Symbolic Power: An Reflection

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment


First some tl;dr’ing for posterity, plus Kwik Konnections between selections.

Stuart Hall, “New Ethnicities”: We should be very suspicious of the assumption, no matter how well-intentioned or ostensibly positive, that “you people are all the same.” (Barthes)

George Lipsitz, “Bill Moore’s Body”: White people benefit from being white, and benefit from racial inequity. Cut that shit out. (Barthes, Dyer, Omi/Winant)

Roland Barthes, Mythologies: Myth naturalizes all stripes of fuckery; what we think is natural and necessary is actually historically contingent. (Hall, Omi/Winant, Radway, Freud)

Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation: Race is experienced but isn’t a thing. (Barthes, Dyer, Lipsitz)

Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Romance novels are kinda subversive, kinda hegemonic, with a lulzy twist. (Barthes)

Richard Dyer, White: It is important to remember that “white people” is not synonymous with “all people.” Nor is it colorless, you pinky-genitaled fucks. (Douglas, Barthes, Omi/Winant)

Mark Reid, “African-American Comedy Film”: Freud + negotiated reception strategies = 1993. (Hall, Mary Douglas?)

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: Taste –“distinction”– and social class are inextricable. (Foucault, Douglas, Dyer)

Carol Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws: In horror films, sex proceeds from gender; the Final Girl mans herself in order to lady-up and therefore vanquish the killer. (contra/troll Barthes, Hall)

Linda Williams, Hardcore: Freud is insane and porn can teach us things. (Foucault, Cohen, Sedgwick, Douglas)

Stanley Cohen, Deviance and Moral Panics: Social aberration is amplified via media-driven cycles of amplification. (Douglas)

Michael Kimmel, Guyland: Boys will be boys, especially if they’re white jk only white kids count in Guyland. (counterargs in Dyer, Hall)

Sigmund Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to My Nutsack: Jokes are cultural release valves and I’m an asshole. (Sedgwick, though Freud would disagree; counterargs from Douglas, Clover, Williams)

Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here”: People are different & it gets better. (Hall, Douglas?)

Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding”: Meaning shifts depending on who’s doing the encoding and who’s doing the decoding. (Reid, Doty)

Robyn Weigman, “Race, Ethnicity and Film”: Films often reinforce racialist/racist ideologies. (Dyer, Lipsitz, Barthes)

Angela McRobbie, “Postfeminism and Popular Culture”: Women reject feminism because gains made by feminism has afforded them that choice. (Barthes?)

bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”: Postmodernism is code for white people weeping about white people problems. (Lipsitz, lord, Barthes)

Jaqueline Bobo, “The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers”: Different audiences have different reactions to the same text. (Hall)

Jason Sperb, “Reassuring Convergence”: Sometimes fan responses are ambivalent or politically problematic???? (Hall)

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: Big Brother is watching you masturbate. (Barthes, Douglas)

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: The repressive hypothesis is bullshit, since the repression of sex actually lead to the production of sexuality. And we fucking haven’t stopped talking about sex and fucking since. (Douglas)

audre lord, “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”: lol white women. (hooks, Barthes)

Victor Turner, “Liminal to Liminoid”: I’m not a girl, not yet a woman, and the resulting ludic recombination gives me special powers. (Douglas?)

BillyJack Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra”: Capitalism obscures the really real. (Foucault, Barthes, Douglas?)

Eve Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire: Straight men are gayer than you think! (Freud, Douglas)

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: Shit’s only dirty if there’s some pure thing to compare it against. (everybody)

It's funny because that's how I felt all summer

Wow, turns out I’ve done quite a bit of writing these last few months. TO CONCLUDE, here are some preemptive answers for possible tripwire questions:

Yeah but what the fuck is symbolic power?

I’m sure this will be the first question I’m asked, and when I am, I’ll say something along the lines of, you know, symbolic meaning not a thing. I’m cordoning off power that smacks you across the face and instead am talking about all the things that shape the world but can’t be physically seen. “Embedded power” might be a nice synonym. So like, the difference between explicit racial epithets and white privilege. The former is more conspicuous but the latter is much more pernicious.

Of all the people on this list, in your written response you went for Dyer, Douglas and Foucault. Why? 

Frankly I wish I would have framed the essay using Barthes’ Mythologies and can’t understand why I chose not to include him — his approach to myth ties my entire response together, facepalm.jpg. Particularly the process by which historical contingencies come to be accepted as natural and necessary. I’m seriously only just now putting this together, god BRAINS! They’re so unreliable. But whatever because suddenly this question seems very easy: I chose to write about Foucault because he provides an alternative explanation for how/why given institutions took their particular shape, Dyer because he discusses the ways in which whiteness came to mean/symbolize/affect something above and beyond basic phenotype, which in itself doesn’t mean anything, and Douglas because she describes how certain cultural elements come to be experienced as “dirty.” THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A SMART ANSWER IF I’D PROVIDED THIS FIRST BASIC PREMISE LOL


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