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The Cultural Return

The Cultural Return

Susan Hegeman
Series: FlashPoints
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    The Cultural Return
    Book Description:

    This insightful book tracks the concept of culture across a range of scholarly disciplines and much of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—years that saw the emergence of new fields and subfields (cultural studies, the new cultural history, literary new historicism, as well as ethnic and minority studies) and came to be called “the cultural turn.” Since the 1990s, however, the idea of culture has fallen out of scholarly favor. Susan Hegeman engages with a diversity of disciplines, including anthropology, literary studies, sociology, philosophy, psychology, and political science, to historicize the rise and fall of the cultural turn and to propose ways that culture may still be a vital concept in the global present.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95182-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In Jonathan Franzen’s best-selling novelThe Corrections(2001 ), one of the plot lines involves the “failure” of an untenured cultural studies professor at a small northeastern college. Chip Lambert’s downfall begins when a bright student sabotages his class-capping exercise in the critical analysis of an advertising campaign by interjecting, “Excuse me, but that is just such bullshit.”¹ The student, Melissa, complains that Chip is trying to unload his own hatred of corporate capitalism on the students, when the ad in fact demonstrates the benefits of corporations; in this case, the campaign for the software company centers on its support of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Cultural Discontents
    (pp. 21-40)

    The documents having now piled up on its putative grave, what are the central arguments against the culture concept? The answer to this question is often shot through with the specificities of the disciplines from which the writer emerges, so that the anthropologist’s concerns are never quite the same as the literary critic’s, the cultural studies scholar’s, the evolutionary psychologist’s, the historian’s, or the political scientist’s. I’ll return to the issue of disciplinarity later. But here, my effort is to be as synoptic as possible, in order both to systematize the often self-contradictory claims made against culture and to offer...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Haunted by Mass Culture
    (pp. 41-57)

    To say that culture is a concept that mediates between parts and wholes is all well and good. But it’s important as well to recognize the historical specificity of what those parts and wholes are. Here, I take up one particular well-known usage of the idea of culture, “mass culture”—a historically specific phenomenon, dependent upon a complex, modern arrangement of social life—to demonstrate the workings of culture as a dialectical concept within a particular historical situation. The ultimate goal will be to shed some light on the meaning of “mass culture” and some of the terms it is...

  7. CHAPTER 3 A Brief History of the Cultural Turn
    (pp. 58-75)

    To begin this historical account of the cultural turn in the context of the cold war (1946–89), I want to build upon a central point from chapter 1 about the relationship between dialectics and the culture concept with a quasi-definitional proposition. In the broader rhetoric of culture, the term can be seen to serve a specific purpose: namely registering, and sometimes seeming to offer the ideological resolution to, various intractable paradoxes. It is in this sense that “culture” becomes the site of the mediation between part and whole: between individual and society, between the smaller group and the larger...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Globalization, Culture, and Crises of Disciplinarity
    (pp. 76-92)

    In the decade preceding the turn of the millennium, a spate of programmatic arguments appeared (by, among others, Jane Desmond and Virginia Dominguez, Carolyn Porter, John Carlos Rowe, Priscilla Wald, and José David Saldívar) that called upon Americanists to rethink their field of study in terms of border crossings, transnationalist investigations, and comparatist perspectives. Drawing on scholarship in ethnic studies, feminist and queer studies, postcolonial studies, and even new work in cultural geography, these positions registered a desire to make American studies more reflective not only of the diversity internal to the United States but of the geopolitical context of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Santa Claus Problem: Culture, Belief, Modernity
    (pp. 93-111)

    A few years ago, a friend showed me an advertisement from the pages of theEconomistwhose prominent slogan had caught her notice: “Never underestimate the importance of local knowledge.” The slogan was illustrated with three pictures of different kinds of sweets: a tray of Belgian spekulaas cookies, a plate of British mince pies, and a bowl of Swedish rice pudding. My friend, a recent BA in anthropology, at the time had the job market very much on her mind and so took it as a sign that former anthropology majors, academically trained to worry about “local knowledge,” had for...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Cultural Return
    (pp. 112-126)

    Having, in previous chapters, addressed some of the problems with the “against culture” position, we now turn to a more positive account of culture’s continuing significance as a concept and category of analysis. To begin, I’ll bring together the pieces of a definition of culture that I have been building in the preceding chapters, a culture that is at base dialectical and related to the larger problem of conceptualizing our current moment of neoliberal modernity. From there it should be clear how and why culture remains a central—that is, meaningful and nontrivial—analytical category for the coming years. But...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 127-154)
  12. Index
    (pp. 155-160)