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Popular Culture: A User's Guide, International Edition

ISBN: 978-1-119-14033-7
384 pages
September 2017, Wiley-Blackwell
Popular Culture: A User


Popular Culture: A User’s Guide, International Edition ventures beyond the history of pop culture to give readers the vocabulary and tools to address and analyze the contemporary cultural landscape that surrounds them.

  • Moves beyond the history of pop culture to give students the vocabulary and tools to analyze popular culture
  • suitable for the study of popular culture across a range of disciplines, from literary theory and cultural studies to philosophy and sociology
  • Covers a broad range of important topics including the underlying socioeconomic structures that affect media, the politics of pop culture, the role of consumers, subcultures and countercultures, and the construction of social reality
  • Examines the ways in which individuals and societies act as consumers and agents of popular culture
  • Numerous learning features including case studies, real-life examples, suggested activities, boxed features, a glossary, and an instructor’s manual
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Table of Contents


Preface: A User’s Guide to Popular Culture: A User’s Guide xi

Acknowledgments xv

1 Introducing Popular Culture 1

Approaching Popular Culture 1

Defining Popular Culture 2

What Is Culture? 2

What/Who Defines the Popular? 4

What Is Popular Culture? 6

The Politics of Popular Culture 9

Why Study Popular Culture? A Brief History of Cultural Studies 11

Popular Culture Invades the Classroom 12

Sneaking in through the Back Door 12

The Democratization of Culture 13

The Americanization of Popular Culture 14

The Decolonization of Culture 15

What Is an Education For? 16

Culture Wars 16

Culture and Economics—The Postindustrial Revolution 17

Why This? Why Now? Why Me? A Couple of Final Arguments for the Importance of Studying Popular Culture 18

