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NADINE DOLBY Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois
In this introduction to the study of popular culture in education, Nadine Dolby offers an insightful review of the literature informing this work. Her essay sets the tone and theme for this Special Issue, and begins to address why educators and educational researchers should pay particular attention to popular culture. Discussing the relevant literature and introducing readers to historical debates in the field, Dolby distinguishes between various understandings of popular culture and approaches to studying its relationship to education. Ultimately, Dolby argues, the importance of popular culture and its connection to education lies in the role it plays as a site for engaging in the process of democratic practice. She encourages educators to engage young people in a deep exploration of the multiple dimensions of popular culture and the public sphere, and highlights examples of this kind of engagement.
Popular culture is a central force in the United States: it reaches into our homes, cars, and classrooms, and it influences what we buy, wear, listen to, watch, and think about. Popular culture can be immensely pleasurable, controversial, offensive, annoying, even addictive, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.1 In many instances, it is tricky to draw a line between popular culture and the rest of our lives, so embedded is it in our daily patterns. Given popular culture’s considerable role in U.S. society, I argue in this essay that it should be understood as a cultural practice that has its own power to create social change — to alter social conditions and the very foundation of people’s lives. I particularly discuss here how popular culture can be mobilized by and with youth to bring about what I term democratic practice — everyday actions that move us toward a more just and equitable society. Popular culture is hard to avoid because it is at the center of the public sphere in U.S. society. Of course, popular culture is largely driven by commercial interests, which are private and concerned with profit. Nevertheless, popHarvard Educational Review Vol. 73 No. 3 Fall 2003 Copyright © by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Popular Culture and Democratic Practice
ular culture is a site where people have a voice, a stake, and an interest.2 Except on rare occasions (national tragedies, presidential elections), popular culture is the conversation starter at school, at work, and at social occasions. It often serves as both a social “glue” and a social divider: friendships solidify around a shared love for a particular band, music video, or television show, and being outside of the currents of the popular can lead to social isolation.3 Popular culture is also integral to the public sphere: politicians campaign on late-night talk shows, and The West Wing and other television programs produce episodes that address terrorism and themes related to September 11. Thus, popular culture is not simply fluff that can be dismissed as irrelevant and insignificant; on the contrary, it has the capacity to intervene in the most critical civic issues and to shape public opinion. But what exactly is popular culture? Though I use the phrase repeatedly in this essay, its meaning is at best vaguely defined. In his discussion of the concepts of popular culture, the popular, and the people, Tony Bennett, one of the central figures in British cultural studies, comments, “The meanings of these terms and our understanding of the relations between them are not matters that can be resolved by definitional fiat. The most that one can do is to point to a range of meanings.”4 While I acknowledge Bennett’s concerns, my first task for the purposes of this essay is to create a working definition of popular culture through a historical overview of the field. As I discuss, popular culture can be understood as a “text” that is received by people and acted on, or as a “lived experience” that is created by people. The two approaches differ in emphasis: in the first case, the focus is on the text, interpretations of the text, and how individuals receive and interact with the text. In the second case, the focus is on youth and the worlds they create. In the following section, I take up the ideas of agency, democracy, and citizenship, and discuss the potential links that can be forged between popular culture and democracy. In the final sections, I consider the possibilities of engaging the idea of cultural citizenship as a way of analyzing young people’s practices for their democratic possibilities, and discuss examples from recent youth culture research that demonstrate popular culture’s potential to alter the politics of the public sphere.
Defining Popular Culture and Its Role in Society
To study popular culture, researchers and scholars first have had to struggle with the task of defining what it is and, by extension, what it is not. Definitions are of course historically and culturally bound (and created) phenomena, and the answer to “what is” popular culture has changed significantly in the past fifty years. From the 1860s until the 1950s, Matthew Arnold’s concept of culture, which in turn helped define popular culture, was the most significant and influential. In an often-quoted phrase, Arnold defined culture as “the best that has been thought and said in the world.”5 This definition, combined
right. and Bennett are relatively unified in their critiques of popular culture. there is more disagreement among those who populate the radical. asking what parts of our culture were the best and thus most deserving of survival into the next generation. Russell Watson’s success as “the people’s tenor” collapses manufactured distinctions. Arnold simply declared his class. the distinction between popular and high culture lingers in everyday practice. and is less refined than that which constitutes “high” culture. “anti-populist. Arnold’s legacy shaped the paradigm that dominated the study of popular culture for almost one hundred years — a paradigm that accepted as natural and commonsense the division between popular (or low) and high culture. Hirsch.8 As Stuart Hall discusses. and good — and what the working class thought of this was none of his concern. For example.7 These practices provide further closure to class categories: culture becomes a barrier to upward mobility and status.9 More recently. is not as meaningful. Despite adamant critiques of this position. While Arnold. Anglo-Saxon practices) by popular culture. For example. Hirsch’s infamous attempts to codify and quantify culture through lists. the anti-populists are as dismissive of popular culture as conservatives.Harvard Educational Review with Arnold’s pronounced beliefs that the British aristocracy and middle class were not only superior to the working class but also further along the evolutionary path. or low. and his ironically popular success. led to a valorization of so-called high culture as opposed to the culture of the common or working class. similar challenges can be raised about the novel: while in some contexts it is considered bourgeois. there are those who might be labeled. and both the wealthy and the working class go to Hollywood movies. Furthermore.6 Yet what objective criteria exist to distinguish between the value of an opera and a monster truck show? As Pierre Bourdieu has argued. often Marxist-influenced side of the debate. that which is “popular” does not have as much value. going to the opera. reading Shakespeare. such cultural divisions are merely a way of perpetuating class distinctions — anchoring such distinctions in fields that go beyond the economic. even if money is not. culture. and monster truck shows are examples of popular. Hirsch. are powerful examples of the lingering influence of Arnold’s philosophy. Shakespeare was popular culture in his time. William Bennett. D. Harlequin novels. in others it is not. but is now considered high culture. From this perspective.”10 Despite differing political philosophies. American youth of all class backgrounds are rap music fans. the culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s went to the core of Arnold’s philosophy. Of course. arguing that it intention- 260 . recent theorizing points out that such distinctions between high and popular culture do not hold. or attending an art gallery opening are considered to be the province of purveyors of high culture. E. and other conservative critics fought against what they saw as the dilution of high culture (almost exclusively upper-class. and by extension himself. as Greg Dimitriadis and Cameron McCarthy suggest. First. while Hollywood movies. the bearers of all that was civilized.
despite the forces that attempt to structure their existence — they are also hesitant to simply “celebrate” popular culture.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby ally dominates and controls people’s minds. and is exemplified in the work of scholars who are concerned with valorizing and celebrating the culture of the working class.16 First. or folklorists — elevate what they term folk culture to the real and noncommercial. For example. the working class is viewed as authentic. independent individuals who judge and decide consciously for themselves. making it impossible for them to act. the “anti-” and “pro-” populist. there is a separate. which is denigrated in the conservative divide between high and low. innate. and exists as a preformed identity. unshaken by divisions of race or gender (for example). this tradition has its roots in both history and sociology.15 Both positions.12 there was also some dissent from this position. mass culture “impedes the development of autonomous. As cultural studies theorists like Hall have observed. critics associated with the field of cultural studies have examined the limitations of the determinism of anti positions. The best-known advocates of such a position are critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School.”17 McCarthy similarly comments that I deliberately set myself in opposition to the subordination of third world people in determinist social theories by reasserting the agency of the oppressed and the decisive importance of popular culture in the ongoing struggle for political sovereignty in the third world. and a stable entity.18 Second. In Adorno’s words. no identity (including class) is natural.13 While Benjamin represents what Dimitriadis and McCarthy call a “pro-populist” tradition within the broader framework of German critical theory. who dismissed mass culture as manipulative and stupifying. Hall and McCarthy have critiqued Adorno and Horkheimer’s position as one that denies the working class any agency or the ability to think for themselves. while cultural studies theorists are centrally concerned with the concept of agency — or the idea that people can and do act. most notably the work of Walter Benjamin.”11 While such perspectives dominated German critical theory in the 1930s and 1940s. Most problematic from the cultural studies perspective is the idea that the working class is unified. whose “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” explored the potential of art as a space of political resistance. have been criticized for oversimplifying and distorting the relationship between popular culture and society. Anglo-American tradition of scholarship that is similarly propopulist. such scholars — often referred to as “people’s” historians. as opposed to the commercial mass culture that constitutes most of popular culture. and inevi- 261 . as those associated with “the people’s” perspective tend to do. Hall notes that viewing “the people as purely passive” is a “deeply unsocialist perspective.19 From the people’s vantage point. uncontaminated by influences from outside of itself. sociologists. As Henry Giroux notes.14 Spurning Arnold’s celebration of high culture.
