Diffractions publishes reviews of books in Culture Studies and its related fields in any of the accepted languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish).
In line with our mission statement, we look forward to receiving book reviews that privilege an interdisciplinary outlook.
Reviews are usually 1500 to 2000 words and take the form of critical engagements with one or more texts and strive to situate them in a broader theoretical debate.
We also accept reviews of books that are not listed below.
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Through analyses of narrative, text, process, apparatus and audience this book traces the metamorphosis of an emerging cinema and maps the new spaces of spectatorship which are currently challenging what it means to be cinematic in a digitally networked era.
Pantomime Terror: Music and Politics
2014 | Zero Books | 222 pages
Pantomime is a theatrical form that has come to rule our everyday lives as terror. In the early years of the 21st century, a dissembling political demonology has sometimes placed otherwise merely lyrical musicians in a volatile predicament. The discussion here is of Fun-da-Mental Aki Nawaz portrayed as a "suicide rapper", Asian Dub Foundation striking poses from the street in support of youth in Paris and Algiers, and M.I.A., born free fighting immigration crackdown with atrocity video. Along the way, bus bombs, comedy circuits, critical theory, Arabian Nights, Bradley Wiggins, Dinarzade, Karl Marx, Paris boulevards, Molotov, Mao, the Eiffel Tower, reserve armies, lists, Richard Wagner, Samina Malik, Slavoj iek, Freudian slips, red-heads, Guantanamo. The book offers some sharp critiques of our contemporary complacency, and the failures of theory as more than ten years of war on terror turns anxiety at home and drone-strike assassinations abroad into a normal everyday. This pantomime is a terror story told over and over to distract from the workings of a despotic power. The need for an adequate (winning) counter-narrative was never more clear.
Cinematic Chronotopes: Here, Now, Me
2014 | Bloomsbury | 208 pages
The site of cinema is on the move. The extent to which technologically mediated sounds and images continue to be experienced as cinematic today is largely dependent on the intensified sense of being here, now and me that they convey. This intensification is fundamentally rooted in the cinematics potential to intensify our experience of time, to convey times thickening, of which the sense of place, and a sense of self-presence are the correlatives. In this study, Pepita Hesselberth traces this thickening of time across four different spatio-temporal configurations of the cinematic: a multi-media exhibition featuring the work of Andy Warhol (1928-1987); the handheld aesthetics of European art-house films; a large-scale media installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer; and the usage of the trope of the flash-forward in mainstream Hollywood cinema. Only by juxtaposing these cases by looking at what they have in common, this study argues, can we grasp the complexity of the changes that the cinematic is currently undergoing.
Video Revolutions: On The History of a Medium
Michael Z. Newman
2014 | Columbia University Press | 160 pages
Since the days of early television, video has been an indispensable part of culture, society, and moving-image media industries. Over the decades, it has been an avant-garde artistic medium, a high-tech consumer gadget, a format for watching movies at home, a force for democracy, and the ultimate, ubiquitous means of documenting reality. In the twenty-first century, video is the name we give all kinds of moving images. We know it as an adaptable medium that bridges analog and digital, amateur and professional, broadcasting and recording, television and cinema, art and commercial culture, and old media and new digital networks. In this history, Michael Z. Newman casts video as a medium of shifting value and legitimacy in relation to other media and technologies, particularly film and television. Video has been imagined as more or less authentic or artistic than movies or television, as more or less democratic and participatory, as more or less capable of capturing the real. Techno-utopian rhetoric has repeatedly represented video as a revolutionary medium, promising to solve the problems of the past and the presentÑoften the very problems associated with television and the society shaped by itÑand to deliver a better future. Video has also been seen more negatively, particularly as a threat to movies and their culture. This study considers video as an object of these hopes and fears and builds an approach to thinking about the concept of the medium in terms of cultural status.
Locating Television: Zones of Consumption
Anna Cristina Pertierra, Graeme Turner
Routledge | 2013 | 155 pages
Locating Television: Zones of Consumption takes an important next step for television studies: it acknowledges the growing diversity of the international experience of television today in order to address the question of ‘what is television now?’
