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Understanding Popular Culture (Volume 4) by…

Understanding Popular Culture (Volume 4) (edition 1989)

by John Fiske (Author)

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Title:Understanding Popular Culture (Volume 4)
Authors:John Fiske (Author)
Info:Routledge (1989), Edition: 1, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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Understanding Popular Culture by John Fiske



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John Fiske’s Understanding Popular Culture serves primarily as a companion to his reader, Reading the Popular. Fiske examines the different facets of popular culture using commodities such as denim jeans, Madonna, the television show Dallas, and more. Fiske argues, “Popular culture is deeply contradictory in societies where power is unequally distributed along axes of class, gender, race, and the other categories that we use to make sense of our social differences. Popular culture is the culture of the subordinated and disempowered and thus always bears within it signs of power relations, traces of the forces of domination and subordination that are central to our social system and therefore to our social experience. Equally, it shows signs of resisting or evading these forces: popular culture contradicts itself” (pg. 4-5).
Fiske continues, “Popular culture always is part of power relations; it always bears traces of the constant struggle between domination and subordination, between power and various forms of resistance to it or evasions of it, between military strategy and guerrilla tactics” (pg. 19). His approach “sees popular culture as potentially, and often actually, progressive (though not radical), and it is essentially optimistic, for it finds in the vigor and vitality of the people evidence both of the possibility of social change and of the motivation to drive it” (pg. 21). Fiske writes, “All popular culture is a process of struggle, of struggle over the meanings of social experience, of one’s personhood and its relations to the social order and of the texts and commodities of that order” (pg. 28). He further argues, “The politics of popular culture is that of everyday life” (pg. 56).
Examining popular texts, Fiske argues, “The social experience that determines the relevances that connect the textual to the social and that drive this popular productivity is beyond textual control, in a way that is different from the more specifically textual competence and experience of the writerly reader of the avant-garde text” (pg. 104). He believes that critically-derided texts offer useful insight. Of tabloid fodder, Fiske writes, “The popularity of such sensational publications is evidence of the extent of dissatisfaction in a society, particularly among those who feel powerless to change their situation, and the fact that there are more of them, and that they are more visible, in the United States than in, for example, Australia or the United Kingdom may say something about the exclusiveness of American ideology and the harshness with which it treats those it excludes” (pg. 117). More generally, he writes, “In popular culture, texts as objects are merely commodities, and as such they are often minimally crafted (to keep production costs down), incomplete, and insufficient unless and until they are incorporated into the everyday lives of the people” (pg. 123). To this end, “A popular text, to be popular, must have points of relevance to a variety of readers in a variety of social contexts, and so must be polysemic in itself, and any one reading of it must be conditional, for it must be determined by the social conditions of its reading” (pg. 141).
Fiske concludes, “Popular culture not only maintains social differences, it maintains their oppositionality, and people’s awareness of it. It can thus empower them to the extent that, under the appropriate social conditions, they are able to act, particularly at the micropolitical level, and by such action to increase their sociocultural space, to effect a (micro)redistribution of power in their favor” (pg. 161). Finally, “Popular culture always entails a set of negotiations between the center and the circumference, between the relatively unified allegiances of the power-bloc and the diversified formations of the people, between singular texts and multiple readings” (pg. 171). ( )
  DarthDeverell | Aug 31, 2017 |
Cultural Studies 101
  adultist | Aug 21, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0415078768, Paperback)

In this companion volume to Reading the Popular, Fiske presents a radical theory of what it means for culture to be popular.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

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