democratic practices. popular culture became important because it was a field of struggle — a place where consent was made. particularly the work of Antonio Gramsci. the working class in the United States in 2003 is substantially different from the working class in the United States in the 1970s. opening up the analysis of popular culture to the field of political theory. unmade. or the working class in Britain. Instead. identities are formed and reformed within (and in resistance to) structures of power.20 So.22 Thus.24 As Gramsci argued. and though Gramsci did not write specifically about popular culture. and continual reformation.position is particularly helpful in trying to understand the way popular culture functions as a site of power in society. it is clear that in contemporary society it is one of the main arenas of struggle for consent. The struggle to gain this consent is played out in multiple fields of civil society. and remade.Harvard Educational Review table. neither the anti.nor the pro. While “bourgeois” culture recognizes and rewards the individualistic accomplishments of the solitary artist or musician. As Williams argues. P. Popular culture is not uniformly imposed on people from above. Williams’ enormous contribution through such books as The Long Revolution has solidified the connection between cultural practices and democracy. brilliantly demonstrates this point in his seminal work. not found. Thompson. nor does it magically bubble up fully formed from the ground of the preformed working class. and do not exist before societal conditions. Instead. or winning the consent of the subordinated. and collective solidarity. Ultimately. The Making of the English Working Class. nuanced. ruptures. The work of Raymond Williams was enormously influential in reshaping the study of popular culture in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the central tenets of Gramsci’s philosophy is that the struggle for consent is always ongoing and 262 . workingclass culture rests in communal ties and collective creativity. this form of cultural production is no less valuable than the bourgeois form.23 Williams’ approach to the study of culture is inherently democratic: he restores cultural agency to the working class. and assisted the field in moving beyond the reductionist analyses that predominated. while understanding that the working class is made. Given Gramsci’s insights into how hegemony works in society. for example. and ultimately more useful way of analyzing the role of popular culture. Gramsci describes a process of hegemony. and definitively uprooted the distinction between high and popular culture. considered one of the founders of British cultural studies. scholars moved away from an either/or analysis of popular culture. fragmentation. cultural studies theorists contend that it is impossible to celebrate working-class culture (or even the working class) because such an entity cannot be discussed without noting breaks. Numerous scholars have drawn on Gramsci’s theory of hegemony to provide a more complex. Williams argues that the “culture” produced by the British working class is the legacy of trade unions. the dominant classes do not maintain control through the use of force or through blatant manipulation (à la Adorno and Horkheimer). Instead.21 E.
with some limited exceptions (such as some websites). or to shift the field. and remake popular culture. Finally. as if written on its brow for ever and a day. Because there is never closure on political control — control is not solely a matter of subordination — there is always room to maneuver: small places and spaces have the power to create significant change. from religion to 263 . musicians. The study of popular culture texts has pervaded virtually every discipline and field in the academy. nor are they meaningless. it is the location of considerable struggle for consent. economic. resist. as Hall argues.”27 Hall has also written extensively about this phenomenon. several themes become important in contemporary research on popular culture. one of the most prominent scholars in the field of cultural studies and popular culture. “A cultural practice does not carry its politics with it. underlines some of the central implications of examining popular culture as an open field of struggle. pain. scholars have answered the questions raised at the end of the previous section in two ways. The ubiquity of popular culture texts in U. Most of these texts — soap operas. for example). research. Second. Some scholars have studied the texts produced by popular culture. never complete. 26 Gramsci’s insights into hegemony also allowed scholars to understand that popular culture is not static. Grossberg invokes Gramsci’s idea of “commonsense” to underline the notion that popular culture is the site where our taken-for-granted interpretations of the world are made: what we “know” about the world is largely formed through our interactions with popular culture. a folksinger who is considered a rebel and nonconformist one day might be on the cover of a major magazine the next day. noting that. advertisements. video games. Grossberg underscores that popular culture is a major affective force in people’s lives: we experience joy. the critical point is that these shifts are not necessarily inevitable.S. First. by extension.28 Similar observations can be made about many other types of music. Others have researched — often through ethnographic and/or qualitative methods — how youth make meaning of. “the state of play in cultural relations. websites — are produced by the media industry. negotiate. so that consent moves in a different direction.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby shifting. From Grossberg’s work. As Bennett comments. pleasure. culture has spawned extensive study. and social relations in the larger society? How does it function as the ground of struggle? Studying Popular Culture: Text or Lived Experience? Broadly speaking. sports teams. However. comics. how does popular culture reflect and produce political. and sorrow (think of the emotional investment in sports. where meanings are decided with finality. superheroes. music lyrics.”29 In other words. and fashion trends. analysis. what is important is not the cultural forms. for example. movies. but.25 Lawrence Grossberg. cultural. and critique. Grossberg argues that popular culture is where our identities are produced and.
30 In education.32 In broad terms. as a pedagogical site. Furthermore.33 A related body of scholarship within education and media studies focuses on critical media literacy. sexist. Joe Kincheloe. or homophobic content. and other venues. Though there are some significant variations. neither “anxiety” nor “celebration” adequately engages the reality that popular culture can create multiple. As ethnographer and cultural theorist Paul Willis and others have argued. increasingly. both within the public debate surrounding the practice and in its very performance (see Buckingham in this issue).35 Despite the visceral appeal of critical media studies. its possibilities.. and human desire for pleasure will constantly draw us back to it. the roles that education has vacated. or its potentially racist.Harvard Educational Review English to history. as Grossberg comments. where they absorb their taken-for-granted understandings about life. Anne Haas Dyson. or teaching youth how to analyze and critique the messages they are bombarded with from media sources. Cameron McCarthy. but the relations that are struggled over.31 Roger Simon. For example. despite our intellectual critiques. they will become almost totally irrelevant to the real energies and interests of most young people and have no part in their identity formation. popular culture is a place where youth learn about the world and. Common culture will. it is unrealistic to expect that youth will reject popular culture because of its commercial nature. In other words. effects and that what is important to focus on is not what is popular at a particular moment. It will be further marginalized in most people’s experience by common [read “popular” or “everyday”] culture. in its own ways. popular culture theorists are less concerned with the fact that Tommy Hilfiger — or any other designer for that 264 . and sometimes contradictory. perhaps the most prolific author in this area is Henry Giroux. They embrace popular culture as a critical site of struggle over meaning and. and on society more broadly (see Trend in this issue). these scholars engage and critique the raw products of popular culture as they roll out of Hollywood. In so far as educational practices are still predicated on traditional liberal humanist lines and on the assumed superiority of high art. and its limits. most vitally. popular culture is a source of pleasure. Such critics are representative of the “anxiety” half of what McCarthy and his colleagues term the anxiety or celebration approach to the study of popular culture. popular culture is a more significant.e. violent. many of these critics are overwhelmingly negative about the effects of popular culture on youth. and Peter McLaren have also made substantial contributions to understanding how popular culture texts shape young people’s world. undertake. popular culture is either wholly rejected as a dangerous influence on youth (i. New York. penetrating pedagogical force in young peoples’ lives than schooling: The field of education is likely to come under even more intense pressure. Shirley Steinberg. the considerable anxiety over rap music in the United States in the 1990s) or uncritically embraced. whose work analyzing the texts of popular culture spans several decades. As Grossberg constantly reminds us.34 In their paradigm.
there is no direct line between the encoded message and the message that individuals receive. one of the most significant works in this field. she is clear that readers’ responses are important and result in uneven and often contradictory effects. they only investigate this agency in limited ways. Radway discovers that the women who read the novels have a totally different experience: they find within them sources of strength and pleasure. A less developed though promising line of educational research focuses squarely in this arena: on youth’s agency and what they do with popular culture in their everyday lives. One of the most significant areas of study examines how people outside of the United States interpret American television. textual analysis of popular culture.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby matter — became embroiled in a conflict over race as much as they are with how and why fashion and popular culture play a central role in the struggle over race and racial identity among U. Despite the tirades against romance novels as antifeminist and disempowering. youth culture researchers tend to begin with youth. as reception studies demonstrate. and the different meanings that are given to Dallas and other American cultural exports in varying national contexts.36 Finally.37 Similar work on how people receive and interpret popular culture abounds. researchers probed the intersection between youth and popular culture. From Popular Culture to Youth Culture: Emphasizing Agency The “Birmingham School.” which was influenced by the groundbreaking work of Raymond Williams and the Gramscian turn in social science analysis. can only move the discussion and research so far. youth. Based at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. 265 . Reception studies. became the most significant site of the production of youth culture research in the twentieth century. there is a considerable and influential body of work that is often characterized as reception studies. It is certainly important to analyze and critique the products of popular culture and to dissect them for the messages that they might impart to youth. But. Yet.S. they are not apt to dismiss popular culture as a negative and enervating force. Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance. While Radway is reluctant to assert that romance novels have no role in reproducing patriarchy. Unlike popular culture researchers. with the exception of a small branch of critical media studies. or decode. however.39 Hall’s insight is supported by the empirical research conducted by Radway and others working in the field of reception studies.38 Scholars who use a textual approach in their work are often quite concerned with individual and community agency. provides a bridge between the textual analysis of popular culture and the study of popular culture as a lived experience. as a field. They focus on young people’s lives and experiences. As Hall has brilliantly illustrated. despite its value. is an in-depth examination of how women read romance novels.
