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Mass Cultural Heaven - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Mass Cultural Heaven
On New Year's Eve, we returned to the annual holiday lightfest in Tucson's Winterhaven neighborhood for a second stroll, this time with Kim's co-worker Karen and the astonishingly cute Akita she raised and now gets to sit for from time to time. It was a mellow evening and the perfect outlet for Skylar's desire to have a dog. But this go-round sharpened our already sharp sense of the divide between the community's conservative Christians and its more liberal residents.

As a smart person, particularly a smart European person, might expect, the facility for American-style kitsch was amply demonstrated by both camps. This was also true of the neighborhoods we visited northwest of Tucson. Mass culture remains a prime site of ideological struggle, with each side trying -- and doing so pretty consciously, from what I could tell -- to claim the power of Hollywood for themselves. I know everyone is tired of Cultural Studies scholarship that discerns ideological resistance in acts of everyday consumerism. But sometimes the evidence is too strong to ignore.

The first time I saw this display, I laughed at the absurdity of it. On second viewing, though, my reaction was more serious. Even if I perceive the irony in this nativity scene, its creators are almost certainly not being ironic. All that work that my friend Joel Schalit and his collaborators did on the Christian Right back in the early 1990s has proven eerily prescient. Maybe I should force myself to watch Passion of the Christ.

Mode: winding, but down?
Muse: Heaven Is A Truck - Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

2 comments or Leave a comment
amnesiascope From: amnesiascope Date: January 2nd, 2005 09:26 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
i'm not so much tired of it as more interested in a scholarship that a) zeroes in on why consumption has become such a locus for (at least certain kinds of) ideological resistance, and b) identifies some more productive arenas for struggle and transformation. something like a combination of good old fashioned Birmingham school stuff and the largely descriptive work of people like Kate Bronfenbrenner. Maybe that's too much to ask of scholarship. Or maybe, as Michael Denning's work suggests, it's time to revitalize that linchpin of the Popular Front, the non-academic intellectual. Not that most of what I'm saying hasn't been said before, but too often we intellectuals satisfy ourselves merely with identifying a problem.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 2nd, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I agree completely. I think revitalizing the category of the non-academic intellectual -- which also means recognizing that intellectual labor is more varied than academics tend to think -- is critical. I guess what I was trying to say here is that we need to remind ourselves that resistance is at least a two-way street. Thanks for writing!
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