The book addresses this question in two interrelated ways:
- by situating the consumption of television within the full range of structures, patterns and practices of everyday life;
- and by retrieving the importance of location as fundamental to these structures, patterns and practices – and, consequently, to the experience of television.
This approach, involving collaboration between authors from cultural studies and cultural anthropology, offers new ways of studying the consumption of television – in particular, the use of the notion of ‘zones of consumption’ as a new means of locating television within the full range of its spatial, temporal, cultural, political and industrial contexts.
Although the study draws its examples from a wide range of locations (the US, the UK, Australia, Malaysia, Cuba, and the Chinese language markets in Asia - -Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Taiwan), its argument is strongly informed by the evidence and the insights which emerged from ethnographic research in Mexico. This research site serves a strategic purpose: by working on a location with a highly developed and commercially successful transnational television industry, but which is not among the locations usually considered by television studies written in English, the limitations to some of the assumptions underlying the orthodoxies in Anglo-American television studies are highlighted.
Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture
2012 | Routledge | 424 pages
The twentieth anniversary edition of Henry Jenkins´s Textual Poachers brings this now-canonical text to a new generation of students interested in the intersections of fandom, participatory culture, popular consumption and media theory.
Supplementing the original, classic text is an interview between Henry Jenkins and Suzanne Scott in which Jenkins reflects upon changes in the field since the original release of Textual Poachers. A study guide by Louisa Stein helps provides instructors with suggestions for the way Textual Poachers can be used in the contemporary classroom, and study questions encourage students to consider fan cultures in relation to consumer capitalism, genre, gender, sexuality, and more.
Punk in Russia: Cultural mutation from the "useless" to the "moronic"
Ivan Gololobov, Hilary Pilkington, Yngvar B Steinholt
2014 | Routledge | 238 pages
Punk culture is currently having a revival worldwide and is poised to extend and mutate even more as youth unemployment and youth alienation increase in many countries of the world. In Russia, its power to have an impact and to shock is well illustrated by the state response to activist collective and punk band Pussy Riot. This book, based on extensive original research, examines the nature of punk culture in contemporary Russia. Drawing on interviews and observation, it explores the vibrant punk music scenes and the social relations underpinning them in three contrasting Russian cities. It relates punk to wider contemporary culture and uses the Russian example to discuss more generally what constitutes “punk” today.
Policy and the Popular
David Looseley (Editor)
2014 | Routledge | 112 pages
The book is an interdisciplinary exploration of the complexities of "popular" culture as a category of public policy. It approaches the notions of "cultural policy" and "popular culture" flexibly, examining what each comes to mean, explicitly or implicitly, in relation to the other. This generates a rich variety of approaches, but also a number of identifiable commonalities. We start from the proposition that "popular culture" is largely absent as an explicit category of arts policy and debate today. The "arts" are still, in practice, construed in terms of elite culture (despite claims to the contrary), while artifacts such as popular music, television, fashion, and so on are assumed to figure among the cultural or creative "industries", giving the popular a set of narrowly economic, professional and commodity connotations. And yet, the popular is, in a range of ways, powerfully present as an implicit dimension of public policy and as a catalyst of cultural practices and attitudes. This apparent paradox underpins the proposal.
The book is a collaboration between two UK-based institutions: the University of Leeds´s Popular Cultures Research Network and the well established Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick. This book was originally published as a special issue of International Journal of Cultural Policy.
Indie: An American Film Culture
Michael Z. Newman
2013 | Columbia University Press | 304 pages
From Stranger than Paradise (1984) to Synecdoche, New York (2008), Americas independent films often seem to defy classification. Their strategies of storytelling and representation vary widely, and they range from raw, no-budget productions to the more polished releases of Hollywoods "specialty" divisions. Understanding American indies involves more than just considering films. Filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors, festivals, critics, and audiences play a role in the arts identity, which is always understood in relation to the Hollywood mainstream.