42 For example. and Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson’s Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. Willis underlines the fact that youth have agency and that they function in the world as legitimate political actors. Skinheads. and how these practices perpetuated or challenged existing social formations. As he demonstrates. youth research was almost exclusively located within work on the sociology of deviance. Birmingham researchers investigated youth subcultures in Britain — Teddy Boys. however.41 Suddenly. Feminist researchers. “constructs youth as a period of inevitable psychological and social turmoil mid-way between the dependency of childhood and the mature stability of adult status. as Christine Griffin notes. Critically. thus changing the naturalized configurations of power. For example. but to the specific class structures and entrenched hierarchies of a highly stratified British society. or forms. which portrayed youth as criminals determined to undermine society. did not simply express resistance — they were resistance. and street protests. Punks.Harvard Educational Review and emphasize popular culture as a site of struggle and (for the Birmingham researchers particularly) of resistance. but the field quickly expanded to include gender and race. this agency is not necessarily liberating for the lads. researchers were also beginning to push beyond the relatively narrow world of youth subcultures to more expansive analysis of youth cultural practices and production. Rockers.46 Willis demonstrates how the “lads” in his study actively resist the institution of schooling. and others — as forms of working-class resistance. They exercise agency in resisting the structures and hierarchies of schooling. Learning to Labour. as the notion of “politics” expanded well beyond Parliament. detailed in Dick Hebdige’s book. In this way. such as Angela 266 . the courts. but of resistance to a class structure that determined their lives and futures. but this resistance ensures that they follow their fathers into manual labor jobs on the shop floor. Instead of deviance. the Teddy Boys’ style exaggerated. the stuffy dress and manners of the British upper class.44 In turn. their resistance also reproduces their position in the working class. clothes. however. But Birmingham researchers rejected this model. Most influential in this arena is Willis’ landmark book. makeup. young peoples’ style became a site of political struggle. young people’s outrageous clothes or preference for seemingly bizarre music become simply signs of a transitional stage.40 Birmingham School researchers were interested in the connection between ideology and form. hair. and music were not signs of typical adolescent rebellion (following the “storm-and-stress” models popularized by psychology) or criminal behavior. Prior to the work of the Birmingham School. an ethnographic study of working-class boys in a secondary school in an industrial area of England. the storm-and-stress model.”43 In such a model. the Teddy’s mocking shifted the cultural meaning of the clothes and styles favored by the British upper classes. arguing that these signs. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. and thus mocked.45 By the late 1970s. they were not signs of resistance to the adult world. The original youth subculture researchers focused on class analysis.
Popular culture researchers emphasize the importance of interrogating the meaning of texts. the rise of the “New Right” in Britain and the United States in the 1980s sidelined radical voices and made it more difficult to obtain funding for the in-depth ethnographic work often required. But Willis reminds us that we must take the world of young people — their priorities. gender.50 Despite these difficulties. and resituating youth as active agents in the continual process of remaking democracy. democratic change. sexual orientation. at core. a form of education in the broadest sense. age. In contrast. As Willis’ work demonstrates. but for gender and race as well.49 Despite the importance of this line of research for understanding youth. It is the specifically developmental part of symbolic work. postmodernism. my argument significantly expands the commonsense notion of the political as being limited to the narrow spaces of the state. and ability. as Gramsci demonstrates.47 Willis’ work spawned new interest in youth culture research. critical youth culture research is an important avenue for researchers interested in understanding the intersection between youth and popular culture. youth culture researchers begin with young peoples’ lives. youth culture research is able to probe the minutiae of actions and to analyze these actions as forces capable of making change in society. and soon researchers were investigating youth’s cultural agency in multiple arenas and along numerous axes: race. their interests. As McRobbie and others argued. Other problems surfaced within the academy itself. and then reposition youth 267 . in essence. Because it focuses squarely on the lives of youth. and postcolonialism. Agency. resistant acts do not necessarily lead to liberation: they only hold its potential. and education. an education about “the self” and its relation to the world and to others in it. and Citizenship Thus far in this essay. they are also political. for these actions are. I have briefly reviewed the history of popular culture research and argued for understanding popular culture as a site of political importance and struggle. Following Gramsci. As Griffin notes.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby McRobbie. Instead. and their affective pleasures — seriously. educational: Making (not receiving) messages and meanings in your context and from materials that you have appropriated is.48 The tradition of youth culture research both coincided with and shifted the traditional foci of popular culture analysis. it has been largely marginalized in an academy dominated by more mainstream research that does not take a critical perspective. later critiqued Willis’ work for its failure to analyze the lads’ resistance within models that took gender into account. class. political struggle. their actions had implications not only for class relations. as the legitimacy of ethnography was questioned by the emergent theoretical paradigms of poststructuralism. multiple sites have the capacity to create change. Democracy.
55 Marshall convincingly argued that in order to exercise political and civil rights. in contrast to the liberal theories outlined above. and if citizens hope for their actions to have an effect. This approach to democracy also eschews the institutions of civil society as sites of agency and power. political. mosques. people are actors and players in every realm — cultural. creating new terrain that then must be negotiated (see Willis in this issue). youth’s practices can do both simultaneously and are not simply part of a process of reproduction or resistance. and communication industries (television. and the narrowing scope and definition of citizenship. is uneven and sometimes unavailable.Harvard Educational Review from passive receptors of popular culture to pedagogical actors who reshape the world through their everyday practices.”53 Radical democratic theories. Within radical democratic theory. As Lawrence Grossberg comments. schools. and other forms of oppression — is a persuasive argument against the efficacy of liberal democracy. radio. they must curtail those actions to a narrow band of electoral activities. explode the idea that electoral politics is the only site of agency and power within society. always transform the social. often discounted. economic. “Culture is as much a structure as the economy or politics. Recently. everyday acts. It does. following the influential work of T. medical care. citizenship was not equally available. as evidenced in the contested results of the 2000 U. and social. including people’s small. In the immediate post–World War II era. video. citizenship expanded to include social rights. liberal democracy. many sites become potential loci of change and transformation. Without a safety net that provided food. This agency. despite its promises. in practice. In this section.”51 This agency can lead in multiple directions. music). the choice is not simply reproduction or resistance. and of belonging to them in such a way as to be able to enact their powers. I focus on a particular type of transformation — that of radical democracy — and its connections to young peoples’ everyday practices. industrialized countries 268 . Liberal democracy is also limited. however. shelter. sexism. H. and political landscape. churches. Agency does not necessarily lead in the wished for or expected directions. In more recent years. it is a very slow process of change. the possibilities of moving into particular sites of activity and power. presidential election in Florida. As Willis aptly demonstrates in Learning to Labour. and education for everyone. and well-entrenched.54 Instead. synagogues. A radical model of democracy diverges significantly from the more commonplace.52 The persistence of an unequal social order in the United States — the tenacity of racism. In the liberal democracy model. radical democratic theorists have been concerned with the growing privatization of democracy and citizenship. it is rooted in institutions such as families. Such participation. “Agency involves relations of participation and access. citizens assert agency within the public political sphere. As Cornel West argues. however. clothing. is largely limited to voting and participation in electoral politics.S. cultural. Marshall in Britain. a significant drawback. citizens had to be accorded basic social rights.
60 Undoubtedly. particularly its commitment to the role of the state and the public sphere. cultural sites are pedagogical — often more so than political ones. their citizenship. etc. As Chantal Mouffe demonstrates. but are contributing to the transformation of public spheres.56 At the same time. by definition. as Toby Miller discusses. However. The cross-border flow of people and capital has also caused some nation-states to reconfigure government bodies so that citizens living outside of the national borders still maintain official representation and a voice in their democracy.” which are outside of government and go beyond the accepted confines of civil society. one of these spaces is popular culture. they have also created untapped possibilities. is largely unconcerned with the traditional discussion of “rights and responsibilities. As citizenship is reconfigured. For example. as it plays a significant pedagogical and political role in contemporary society.) than they do through state apparatuses (presidential declarations. For example. contemporary citizenship is reshaped by the increasingly globalized nature of human and economic relations (see McCarthy in this issue). of identity) are inherently part of the public domain — which reaches far beyond the strictures of state politics. the necessary correlation between citizenship and a particular territorial space have changed. Individuals who do not have access to substantial political. and communities. so critical is their financial contribution to the economic health of the nation. Moreover. movies. In this way. Cultural citizenship. and this agency can have far-reaching implications for social relations. that are limited by national boundaries. national commissions. While liberal democracy embraces the division between the public and private spheres.59 Youth act on this information — exercise their agency. Katharyne Mitchell argues that today’s realities challenge ideas about democracy. including John Dewey’s. music. and democracy.58 The above shifts in the reality of citizenship have created serious challenges for radical democracy. civil. While nation-states still control and police national borders. citizenship. its possibilities increase to include spheres that are not normally considered constitutive.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby have experienced a sharp curtailment of social rights. young people are not just refashioning private spheres and private identities. these spheres can be conceptualized as “new political spaces. and the like). radical democracy presumes that private acts (of consumption.” which is both idealistic and disconnected from 269 . and that democratic citizenship action must. Popular culture can thus become a prominent political space for the negotiation and enactment of a new dimension of citizen: cultural citizenship. exceed the limits of the nation-state. schools.57 Global environmental movements are premised on the very real principle that pollution knows no borders. families. of cultural production. which has had an impact on the free exercise of political and civil rights. it is clear that youth learn more about race through sites of cultural production (television. and their creative production — and contribute to multiple sites in society: their homes. or social rights still exercise agency in the cultural realm.
