonder finally how to effect a particular articulation. How is it possible to articulate (in both senses of the word) the practice of intellectual analysis of the place of the media and cultural production in everyday life to the quest for social change? More particularly, can such a project be carried out within the school—for, no matter how much we may wish to forget it, we are situated resolutely within this quintessential institution of social reproduction, in an institution whose findings are often written off by our students and the rest of the society as merely bookish and therefore irrelevant. The adjective ‘academic’ after all is frequently used not only derogatorily but even as a term of abuse. Is it possible, finally, to preserve the gains secured by the distance and abstraction of intellectual work and yet continue to respect the particularities and concreteness of subjective experience in such a way that the distance between them can continually be negotiated and renegotiated by many more individuals than has heretofore been possible? I don’t really know, finally, but I continue to turn to ethnography because as a practice it is predicated implicitly on the assumption that to move out into an alien world, the field
as it were, is also necessarily to attempt to leave another one behind. It is ethnography’s insistence that the social is always actively constructed by living subjects that I find potentially helpful. That insistence can authorize attempts to understand the complexities of a distant world’s construction by those who inhabit it even as it can be turned back reflexively upon the construction of our own in order to expose the peculiarity of the articulations with which we produce it. Linda Brodkey (1987:101) has argued that ethnography creates the preconditions for research and social responsibility if only because it asks us to remember ‘that the worlds of words separating “us” from “them” are not natural boundaries, but social borders of our own making’. In learning how others actively make their own social worlds differently from the way we make our own, perhaps it might also be possible to identify together those points where articulations and alliances could be forged across the borders in the service of a future not yet envisioned and therefore neither necessarily lost nor secured. Duke University
Notes This is a much reworked version of a paper entitled ‘Where is “the field?”: ethnography, audiences and the redesign of research practice’, delivered at the 1987 International Communication Association meeting in Montreal. I should like to thank all who attended the session for their questions and comments, and I should especially like to acknowledge the helpful observations of Ien Ang and John Fiske, the other participants on the panel. I should also like to thank Ellen Wartella for first helping me to clarify the issues that were beginning to trouble me about the problem of the audience in communication studies. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Larry Grossberg for his close reading of the original draft and for our many subsequent conversations about how best to investigate cultural reception. As will be clear from our exchange here, we haven’t managed to persuade each other completely, but I am happy to acknowledge the effect of Larry’s skepticism, clarity, and precision upon my own formulations. Since this paper is at least initially preoccupied with the intellectual legacy of the fact that academics are indeed speakers in highly determinate speech situations, I have attempted to preserve the mode of address adopted initially for my ICA audience. 1 I should like to acknowledge the influence of Linda Brodkey’s work on my thinking in this paper and thank her for our many discussions about the nature of academic practice and the politics of pedagogy. 2 In speaking of ‘cultural circulation and consumption’ here, I am referring to the complex social processes by which cultural products and messages are produced, distributed, and used within a population. Hereafter, however, I will not use the term ‘consumption’ to designate the activity of use because I feel the connotations of passivity and ingestion that attach to it are unhelpful theoretically. On this subject, see Radway (1986b). 3 In other words, we understand ourselves to be the ‘authors’ of our own enunciations. For a discussion of the misunderstanding of language upon which such a conception is based, see Barthes (1977). 4 The traditional, authoritarian model of pedagogy has been analyzed and criticized, of course, by radical theorists of education (Giroux, 1983; Aronowitz and Giroux, 1985).
5 I am, of course, neither the first nor the only one to have recognized the importance of the concept of ‘everyday’ life. See, for instance, de Certeau (1984), Fiske (1988), and Willis (1987). 6 My thinking on this particular issue has been enormously affected by the work of Peter Stallybrass and Allon White (Stallybrass and White, 1986; White, 1983).
References Ang, Ien (1985) Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination. Trans. Della Couling. New York: Methuen. (Originally published 1982.) ——(1987) ‘Wanted: audiences: on the politics of empirical audience studies’. Unpublished paper presented at the conference on ‘Rethinking the Audience’, Blaubeuren, West Germany. Aronowitz, Stanley, and Giroux, Henry (1985) Education under Siege: The Conservative, Liberal and Radical Debate over Schooling. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin & Garvey. Bakhtin, Mikhail (1968) Rabelais and his World. Trans. H.Iswolsky. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Barthes, Roland (1977) ‘The death of the author’. In his Image-Music-Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill & Wang. Bennett, Tony (1986) ‘The politics of “the popular” and popular culture’. In Tony Bennett, Colin Mercer and Janet Woollacott (eds), Popular Culture and Social Relations. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Brodkey, Linda (1987) Academic Writing as Social Practice. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. de Certeau, Michel (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F.Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press. Clifford, James, and Marcus, George (eds) (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Felix (1977) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R.Lane. New York: The VikingPress. (Originally published 1972.) Fiske, John (1987) ‘Moments of television: neither the text nor the audience’. Unpublished paper presented at the conference on ‘Rethinking the Audience’, Blaubeuren, West Germany. ——(1988) ‘Popular forces and the culture of everyday life’. Paper presented at the ICA conference, New Orleans, May/June 1988. Giroux, Henry (1983) Theory and Resistance in Education: A Pedagogy for the Opposition. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin & Garvey. Gramsci, Antonio (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Ed. and trans. Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers. Gross, Larry (1987) ‘Out of the mainstream: sexual minorities and the mass media’. Unpublished paper presented at the conference on ‘Rethinking the Audience’, Blaubeuren, West Germany. Grossberg, Larry (1986a) ‘History, politics and postmodernism: Stuart Hall and cultural studies’. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10 (2):61–77. ——(1986b) ‘On postmodernism and articulation: an interview with Stuart Hall’. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10 (2) 45–60. ——(1988) ‘The in-difference of television’. Screen, 28 (2). Hall, Stuart (1986) ‘The problem of ideology: Marxism without guarantees’. Journal of Communication, 10 (2):28–44. Jameson, Fredric (1979) ‘Reification and utopia in mass culture’. Social Text, 1(1): 130–48.
Laclau, Ernesto, and Mouffe, Chantal (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso. McRobbie, Angela (1984) ‘Dance and social fantasy’. In Angela McRobbie and Mica Nava (eds), Gender and Generation. London: Macmillan. Marcus, George E., and Fischer, Michael M.J. (1986) Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. May, Lary (1980) Screening out the Past: The Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture Industry. New York: Oxford University Press. Morley, David (1986) Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure. London: Comedia. ——(1987) ‘Changing paradigms in audience studies’. Unpublished paper presented at the conference on ‘Rethinking the Audience’, Blaubeuren, West Germany. Peiss, Kathy (1986) Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the Century New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Radway, Janice (1984) Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. ——(1986a) ‘Identifying ideological seams: mass culture, analytical method, and political practice’. Communication, 9(1):93–124. ——(1986b) ‘Reading is not eating: mass-produced literature and the theoretical, methodological, and political consequences of a metaphor’. Book Research Quarterly, 2(3):7–29. Stallybrass, Peter, and White, Allon (1986) The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Susman, Warren (1984) Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century. New York: Pantheon. White, Allon (1983) ‘The dismal sacred word’. LTP: Journal of Literature, Teaching, Politics, 2:4– 15. Willis, Susan (1987) ‘Learning from the banana’. American Quarterly, 39 (4): 586–600.
WANDERING AUDIENCES, NOMADIC CRITICS LAWRENCE GROSSBERG Stuart Hall (1986:60) once described the purpose of theory as helping us get a bit further down the road. This is an apt metaphor, not only for the politics of theory as it intersects the real world of historical forces and everyday life, but also for the theory of politics, for our own ongoing intellectual work. The fruitless arguments between those who see such work as a continuous dialogue and those who see it as a discontinuous series of wars are better replaced with an image of work—whether the work of everyday life or the work of intellectuals—as travel (transformation) and of travel as work (commutation). This allows us to see the complexity of intellectual alliances and disputes: sometimes people travel with you, or near you, or against you; sometimes they help you, or distract you, or interrupt you, or redirect you; sometimes we take a wrong turn, or a detour, or a deadend; sometimes we are ‘hijacked’ (Hall, 1988) by another position and sometimes we are the ‘hijackers’. The image suggests the inevitability (and, indeed, the pleasurable and enabling possibilities) of different and temporary alliances, built upon different grounds, along different dimensions, with different intensities, as we move in different directions, without ever knowing precisely where we are heading. The following comments, then, are meant to serve as a signpost for an intersection of trajectories available to cultural studies; they chronicle my thoughts at the present moment in an ongoing, collective effort1 to think through (disentangle, criticize, and reconstruct) the problems of, and possibilities for, studying the contemporary cultural formations. But the language of travel is polymorphous, and we must take seriously Meghan Morris’s (1988) warning that specific vocabularies of travel are never innocent, that they are always implicated in and articulated to larger structures of ideological, cultural, and political relations. Morris analyzes the political implications of two trajectories of contemporary cultural criticism built on different images of travel: I shall describe these as the post-structuralist and the urban-culturalist.2 After briefly summarizing her criticisms, I shall offer a parallel critique of an ethnographic model of cultural studies before turning to Morris’s and my collective efforts to articulate a fourth trajectory. Finally, I want to consider Radway’s important and original efforts to rethink the practice of ethnography in ‘Reception study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects’. I shall suggest that the position she takes up is located at a crossroads, that it is pulled in different directions at the same time, that it attempts to traverse simultaneously a number of different roads. To put it simply, Radway treats ethnography both too generously (giving it credit for having always sought to accomplish her project) and too vaguely (defining it by the presence of the researcher in an empirical field, while bracketing the theoretical baggage of its hermeneutical project). Her project is, I suggest, more radical than she allows, for it involves the rearticulation of
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
