on March 11, 2014
Douglas Kellner is Professor at Columbia University and the author of important political books about the media and the Iraq war and the media and 9/11. He is an expert of the philosophy of the Frankfurt School and wrote about Herbert Marcuse. Several texts on the Web prove he tries to combine Media Studies with the approach of the Frankfurt School.
Durham and Kellner present an 800 pages anthology which contains the basic stuff as well as less known but interesting new studies. The anthology starts with some key texts by Marx and Engels, Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, Adorno and Horkheimer, Jürgen Habermas and Althusser. Part II introduces structuralism, the semiotic turn, Marshall McLuhan, Guy Debord and Stuart Hall’s “Encoding/Decoding” paper. Part IV contains text about gender and the politics of identity. Part V deals with postmodernism and part VI with globalization and hybridization. The anthology includes texts by Paul Gilroy, Angela McRobbie, Frederic Jameson and other important exponents of cultural studies.
Durham and Kellner are aware of the need of a political economy and sociology perspective on media and culture. Bourdieu represents sociology, Nicolas Garnham political economy. The introductory text “Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies” insists on the need for different perspectives. This anthology has a central theme and a basic argumentation. Different methodologies and approaches of media and cultural studies can be used in order to extend our understanding of the workings of ideology and hegemony. Other introductions present cultural studies as a continuation of literary studies. This anthology shows cultural studies as a further development of Critical Theory.
Durham and Kellner do not include any works by De Certeau, John Fiske and Friedrich Kittler.
I use the 2005 revised edition of the anthology. A 2012 edition is out and contains additional material about new technologies.
on December 23, 2012
I have become a firm believer in edited volumes, since they allow those like myself to fill in gaps in knowledge at my own pace. Areas such as literary criticism, Feminist Studies and Media and Cultural Studies are areas of intellectual understanding that snuck up on me, and then somehow passed me by. For any number of reasons, they got pass me during my formal educational training as well as through my many carefully prepared reading enlightenment programs. As a result, I have had to catch up on my own. And that is where volumes like the current one comes handily into play.
Here in a rather painless way, and at my own pace, I get to see what people like Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas, Roland Bartes and Jean Baudrillard among many others had to say at the forefront of an emerging disciple. I have tried, but to little effect, to read them each separately on their own. In short, an edited volume, since the selections have already been made for you, is a way to cover a lot of ground quickly and at the same time allow one to ease into a rather complex but extremely necessary intellectual enterprise. What I was looking for here was the proper "lay of the land," the geography or cartography of this disciple, if you will, so that I could find a grip with some traction, one that would help me cover a lot of ground quickly, and at the same time get a good introductory level understanding of a complex field. I did not want to know everything there is to know about the field-- just enough to be generally informed and intelligent about the meaning and role of Cultural Studies in the existing cultural arrangements of our postmodern world.
Recognizing and fully respecting the adage "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," I have nevertheless learned from this careful selection that media and cultural productions play a critical if not a crucial role in the maintenance of contemporary society in a "social steady state."
As the authors note, societies are like species that survive and evolve by reproducing themselves. And the way they do this most effectively is by controlling what their minions think, how they behave and what they learn. The guiding mechanism and principle for organizing societies is the fact that cultural indoctrination prepares and predisposes people within the society to "give their consent" to the culture so that it may then establish certain ways for them to think and behave, ways that become the norm and that they then acknowledge as being "culturally correct." Automatic acceptance of these rules of cultural engagement as the norm help integrate individuals into a structured way of life called "the social order."
The various forms of media production such as television, film, popular music, books, magazines, newspapers, advertising, all play a critical role in shaping and transforming societal images into the required norms that "model" roles of what behavior is acceptable and moral within society. The narratives, told through these forms offer a vicarious route to meaning, identities, visions of happiness and success, ideologies and otherwise engage citizens in practices which are intended to better integrate them into the fabric of established society. Individuals of course respond to these narratives in disparate and often contradictory ways. We must understand the role the various media play in shaping these narratives and individual's responses if we are to be able to fully understand and even to negotiate our cultural environment.
Critics, with their own norms, theories and methods, help us better understand and negotiate these media and therefore our culture. Here we find an eclectic collection of articles that span the terrain of media forms, difficulty, techniques of cultural analysis, theories and criticism. Taken together, the authors call them the "keys" to unlock the doors to better cultural understanding and meanings. There are five sections each with a separate introduction. The introductions serve well as "set up" pieces. However, since some of the pieces within a given section are far apart in substantive content and difficulty, for my needs, a summary of each part would have been very useful. Despite this, it is a fine collection probably better suited for a college course, where an instructor can engage students in lecture discussions about the substance included here. Four Stars.