Brazil. economy. more recently. As Michael Apple notes. One of the inevitable challenges to embracing popular culture as a potentially democratic space is its location within the bounds of privatized consumption. and that the economic vitality of the Dominican Republic is dependent on the work of its “citizens” who reside abroad. schools. citizenship has been sharply and specifically equated with consumption. Such redefinitions of citizenship have also been implemented in varying ways in Mexico. .”62 Thus. big-screen televisions. and thus its democracy. . youth’s practices in the context of popular culture can be a starting place for redefining democratic practice. go to movies. . also occurs outside of these formal structures.63 In these instances. political arena is not the only place that we need to look to find expressions of citizenship: participation in the public sphere. I feel I have to do everything in my power to at least make what I’ve done available to people 270 . U. in locations such as popular culture. states do not necessarily say. The intertwining of consumption and democracy in the public imagination is evident in Moby’s (a popular musician) reflections on the role of his music in the public sphere: “The role of popular music is democratic. or on the willingness to bomb Afghanistan. the American citizen is often equated with the American consumer. cultural. this couplet has a long history in the United States and. Second. in democracy. Ecuador. citizenship is no longer solely defined a priori to its practices. the practices of citizenship define the reality of its implementation. and for looking at enduring questions through new paradigms. In other words. “This is what citizenship is. and freedom is redefined as a “set of consumption practices. and social practices actively shape the ways in which a state defines citizenship. states actively investigate how people act (people’s practices). and buy new washing machines.61 As Cindy Patton and Robert Caserio comment.” and expect all to conform. Peggy Levitt’s research graphically illustrates how economic. Instead. citizens were exhorted to consume in the name of patriotism and citizenship: the U.Harvard Educational Review the realities of how citizenship is actually defined today. and cars.S. and Portugal. While not directly linked to the study of popular culture.64 For example. was dependent not on the display of flags alone. and the structures of civil society.” As Apple argues. In the case of the Dominican Republic. Miller’s work “goes a long way towards solving the problem of citizenship’s invidious distinctions by reminding us that the ideas and practices of citizenship are themselves more various than definite. First. the nation is considering reconfiguring “citizenship” (and parliamentary representation) to accommodate the reality of everyday practices: that Dominican communities occupy a transnational space that exists in both the Dominican Republic and the United States. and redefine citizenship to accommodate these new realities. more fruitfully indistinct than are the distinctions made in citizenship’s name. but on citizens’ commitment to dine at restaurants. in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in September of 2001.S. the formal. the idea of cultural citizenship suggests that citizenship has changed in numerous ways. similarly.
Youth. a similar argument can be made about the relationship between youth and popular culture at the turn of the twenty-first century: young people can be mobilized as citizens within a framework of consumption. Such an approach is a central component of what Henry Giroux terms a “practical cultural politics. Individuals and communities have been mobilized as citizens within the framework of consumption.”65 Moby marries “democratic” and “consumerist” in a manner that is troubling to many critics. at times.66 Private consumption has also. and of relationships that exist outside the sphere of consumption. and partake of tea and lunch in order to increase their exposure to the stores’ wares. using a framework of democracy to analyze cultural practices can enlarge our understanding of how what young people do on a daily basis forms and reforms the political landscape.67 Despite attempts to draw a sharp line of distinction between “citizen” and “consumer. that was exactly the consequence. as I have argued. the growth of department stores in the early twentieth century allowed middle-class women to participate in a public sphere — encouraged by the department stores’ wish that they dawdle. and Democratic Practice In this section. chat. consumption is not necessarily and inherently a private practice with no radical democratic possibilities. While important. public democracy.69 Yet. At the turn of the twentieth century. if understudied. and consumption practices have changed the spaces of democracy. despite its resonance in contemporary society. While no practice is inherently democratic. identities in the United States. the National Consumers League organized women consumers both to secure their own interests and to lobby for protective legislation for workers. As these examples demonstrate. it is not enough to analyze the representations of youth in popular culture. As I will discuss in the following section. there are ways that consumption can potentially serve democratic discourse and be a central. Social and cultural historians have demonstrated that the paradigm of “citizen consumers” has often been mobilized to progressive ends. While department store barons did not intend to advance middle-class women’s participation in the public sphere.” which maps the workings of power as a productive force beyond the dynamics of reproduction and resistance. Apple labels this trend “conservative modernization” and rightly decries the loss of a vibrant. Despite these critical and valid concerns about consumption.68 Cultural Citizenship. I discuss research that takes up the radical potential of engaging with popular culture as an emergent element of democratic practice. specifically in education and social policy. For example. this approach cannot in and of it- 271 .Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby and then trust the wisdom of the democratic consumerist process to sort it out. created opportunities for the growth of the public sphere. and consumption practices can and do change the spaces of democracy. transformative component of the public sphere.” they have always been intertwined.
Fisher’s essay (in this issue) is another example of how we might think about using the practices of popular culture to expand. The authors whose work I discuss here do not use this paradigm in their work and may not necessarily agree with my analysis. Perry’s insights imply that we cannot understand the significance of African American popular culture on the formation of White identities solely through an analysis of its representations in the mass media culture. Maisha T. race is certainly not the only aspect of public life that is affected and changed by youth’s engagement with popular culture. Instead. popular culture. As Meg Jacobs has commented. and often urgent. issues about politics and the economy — the “gritty materialities” exemplified in the work of Michael Apple. Perry demonstrates that while White students at the two schools both use and consume African American popular culture. White students at the majority White school tend to ignore the “Blackness” of African American popular culture. I turn now to concrete examples of the type of research that I believe supports a move toward analyzing youth’s popular culture practices within a cultural citizenship model. There are undoubtedly many aspects of public life that have been researched and that merit further investigation. the base established by youth culture research needs to be linked in more fruitful ways to political. not only our notions of literacy and cultural identity.75 In contrast.72 However. but citizenship.71 The concept of “cultural citizenship” helps to bridge this gap. globalized world. White students at a school where they are in the minority are compelled to negotiate their relationship with these popular cultural forms through their personal.74 Perry does not avoid popular culture.” and “cool”. as insightful as it is. but instead accords it prominence in her research and analysis. and ultimately to the practice of democracy. everyday encounters with African American students. In addition. The examples I discuss are specifically concerned with the relationship between race.73 one minority White — construct White racial identities within these differing circumstances. and economic structures.” “urban. social. because of the differing contexts. For example. and cultural citizenship. instead positioning it as “tough.Harvard Educational Review self provide a basis for change. the meanings and practices they produce are not identical. popular culture and consumption practices have often been studied within an identity framework by scholars in cultural studies. Perry is able to ex- 272 .70 What is often missing in this work. although they take up these issues in different ways. in the creation of knowledge. In her book Shades of White: White Kids and Racial Identities in High School. those cultural practices are a force in shaping and reshaping that world. It underscores the fact that everyday cultural practices are not disconnected from pressing economic and political issues about the future of democracy in an increasingly privatized. But these approaches suggest the potential of identifying spaces where youth’s popular culture practices contribute to shifts in the public sphere. is a meaningful connection to larger. Pamela Perry looks at how White students in two high schools — one majority White.