ethnography into both the historical field of contemporary mass-mediated culture and the theoretical field of ‘post-modern’ anti-essentialism. The post-structuralist critic is like the tour guide, reflective and reflexive, who always finds the familiar already strange. The tour guide distances himself from the tourist—it makes no difference whether the tourist is the everyday actor or the ‘totalizing Seer’— who is looking for the Truth. The tourist operates within the metaphysics of Presence, traveling from one home to another, from an imaginary origin to an imaginary destination, seeking to (re)discover an authenticity that never exists. The tourist ‘hopes to “ambush” the site [i.e. to discover its authentic presence and meaning], but he is always already ambushed by the marker—site relation. The trap is unavoidable; and, in one sense, it is the inevitability of the “ambush” that is…always already present’ (Morris, 1988:10). In fact, the tourist unwittingly sets his own trap because the work of his travels actively produces the very social differences he seeks to comprehend and ultimately erase. The tourist produces society as a ‘figural displacement’ (1988:14). The only strategy available to the theorist as a tour guide, who knows that the authentic is always and already contaminated by the inauthentic, is to ‘render impertinent any opposition’ (1988:15), to deconstruct any moment of authenticity and/or social difference, since ‘every institutionalization of the voyage is already ambushed; it is already an alibi’. Morris argues that such a critical strategy erases the politics of culture in favor of an endlessly reflexive politics of criticism. The ‘other’ disappears in the deconstruction, while specific social differences and relations of power are reinscribed as the unavoidable ‘a priori’ of the post-structural voyage. That is, deconstruction is never complete and its choice of where to begin (and hence of what always remains as its ‘excess’) is never innocent. Counterposed to the post-structuralist tour guide, the ‘urban-culturalist’ critic3 is like a detective constantly seeking to make the familiar strange or, better, traveling through the realms of the familiar searching for signs of (clues to) the strange. The detective looks for the signs of the ‘criminal’ (the marginal, the resistant, productivity) in the places of the ‘normal’ (the everyday, the dominant, consumption). Morris describes it as an ‘informal [populist] equivalent of traditional socialist realism’ (1988:31). It is an extension of subcultural theory which takes particular cultural relations—‘the emblematic street experience of un- and under-employed males in European or American cities (or what then becomes its echoes everywhere)’ (1988:33)—as the image of ‘real’ or ‘proper’ popular culture and, by extension, of contemporary (postmodern) existence. Cultural criticism is consequently structured by two interrelated binarisms. The first assumes a constitutive difference between mainstream (dominant) culture and marginal (popular) culture. The result is that the politics of any cultural practice is defined, not intrinsically, but by its articulation into a dichotomous version of the social formation, as if British culture, for example, could be described simply in terms of the opposition between an austere Thatcherism and a playful street style. The question addressed to any cultural practice is ‘Which side are you on?’ and the answer is always determined, ahead of time, by the social location of cultural consumers. The same ‘postmodern’ practices located in trendy business establishments are inevitably articulated to Thatcherism, but when they appear as street fashion they are understood as articulating some form, however mute and ineffective, of resistance.4 As Morris (1988:33) argues, ‘the complex “immediate mishmash of the everyday” ’, within which the relations between ‘the
(global) “machinery of capital” and (local) cultural machinations’ are articulated, is collapsed into a predefined topography of cultural and political binary difference. The second binarism reproduces a similar constitutive difference at the level of intellectual work: the official intellectual, marked by an absolute hostility to, and absence of, popular culture, is positioned across and against the radical intellectual, who champions the possibilities of popular culture. Not only do these binarisms assume that there is a single problem of theory (e.g. ‘strong’ versus ‘weak’ thought) which is ‘the same everywhere’ but, more importantly, they structure the world into a very simple narrative of good versus bad. This is, according to Morris (1988:32), ‘an odd outcome from what starts out…as an affirmation of the priority of complex social experience over totalizing theoretical activity… The real mystery in this case is why, if the metaphysical adventure is over, the streetwise intellectual should begin his practice so strictly positioned in a constitutive opposition to “the Other”’. According to Morris (1988:34), the real challenge is to face ‘the difficulties that follow once criticism of popular culture is already based on complex experience of taste rather than distaste, of involvement rather than distance, so that a strategic “siding” for or against the “popular” becomes a quite pointless manoeuvre.’ This suggests a quite different conception of the cultural terrain as what Williams (1961) described as the complex relations within a ‘whole way of life’, structured by shifting, interrelated formations of practices and investments (or ways of ‘taking up’ practices). Thus, rather than isolating something called ‘popular culture’ and identifying various ‘structures of taste’, we need to talk about the differentially distributed intensities articulated to specific practices and formations. Popularity is less a matter of different cultural practices than a form of articulation and effectivity. Within the third trajectory of cultural criticism, the ethnographer can be conceptualized as a tourist traveling to an alien world of the native. The tourist is constantly seeking to make the strange familiar by bringing it home in the form of travel notes, photographs, postcards, and souvenirs. These travel mementos guarantee the tourist’s identity as a traveler who has encountered authentically foreign sites, attractions, and people in the purposeful movement through space known as a trip. Ethnography is thus more than simply fieldwork; it involves the interpretive project of locating the Other within a hermeneutic dialogue, within a relationship of identity and difference in which, as I shall suggest, otherness is already denied. Ethnography is built upon a model of communication, interaction, and intersubjectivity5 through which it seeks to (re)produce an imaginary negotiation between different systems of meaning which will enable the ethnographer to understand another culture ‘from the native’s point of view’. Ethnography seeks to understand the structures of experience which define the reality of another’s way of being in the world. Even the more sophisticated contemporary efforts to rethink the practices of ethnographic research and its relations to structures of power consistently reproduce this hermeneutic foundation: ‘Ethnography is actively situated between powerful systems of meaning… [It] decodes and recodes, telling the ground of collective order and diversity, inclusion and exclusion’ (Clifford, 1986:2). Consequently, the native is always inscribed into ‘the productive encounter of self and other’ (1986:107), ‘a mutually constitutive relation of difference’ in which ‘ethnography’s narrative…presupposes, and always refers to, an abstract plane of similarity’ (1986:101). One cannot help but wonder for whom is the ethnography productive and whether its constitution can ever be truly ‘mutual’.
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
For Tyler (1986:125), ‘a postmodern ethnography is a cooperatively evolved text…intended to evoke in the minds of both reader and writer an emergent fantasy of a possible world of common sense reality’. If ethnography is a way of coping with our anxiety of the Other, it quickly assuages this anxiety by appropriating the Other into its own hermeneutic dialectic of difference. This always brings the question back, not to the material reality of cultural practices, but to the subjective experiences of a predefined ‘community’ whose empirical location is identified by a set of subject positions and experiences. Ethnography asserts the universality and innocence of a mutually available, intersubjectively (interactively) constituted experience. While it is not my intention to deny the ‘reality’ or effectivity of experience, I do question its status—its place and effectivity within the material relations of social life and power. One needs to ask what we know when we know how someone experiences material relations. And its privileged position within ethnography—the product of the identification of culture with certain notions of communication and semiotic constitution—is even more problematic. If, as Althusser and others have argued, experience is ideologically produced, then ‘experience’6 itself has to be located within the determining discursive and material conditions of its own production. People live different ideological positions in different ways (partly through different secondary interpretations), to different degrees, with differing investments and intensities, not only because people live in different contradictions and multiple subject positions, and not only because ideological effects are always traversed by other sorts of investments, but also because subject-ion is always broader than the interpellation of an experiencing/knowing subject. Bodies are disciplined along with minds! Uncovering experiences does not tell us how particular experiences are effective, how they are articulated by and into the terrain of everyday life. Recent work in ethnography has attempted to rethink this hermeneutical model by invoking various tenets of post-structuralism. Perhaps the most widely discussed example of this turn to post-structuralism in ethnography is the collection of essays, Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus, 1986). The various efforts in this volume to recognize the real relations of power implicated in the ethnographic relationship do so only by displacing the question back into the ethnographer’s home, as a question of his7 constitutive power within the (imaginary) communicative circuit. These essays are less concerned with the ethnographer in the field, confronting an Other, than with the ethnographer within the security of his academic community, inscribing the Other into discourse. In this sense, the politics of reality are reduced to the epistemology of writing at home. At best, such revisionist attempts call for a writing practice in which the Other is empowered to speak, to tell its own story; but this simply displaces the disempowerment of the Other to another level. For, as Spivak (1988) has argued, even these revisionist writing practices ignore the very real conditions of impossibility which prevent the Other from speaking, conditions which are material as well as discursive. This is not to claim that the Other cannot ever speak, but rather that discourse is enabled only within certain forms, at particular institutional and material sites. As Valaskakis (1988) suggests, the ‘subaltern’ speak from within their own places, but different conditions of (im)possibility operate as they move into the colonized spaces of ‘international’ economic, political, and cultural practices. This is also the case with more radical efforts to use post-structuralism to critique the hermeneutic foundations of ethnography in which the encounter is constructed as a ‘clash
of worlds’, a dialogue between self and other, between the familiar and the strange. For example, Smith (1988:87) condemns this practice as a ‘metaparanoid’ projection ‘that wishes to maintain its rights on a reality which it will not yet recognize as its own offspring or production’. Smith wants to deconstruct ‘the self-other distinction, even as it almost daily becomes more reflective’: The ‘subject’ in these practices, as in paranoia, is an interpreter, unable and/or unwilling to recognize the condition of its own interpretations as constructs, fictions, imaginary narratives. Such a ‘subject’ not only constructs the order of reality in which it wants to live, but also has to defend itself against the otherness of that very world. (Smith, 1978:97) But the consequence of this radical reflexivity is the reproduction of what Morris (1988:14) calls the ‘indifferent producer of social reality as differentiation’. Smith deconstructs the Other into the productivity of the ethnographer’s subjectivity, a subjectivity which can, in turn, be deconstruc-ted into the productivity of discourses. In this deconstructive move, the very facticity of the Other is erased, dissolved into the ethnographer’s semiotic constructions. But again, as Spivak (1988:272) has argued, ‘The ones talking about the critique of the subject are the ones who have had the luxury of a subject. The much publicized critique of the Sovereign subject thus actually inaugurates a subject.’ And even though Crapanzano (1986:74) argues that there can be ‘no understanding of the native from the native’s point of view’, instead of seeking an alternative, materialist ethnography, he argues instead that ‘There is only the constructed understanding of the constructed native’s constructed point of view.’ Thus, in both these strategic critiques of ethnography, the moment of Otherness—the materiality of social and cultural practices and networks—is always displaced into its interpellation into, and construction within, a system of textual, signifying differences. And through this displacement the Other is always further disempowered.8 A reconception of ethnography must begin by recognizing precisely that there is a ‘reality’, an Otherness which is not merely its mark of difference within our signifying systems. As Probyn (unpublished) states, ‘Ethnography requires its share of bodies’, bodies which are not only biological organisms but also social and material organizations. Probyn calls for an epistemological (and political) critique of the ontological assumption that the other is produced as other (i.e. outside of our discourses) from within our discourses. We need to criticize the practice which identifies material otherness with semiotic difference, which always begins and ends by reinscribing the Other into the constitutive semiotic relations of identity and difference, located within a communicative economy. Such a critique opens up a materialist ethnography and reconstructs the image of the tourist. In the hermeneutic tradition, the tourist seeks the pleasure of the authentic because, somehow, in comprehending its difference, she can reconstruct its ‘sameness’ and thus her own authenticity. In a materialist ethnography, the tourist seeks the pleasures of proximities and distances, escaping, however impossibly, from the social power of her own economy of difference. The tourist becomes a ‘nomad’ who, with her complex cultural and social histories and memories, discovers the possibility of a terrain that is not mapped by the differences between authenticity and inauthenticity, between the same and the different, between (a singular) self and (a
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