Coffee as Popular Culture 19

The Representation of Coffee 20

The Production of Coffee 21

The Consumption of Coffee 23

And It All Boils Down To…What Is in a Cup of Coffee? 27

Suggestions for Further Reading 28

2 The History of Popular Culture 29

Taking It from the Streets 29

Making the Streets Safe for Commerce 30

Popular Recreation before 1830 31

The Bonds of Community 31

Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution 32

Redefining Cultural Spaces 32

Industrialism 34

The Production of the Working Class 36

Popular Recreation and Resistance 38

Rational Recreation 39

Popular Culture and Politics 42

The Production of Commercial Mass Culture—the Birth of the Culture Industry 43

Technology 45

The Engines of Change 45

Regulation, Innovation, Consolidation 46

Continuities and Changes 49

The Organization and Commercialization of Sports 50

Back to the Streets, Forward to the Present 53

Suggestions for Further Reading 55

3 Representation and the Construction of Social Reality 57

Truth2Power 57

Constructing a Crisis—the Discourse of Violent Youth 58

Signification—the Production of Social Sense 59

Structuralist Theories of Representation 59

Mythologies 61

Reading the Headlines 61

Discourse and Power 63

Representing the Youth Crisis 63

The Construction of Youth 63

The Kids Are Not All Right 65

Making the News 67

Media and Youth Crime 70

Picturing Crime 70

Crime on Television 72

Truth2Power: The Politics of Representation 75

Enhancing Visibility, Challenging Negative Representation 75

Beyond Representation: Who’s the Boss? 78

Contexts of Representation 79

The Myth of Mass Media Manipulation 80

What Do We Do with Texts? The Role of the Audience in Constructing Meaning 83

Encoding and Decoding 83

Representation in Contemporary Culture 86

The Trouble with “Truthiness” 88

Suggestions for Further Reading 89

4 The Production of Popular Culture 91

The Business of Culture 91

“Money Changes Everything”: The Pitfalls of Thinking about Production 93

Economic versus Artistic Success 93

Walter Benjamin 95

The Culture Industry Thesis 96

The Frankfurt School 97

What Is the Culture Industry? 97

Culture, Experience, and the Culture Industry 99

Summarizing Horkheimer and Adorno 103

Some Problems with the Culture Industry Thesis 104

Shifting Modes of Cultural Production 106

The Evolution of Hollywood 107

Production and Meaning 112

Cultural Production Today 112

Lifestyle Marketing and Market Segmentation 114

Copyleft: Challenging Copyright 116

Digital Production 120

Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing 122

5 The Consuming Life 123

Back to “Normal” 123

Consumption Patterns 124

A Brief History of Consumer Culture 126

Commodities and Desire 126

The Creation of Consumer Society: Advertising, Credit, Debt 127

Consumer Culture and Mass Culture 133

Consumption as Distinction 135

Consumption and Agency 136

Taste and Distinction 137

Consumption and Power 139

Consumption,Desire, and Pleasure 140

Making Meaning in Use 141

The Politics of Consumption 142

The Consequences of Consumption 143

A Different Kind of Consumer Culture 144

Authenticity and Co ]optation: The Merchants of Cool 145

Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing 148

6 Identity and the Body 151

Identity—a Necessary Fiction? 151

The History of Identity—Some Different Theories 153

Identity and the Unconscious 153

Identity and Ideology 155

All Selves Are Not Created Equal 156

Identity and Power/Knowledge 157

The History of Sexuality 160

Summary of the Key Theories of Identity 161

Hegemonic Masculinity, Postfeminism, and the Third Wave 161

Postfeminism 164

Being and Doing 165


It Gets Better? Possibly… 169

Identity and Affect 171

Different Bodies, Different Selves? 172

Embodied Selves 172

The Human Body: Natural or Cultural? 172

Physical Capital and Social Status 175

Altered States 176

Enhancing/Producing the Healthy Body 177

What Is Natural/Normal? 178

Transcending the Body? 179

Suggestions for Further Reading 182

7 Identity, Community, Collectivity 183

Who Do You Want Me to Be? 183

“The People Who Are Ours” 187

Like Us, Only Worse 188

Cultural Symbols, Material Contexts 189

Collective Identity and Crisis 190

Modern Identities: Nation, Empire, and Race 191

I Am Canadian 191

Nations and Nationalism 194

Imagined Community, Invented Tradition 195

Nation and Empire 197

The West and the Rest 198

Orientalism—Then and Now 199

Race and Identity 200


Identities 200

Decolonizing Cultures 201

Diaspora and Cultural Hybridity 202

Postnational Identities: Melted, Frozen, Reconstituted 204

Consumerism, Identity, and Resistance 204

The Marketing of Difference 204

The Postmodern Nation 205

Virtual Belonging 207

Deterritorialization/Reterritorialization 209

Community or Collectivity? 210

Global Belonging 211

Imagined Collectivities 211

Suggestions for Further Reading 212

8 Subcultures and Countercultures 213

The Mainstream and Other Streams 213

Minority–Majority Relationships 215

Subcultures and Countercultures: What Is the Difference? 217

Subcultures 217

Countercultures 218

Popular Representations of Subcultures and Countercultures 221

Forrest Gump: Subcultural Deviance 222

Fight Club: Fight the Power? 224

Ghost World: Being Ghostly 227

The Politics of Subcultures 229

Hiding in the Light 229

Avant ]Garde Punk 231

The Invention of Skateboarding 235

From Zines to Blogs 237

Suggestions for Further Reading 240

9 Space, Place, and Globalization 243

(Dis)Locations of Popular Culture 243

Organizing Space and Place 244

Private versus Public Space 246

Playing in the Park 247

Rich Kids Swim, Poor Kids Sink 248

Factories and Offices: The Spaces/Places of Work 250

Inside Out 255

Moral Center, Uncivilized Chaos 257

Out in the Wilderness 259

Environmental Awareness 261

The Big Picture: Globalization? 262

Is Globalization Real? 264

Economic Globalization 264

Globalization and Politics 268

The Technological Dimensions of Globalization 269

Globalization and Popular Culture 271

Culture and Space 271

Global Culture and Cultural Imperialism 272

The Noble Savage versus Ronald McDonald 275

Globalization: Whats Next? 279


for Further Reading 279

10 Popular Culture in the Twenty ]First Century 281

In with the New? 281

Many Popular Cultures? 283

Learning to Love Celine: Twenty ]First ]Century Taste 284

New Technology and Its Discontents 287

Social Media and Political Change 288

The Fate of Information 292

The Real ]World Costs of E ]Life 299

Lost Generation? 301

The Future of Higher Education 305

What Is Next? 309

Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing 310

Glossary 311

Works Cited 327


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Author Information

Imre Szeman is Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) of Cultural Studies and Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is also Adjunct Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Canada. He is the founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and a founding member of the US Cultural Studies Association. His main areas of research are in energy and environmental studies, social and political philosophy, and critical theory and cultural studies. He is the author or editor of more than 16 books, including Cultural Theory: An Anthology (Wiley Blackwell, 2010) and After Globalization (Wiley Blackwell, 2011). 

Susie O'Brien is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, Canada. Her research and teaching focus on postcolonial and environmental cultural studies.  She has published on postcolonial literature, the slow and local food movements, scenario planning, and the temporality of globalization.  She is co-editor of Time, Globalization and Human Experience (forthcoming 2017) and is currently working on a monograph on the power and vulnerability of resilience stories.

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