both analytically and in the minds of the students. a multiracial high school in South Africa. Young people exercise their agency. For example. using their agency and the abundant resources of popular culture to reshape the contours of perhaps (still) the most significant and pressing public matter in American life: race. While popular culture is not the only factor contributing to this shift. young people in the United States have not taken up the music in the same way. It is evident that. Colored. popular culture is a vital political space. a form of cultural citizenship. but only from engaging with how youth actually use it in their everyday life.77 One of the most significant findings from my study is the way that alliances formed through popular culture change the public racial alliances in the school. we see that music. In this example. and Indian. and Colored students. in this instance. to reorganize racial life at Fernwood and. as Maira illustrates. In the case of Fernwood. in grade eight. Sunaina Marr Maira demonstrates the same potential in her recent book. and African youth are united in their opposition to rave. such reconfigurations cannot be predicted from analyzing the texts of popular culture. we can see clearly that White youth’s engagement with African American popular culture is not simply a private matter without public consequence — on the contrary. significantly. context Maira investigates is an issue that requires greater exploration. rave unites White. Again. the changes I detail may be detri- 273 .S. as this pattern is repeated. Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City. and the potential for reshaping the public sphere through young peoples’ practices of cultural citizenship. they are engaged in cultural citizenship. Maira forefronts youth’s agency and their use of popular culture (including African American popular culture) in their construction of what it means to be a second-generation American. rave is exclusively a White youth cultural practice. In her work. it is a significant one. I investigate the connections between race. popular culture. while in Britain bhangra music has created solidarities among Black communities. at schools even more broadly throughout the Durban metropolitan area. their practices are formative of the new public space of race as we begin the twenty-first century. that it does not in the U. they reshape the meaning of race and the boundaries of racial relations in the United States.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby plore the contradictions in White identity through her reading of White youth’s everyday practices with African American popular culture.76 In my own work at Fernwood. Maira’s analysis of second-generation immigrant youth centers on the cultural practices that define their identity. these performances of identity are not merely private and personal affairs. and the alliances formed by music.79 However. the politics of rave produce divergent racial politics at different grade levels of the school:78 in grades eleven and twelve. African students are excluded from the practice and. Indian. can have radical democratic potential. Again. For example. from their sense of solidarity with Indian and Colored students. The shifts in the practices related to popular culture produce changes in the public sphere of the school. In this way.
and then try to reverse. Eyes on the Prize. For example. From this. the teens are able to engage with the lively. cultural citizenship assumes that the 274 . the racial patterns of South African society. In his book. for the break signals a weakening of African. is not separate and distinct from the debates about race that occur in the public arena. there are no studies that examine how African American youth actually engage with rap. the teens view Panther as more “realistic” than Eyes on the Prize. All of the above authors provide glimpses of what is possible when we study how youth use popular culture in daily life through a framework that insists that private acts have public consequences. or question its borders. As Dimitriadis argues. Dimitriadis examines how African American youth at a community center use rap texts in their daily lives. Dimitriadis’ methodological approach is critical. he explores the claim that the “hiphop” generation has little awareness of the history of Black oppression in the United States or current political struggles. and policy is shaped. The line between a private cultural act and a public political one is eliminated within the paradigm of cultural citizenship. Instead. While in this case I cannot claim that youth’s practices are democratic. because he demonstrates that reality “on the ground” opens up possibilities buried within a purely textual approach. Greg Dimitriadis’ important research on African American youth and hip-hop opens up still another trajectory for investigating how we might use youth’s cultural practices as a way of deepening radical democracy. Indian. What youth do with “race” in their private lives. It is not that the teens are apolitical — it is that the definition of political needs to shift. they have grown up surrounded by particular popular culture forms and conventions. they are still significant if there is a desire to understand. what youth do with race has the potential to actively impact the way debates are framed. Like the other authors. However. while there have been innumerable studies of the text of rap music (and here I use “text” to mean not solely the actual lyrics. and thus it is not surprising that they would find those narrative structures more appealing. and the well-known documentary. remake it. narrative-based Panther.80 Perhaps surprisingly for an adult audience. While Eyes on the Prize is rejected because it is boring and in black and white. but multiple forms of representations of rap). Pedagogy.Harvard Educational Review mental to the future of racial relations. how they reify it. Dimitriadis insists that we must look at popular culture as a site not just of young people’s identities. Dimitriadis concludes that it is unfair to claim that the teens are apolitical. issues are examined. Performing Identity/Performing Culture: Hip Hop as Text. In contrast. and Lived Practice. they do understand and engage the political import of Panther. but as a place where new political forms and potentials can occur. Nor are their practices solely reactions to what occurs in the public sphere. Dimitriadis contrasts the teens’ reaction to two texts that examine Black power and the civil rights movement: Panther (a popular film about the Black Panther party). Finally. and Colored alliances — the very alliances that brought down the apartheid system.
free-trade zones.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby site of the public sphere can be transformed. discursive nature of race as a public sphere has changed significantly over the past decade. fractures. Fine and Weis. some in school. If a privatizing ideology and a consumerist culture have turned citizens into consumers.83 James Baldwin similarly marked popular culture as critical political terrain. These young peoples’ engagements with race.84 More recently. we need to go to where the consumers are and try to turn them back into citizens. R. It is clear that the shifting. The victories of the antisweatshop campaigns over the past five years demonstrate that it is possible to reposition private acts into public discourse. . if not fully explored. and pleasure. to illuminate the connections between everyday acts and the public sphere. and social realignments. represent what Lois Weis and Michelle Fine term “subterranean spaces. are committed to resuscitating the political and democratic potential by looking in new places and recognizing the energy and dynamism that may lurk in unexpected corners. C.85 Benjamin Barber echoes this idea when he writes.86 The project suggested by Barber’s insight is not solely. as I have argued. L. through the medium of popular culture. by what we as individual actors do in our own lives. we need to confront and transform the mall. not the first to mark this area as a critical space of action and possibility. moves toward self and community. If they go to the mall in search of public space and are seduced into privatized shopping behavior. including the ubiquitous. or even primarily. Instead. the renowned critic and scholar. it is a project akin to that of youth culture researchers: to examine how people use popular culture in their everyday lives. a reshaping of borders. both within the United States and elsewhere. globalization. . and the Rights of Garment Workers taps into the core sentiment of cultural citizenship — the need to connect the privatized world of consumption to pressing public concerns about workers’ rights. Within these spaces we witness deeply educative pedagogies. and child labor. they bleed into the public sphere. body. 275 . Free Trade. along with the authors included in the collection. forcibly defended the popular as a central component of the political and gave it prominence in his analysis in American Civilization. many not. James. Andrew Ross’ No Sweat: Fashion.”81 These spaces are often private.”82 Contemporary youth and popular culture researchers are. . both reshaping it and indicating paths of movement that were not previously visible. within which youth work out the politics of mind. in multiple ways. soul. a project of critique. of course. site of popular culture. Conclusion: The Possibilities of Popular Culture Toby Miller writes that cultural citizenship pierces the zone “where the popular and the civic brush up against one another. but. politics.
Postmodernity. 1989). and Popular Culture in South Africa (Albany: State University of New York Press. performed. and the concept of site. It must start within the core of people’s dreams and desires. 2. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon.87 If. 1972). “that popular culture . we can tap into the existing currents of change. and Henry Giroux. and negotiated. The threats to its future must be met with resistance and a firm commitment to democratic public schooling that ensures equality of access and opportunity. see Lawrence Grossberg. Notes 1. On pleasure and popular culture. Henry Giroux and Roger Simon (Toronto: OISE Press. The project does not wholly give up on the state and electoral politics. By closely studying young peoples’ engagement with popular culture. Throughout this essay. as Apple observes. see Michel Foucault. For educational researchers concerned with democracy. but it takes seriously the reality that people rarely see themselves as agents within that arena. discourse. which has become a central text of the antiglobalization movement. I do this deliberately to signal.Harvard Educational Review and to map the new terrain of politics that opens from this exploration. M. reveals both the incredible power of corporations. 1994). where things happen. even if they are at the mall. however. and the Popular. fixed object.” then one of the tasks of researchers is to probe those consumption practices and work to make links back to democracy. and where new futures are written. The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language. we cannot afford to ignore the popular as a site where youth are invested. The phenomenal success of Naomi Klein’s No Logo.” Nadine Dolby. recognize the power of the everyday. 91–115. . and popular culture in our lives. 14.88 Democracy cannot be imposed as a set of principles coming from above to which individuals must subscribe. Education as a public sphere has severely contracted over the past two decades. consumerism. “Pedagogy in the Present: Politics. and from where people are. that privatization and neoliberalism have won. where identities and democratic possibilities are worked out. and the enormous changes that are possible when youth comprehend the connections between their consumption and the exploitation of fellow human beings. and that radical democracy will never recover. . trans. Identity. and fissures always exist. Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture (New York: Routledge. cracks. I often refer to popular culture as a “site. openings. and that politics happens in multiple sites simultaneously. which is structured by and through apparatuses of power and is itself a result of struggle. 276 . and work to reshape and rebuild a citizenship that embraces us all. At the same time. we know that cannot be true. ed. As much as some would like us to believe that the public sphere is doomed. is not a solid. On Foucault. 2001). Closure is never total. Constructing Race: Youth. but instead an ever-changing network of movement. this means that the terrain of inquiry needs to extend well beyond the schoolhouse. Schooling and Everyday Life. “democracy has been reduced to consumption practices. A.” Following the work of Michel Foucault. as I have written elsewhere.” in Popular Culture.