singular different) other. On this terrain, both the nomad and the ethnographer confront the anxiety of facing our own Otherness. Such a materialist ethnographer takes on the task of mapping an empirical field of the effectivity of practices rather than assuming that the specificity of cultural practices is always and already defined by its productivity within an economy of signification as difference. This a priori assumption of cultural specificity flattens the place of cultural practices in everyday life to a level of abstraction in which subjects exist only in relation to discourses (while yet always existing outside of any particular discourse), and discourses function only in relation to the production of difference (meaning) and identity (subjectivity). We should bear in mind Morley’s (1981:5) observation that ‘The notion of decoding may well blur together a number of different processes that would be better addressed separately.’ The notion of decoding suggests that reading a text involves a single act which is always and everywhere the same. Morley argues that it would be better understood as a set of processes. Additionally, Morris (1988:37) cautions us to avoid ‘any move to predetermine the kind—and the tempo—of spatial (reading, walking) practices deemed “appropriate” to particular places. A written text…may be spatially practised in ways, in directions, and at velocities as various as any street.’ Perhaps what we need is to ‘make talk walk’ (McRobbie, 1982). Instead of starting with notions of difference as constitutive negation, the fourth trajectory—what I have been calling materialist—of cultural studies begins with what Foucault describes as the ‘positivity’ of otherness, with the prospective and retrospective conditions of possibility and enablement. Rather than collapsing everything into texts, this position proposes to disperse texts into everything, into the broad range of effects. It recognizes that any practice has multiple effects and that the identity of a practice is only the articulated site of the intersection of lines of effects. Moreover, effects are always inter-effective, always on the way to and from other effects. Thus one can never guarantee which effects are pertinent in a specific context. Cultural effects may or may not depend upon semiotic ‘content’, meaning, or claims of representation. For example, the most powerful effects of video games may be determined less by ideological dimensions than by certain forms of embodiment, by the way in which the player controls/produces the sounds and lights that engulf, produce, and define a ‘rhythmic body’. Thus the task of cultural criticism is less that of interpreting texts and audiences than of describing vectors, distances and densities, intersections and interruptions, and the nomadic wandering (whether of people in everyday life or as cultural critics) through this unequally and unstably organized field of tendential forces and struggles. To describe a practice is to consider its place within this dispersed field and how it occupies that space in relation to structures existing at different levels of abstraction. The nomadic cultural critic finds that the strange is always and already familiar. Cultural practices engender and articulate the temporal and spatial structures of everyday life, the possibilities for mobility and placement (location). It is in this sense that Morris and I use the term ‘billboards’ to describe the multiple effectivity of cultural practices. Billboards are neither authentic nor inauthentic; their function cannot be predefined, nor are they distributed according to some logic of the ‘proper’ organization of space or the ‘proper’ use of place. They follow what Morris calls a ‘logic of the next’. And they perform, provoke, and enable a variety of different activities: they open a space for many different discourses and practices, both serious and playful, both institutional and
guerrilla. We stop or turn near them, we adjust our speed, our mood, our desires, we get on and off roads, we ‘live near them, photograph them, picnic and read books beside them, deface them, or even…shoot at them’ (Morris, 1988:42). Billboards mark ‘strategic installations’—‘a fixed address for temporary lodgment’—and the lines that connect and reshape them in a constant movement of ‘place-invention’. They manifest complex appeals which draw us down certain roads, open and close alternative routes, and which enable us to be located in a variety of different ways at different sites and intersections where we can rest, or engage in other activities, or move on in different directions. Billboards then construct ‘homes’, not necessarily as sites of domesticity (that is, after all, only one way of stopping, only one of our many addresses) nor even as sites of comfort. Because the effects of billboards are always articulated, the availability and ‘comfort’ of different constructed ‘homes’ or addresses are themselves differentially distributed and articulated. And, of course, not all roads and not all billboards are equally available to everyone traveling within the broader social spaces. Not all roads intersect, and some roads have very limited access from specific social points. Access may even be granted only in one direction (e.g. the complex relations between forms of Afro-American culture and the predominantly white mainstream). Thus Bourdieu (1984) has argued that it is not sufficient to describe the unequal distribution of both cultural and economic capital; one must also recognize the differential availability of the different life trajectories by which one might acquire such resources. Billboards are the signposts, not only of various vectors that define the travels and work of everyday life, but also of the effectivity of power within everyday life. This suggests a very different model of the subject of cultural practices: neither the tourist looking for authenticity, the native looking for a home, nor the subculturalist looking for pleasure (and always finding resistance). While such a nomadic or materialist model rejects a single unified subject that somehow exists in the same way in every practice, it also rejects the notion of a fractured and multiple subject—as if discrete, isolatable subject positions could be identified and then correlated with cultural practices. Most importantly, it rejects the notion of a subject without agency, produced entirely within its discursive encounters. On the contrary, it does matter who is acting and from where; it does matter that the subject is both an articulated site and a site of ongoing articulation within its own history. The nomadic subject exists within its nomadic wandering through the ever-changing places and spaces, vectors and apparatuses of everyday life (including, but not limited to, those of signification and ideology). Coherent subjectivity is always possible, even necessary, and always effective, even if it is also always fleeting. This subject’s shape and effectivity are never guaranteed; its agency depends in part on where it is located, how it occupies its places within specific apparatuses, and how it moves within and between them. The nomadic subject always moves along different vectors, always changing its shape. But it always has an effective shape as a result of its struggles to win a temporary space for itself within the places that have been prepared for it.9 Nomadic subjects are like ‘commuters’10 moving between different sites of daily life, who are always mobile but for whom the particular mobilities and stabilities are never entirely directed nor guaranteed. Like commuters, they are constantly shaped by their travels, by the roads they traverse; but as they struggle to adjust their shape they also reorganize their vehicles, they construct new billboards, they open up new roads. And, like commuters, they take many different kinds of trips,
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
beginning from different starting-points, punctuated by different interruptions and detours, and arriving at different stopping-points. The travel stories such a critic tells are unlike both the detective’s map, which reifies a certain knowledge of place, and the tour guide’s itinerary, which dictates a particular organization of movements through space. Rather, they are ‘travelogues’, stories as means of transportation in the ‘shuttling’ that ‘constantly transforms places into spaces or spaces into places’ (Morris, 1988:37).11 Such a critical practice defines ‘a traffic in negotiable proximities (temporal as well as spatial) between conflicting practices’ (Morris, 1988:41). A travelogue maps out lines of mobilities and stabilities, of commutations and transformations. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, this critical practice recognizes that the critic is already within the spaces of the field, implicated in his or her own stories. They are, in part, our very own stories, since we are a part of the contemporary culture of the mass-mediated society. We are always and already one (if not many) of the masses. Consequently, we cannot start by dividing up the terrain according to our own maps of tastes and distastes (although our travelogues are always contaminated by them), or our own sense of some imaginary boundary which divides a mythic (and always dominant) mainstream from a magical (and always resisting or reflexive) marginality, or our own notion of an assumed gulf between our intellectual self and our popular-media self. I repeat, we are reshaped by the stories we tell, stories which are always at least partly purposive and partly reconstructive. These stories offer a record of roads taken and a few not taken, of successes and failures, of sites we stopped at as well as some we saw from a distance, some we passed by too quickly and some that we missed entirely but heard about along the way, and sometimes even of other people’s travels, whether real or only possible. The cultural critic constructs a record, always partly imaginary, that re-marks the densities and distances within which our travels are constituted. Let me now, finally, turn to Radway’s article in order to suggest that the method it proposes is rather unstably situated at a number of intersections among the four trajectories described above. Nevertheless, its significance extends well beyond its concrete proposals. Radway’s argument brings us back to questions of ethnographic practice in the field as inseparable from, but not reducible to, its inscription at some later point in the tourist’s home world. But, most importantly, it opens the possibility of inserting ethnography into the ‘everywhere-mediated world’. In so doing, Radway argues that both the questions and our resources have been transformed by epistemological, political, and historical circumstances. Thus Radway rejects the traditional model of ethnographic media research which looks at the relationship between singular texts or genres and locatable audiences. The notion of a ‘media text’ is, for her, in fact impossible, not merely because the media are a prime example of ‘intertextuality gone mad’, not merely because any generic category is always the prior construction of academic (disciplinary) and economic interests, and not merely because of the fragmentary structure of any text’s multiple presentations. It is also the case that, quite simply, we cannot recuperate the text as an object of study for very practical reasons: first, it is never merely an objective text but is always, simultaneously, multiply contextualized and intersected by other practices; second, we cannot collect media texts, at least not enough of them, and moreover we are never able to know ahead of time which are the right ones, the ones we need to tape and collect. Additionally, the audience
of the mass media is never available to us. Again, it is not merely a matter of the radical overdetermination of the individual audience member or group—what Barthes (1981) described as the ‘impossible science of the individual’—but, more to the point, we can never confidently identify interpretive communities. Media audiences are shifting constellations, located within varying multiple discourses which are never entirely outside of the media discourse themselves. Nor is it enough simply to acknowledge intertextuality and multiple subjectivity, for Radway claims that No matter how extensive the effort to dissolve the boundaries of the textual object or the audience, most recent studies of reception, including my own, continue to begin with the ‘factual’ existence of a particular kind of text which is understood to be received by some set of individuals. Such studies perpetuate, then, the notion of a circuit neatly bounded and therefore identifiable, locatable, and open to observation. (Radway, 1988:363) In the light of these comments, Radway proposes a different notion of audiences which are ‘never assembled fixedly on a site or even in an easily identifiable space’. She wonders, then, ‘can ethnography…manage to capture the fluid, destabilized, ever-shifting nature of subjectivity produced through the articulation of discourses and their fragments?’ (368) But this, she recognizes, entails a new ‘object of analysis, one more difficult to analyze because it can’t be so easily pinned down—that is, the endlessly shifting, ever-evolving kaleidoscope of daily life and the way in which the media are integrated and implicated within it.’ (366) Thus a new project for ethnography emerges: Instead of segmenting a social formation automatically by construing it precisely as a set of audiences for specific media and/or genres, I have been wondering whether it might not be more fruitful to start with the habits and practices of everyday life as they are actively, discontinuously, even contradictorily pieced together by historical subjects themselves as they move nomadically via disparate associations and relations through day-to-day existence. (366) This is clearly an attempt to formulate a research agenda within that fourth trajectory I identified earlier, one which would ‘theorize the dispersed, anonymous, unpredictable nature of the use of mass-produced, mass-mediated cultural forms’, and one which would study the ‘ever-shifting kaleidoscope of cultural circulation, production and consumption. In this project, the ethnographer would begin with ‘an expedition through the already inhabited, already elaborated built-up cultural terrain’. But Radway takes a detour, arguing that the problem is not with the ethnographic method itself but rather in the fact that ‘the ethnographic method has been applied in an extremely limited fashion’. This results from ‘the commonsense understanding of the process of communication’ as a circuit of exchange in which the moment of enunciation is privileged as productive and determining. This denies the engendering power of the moment of reception so that the audience is empowered only to refuse to enter into the
