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Introducing CULTURAL STUDIES

“The Spectacle of the Other” from Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices by Stuart Hall

Internet Reference for this Presentation
• Textual material (summary of Stuart Hall) from http://swithlove.wordpress.com • Video clips from YouTube • Thank you!

Translation: Power is nothing without control (Carl Lewis is the athlete)

Stereotyping
• Part of maintenance of social and symbolic order • Sets up a symbolic frontier between:
– Normal and Deviant – Normal and Pathological – Acceptable and Unacceptable – What belongs and what does not (which is the Other)

…in other words
• Stereotyping is reducing to a few essentials fixed in nature • Example: Afro, flat nose, big lips for blacks in comic books • Let’s look at the book you brought to class

The idea of “normal”
• Stereotyping facilitates binding or bonding together all of us who are ‘normal’ into one imagined community and sends a symbolic exile to all of the ‘others’ who are different in some way • See Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing"for an example of an “us and them” sequence. (The movie attempts to point out these differences in sequence).

How do we get these stereotypes?
• Gramsci (Italian philosopher) asserts that stereotyping is a struggle for hegemony • Hegemony is the political, economic, ideological, or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups, regardless of the explicit consent of the latter (think about colonialism)

• this ruling group has the power to represent others in whatever way they want • Think about our talk about National Geographic • The media does this too, in particular by stereotyping the Orient (Arabs live in the desert, ride camels, become terrorists) • Basically the “other” is someone different • All of these stereotypes are about representation … how is the “other” represented?

Take a look at these videos
• Who is doing the representing? • Who is featured in the videos? What positions of power are different people in? • 7 year old child arrested • Officer Beats Special Ed Kid

How and why are Blacks in the United States portrayed this way?
• the stereotypical “characters” drawn from slavery days has never entirely disappeared • During time of slavery, white slave owners did not attribute difference to culture, but rather to something biological (ie. Black people are born inferior and that this cannot be changed)

Historical construction of black men…
• All sorts of biological assumptions were made about the sexual appetites and prowess of black men during those historical times • Whites resorted to infantilizing black men (treating them as infants) in order to “castrate” them • See first 2:19 of Roots for some idea of how grown Black men were treated (using words like “massa” and being called “boy”)

Black minstrels
• Some of the only entertainment work Blacks could do after slavery was in entertainment as “Black minstrels” in variety shows. • Again… acting like children for White enjoyment

The reaction…
• A counter-reaction occurred in the Black community • Black men had to resort to looking “tough” as a defensive response • This was a way to challenge the stereotype that they are only children

The problem…
• But acting macho only creates another stereotype: that Black men are muggers, rioters, or all around bad guys

The problem today
• Blacks are trapped in the binary structure of the stereotype: either as infants (blacks as waiters or servants) or macho (pimp or gangster) • Blacks are thus both childlike and oversexed and have to struggle between the two

Attempting to reverse the stereotypes
• Some films and media and ads have tried to reverse this by presenting Black and white together • This has been somewhat successful • But we still use the black body in forms of representation – even if the representation seems positive

This is a counter-strategy
• Does this counterstrategy work? • What do you think about the Pirelli ad in the first slide? • Is the representation positive?

Portraying difference…
• In the Pirelli ad, how is the Black male body still “sexed”? • In Benetton – the ads point out difference to celebrate it on the one hand (this is good) and sell you something on the other (hmm…) • Back to the title: can we ever escape the idea of “other” being a spectacle?

Assignment
• Find a picture online of an advertisement • Analyse this advertisement using some of the knowledge about how representation works in the ad • Who is the ad for? How are the people positioned? What is being conveyed in the design of the ad? What is being sold? Who is the audience? Interpret the visual signs, the caption or text (if any) and provide a 250 word analysis (minimum) • Post the link to your ad picture on the blog, along with your response