277 . The Uses of Culture: Education and the Limits of Ethnic Affiliation (New York: Routledge. 6 (1975). “Live through This: Music. Dialectics of Enlightenment (1944.” Communication Theory. John Storey presents a more comprehensive and detailed historical overview of popular culture than is possible here in An Introductory Guide to Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (Athens: University of Georgia Press. MA: Harvard University Press. Loose Canons: Notes on the Cultural Wars (New York: Oxford University Press. trans. 2002). Walter Benjamin. See Henry Giroux. E.: Open University Press. culture. 1987). 1992). 5. Glenn Hudak. see David Swartz. 18. 4. 81–98. many of its key figures were forced to flee to the United States and elsewhere in the 1930s. eds.” in Sound Identities: Popular Music and the Cultural Politics of Education. 1972). the most significant example of this type of scholarship can be found in the Journal of Popular Culture. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular. See also Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adolescence and Autobiography. and Mark Fenster. Hirsch. Border Crossing: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education (New York: Routledge. see Lawrence Levine. 1998). Richard Nice (Cambridge. Horkheimer and Adorno’s writings on mass culture are also widely excerpted and reprinted in introductory texts and edited collections. 1995). 18. ed. 13. 1 (1991). and Paula Saukko (New York: Peter Lang. 14. “Multicultural Discourses and Curriculum Reform: A Critical Perspective. William Bennett. 12. Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism (London: Smith. Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. see Pierre Bourdieu. On the creation of “high” and “low” culture in the American context. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. coauthored with Roger Simon. Shawn Miklaucic. published by the Center for Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University. Elder and Co. 1992). The Book of Virtues (New York: Simon and Schuster. 87–105. MA: Harvard University Press. As Giroux rightly notes in Border Crossing. Colin Mercer and Janet Woollacott (Milton Keynes. Adorno: A Critical Reader (Malden. Theodor W. Cameron McCarthy.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby 3. See. 1980). Nigel Gibson and Andrew Rubin. Greg Dimitriadis and Cameron McCarthy. 1981). 8. trans. Dimitriadis and McCarthy’s text is an excellent introduction to postcolonial perspectives. Matthew Arnold. particularly chapter eight.” New German Critique. and Cameron McCarthy. See for example..” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. 1999). 10. Eng. Reading and Teaching the Postcolonial: From Baldwin to Basquiat and Beyond (New York: Teachers College Press. 9. 2001). On taste. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge. 1997). 15. ed. Social Theory and Education: A Critique of Theories of Social and Cultural Reproduction (Albany: State University of New York Press. Cameron McCarthy. D. 1993). While the Frankfurt School of critical theory began in Germany. viii.” Educational Theory. New York: Herder and Herder. H.’” in People’s History and Socialist Theory. The significance of critical theory (and other theoretical positions) to educational thought is thoroughly discussed in Raymond Morrow and Carlos Torres. 227–240. Tony Bennett.. Tony Bennett. 217–242. ed. 7. 1988). Henry Louis Gates. “The Problem of Taste within the Problematic of Culture. 44 (1994). Adorno. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. 1984). 255–288. For analysis of Bourdieu and taste. “The Politics of the ‘Popular’ and Popular Culture. See Chris Richards. 1968). for example. 1994). and the relationship between art.” in Popular Culture and Social Relations. Stuart Hall. 1869). and society. “Culture Industry Reconsidered. Adorno. Raphael Samuel (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. MA: Blackwell. rpt. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 8. Zohn (New York: Schocken Books. 11. 6.
David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London: Routledge. Gramsci’s own writings have been published and reprinted in numerous publications. Sound Identities: Popular Music and the Cultural Politics of Education (New York: Peter Lang. and Lawrence Grossberg.. postmodernism. Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Methuen. Shawn Miklaucic. more recently. P. 2001). Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy (Harmondsworth. Lois Weis’ work also examines the ruptures and differences in the working class in an American context.. Within cultural studies. See Reading and Teaching the Postcolonial. See. Gender and the New Economy. such as race. Most notably. 112–127. ed. Stuart Hall and Paul duGay. 25. 1988). 17. New Orleans. Bennett. and Anthony McGrew (Cambridge. “Revisiting a 1980s ‘Moment of Critique’: Class. xi–xix. The literature on Gramsci is extensive. “On Postmodernism and Articulation: Stuart Hall and Cultural Studies.” in Rajchman. Emphasis by the author. In addition to the work of Williams and Thompson. 1980). 1970). “The Question of Cultural Identity. On identity in cultural studies. 20. 1980). Hall. A similar point could be made about other identifications. Stuart Hall. ed. 18. Colin Mercer.” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The Uses of Culture. Raymond Williams is perhaps the most influential scholar of this century in the field of cultural studies. 22. Eng. Henry Giroux. “Reflections on Identity.: Penguin. 23. John Rajchman. 1963). Dimitriadis and McCarthy also discuss a third position. See. Hall. Selections from the Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart.” Educational Theory.” in Popular Culture and Social Relations. 1999). See Jennifer Daryl Stack. See Stanley Aronowitz. discussed later in this article. 111–144. 1970). An Antonio Gramsci Reader (New York: Schocken. Antonio Gramsci: Selections from Cultural Writings (London: Lawrence and Wishart. Eng. Eng: Polity Press). and The Identity in Question. see Stuart Hall. for example.: Open University Press. 1991).” in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. 1970). Thompson. McCarthy. 278 . eds. Eng. The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth. “Introduction: Popular Culture and the Turn to Gramsci. Stuart Hall. (London: Routledge. April 2002. 19. 273–325. for example. 21. and Paula Saukko. “The Theory and Method of Articulation in Cultural Studies.” also in Morley and Chen.: Penguin. Among other publications. The concept of “celebration” is discussed later in the essay. and David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.: Penguin. 1–19. 1996).: Penguin. E. 1965) is also considered a founding text of cultural studies. most prominently. Antonio Gramsci. Stuart Hall. ed. and has been influential in the vast majority of fields in the social sciences and humanities. 24. ed. Gramsci was also a primary influence on the work of scholars associated with the Birmingham School. 1995). 1965) and Culture and Society (Harmondsworth. 49 (1999). The Identity in Question. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular’”. Tony Bennett. and in Cameron McCarthy. and Henry Giroux. Eng. Dick Hebdige. Glenn Hudak. A full examination of his work is beyond the scope of this essay. Eng. See also David Forgacs.. 131–150. Tony Bennett. and Janet Woollacott (Milton Keynes.Harvard Educational Review 16. See Working Class without Work: High School Students in a De-industrializing Economy (New York: Routledge. David Held. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso. this type of analysis is often referred to as articulation. 37. Questions of Cultural Identity (London: Sage. eds. see Laclau and Mouffe. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular. Dick Hebdige. ed. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are perhaps the most prominent Gramscian scholars. 18–19.’” 232. 1996).” in Modernity and Its Futures. The Long Revolution (Harmondsworth. “Rethinking Cultural Politics and Radical Pedagogy in the Work of Antonio Gramsci. and.
and Critical Citizenship (Albany: State University of New York Press. One Nation Under God: Religion and American Culture (New York: Routledge. See also George Lipsitz. “Pedagogy in the Present. CO: Westview Press. for example. 1998). Giroux and Simon. Screen. ed.. NY: Cornell University Press. The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (Lanham. Girls’ culture has also become a significant focus in the field of English. 1996). see Lawrence Grossberg. and Peter McLaren. Dirks. 2000).. eds. 1994).. 1999). and Kellner. and Susan Reilly. Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (New York: Routledge. 1994). eds. Three strong collections that span several fields are Nicholas B. Resentment. Writing Superheroes (New York: Teachers College Press. The Uses of Culture... Social Text. Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge. Media Culture: Cultural Studies. Hall. Pedagogy. and Marjorie Garber and Rebecca Walkowitz.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby Grossberg. and Sherry Ortner. Violence and Suburban Security. See also James Schwoch. Significant journals in the field include Cultural Studies. see Wade Roof. NJ: Princeton University Press. Gina Dent.” 94. Sherrie A. Cary Nelson. Postmodernism and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge. eds. 11 (1997). 2002) (see also Dyson in this issue). Mimi White. Public Culture. 28. Popular Culture. Media Knowledge: Readings in Popular Culture. Schooling. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular. “Danger in the Safety Zone: Notes on Race. 1992). McCarthy. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘the Popular.. Homelands. 1995). Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood (Boulder. Millennium Girls: Today’s Girls around the World (Lanham. Fugitive Cultures: Race. 1997).. and the Destruction of Today’s Youth (New York: St. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 1999). for example. including Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston: South End Press. and Youth (New York: Routledge. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. and the Discourse of Crime. Inness. ed. and Society. Anne Haas Dyson.” Cultural Studies. 32. 30.. 1999). 29. 1992). 27. Hall.’” 235. Culture. Impure Acts: The Practical Politics of Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge. See McRobbie. Culture/Power/ History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton. The Journal of Popular Culture also often includes historical analysis of popular culture. eds.. Martin’s Press. In religion. eds. Geoff Eley. 279 . Though not located solely in the field of education. Identity. “Introduction: Popular Culture and the Turn to Gramsci. Microphone Fiends: Youth Music & Youth Culture (New York: Routledge. Rethinking Media Literacy: A Critical Pedagogy of Representation (New York: Peter Lang. Channel Surfing: Racism. 1997) and The Brothers and Sisters Learn to Write: Popular Literacies in Childhood and School Cultures (New York: Teachers College Press. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.” Harvard Educational Review. 1992) and Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representation (New York: Routledge. Bennett. and includes a significant percentage of the field of cultural studies. A representative sample of Giroux’s work includes Disturbing Pleasures. and Paula Treichler. For examples. and New Formation. Martin’s Press. 1990). both Angela McRobbie and Douglas Kellner have had significant influence on educational scholars. eds. 1997). Consumer Society in American History: A Reader (Ithaca. McCarthy et al. See. Much of the writing on popular culture in history can be located in the growing field of consumer culture studies. eds. et al. 272–295. Violence. McCarthy. The literature in English is extensive.’” 235. 31. 1992). and “Doing Cultural Studies: Youth and the Challenge of Pedagogy. 278–307.” xvi. though collected works often span the humanities.. and Rob Nixon. See. Lawrence Glickman. for example. bell hooks has also published widely on popular culture. ed. Media. Black Popular Culture (Seattle: Bay Press.. 1999). Spiritual Marketplace (Princeton. 64 (1994). Sound Identities: Popular Music and the Cultural Politics of Education.. Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe. and Politics between the Modern and the 26. and Everyday Life. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1994). 1994). and Andrew Ross and Tricia Rose. 1994) and Back to Reality? Social Experience and Cultural Studies (New York: St. the Media. 1997).