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
circuit. Radway then turns to the urban-culturalist strategy of focusing on the productivity of consumption as articulation in order to empower the agent of consumption. Consequently, it is ‘historical subjects’ who ‘articulate their cultural universe’ and ‘articulately produce subjectivity’. Like the culturalist, Radway’s project returns to the assumption that it is always the subject who constructs reality.12 Alternatively, a materialist or nomadic model argues that reality is constructed by the ‘anonymous’ travels of people within the historically articulated social spaces, places, and structures of practices. To describe this process as ‘anonymous’ is not to deny that people make history but to emphasize that they do it in conditions not of their own making. Consequently, they are not in control of the multiple and often unintended consequences of their actions. Talking about articulation within the field of contemporary culture allows us to recognize that nomadic subjects are always empowered and disempowered, shaped and reshaped, by the effectivities of the practices (trajectories, apparatuses, etc.) within which their agency is itself located. Thus a materialist theory of articulation proposes studying not people but practices. For example, even within the plane of ideology, a theory of articulation involves looking neither for the intrinsic meaning of a text nor for people’s interpretations/uses of it. Instead, it directs us to look at how a place or contradictory places are made for the text in the wider field of forces. Such a theory does not eliminate people’s agency, their ability to struggle, or even their effective desire to resist (although it has to distinguish not only between struggle and resistance but between different forms of resistance). It does, however, refuse to reconstruct a model of history and the social formation predicated on the privileged effectivity of individual agency. The distance which Radway assumes between the subject and any singular cultural practice re-establishes a model of communication. The subject, no longer nomadic but a fragmented and unstable social position, is outside of the particular practice, able to articulate it. Here effectivity is reappropriated and reduced to ‘use’. The subject remains the causal agent who engages with an external practice. The audience is reconstituted as outside of any specific cultural region, determined elsewhere, so that it can consume, appropriate, or articulate the specific region from which it was initially excluded. Alternatively, if the nomadic subject never comes to any media event without already belonging to the whole field of interlocking media events and contexts, then the audience is always and already within the region, articulated by the very practices and contexts it articulates. Radway’s continued commitment to a communication model, albeit one weighted in favor of the consumer, reconstitutes the audience as a ‘single heterogeneous community’ which, however problematic, is still locatable within the spatial site of the ethnographic field. Continuing to rely upon a communicative economy reconstructs an implicit distance between the ethnographer and the community. Consequently, instead of starting with the ‘point of view we share with others in our everywhere-mediated society’, we must once again construct our map by first reconciling our ‘distant point of view’ with ‘the inhabitant’s point of view’, a reconciliation which seems to entail leaving ‘our own world’ behind. This reproduction of the difference between Us and Them, between the Self and the Other, has important consequences, for it leads Radway back to a conception of the cultural field predicated on the inevitable distance and hostility between legitimate and popular culture, where the latter is always produced by people in opposition to the
former. Further, this view of the Other as a ‘distant’ or ‘alien’ world ignores the fact that—in so far as we are talking about the media world of culture—we are already part of it. By saying this, I do not mean to deny that there are social differences, that our access to various media forms and various forms of cultural capital is never equal. But I do want to question our ability to decide ahead of time the pertinence of such differences within the study of the effectivity of cultural practices. For within the domain of contemporary cultural practices the Other is never any more exotic or strange than we are. In so far as Otherness is effective in the field of media culture, the nomadic subject is always other to itself. In the end, the return to a communication economy almost inevitably forces Radway back into a hermeneutic model of ethnography as ‘a written account of a lengthy social interaction between a scholar and a distant culture’ (my italics). The empirical field of articulations (the everyday, the ‘tapestry of social life) is transformed into the interpretive field of experience. Thus she concludes her paper by wondering whether it is possible ‘to preserve the gains secured by the distance and abstraction of intellectual work and yet continue to respect the particularities and concreteness of subjective experience in such a way that the distance between them can continually be negotiated and renegotiated’ (my italics). (373) The distances (otherness) within our social and cultural realities are reconstructed into the differences of ‘the worlds of words’. The ethnographer has once again become a tourist seeking to make the strange famliar by locating it within the world of his or her own discourses. And now the tourist has become a detective, seeking to find the moments in which the native is empowered as constructing its own social reality. While this is, in itself, an interesting re-inflection of ethnography, it is a long way from the project which Radway identifies at the beginning. While it is important to recognize the specific power of intellectual practices, they cannot be separated from our existence as nomadic subjects in everyday life. We have the resources to articulate social trajectories and travels; we have access, not only to vocabularies, but to sites of production and distribution. But this does not guarantee the stories we tell or their effects; our discourses are, after all, constrained and empowered to appear at specific sites. We can recognize, with Radway, the limitations of our work— that every map has its own angle of projection. And we can refuse to narrativize our travelogue in ways which locate it back into dichotomies of true/false, accurate/distorted, complete/partial, useful/useless. We can recognize, with Morris, the power of our own tastes and find ways of distancing them (e.g. by moving the discussion to a higher level of abstraction). It is, after all, not our function to tell people what are the ‘proper’ cultural tastes or political positions. Politics is always derived from everyday life, and not from theory. But, if politics enters theory ‘from below’, intellectuals can seek to articulate directions and alliances through which it can move. Intellectuals do not construct reality, any more than do everyday subjects. Cultural critics are co-travelers and, within the limited possibilities available to us at any moment, we have our role to play, a role that is unnecessarily further circumscribed by our voluntary self-exclusion from the everyday world of media life. University of Illinois
Wandering audiences, nomadic critics
Notes 1 This paper represents a collective journey with Janice Radway and Meaghan Morris, the former carried out through manuscripts and the telephone, the latter through articles and the post. I also need to thank Anne Balsamo, Elspeth Probyn, Gail Valaskakis and Jennifer Daryl Slack for their invaluable comments and their infinite patience. 2 I shall not attempt to reproduce the rich and insightful analysis which Morris offers. Moreover, I have not only changed the descriptive names to fit my own argument, I have also generalized her readings of specific texts to the interpretations of general positions. It is important to note that the use of the masculine pronoun in Morris’s analysis of the poststructuralist and urban-culturalist positions (and my summary of her work) is intentional, since her argument is precisely that the structure of the argument always ends up coding both the everyday subject and the critic as masculine. 3 This form of urban-culturalism can be seen as a Gramscian position, articulated through Barthes’ distinction between pleasure and jouissance. 4 See Hebdige (1987) for a clear example of this binarism. 5 For a critique of these ‘magical terms’, see Henrique et al. (1984). 6 Note the ambiguity of the term ‘experience’: it refers both to the way in which any social position is lived and to the interpretations of that lived position. 7 The gendering of the ethnographer in Clifford and Marcus (1986) is decidedly male! See Clifford (1986) for an attempt to describe the absence of feminist ethnographers in the collection on the grounds that there is little interesting writing produced by them. 8 For other efforts to rethink ethnography, see Walkerdine (1986) and Morley (1986). Walkerdine seems to fall into the same problems as the post-structuralists, largely erasing the other in favor of her own autobiography. 9 See Henriques et al. (1984:204). This theory of the subject is at least partly derived from the work of Deleuze and Guattari, who view the subject in terms of residual qualities, intensities (not internalities), and tertiary productions. Even in Foucault, the subject becomes one moment of discursive effectivity which, while often foregrounded in his researches, is not theoretically privileged. See Grossberg(1982). 10 I am grateful to Joanna Maclay, who provided this term. 11 Morris (1988:37), citing de Certeau, describes the relation of place and space as follows: ‘A place delimits a field; it is ruled by the law of the “proper”, by an orderly continguity of elements in the location it defines…. A space is not a substance of a place but the product of its transformation. It exists only in relation to vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables. Space “occurs”; composed of intersections of mobile elements, it is actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it…. “space is a practised place” .’ 12 One might also critically examine Bennett and Woollacott’s (1987) theory of reading formations, and Corrigan and Willis’s (1980) efforts to semioticize the cultural capital of any audience’s decoding. These projects merely reify a new displaced text and fetishize a new audience.
References Barthes, Roland (1981) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill & Wang. Bennett, Tony, and Woollacott, Janet (1987) Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero. New York: Methuen.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Clifford, James (1986) ‘Introducion: partial truths’. In Clifford and Marcus (1986): 1–26. Clifford James, and Marcus, George E. (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Corrigan, Philip, and Willis, Paul (1980) ‘Cultural forms and class mediations’. Media Culture and Society, 2:297–312. Crapanzano, Vincent (1986) ‘Hermes dilemma: the masking of subversion in ethnographic description’. In Clifford and Marcus (1986): 51–76. Grossberg, Lawrence (1982) ‘Experience, signification and reality: the boundaries of cultural semiotics’. Semiotica, 41:73–106. Hall, Stuart (1986) ‘On postmodernism and articulation: an interview’. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10 (Summer): 45–60. ——(1988) ‘Thatcher’s lessons’. Marxism Today (March): 20–7. Hebdige, Dick (1987) ‘Digging for Britain: an excavation in 7 parts’. In The British Edge. Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 35–69. Henriques, Julian, Holloway, Wendy, Urwin, Cathy, Venn, Couze, and Walkerdine, Valerie (1984) Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Subjectivity. New York: Methuen. McRobbie, Angela (1982) ‘The politics of feminist research: between talk, text and action’. Feminist Review, 12. Morley, David (1981) ‘ “The Nationwide audience”—a critical postscript’. Screen Education, 39 (Summer): 3–14. ——(1986) Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure. London: Comedia. Morris, Meaghan (1988). ‘At Henry Parkes Motel’. Cultural Studies, 2(1): 1–47. Probyn, Elspeth (unpublished) ‘Articulating crises: from ethnography to biography’. Radway, Janice (1988) ‘Reception study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects’. Cultural Studies, 2 (3): 359–76. Smith, Paul (1988) Discerning the Subject. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1988) ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ In Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 217–313. Tyler, Stephen A. (1986) ‘Post-modern ethnography: from document of the occult to occult document’. In Clifford and Marcus (1986): 122–40. Valaskakis, Gail Guthrie (1988) ‘The Chippewa and the Other: living the heritage of Lac du Flambeau’. Cultural Studies, 2 (3): 267–93. Walkerdine, Valerie (1986) ‘Video replay: families, films and fantasy’. In Victor Burgin, James Donald, and Cora Kaplan (eds), Formations of Fantasy. London: Methuen, 167–99. Williams, Raymond (1961) The Long Revolution. London: Chatto & Windus.