The history of rock’n’roll is certainly one instance of this. See Ien Ang. and in the journal Rethinking Schools. see Greg Dimitriadis and Cameron McCarthy. 289–313. sexism. Understanding Popular Culture (Boston: Unwin Hyman..: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. As Sturma argues. Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (Milton Keynes. particularly when it is connected to larger structural issues. NC: Duke University Press. and the Ties that Bind. The book also includes a visual timeline and further reading on each subculture. “Stranger in the Village: James Baldwin. Eng. 34. for example. Kids’ Media Culture (Durham.” Journal of Popular Culture. Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (London: Methuen. “Going Public: Rock Aesthetics in the American Political Field. Sound Identities. 42. anxiety is evident in some of the essays in Steinberg and Kincheloe. “Encoding and Decoding in the Media Discourse. Eng. Janice Radway. such as premaritial and interracial sexual relationships. there was concern that youth cultural practices would lead to moral trangressions. including Simon During. See. rock’n’roll was seen as transgressive until the arrival of television. 1995) (see also Trend in this issue). 1990). ed. 90–103. 1999) and Buckingham in this volume. Eng.. Popular Culture.. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson. and other forms of oppression in popular culture is no longer news. for example.” Qualitative Inquiry. mainstream liberal Democrat Tipper Gore and the Parents’ Music Resource Center attempted to regulate rock music in the 1980s. Stuart Hall. See Jonathan Sterne. 1985). Marsha Kinder. Paul Willis. ed. 1989). 37. Culture.” in McCarthy et al. For example. See Michael Sturma. For an example of this type of analysis..S. 1973). eds. Common Culture (Milton Keynes. 25 (1992). 1993). “The Politics of Dancing: When Rock’n’Roll Came to Australia.Harvard Educational Review 33. John Fiske is often cited as an example of the celebratory. 71 (2001). 40. not just among conservatives. Grossberg and others argue that this suggests that reality is messier and more complicated than anxiety positions allow. 147. for example. Anxiety is not an irrelevant perspective. 6 (2000). noncritical approach to the study of popular culture. An excellent visual resource that describes.” History of Education Quarterly. 35. See. Reading the Romance: Women. “The Delinquents: Censorship and Youth Culture in Recent U. Harvard Educational Review. See. The Cultural Studies Reader (London: Routledge. 251–270. 7 (Birmingham. which domesticated the music and associated practices. 1994). 1979). 123–146. However. For a sustained discussion of the various theoretical positions exemplified in Sound Identities. Patriarchy. 1984).: Open University Press. and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 742–751. 41. 37 (1997). Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk (New York: Thames and Hudson. and represents the range of subculture styles throughout the twentieth century is Ted Polhemus. The essay has been reprinted in numerous collections. the “discovery” of racism. History. For a comprehensive overview of 280 . “Anxiety” critics can be found across the political spectrum in the United States. 36. the book is an invaluable overview of forty youth subculture styles from zoot suits to technos and cyberpunks. 39. There is also. a significant emphasis on the analysis of popular culture in media and communication studies. Dick Hebdige. see Nadine Dolby’s book review of Sound Identities: Popular Music and the Cultural Politics of Education. and Society and Cultural Studies. From the perspective of the Left. of course. In addition to delinquency. Originally written as a companion to the exhibit “Streetstyle” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1994–1995. Postmodern (New York: Routledge. 171–187. and it appears that critique is doing little to actually change that reality. Kinderculture. Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge. 1975).” Stencilled Paper. 38. Similar analyses abound in journals such as Media.: Open University Press. analyzes.
1998). 47. followed closely on the publication of Willis’ Learning to Labour. Eng. Paul Willis. The Subcultures Reader (London: Routledge. Eng. Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber.: Open University Press. and Sherrie A. Race Matters (New York: Vintage Books. For critiques of liberal democratic theory.. 45. 1998). In the United States. Angela McRobbie. the field of youth culture research in the British and European context. Eng. Chantal Mouffe. Common Culture. “Girls and Subcultures. and theoretical perspectives. 49. Cornel West. and comparisons between the two. Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Culture (London: Routledge. discussions of radical democratic theory.” Annual Review of Anthropology. ed. Lawrence Grossberg.” 148. 51. A contemporary example of subculture research is Sarah Thornton. 1997). Youth Cultures: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (London: Routledge. Inness.: Polity Press. 209–222. 31 (2002). Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (Thousand Oaks. 8 (2001). 46. 1994). Griffin. and Tracey Skelton and Gill Valentine. 54. the ‘New Europe’ and Global Youth Culture. Christine Griffin’s Representations of Youth: The Study of Youth and Adolescence in Britain and America (Oxford. Feminism and Youth Culture: From Jackie to Just Seventeen (London: Macmillan. A representative collection. See Polhemus. Gelder and Thornton also anthologize writings by the Chicago School and link its tradition of sociological research to youth subculture analysis. CA: Sage.” in Resistance through Rituals. The Democratic 281 .: Saxon House. which encompasses multiple fields. 1993) also provides a useful introduction. ed. Such patterns of discrimination and limited democratic access have a long history in American politics. Christine Griffin’s study. is Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton. 1977). Typical Girls? Young Women from School to the Job Market (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 19. 525–552.” and questions about the legitimacy of the researcher’s voice and perspective. eds. eds. “Identity and Cultural Studies: Is That All There Is?” in Questions of Cultural Identity. For a historical perspective on American youth cultures. 147–166. For overviews of contemporary youth culture research. Delinquents and Debutantes: Twentieth-Century American Girls’ Culture (New York: New York University Press. 100. see Mary Bucholz’s literature review.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby 43. 1991). Ethnographic and qualitative research was further shaken by postcolonial challenges to the validity of studying “the other. 1995). 1995). In short. both poststructuralism and postmodernism questioned the “master narratives” that underlie Marxism and other systems of analysis.” for discussion. “Imagining New Narratives of Youth. see Anna Marie Smith. 1996). 53. In this case. Willis.: Polity Press. Club Cultures: Music. genres. Lois Weis’ Working Class without Work examined the lives of working-class youth in a markedly different economic environment than the one studied by Willis. Streetstyle. and the search for “truth” in the social sciences. Media and Subculture Capital (Oxford.. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (Milton Keynes. 1985). “Youth and Cultural Practice. 136. ed. 44. see Joe Austin and Micheal Nevin Willard. see Christine Griffin. 1997). See Griffin. Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (Farnborough. Eng. 1975). 48. These issues continue to be valid and important challenges to social science research today. were denied the right to vote. Laclau and Mouffe: The Radical Democratic Imaginary (London: Routledge. see Verad Amit and Helena Wulff. largely African American. “Imagining New Narratives of Youth: Youth Research. Rooted in the Birmingham School. 52. 1998).” Childhood.. Generations of Youth: Youth Cultures and History in Twentieth-Century America (New York: New York University Press. “Imagining New Narratives of Youth. From an anthropological perspective. democracy was “unavailable” as many voters. 50.