KITE UNDERCUT IAN SPRING Recently an article in the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies1 mentioned the game of two-up. For the incognoscenti, two-up is as Australian as Foster’s and Vegemite. Crocodile Dundee plays it. To play, all you do is toss two coins in the air and place bets on them both coming up heads or both coming up tails. The standard exhortation upon releasing these cupro-nickel hostages to their erratic flight it that of ‘Come in, spinner’. It is the ultimate cultural form: thus armed the adventurous cobber can traverse the hemisphere, tossing up googlies or wrestling rattlesnakes; he can lose his shirt or win a king’s ransom but there is always something of home, something ultimately Australian about his encounter with the remainder of God’s earth. The AJCS goes on to refer to the Australian soap opera Anzacs in which Paul Hogan has lost all his money to GIs because he can’t compete with their national game of craps: Here then is ‘difference’; Australia is different from America, Britain, the world. Having gambled with Hogan and battled alongside the Anzacs, however, the GIs refuse to accept their own high command’s dim view of Australianness. Hogan magically procures Anzac uniforms for them, and, before setting off with General Monash to win the war, they all go outside for the ceremony that will initiate these New Australians into the culture: a game of two-up. Here, then, the difference is ‘same’; America, Britain, the world is the same as Australia—but Australia wins. Two-up (and Paul Hogan) are, therefore, engaged in a game whose object is to override difference. Along the way, Australianness is a safe bet, no matter which way the coins fall. It’s a toss up between courage and comedy, quality and con, philosophical conundrum and gambling, but what counts is keeping these incommensurate opposites in play, not choosing between them. The national gesture to recognize rules by breaking them, to welcome the immigrant and import-culture with the outstretched hand of the pickpocket. This set me thinking if such a simple game could be discovered that would demonstrate something peculiar to the Scottish character—the essence of Scottishness. But exactly
what? Pitch and toss, peevers, nine men’s morris? Nothing seemed particularly appropriate—not until I discovered a fascinating chapter in Doug Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas2 about the game of Undercut. Undercut is a game for two players and could hardly be simpler. All either player has to do is select a number between 1 and 5 at each turn and that number is then added to his or her score unless—and here’s the rub—unless one player has selected a number one below the other player, in which case the player who has ‘undercut’ the other has both numbers added to his or her score. Eventually, after an agreed number of shots, the player with the highest score wins. Despite the simplicity of this format, however, the game would seem to offer itself to several strategies. You can play canny, and stick to low numbers, hoping that your opponent will stray just a little higher, or you can go for the jackpot and aim high, presumably with a suitably stirring war cry, and rely on your miserly opponent letting you away with it, or you can vary your play, bluff and counter-bluff, lure your opponent into the web, and then spring. Remarkably, however, the blunt fact of the matter is that all this is unnecessary. Hofstadter demonstrates that, while it may be extremely hard to win at Undercut, it is extremely easy not to lose. To exercise an optimum strategy, all you have to do is ensure that, for every hundred turns, you (randomly) opt for 1 ten times, 2 twenty-six times, 3 thirteen times, 4 sixteen times, and 5 one time.3 It makes no difference that your opponent may be aware of this strategy; it is totally impossible to devise another strategy to beat the system—although, as with all such statistical problems, you may defeat it in the short term by sheer chance. Of course, it is not difficult to find interesting parallels in real life. Take, for example, a popular Scottish pastime, betting on horse-racing. The bookmaker too has an open system—we know exactly the basis on which he calculates the odds—and we also know that, in general, we cannot defeat him (let’s ignore, for the purpose of the discussion, the professional gamblers with specialized knowledge who do indeed beat the bookie). Yet the average punter will attempt various different strategies to beat the system—from playing high: flinging money into ridiculously priced yankee or klondyke bets; to playing low: 10 pence on the nose of the favourite in each race—which are invariably doomed to failure (barring an odd unlikely combination of chance). There is little logic in this system (thus a perpetual loser will insist on paying betting tax on his bet rather than on his winnings—throwing away another 10 per cent) but a great deal of passion. I would like to stretch a point and suggest (contentiously) that in this practice, which is extremely popular in certain areas of lowland Scotland, we see something that may be particularly indicative of the Scottish character. Between the twin temptations of playing high and playing low there is a reflection of the devilish traits of the I Kent His Faither and the Wha’s Like Us schools of worldly philosophy that alternatively inform the Scottish consciousness: the strange mixture of fierce conceit and overwhelming inferiority that continually assails us. If I can illustrate this point with another example, it is clear that the very substantial financial investment we make from time to time in the realm of gambling is insignificant compared to the heart-rending emotional investment we make in the arena of Scottish football. And again we play high—and send our lads off to Argentina on a wing and a prayer while hyping up our prospects to the extent that the inevitable fall from grace has a cataclysmic effect—or play low descending to a morass of lack of confidence and
national inferiority ensuring that we are mere fodder for the more organized Germans, or Italians, or English. We dispatch our team as a sincere representative of the national spirit, apparent in the queer way in which we always personify this bunch of vaguely related individuals as the average punter—‘Scotland are feeling cocky’, ‘they’ve lost heart after an early setback’. Of course, we all know that we are doomed: that, no matter the talent at our disposal, the performance will always fail—the eternal Scottish capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And this is because of our psychological strategy! We will always aim too high or too low, while the cool, calculating foreign opposition have a system; they will always be the same and they cannot be beaten. As in Undercut, you can equal the system but you can’t beat it—unless by some freak of chance which becomes increasingly less likely as you go on. Deep down, of course, we know this. Our natural conceit is tempered by an indigent fear of hubris that is basically Calvinist in nature. We are eternally laden with Fate. And our fate lies in our basic Scottishness. To be Scottish is to be different. The others are unchanging, unfathomable, unbeatable. However we play the game Scotland loses. This is a neat theory, but in fact it is basically specious. Naturally other nations have their own strategies, their own cultural consciousness. Nothing I have said is true to the reality that we all, as thinking individuals, interact with the world as we know it. All I have done is— through the disreputable practice of analogy, favoured by rhetoricians and ministers of the faith—created a mythology; or, if you like, a mythology that seems to reveal another, deeper-lying mythology. There is nothing fundamental about the Scottish nature other than as we construct it ourselves. There is nothing inevitable about inferiorism. What we do know, however, is that our own self-image is formed through reflection in the wider world. It is always founded by reference to and in relation with the other. What I have outlined is a myth, but it is a peculiarly popular myth in the common imagination. The deconstruction of such mythology is in itself a problematic practice as we are inevitably thirled to a discourse that itself constructs, constitutes, and defines our own identity. In the end whether you underplay Scotch mythology (ignore it) or overplay it (disdain it) seems to have not a lot of effect. We are indisputably part of it and to deny this is a bit like playing scissors, stone, paper with Mr Dundee’s favourite playmates. Queen Margaret College
Notes 1 Judi Mauger and John Hartley, ‘Come in spinner: the politics of the toss’, Australian Journal of Cultural Studies, 3, 2 (December 1985). 2 Douglas R.Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas (London, 1985). 3 This can be deduced through game theory, using a series of simultaneous equations.
REVIEWS POSTMODERN, POST-POLITICAL, POST CARING? SEAN CUBITT ■ E.Ann Kaplan, Rocking around the Clock: Music Television, Postmodernism and Consumer Culture (London: Methuen, 1987), 196 pp, £20.00 and £6.95. If modernism was the culture of the cities, postmodernism is the culture of suburbia. And what mostly marks off the experience of the suburbs from that of the city is the possibility of excluding ‘alien’ cultures from the purposes of the built environment. One of the most significant absences from MTV, certainly through 1985 when I last watched the North American version, is that of black musicians. Certain artists do emerge—Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, the Pointer Sisters—as Kaplan notes. It might also be noted that these stars are among those who most successfully approximate mainstream white forms. The histories lurking behind these artists are those of Quincy Jones, widely in demand with film and TV companies, Allen Toussaint, hitmaker since the days of ‘Ain’t Got a Home’, Tina Turner’s post-Heaven 17 manifestation, Aretha Franklin’s position as Queen of Soul refocused by her association with George Michael and the Eurythmics. What is not being addressed, with the rare exception of Run DMC’s occasional crossover hits, is the product of black urban America. Race is not a skin colour: it is a political relation, a relation of power and exclusion. Kaplan and most commentators on MTV don’t look to mass cable delivery of cultural forms already deeply embedded in North America such as salsa, let alone more distinct musical traditions such as the musics of Africa, India, central and south-east Asia, or even the marginalized cultures of Europe and North America: no flamenco, no Celtic music, nothing from Quebec, from the working-class women singer-songwriters of the south, no native American music… Risking a generalization, I’d say that these exclusions—especially of indigenous forms such as rap, house, salsa, jazz, and C & W— are marked by a common privilege awarded to authenticity in musical formations centred in a shared sense of community. In particular, I doubt whether the technology of suburban delivery systems—the small screen, the puny speakers—is up to representations of carnival, the speech of a community to itself. But, more, these exclusions tell us about the nature of the audience which MTV aims to capitalize—an audience with spending power, an audience with access to cable, a middle-class audience. Such an audience may well, in the continental United States,