for example. Eng. Media. Technologies of Truth: Cultural Citizenship and the Popular Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.” Harvard Educational Review. and the State. 2002. 61. see Michael Apple.” Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies. among others. See also Chantal Mouffe.” Social Text. For a basic introduction to citizenship in Western societies. especially Chantal Mouffe. 14 (2000). 2001). Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2000). 2000). Multiculturalism. “Educated Hope in an Age of Privatized Visions. in order to actively participate in society. Radical Democracy: Identity. 223–239.. Paradox (London: Verso. 2001). Citizenship Today: The Contemporary Relevance of T. 1996). 56 (1997). 63. 43–48. 93–112. and the State (New York: Routledge. Citizenship. John Brown Childs. 60. 56. West Suburban edition. all citizens have a right to basic needs. Citizenship. Levitt. The Transnational Villagers (Berkeley: University of California Press. See Lizabeth Cohen. Martin Daunton and Matthew Hilton (Oxford. eds. Educating the “Right” Way. see Stephen Castles and Alastair Davidson. See Michael Apple. 67. Jeremy Brecher. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 1. Marshall was concerned with the expansion of social rights and argued that.. “Radical Democracy or Liberal Democracy?” in Radical Democracy: Identity. (New York: Routledge. Meg Jacobs. 2000). Global Visions: Beyond the New World Order (Boston: South End Press. 9. The example of the National Consumers League is drawn from Kathryn Kish Sklar’s work. 1996). and Henry Giroux.Harvard Educational Review 55. 2 (2002). Globalization and Education: Critical Perspectives (New York: Routledge. 2000). 2nd ed. God. “Who Sells Out?” Chicago Tribune.: Berg Press. 203–221. has argued this point in numerous publications. 64. 2000). New Technology (Albany: State University of New York Press. 7. See Martin Bulmer and Anthony Rees. “The Politics of Plenty in the Twentieth-Century United States. David Trend (New York: Routledge. Greg Kot.. and Inequality (New York: Routledge. Cutbacks in social services and state funding are part of the ascendancy of neoliberalism. 2001). xiii. “Education for Democratic Citizenship: Transnationalism. and David Trend. 66. 1998). On citizenship and globalization. 62. Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age. Toby Miller. 1996). H. “Introduction: Citizenship 2000. Katharyne Mitchell. Much of the writing on globalization and education also addresses the global retreat of the state from its commitment to social rights. ed.” in The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America. Henry Giroux. 58. 65. and Globalization and Education: Integration and Contestation across Cultures (Lanham. and Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins. Marshall (London: UCL Press. Educating the “Right” Way: Markets. ed. “Citizens and Consumers in the United States in the Century of Mass Consumption. The Politics of Consumption. eds. 59. 3. 51–78. Quoted in David Trend. 282 . and “Exchange-Value Citizenship. Cultural Democracy: Politics. eds. For a discussion of neoliberalism in relationship to education. p. and Apple. 71 (2001).” Cultural Studies. Standards.” in Daunton and Hilton. and Jill Cutler. Sec. 1997). eds. 1993). Citizenship and Migration: Globalization and the Politics of Belonging (New York: Routledge. Transnational Villagers. as have numerous other authors. See references in notes 22 and 23. 19. Caserio. Citizenship (London: Routledge. Peggy Levitt. Cindy Patton and Robert L. without which they cannot exercise their civil and political rights. “Radical Democracy or Liberal Democracy?” 19–26. October 6. see Keith Faulks. 1998). 57. 2000). See Nicholas Burbules and Carlos Torres. and the Limits of Liberalism..
2000). However.Popular Culture and Democratic Practice nadine dolby 68. and “Making White: Constructing Race in a South African High School. 2000).” Apple observes. NC: Duke University Press. it is equally critical to base these theories and visions in an unromantic appraisal of the material and discursive terrain that now exists” (p. ed. Postmodernism. “Youth. 2001). Schor and Douglas B.. “Rave” has its roots in the acid house dance club culture of the 1980s in Britain. Shades of White (Durham. and democracy. and the Poetics of Place (London: Verso. Consumption and Everyday Life (London: Sage. Amy Best’s Prom Night: Youth.. 64). 124. see Hugh Mackay. 37–42. ed. Perry. Schools. Performing Identity/Performing Culture (New York: Peter Lang. see Lawrence Glickman. 69. Educating the “Right” Way. Identity: Geographies of Youth Culture in Bangalore. 72. Apple. Shades of White. “‘Good Enough’ Methods for Ethnographic Research. see Nadine Dolby. 31 (2002). society. By the mid-1990s. eds. Amira Proweller’s Constructing Female Identities: Meaning Making in an Upper Middle Class Youth Culture (Albany: State University of New York Press. see Nadine Dolby. and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge. From my perspective. one can certainly find parallel examples in other arenas. For more detailed discussions of my research at Fernwood. There is a vast literature on consumption. NY: Cornell University Press. “Changing Selves: Multicultural Education and the Challenge of New Identities. as does Wendy Luttrell in her article. Jacobs. “The Politics of Plenty. For a representative historical collection. 1994). rave arrives in Fernwood and it becomes a site of public racial negotiation 283 . 70.” Teachers College Record. 78. ed. and cultural contingencies of power that surround the concept. On the concept of “gritty materialities. See also Arun Saldanha.” Educational Researcher. 16 (2002). and Dimitriadis. 77. Cross-Cultural Consumption: Global Markets. A strong collection of key works in consumption studies is Juliet B. and Michel Foucault. such a practice perpetuates the reification of “race” and fails to engage the historical. 1999). 102 (2000). Consumer Society in American History: A Reader (Ithaca. Maira. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. 332–350. “Music. Lives in Translation: Sikh Youth as British Citizens (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.” Cultural Studies. 1996). and Popular Culture in South Africa (Albany: State University of New York Press. For a more developed discussion of Pamela Perry. 76. See Henry Giroux.” Harvard Educational Review. George Lipsitz examines this critical dynamic in his book. For an approach grounded in cultural studies. While I encourage the HER Editorial Board to reconsider this policy. Desis in the House (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 63–65. 898–912. 1998) and Kathleen Hall. 71. Holt. Identity. 2002). 1972–1977 (New York: Pantheon. “While the construction of new theories and utopian visions is important. I express a similar concern in my book review essay of Sound Identities: Popular Music and the Cultural Politics of Education. social. Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music.” 203–221. Constructing Race: Youth. Space. 7–29. Local Realities (London: Routledge.” Curriculum Inquiry 32 (2002). see David Howes. and Coloured. Harvard Educational Review.. 2000). 742–751. Impure Acts: The Practical Politics of Cultural Studies (Routledge: New York. Black. Greg Dimitriadis. The Consumer Society Reader (New York: New Press. 1997). 74. And see Perry. 75. 499–523. and Sunaina Maira’s research. 71 (2001). I use examples that focus on race. 2002). 73. 2001). Harvard Educational Review editorial policy is to capitalize racial identifiers such as White. 1980). 2002) are other recent books that similarly look at youth’s cultural practices as productive spaces of democracy. Culture. For a global perspective. usage in this article reflects their current practice. as that is one of my areas of research and scholarship.. 79 (2000). political. and Identity: Ethnographic Explorations.
C. 201–220. MA: Blackwell. Marcel Hénaff and Tracy B. Naomi Klein. as I demonstrate throughout my research. Blackside. xii. On rave and club cultures. Class. 2001). 82. 2002). 80. 2000). Club Cultures: Music. 85. James (Cambridge. Media and Subcultural Capital (Hanover. American Civilization (Oxford.” in Public Space and Democracy. 4. the categories and meanings are never static.Harvard Educational Review 79. 1993). 89. among young people. Indian.. NH: University Press of New England/Wesleyan Press.. and Gender among Urban Youth. Free Trade. and Overhauled: Arresting Suburban Sprawl by Transforming Suburban Malls into Usable Civic Spaces. See Dimitriadis and McCarthy. Rave is often portrayed historically as a genre of music favored by White youth. 1996). 88. and the Rights of Garment Workers (New York: Verso.: Blackwell. individuals were classified as African. “Construction Sites: An Introduction. Lois Weis and Michelle Fine. see Sarah Thornton. James. Apple. 81. L. Panther. Under apartheid. dir. ed. ed. No Sweat: Fashion. although it has its roots in the Black music and communities of Detroit. 1997). they continue to be significant ways that youth define themselves. Gramercy. L. Colored. 84. or White. R. “Malled. 284 . No Logo (New York: Picador. prod. Technologies of Truth. However. For critical commentary on James. Eng. “Stranger in the Village” Andrew Ross. R. Benjamin Barber. ed. Miller. 211. 83. Mauled. Rethinking C. 1995. Strong (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Official Knowledge. 87. Public Broadcasting Service. and Eyes on the Prize./prod. 86. Lois Weis and Michelle Fine (New York: Teachers College Press. see Grant Farred. Despite the legal demise of these categories in 1994. 1996). 1987. Mario Van Peebles. xi–xii.” in Construction Sites: Excavating Race.
org. 8 Story Street. You may subscribe to HER at www. MA 02138.This article has been reprinted with permission of the Harvard Educational Review (ISSN 0017-8055) for personal use only. Copyright © by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. HER is published quarterly by the Harvard Education Publishing Group. tel. Posting on a public website or on a listserv is not allowed. 617-4953432. Any other use.harvardeducationalreview. All rights reserved. . print or electronic. will require written permission from the Review. Cambridge.
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