represent a homogeneous market and a homogeneous culture, the culture of ‘rock’. Within these parameters, the ‘postmodern’ confusion of reality and fiction may be taking place, but I doubt whether the oppressed poor of Reagan’s America would make the same slip or, if so, for the same reasons. Kaplan sadly, since she has produced such pioneering work in the past,1 reproduces the implicit address of MTV to an undifferentiated commonality of youth. Surely there is an argument to be made that MTV actively seeks to produce and/or reproduce homogeneity as a reality-effect, precisely by evaporating images of their content, subordinating them in an economically derived hierarchy of modes of address in which FM rock is the overarching genre because it is the rationale for the existence of the image track? Describing Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ video, she writes: As the video’s rapid and broad success suggests, Madonna has here touched on issues confronting many teenagers today, particularly those in the lower classes, which her video (set as it is in a section of New Jersey facing New York City’s skyline) obviously addresses. (p. 132) This reading seems to me to miss much of the complexity of the viewer relation to late Madonna. The representation of a working-class milieu does not imply an address to the working class. My own reading is that the address is to the wealthy child, toying with the adventurousness of being streetwise, just as her shift from jumble-sale chic to designer corsetry signals a shift from identification with what Kaplan identifies as ‘bordello Queen/bag lady’ to a kitsch expropriation of working-class modes of expression. The issue of ‘rapid and broad success’ needs to be raised as a question: how do we gauge the ‘success’ of a video? Aesthetically? In terms of record sales? Sales of striped T-shirts? If representation cannot be identified with address, nor can address be identified with reading. Kaplan slides towards a latter-day version of the pathetic fallacy, imbuing MTV with the powers of historical agency, in particular in focusing on ‘how its institutional practices construct subjects’ (p. 29). Explicitly: ‘I have been concerned with how MTV establishes itself as a production/consumption phenomenon rather than with how it is explicitly received by teenagers as historical subjects’ (p. 158). This rather weakens earlier arguments, for example, ‘The teenage audience…is constituted by the station as one decentred mass’ (p. 29), which depend on the effectivity of the medium, and which lead her to the assumption that ‘it is MTV’s ability to address current adolescent desires and wish fulfilments, inscribed in an idiom familiar to teenagers, that guarantees it success’ (p. 30) and to the assertion: ‘the placement of the [socially concerned] videos within the 24-hour televisual flow often eliminates any possible effectiveness’. This apparent contradiction can only really be sorted through by theorizing a viewing process which is more autonomous than the presumed powers of the station would appear to allow. Thus, despite her avowed intention to read the channel rather than the tapes, Kaplan devotes the bulk of her book to analysing the genres of rock video. This in turn leaves little or no space to investigate the repetition which is the other most salient factor in MTV’s televisual discourse. Despite a brief reference (p. 94) to the fort/da game in the context of a discussion of mother-child relations, Kaplan doesn’t take up the Freudian context, the repetition compulsion, with its conclusion that there exists a mental function
‘whose business it is to free the mental apparatus entirely from excitation or to keep the amount of excitation in it constant or to keep it as low as possible’.2 This might perhaps have led to a more politicized reading of MTV. On another track, heavy rotation, veejays, and station idents all point to the prehistory of MTV as FM radio, on which quite enough audience research is available to conclude that such programming is done with the distracted attention of the audience in mind. Historians of popular music have found that this is far from a new—postmodern—phenomenon, and have argued that musical forms have developed through an internal logic of their own, which must involve self-reflexive modes and pastiche, over centuries. Postmodernist periodization seriously weakens Kaplan’s arguments and blinds her to the specificity of post-war capital and its cultural formations. In particular, the collapsing of the television apparatus into a merely discursive formation is extremely troubling. She argues that television is itself a postmodernist phenomenon, among other reasons, because of ‘its obliteration of hitherto sacrosanct boundaries such as those…between the space of the viewing-subject and that within the TV screen’ (p. 32). Yet that boundary is itself a product of the post-war era of suburbanization, the physical relocation of populations, and their geographical division by wealth. To suggest, as she does in the same sentence, that this is part of a Baudrillardist collapsing of fiction and reality seems to me to demonstrate a deeply ethnocentric understanding of televisual reception. This is born out by her chapter on MTV and the avant-garde, where ‘modernism’ is produced as the other of a reified ‘classical text’, in which dialectic modernism can be portrayed as monolithic and the avant-gardes of Mayakovsky, H.D., and Satyajit Ray collapsed into a single gesture with those of Marinetti, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound. This will not do as scholarship, and it will not perform as a cultural politics, since this crude dialectic can only supply a depoliticized eternal present of circulating simulacra as its synthesis. I thought that Heidegger had rid us of the prison of the eternal present. Surely, of all media, television is closest to his description of time as constant fading, the constant ‘becoming of possibilities’. Closing the circle of time in the heavy rotation of floating, history-less signifiers may solve the teleological problem, but only at the expense of cultural-political action, however circumscribed by repressive tolerance. Jameson3 is quite right to pinpoint the evacuating of history as a field of cultural struggle as a key moment of the current backlash against the gains made by women, black people, and the working class in the wake of World War II. It is all too easy to do in a society in which modernism—if anything at all, a series of strategies for coping with the novelty of urban life—gives way to the ahistorical culture of suburbia. These problems come to a head in the long chapter on ‘Gender address and the Gaze’. A concentration on the textuality of individual tapes—tapes which are in addition read as examplars of genres—and on ‘address’ in terms of the creation of subject positions as an effect of textuality removes the possibility of working through a conception of what it is that young people do when they watch: what pleasures, meanings, understandings, and identifications are at stake. Angela McRobbie’s work on girls’ culture4 suggests one route, explicitly raised and rejected by Kaplan (p. 93), through Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque. In the term between childhood and being an adult lies a space in which alternatives can be explored, in particular the development of community in a variety of guises. Television’s constant address to its audience as a community, pop video’s
constant representation of community as an alternative to either romance or parental authority, the link through the subcultural identifications all suggest that a Bakhtinian dialogic reading has an important part to play. In another dimension, the late Gillian Skirrow’s work on video games5 suggests another route, through Melanie Klein, to an understanding of the pre-Oedipal positions at play in the relation to the small screen. In particular, there seems to me a dialectic at play between carnivalesque postponement of assuming individuality and the narcissistic identification with stars which offers an illusory achievement of individuality. It is this dialectic which is mobilized in late capitalist cultural formations as a vehicle for more complex negotiations about the interdependence of individual and community in the absence of both. In the name of Baudrillard, Kaplan eliminates both routes. Unfortunately, this leaves her in an untenable contradiction. For example, at the end of a Donna Summer tape, ‘all kinds of women, from all kinds of professions, gather together on the street to dance. It is a nice but utopian moment, resolving in a fantasized solidarity what in fact requires concrete social change’ (p. 130). Now, either the procession of simulacra means that these images have no referents, or it is possible to read this as the inadequacy of signifiers to their referents, which means allowing that they do have them. This quaint double-bind rests on the text-centred approach, which leads Kaplan willynilly into a mode of essentialism which, for all its internal illogic fails to keep any tryst with discursive and social formations as they operate through and across the consumption of gendered sexuality in MTV. For example, it is impossible from this standpoint to understand the dialectic of representations which may well be liberatory in the context of locally dominant cultural formations, but which on the scale of the North American footprint are an element—possibly a contested element—of the reproduction of consumer markets. The quizzing—long overdue—of the appropriateness of models of cinematic looking to the television viewer which Kaplan undertakes is again marred by an infatuation with the McLuhanite enthusiasms of Baudrillard. Self-consciousness in reproducing ‘Hollywood’ stereotypes of femininity is considered almost a suitable alibi for ‘strident sexism’ (p. 111). Kaplan appreciates ‘the parody of seaside postcard humour’ in a David Lee Roth tape, but is able at least in this instance to observe that ‘The video is built on the concept of voyeurism which it laughs at without critiquing’. And yet, certainly in English culture, this mode of self-parody has long been a staple of cultural production, not least in Carry On films, and in the seaside postcard itself, obsessed with impotence, hypocrisy, the proximity of sexual to excretory functions, and the infantilism and ‘unmanning’ of men. Such practices are already deconstructive: the point is that deconstruction is not an adequate response, as her own analysis of the Summer tape suggests. We do not need to return to theses of origin, empiricism, and economic determinism to sort through the possibilities which this work does not address. What we do need to do is undertake a lot of the work which Kaplan has been unable to do: research into the actual institutional practices of MTV, the production processes of videos, the role of large corporations and their conflicting interests, the competition of the arising video cassette market (now approaching 50 per cent penetration of US households). We need to look at audience research, especially the kinds of work associated with the names of Janice Radway, David Morley, Ann Gray, and Ien Ang.6 We need to take on board Kaplan’s stimulating suggestion that ‘the young adult’s refusal to enter the realm of the symbolic
could represent a healthy breaking of confining boundaries and dichotomies that were constructed originally to serve certain bourgeois ends at a particular historical moment’ (p. 148) without accepting that leaving the old hegemony of necessity means breaking with the hegemonic process altogether. We certainly need to address the postmodern cliché of ‘the loss of a position from which to speak’ (p. 152): the critique of truth theories is not a new field, nor is the problem of building a materialist basis for moral judgement. What clearly it should not entail is a delivering over to the state and related apparatuses of the power to regulate, for instance, representations of sexuality. In the absence of secular absolutes, it is still possible to observe that genocide, exploitation, and oppression are rarely defensible activities and to act accordingly. Kaplan correctly points out that ontological truth theorems are philosophically indefensible. This allows her to say, in concluding her Afterword, that ‘evidence of specific spectator behaviour in no way invalidates the theory of MTV as a postmodernist form’ (p. 159), though clearly this represents a status awarded to the formal properties of the phenomenon as deeply ontologically grounded as any other essentialism. Materialist analysis is precisely about the specificity of the relations in which people are subjected to their objects, and in which objects become objects for their subjects. It must be said, in conclusion, that Kaplan has written the first monograph on pop video to emerge, and that writing books is a painful and difficult process which does not end with publication. As it is, the book’s value resides as much in its failures as in its successes: the specificity of reading Rocking around the Clock lies in what its readers can do with the gaps and misjudgements to assay the importance of a new cultural practice in the overall cultural reproduction of imperial North America. Society for Education in Film and Television, London
Notes 1 E.Ann Kaplan, Women and Film: Both Sides of the Camera (London and New York: Methuen, 1983); E.Ann Kaplan (ed.), Regarding Television (Los Angeles: American Film Institute, 1983). 2 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920; New York: Liveright, 1957), p. 56. 3 Fredric Jameson, ‘Postmodernism and consumer society’, in Hal Foster (ed.), Postmodern Culture (London: Pluto, 1983). 4 Angela McRobbie, ‘Jackie: an ideology of adolescence’, in Tony Bennett et al. (eds), Popular Culture Past and Present (London: Batsford, 1982). 5 Gillian Skirrow, ‘Hellivision’, in Colin MacCabe (ed.), High Theory, Low Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987). 6 Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984); Ann Gray, ‘Behind closed doors: women and video recorders in the home’, in Helen Baehr and Gillian Dyer (eds), Boxed in: Women and Television (London: Pandora, 1987); David Morley, Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure (London: Comedia, 1987); Ien Ang, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (London: Methuen, 1985). For a review of the literature, see Ann Gray, ‘Reading the audience’, in Screen, 28, 3 (Summer 1987).
PROJECTING IRELAND BRIAN DOYLE ■ Kevin Rockett, Luke Gibbons, and John Hill. Cinema and Ireland (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 228 pp., £27.50. Many members of the huge audience of regular Dublin filmgoers attending a vast range of local city picture houses in the 1950s and early 1960s may have perceived the relation between the terms ‘Ireland’ and ‘cinema’ as an extremely limited one, and indeed based on difference rather than similarity—or so it seems to me retrospectively as a onetime member of that audience. For me, and perhaps for many others, the at once public and private experience of entering this darkened space promised transportation to a fantasy ‘America’ and sometimes—often under protest—to ‘England’, an equally mythical but infinitely less habitable domain. On offer in these splendid and palatial fleapits with names like the Tivoli, the Theatre De Luxe and The Rialto was an exotic ‘non-Irish’ experience. These names still conjure up for me a foreign yet intensely ‘Irish’ experience. I hoped to understand the cultural significance of such ‘foreignness’ in this pioneering cultural history of Irish cinema. Being aware of the semiotic sophistication (in whichever sense you choose) of the many currently available histories of cinema/film, I expected that this account of the historical relationships between Ireland and cinema wouldn’t simply assume self-evident immanent referents for its basic terms. I therefore hoped also to discover in what senses ‘Ireland’ is a meaningful historical-cultural category with which to explore ‘cinema’, and vice versa. Minimally, at least two ‘Irelands’ seem to demand attention: a sense of ‘Irishness’ as a resource for film-makers and audiences in whatever context of cultural production and consumption; and a set of social parameters (political, cultural, economic, professional) which intimately influenced film production and reception in the place called Ireland (and even this term is powerfully multi-accentual). But one can’t even pause there for very long, since Irish cinema seems to include, even to have been totally dominated by, an experience of cultural difference rather than offering a mirror of Ireland. It may be asking too much to expect of a primarily ground-charting work of this kind a detailed discussion of the whole host of relations that have been forged historically between ‘Ireland’ and ‘cinema’. The book only begins to address these issues, indeed disclaims any direct concern with many of them. However, in doing so, it places itself within what is in some respects a familiar disenabling tradition of textual analysis. Of the discursive terrains that the authors might have chosen, one seems to have been irresistible. There is a by now familiar, and even naturalized set of domains in which ‘England’, ‘Britain’, America’, ‘Cuba’, and other such entities are individually coupled with their own version of ‘cinema’. Right at the start in his Introduction Kevin Rockett identifies as the text’s fundamental parameters ‘national cinema’, patterns of film production, and ‘key representations’ of Ireland. Within such a framework it seemed entirely logical to go on to consider a number of ‘American’ films which have drawn upon ‘Irish’ material. The results are certainly not without interest, especially in identifying consistent nationalist themes, and a concern with the political authority of priests. However, in charting such thematic features, a set of implicit preferences quickly emerge. The major judgemental criterion turns out to be a kind of projected desire on the
authors’ part for rather more positive images of Ireland on film. Ireland, it seems, should be signified as characterized by authentic social being which is moved by real emotions. This is projected against a backcloth which focuses upon a long history of state censorship (one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new state in 1923); and related questions of public morality (sexuality, anti-communism). But to my mind the most crucial issues of all are the nationalist refusal of popular culture and the inter-war Church anti-cinema campaigns, in the face of an actual dominance by ‘American’ films. Despite the major transitions associated with the economic modernization of the 1950s, and what might be called the cultural modernization of the 1970s, doubts as to what constitutes an ‘Irish film’ seem to have survived, and perhaps even intensified. Given that the only institutional locus for state cultural policy on film (with the exception of censorship) has until recently been the Ardmore Studio, the situation bears remarkable affinities to current institutions of the international music industry on the African continent. First there are concerted attempts (which dramatically fail) to hold back the transnational cultural industries, then there are state-sponsored moves to offer these same corporations local facilities and a certain exotic coloration, at competitive rates. A more broadly based discussion of these issues might have begun to explain the impressive quantity of ‘independent’ (their quotes, not mine) film production since the 1970s. As presented in this book, recent independent activity is to be understood simply as the emergence of new textual forms, again against a changing backcloth of ‘Ireland’. Which brings me back to the book’s overall framework. Throughout there is little characterization of the ‘users’ of the texts they discuss. By implication, however, the ‘authors’ (invariably directors) are judged according to their capacity adequately to represent ‘Ireland’ by means of film. The filmgoers are assumed to play little part in generating meaning (as opposed to receiving it), excepting perhaps selected published critics. In addition to the ‘national cinema’ route the authors have also traversed another equally familiar descriptive path. Rather than following the lead of earlier ‘homological’ histories such as Barr’s study of Ealing Studios, they have instead headed straight for France as the home of structuralist textual analysis. Whatever the merits of the European identification, this exposes their analysis to the limitations of ‘representations of Ireland and Irishness’ approach: which I would tendentiously sum up as undue analytical abstraction, historical and sociological dislocation, and system-based formalism (not to make too fine a point of it). David Sless1 has rightly insisted that, in considering how any text constructs meaning, one should attempt to identify not only the nature of the terrain being traversed and mapped by the text, but also the positions from which this exercise was launched and made possible in the first place; and indeed what is projected about its own subject matter and readership. Most important of all, he stresses the need to come clean about one’s own position in relation to the text in question. Perhaps it’s up to me, then, to declare what I impute about the authorship and readership of this text. The authorship is plural but with an apparent unity of purpose. They are Irish academics trying to establish themselves as authors of a text which synthesizes ‘cinema’ with ‘Ireland’. They seem to wish to address a readership which is mostly fellow academics familiar with cultural studies/semiotic work and debates (such as readers of Cultural Studies), and also a wider body of academics located in or interested in Ireland. This, however, does tend to generate an
authorial stance which invites readers to occupy a parallel position of Olympian observation. Perhaps the annoying generalized references to ‘England’ and ‘English’ are indicative of a wider lack of attention to the diversity of moments in the production, circulation, and consumption of cultural identities which are masked by a deceptively simple term like ‘Irish cinema’. Although occasionally touched upon in passing, there is little detailed discussion of challenges to ‘the cinema’ as a presence in Irish culture. On the whole, the authors are more concerned with plot summary and short critical commentaries. On occasions wider themes do emerge. For instance, John Hill cleverly identifies a singular principle which differentiates nation-based presentations of Ireland on film. In UK films violence is overcome and equilibrium restored. In American films, on the other hand, violence resolves all narrative problems. This is superficially an attractive and perhaps suggestive observation, but what exactly it is suggestive of is not made at all clear. Luke Gibbons places ‘Irish films’ (or films about Ireland and Irishness, or even any films made in Ireland—such distinctions are largely glossed over in the book) within a longer-term context of romantic strivings after realist clarity of vision unmediated by language. His discussion therefore moves beyond the limited framework of cinema and Ireland to consider various ‘treatments of the Irish’ from Boucicault to Ford. In this instance a recurring feature emerges as a characteristic ‘way of seeing’. Landscape predominates over plot and character, and narrative order is imposed by an external observer, rather in the manner of this book’s own presented relations between its authors and their chosen texts. Indeed, this interesting discussion of myths of authenticity reveals as much about the import of the book itself as about the texts it discusses. It seems to me that throughout the book another text lurks behind and shadows the film texts being analysed. This is the ‘backcloth’ or authentic uncoded history of Irish culture to which all of their analyses implicitly refer. Nowhere in the book are the underlying aesthetic, critical, and political parameters of this ‘cultural text’ spelt out, although they are most sharply revealed by John Hill. By implication their critical benchmark is ‘truth to political reality’ (for example, Angel (1982) is seen as inadequate for ‘an understanding of Northern Ireland’; another film is described as having ‘little to offer to the world of politics’; yet another is condemned for lacking a ‘correct interpretation’). Luke Gibbons, however, is more circumspect about realist representation. In direct but unstated conflict with Hill he presents a critique of the ‘breathalyser test of truth’. But this turns out to be a way of arguing that romantic images shouldn’t be taken at face value as truthful representations of reality (as they seemingly were in the kinds of political discourse brought to bear on Man of Aran when it was first shown in Ireland in the mid-1930s). While it is clear that the book is plotting another curricular and critical descriptive field, its contribution to a wider understanding of the complex relations between cinema and national identities is less certain. At the base of this book’s approach are assessments of degrees to which particular films undercut or transgress received ideas. Perhaps this stands as representative of a developing Irish ‘modernist’ and modernizing intellectual culture. It certainly can stand only much more loosely for the transgressors who in their thousands visited cinemas in Ireland’s ‘golden age’. The book’s concluding essay argues that current developments signify an epitaph to the tendency to look towards Hollywood (or its equivalents) as the solution to cultural differences, not least those between Ireland and England. This is a fascinating claim but suffers from the dislocations already
mentioned. Tendency by whom? What range of meanings (Hollywood and other) have been activated through cinema/film in Irish popular culture? Most important of all for me, the book as a whole raises, but does not systematically address, questions about the implications for reader/author positions in attempting to take ‘Ireland’ as itself a stable ‘cultural text’. In consequence I took this book as itself an attempt to produce specific ways of reading cinema, or more accurately film, as standing for Ireland, rather than simply charting ‘readings’ historically activated in different ways at different times. I wouldn’t want at all to deny the value of such an attempt to posit possible forms of representation, as a contribution to contemporary debates about how Ireland might be represented. However, as an attempt to examine the historical role of cinema as a set of regulated and institutionalized relations between producers, films, and specific filmgoers, in actively producing novel semiotic relations, it is much less adequate. We cannot tell from this book a great deal about what these films stood for—what semiotic connections they forged—for most of those people without whom many of the most interesting aspects of the relations between cinema and Ireland could not have existed at all. In many ways this is a valuable book. It places Ireland on the agenda of academic discourse about film and cinema. It provides useful summaries and critical commentary on many otherwise inaccessible texts. It begins to raise important questions about how film might have a place within cultural policy-making in Ireland. All of this is to be welcomed. But I remain worried by the book’s projected mode of alternative access to a singular ‘truth’ about Ireland, which the selected texts either reflect or distort. I suppose I’m not too keen on the imputation that their readers (including this one) unquestioningly share the presented framework of assumptions regarding either Irishness or film-as-text. Polytechnic of Wales
Notes 1 David Sless, In Search of Semiotics (London: Croom Helm, 1986).
THE MAKING OF ‘REAL MEN’ STEVI JACKSON ■ J.A.Mangan and James Walvin (eds), Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800–1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), 208 pp., £29.95. Literature on the constitution of masculinity, while growing, is still sparse compared with that on femininity. This asymmetry is particularly evident in historical work. Feminist history has raised questions about men and masculinity but has concentrated on rectifying the long neglect of women’s past. Men have held centre stage in mainstream history but their gender has rarely been problematized. This volume of papers by historians is thus an especially welcome addition to research on masculinity. The collection charts the construction and development of the idea of ‘manliness’ over a period already identified by feminist historians as crucial to understanding modern gender relations. Most of the papers focus on the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, by which time the earnest ‘Christian gentleman’ of the early nineteenth century had made way for an altogether tougher model of manhood. The ‘muscular Christianity’ associated with such Victorian stalwarts as Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes is regarded as central to this transformation by several contributors. It was widely accepted by educators of both middle-class and working-class youth. Those seeking to export bourgeois values to working-class boys thought that by stressing the ‘manliness’ of Christianity they could overcome the boys’ resistance to it. John Springhall’s paper on the Boys’ Brigade argues, however, that it made little headway against the working class’s own ideas about masculinity. It was mainly boys from the more ‘respectable’ artisan layers of the working class who were drawn into such organizations. Middle-class boys were exposed to the influence of muscular Christianity far more systematically, and their parents and teachers appear to have been relatively complacent about its effects. According to J.A.Mangan, the heads of British public schools at the beginning of the twentieth century were convinced that ‘the products of their schools were, almost to a boy, muscular, moral and manly’ (p. 135). Headmasters may have stressed religion and morality, but it would seem that among their pupils the manly ideal was becoming progressively more muscular and less Christian. Mangan suggests that the philosophy of these elite educational institutions itself owed as much to social Darwinism as to Christianity. Certainly their regime was calculated to produce a struggle in which only the fit—those sufficiently hardy and insensitive—would survive. The model of manliness being promoted in schools and elsewhere was practical and athletic rather than intellectual. Self-reliance, stoicism, and emotional restraint were believed to be inextricably linked with physical strength, fitness, and endurance. The older values of loyalty, fairness, and integrity survived, but were reshaped within the new manly code and were increasingly cast in the metaphor of sport, of ‘playing the game’. The emergence of organized, competitive team sports in the late nineteenth century receives a great deal of attention. Almost every contribution refers to this development,
and two are devoted entirely to aspects of it. Both Benjamin Rader and Roberta Park discuss the interrelationship thought to exist between athletic prowess and moral rectitude. Park, in one of the more theoretically informed pieces in the collection, argues that the ideal male physique served as an icon of manly values such that ‘the visual form of the athletic male body…[was] associated with ideals of perfection and virtue’ (p. 29). Athletes also personified achievement and success and were regarded as courageous, disciplined, self-controlled, and virile: all that was required of a ‘man of character’. Sport was essential to building this ‘character’; hence its importance in schools and youth organisations’. It also came to be associated, on both sides of the Atlantic, with national pride and strength. James Walvin points out that the British often accounted for their success as imperialists in terms of the qualities of their menfolk acquired on the school playing fields. Furthermore, the manly athleticism of their colonial heroes confirmed their sense of their racial and national superiority. Heroes featured prominently in the popular literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to the fictional variety, biographies of explorers, pioneers, and soldiers transformed such men into models to be emulated by others. As Donald Mrozek puts it: ‘Heroes may be thought of as imaginary constructs, freely based on the life experiences of actual human persona, reinforced with the steel of an ideology’ (p. 228). Unfortunately many of the other contributors are less critical of the biographical sources on which they draw. They are not unaware of disjunctions between images of exemplars of manliness and historical ‘reality’. None the less there is a sense in which accounts of the lives of such men are accepted at face value, so that the representation of heroes is not itself analysed. Details from biographies are taken to illustrate what manliness was rather than being understood as part of the construction of that very thing. This is symptomatic of a broader problem with the book as a whole, a failure to question many of the categories and concepts associated with masculinity which characterizes many of the papers. For example, Jeffrey Richards, writing on close male friendships among Victorians, relates the phenomenon to an implied immaturity. He talks of ‘boy-men’, of ‘perennial boyishness’ and ‘prolonged adolescence’ (p. 107), as if maturity could be judged by some transhistorical objective standard. He is also apparently not aware that adolescence was invented in the period of which he is writing rather than being a fixed stage of human development. Peter Stearns discusses men’s control of anger in terms of a pre-given state of mind which is either expressed or repressed. This instance of male emotionality is explicitly assumed to pre-exist, indeed predate, the word ‘anger’. There is no understanding here that linguistic categories might be constitutive of subjectivity rather than simply reflecting it. Nor is there any consideration of the possibility that the categorization of emotions might be gender-related, that, for example, when a man is defined as angry a woman might be labelled upset or hysterical. This lack of attention to gender difference might seem surprising in a book which deals with a historically specific version of masculinity, but it is a weakness shared by many of the contributions. The standards of femininity against which Victorian and Edwardian manliness was judged are rarely mentioned, so that the categories ‘men’ and ‘manly’ are treated as if meaning is fixed in them or in their relation to their referents. Manliness is thus severed from its gendered specificity.
The making of 'real men'
Men may be able to claim for themselves an ungendered subjectivity, to think of themselves simply as ‘human beings’,1 but here the focus is supposedly on men as gendered. Gender makes sense only in terms of difference. The terms ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ have meaning only in relation to each other, each defining what the other is not. This is particularly clear with the concept of manliness. For a man to lack this quality, to be unmanly, connotes effeminacy. When Baden Powell described ‘the frontiersmen of all parts of our Empire’ as ‘real men in every sense of the word’ (pp. 176–7), his emphasis on the word ‘men’ suggested an implicit contrast with some other category. What such ideas of manliness have to say about women, or even men’s relationships with them, is not considered by most authors. Women are mentioned only in terms of their absence from male arenas. While the prevalence of rigid sex segregation must have forced men to strive to establish their manliness in the eyes of each other, it must have served even more strongly to accentuate women’s otherness. Many of these historians seem to have so immersed themselves in research on exclusively masculine preserves as to have forgotten that women existed. There are exceptions to this tendency, notably Mrozek’s paper on the American military. Here the counterposition of manliness and womanliness is addressed. It is identified as central to understanding the all-male ambience of military institutions which distances men from women while at the same time ‘mothering’ them. Mrozek suggests that the military may well have provided a retreat from the complexities of relationships with women, especially when the sexual segregation and moral certainties of the Victorian era began to break down. Hence the emphasis on ‘buddies’, on the reliability and predictability of relationships with comrades in arms so central to male bonding in the services. All this must have had profound implications for men’s sexual desires, orientations, and relationships, yet sexuality is not treated as a major issue anywhere in this collection. Manliness was by definition heterosexual, but this is so taken for granted that not one contributor reflects upon the ways in which standards of masculinity might have affected men’s desire for or relationships with women. Where sexuality is touched upon it is conceptualized from within unquestioned commonsense discourses. John MacKenzie’s description of the social ramifications and etiquette of hunting includes some speculations on its sexual implications. He draws upon nineteenth-century commentators who contrasted the ‘virile’ imperialists of Germany and Britain, that is those who hunted, with the more ‘effeminate’ French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The less successful or declining empires of the latter group were attributed to their lack of virility, which was itself regarded as inseparable from their over-sensual natures and sexual indulgences. This fascinating fragment of Victorian sexual theorizing cries out for critical analysis, but MacKenzie reads it as a straightforward reflection of contemporary sexuality rather than as being indicative of its discursive constitution. He himself accounts for the obsession with hunting and trophy collection in terms of sublimation. In so doing he accepts uncritically the hunting imperialists’ own definition of their sexuality as a powerful urge, a source of energy which the truly virile man controlled and conserved but which his less manly brother squandered.2 Jeffrey Richards also fails to deal satisfactorily with the implications of his research for sexuality. He is at pains to dissociate ‘manly love’ from any taint of homosexuality. Even supposing he is correct
about its ‘purity’ and ‘spirituality’ (whatever such words might mean), it surely must have had some connection with the sense men made of their sexuality. If, as Richards asserts, most of the men who enjoyed close attachments with each other were heterosexual, how did these intense friendships affect men’s sexual relationships? Beyond simplistic and questionable ideas about sexual repression and substitution for female love objects, Richards has little to say about this. His title incorporates the biblical quotation ‘passing the love of women’, yet he fails to analyse what this valorization of male affection might have meant for women as objects of men’s desire. In tone Richards’s paper comes close to being both misogynist and homophobic. Despite a few critical comments, it is more a celebration of ‘pure’ manly love than an analysis of it. For example, in discussing an event in the fictional relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, he quotes with approval Dudley Edwards’s comment that Conan Doyle had ‘recorded love between male friends with more honour and dignity than any other work in the language’. This, apparently, is something with which ‘one cannot but agree’ (p. 110). The impression given by many of these papers is that middle-class men in the last century had nothing whatever to do with women. Sexual segregation may have been an important feature of Victorian and Edwardian society, but it was not total. Men obviously were involved in relationships with women in families and through a range of social events organized around and through middle-class families. Moreover, family life must have been an important site for the definition, constitution, and reinforcement of masculine identities. The neglect of this area of men’s lives is a serious omission. The substantial body of historical research on middle-class family life during this period, and its relation to bourgeois morality in general and femininity in particular, is largely ignored.3 This collection offers little insight into the ways in which manliness was defined in relation to such patriarchal families. What of men as brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers? How did the ‘manly’ man regard his mother, sisters, and daughters? How did men seek to foster manliness in their sons? Did the mothers of boys share the same aspirations for them as their fathers? Anthony Rotundo is the only contributor who begins to answer such questions and whose primary focus is on family relationships. In one of the few papers which succeeds in rising above the merely descriptive, he analyses three distinct and often contradictory ideals of manhood which middle-class parents sought to promote in their sons. Early in the nineteenth century mothers stressed the chivalric and compassionate virtues of the ‘Christian gentleman’, while fathers emphasized the more aggressive and individualistic orientation of the ‘masculine achiever’. These two models of manhood were in many respects in opposition to each other, but there was some accommodation between them, and both were firmly rooted in bourgeois familial morality and economy. The third ideal originated outside the family and was not expressly advocated by parents until the last two decades of the century, although it was having a discernible influence on young men well before that. It is this ‘masculine primitive’ type, competitive, tough, and athletic, which is the chief focus of most of the other articles in the volume. Taken as a whole, these papers are written in the recognition that particular ideals of manliness are historically specific, but this is not located within any overall critique of masculinity. Indeed, some seem to imply that ‘manliness’ is a quaint, outmoded curiosity of little relevance to men today. It is a feature of conventional history that it identifies its
The making of 'real men'
object as the past without always relating it to the present. True, the introduction does place the collection in the context of current concerns, but it is significant that it does so in terms of ‘interest in’ rather than debates on gender. Some of the contributions appear to have been written by those whose main interest is not in ‘manliness’ as such but in the history of some activity or institution which happens to have been exclusively male, whether it be athletics or hunting, Yale College or the Rover Scouts. These authors are writing as historians committed to detailed description and to small, discrete areas of research rather than to intervention in broader theoretical debates. That such papers tend to be descriptive rather than analytical reflects the atheoretical bias of history as an academic discipline rather than being a weakness peculiar to this collection. Whatever its shortcomings, the book does provide a wealth of data on a range of spheres of ‘manly’ endeavour. It will provide invaluable source material for anyone attempting to trace the genealogy of modern definitions of masculinity. Polytechnic of Wales
Notes 1 See Maria Black and Rosalind Coward, ‘Linguistic, social and sexual relations: a review of Dale Spender’s Man Made Language’, Screen Education, 39 (1981). 2 See Stephen Heath, The Sexual Fix (London: Macmillan, 1982), for a discussion of some of the consequences of this model of male sexuality. See also Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (London: Allen Lane, 1979), for the classic critique of the ‘repressive hypothesis’. 3 For an important recent contribution to such research, see Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes (London: Hutchinson, 1987).
INDEX VOLUME 2
Articles Alberto Abruzzese Towards a sociological body p. 181 Jody Berland Locating listening: technological space, popular music, Canadian mediations p. 343 Lidia Curti Genre and gender p. 152 Maria Del Sapio ‘The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things’: notes on art and metropolitan languages p. 196 Anne Freadman Untitled: (on genre) p. 67 Clara Gallini Arabesque: images of a myth p. 168 Henry A.Giroux and Roger I.Simon Critical pedagogy and the politics of popular culture p. 294 Lawrence Grossberg Wandering audiences, nomadic critics p. 377 Katie King Audre Lorde’s lacquered layerings: the lesbian bar as a site of literary production p. 321 Meaghan Morris At Henry Parkes Motel p. 1 Janice Radway Reception study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects p. 359 Michael Ryan The theory of ideology reconsidered p. 57 Gail Guthrie Valaskakis The Chippewa and the Other: living the heritage of Lac du Flambeau p. 267 Gianni Vattimo Bottles, nets, revolution, and the tasks of philosophy p. 143 Jenny Wolmark Alternative futures? Science fiction and feminism p. 48 Anne Zahalka The Tourist as Theorist 1: (theory takes a holiday) p. 17
Events, kites, and reviews Patrizia Calefato Fashion, the passage, the body p. 223 Sean Cubitt Postmodern, post-political, post caring? p. 397 Teresa De Santis Aerial warfare p. 242 Brian Doyle Projecting Ireland p. 403 Tony Fry and Anne-Marie Willis Expo 88: backwoods into the future p. 127 John Hartley A state of excitement: Western Australia and the America’s Cup p. 117 Shuhei Hosokawa The gelato of light p. 217 Stevi Jackson The making of ‘real men’ p. 408 Felice Liperi Sound waves from the edges of the empire: the ethno-wave p. 247 Nelson Moe Spivak, in other words p. 251 Paolo Spedicato The colour grey p. 236 Ian Spring Undercut p. 393 Lesley Stern and Kevin Ballantine ‘Cup city’: where nothing ends, nothing happens p. 100 Gianluca Trivero For a moment of silence in the spectacle p. 229