By locating the American indie in the historical context of the Sundance-Miramax era (the mid-1980s to the end of the 2000s), Michael Z. Newman considers indie cinema as an alternative American film culture. His work isolates patterns of character and realism, formal play, and oppositionality in these films and the function of festivals, art houses, and critical media in promoting them. He accounts for the power of audiences to distinguish indie films from mainstream Hollywood and to seek socially emblematic characters and playful form in their narratives. Analyzing films such as Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), Lost in Translation (2003), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Juno (2007), along with the work of Nicole Holofcener, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh, and the Coen brothers, Newman investigates the conventions that cast indies as culturally legitimate works of art and sustain these films appeal. In doing so, he not only binds these diverse works together within a cluster of distinct viewing strategies but also invites readers to reevaluate the difference of independent cinema, as well as its relationship to class and taste culture.
Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context
2013 | Columbia University Press | 360 pages
Music videos have ranged from simple tableaux of a band playing its instruments to multimillion dollar, high-concept extravaganzas. Born of a sudden expansion in new broadcast channels, music videos continue to exert an enormous influence on popular music. They help to create an artists identity, to affect a songs mood, to determine chart success: the music video has changed our idea of the popular song.
Here at last is a study that treats music video as a distinct multimedia artistic genre, different from film, television, and indeed from the songs they illuminate—and sell. Carol Vernallis describes how verbal, musical, and visual codes combine in music video to create defining representations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and performance. The book explores the complex interactions of narrative, settings, props, costumes, lyrics, and much more. Three chapters contain close analyses of important videos: Madonnas "Cherish," Princes "Gett Off," and Peter Gabriels "Mercy St."
Contemporary Hollywood Cinema
Steve Neale, Murray Smith (eds)
2013 | Routledge | 360 pages
A comprehensive overview of the film industry in Hollywood today, Contemporary Hollywood Cinema brings together leading international cinema scholars to explore the technology, institutions, film makers and movies of contemporary American film making.
Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema
2013 | Oxford University Press | 354 pages
Unruly Media argues that we are on the crest of a new international, intermedial style in which sonic and visual parameters become heightened and accelerated. This audiovisual turn, driven by digital technologies and socioeconomic changes, calls for new forms of attention. Post-classical cinema, with its multi-plot narratives and flashy style, fragments under the influence of audiovisual numbers and music-video-like sync. Music video, after migrating to the web, becomes more than a way of selling songs. YouTubes brief and low-res clips encompass many forms, and foreground reiteration, graphic values and affective intensity. All three of these media are riven by one another: a trajectory from YouTube through music video to the new digital cinema reveals structural commonalities, especially in the realms of rhythm, texture and form. Music video, YouTube, and postclassical cinema remain undertheorized. This is the first book to account for the current audiovisual landscape across medium and platform-to try to characterize the audiovisual swirl. Unruly Media includes both new theoretical models and readings of numerous current multimedia works. It also includes several chapters devoted to the oeuvre of highly popular directors, their films, commercials and music videos. Unruly Media argues that attending equally to soundtrack and image can show how these media work, and the ways they both mirror and shape our modern experience.
The Spectral Metaphor. Living Ghosts and the Agency of Invisibility
2014 | Palgrave Macmillan | 232 pages
What does it mean to live as a ghost? Exploring spectrality as a potent metaphor in the contemporary British and American cultural imagination, Peeren proposes that certain subjects – migrants, servants, mediums and missing persons – are perceived as living ghosts and examines how this impacts on their ability to develop agency. From detailed readings of films (Stephen Frearss Dirty Pretty Things, Nick Broomfields Ghosts and Robert Altmans Gosford Park), a television series (Upstairs, Downstairs) and novels (Hilary Mantels Beyond Black, Sarah Waterss Affinity, Ian McEwans The Child in Time and Bret Easton Elliss Lunar Park) emerges an inventive account of how the spectral metaphor, in its association with various modes of invisibility, can signify both dispossession and empowerment. In reworking the spectral insights of, among others, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Negri and Achille Mbembe, Peeren suggests new responses to the practices of marginalization and exploitation that characterize our globalized world.
The Cultural Impact of Kanye West
Julius Bailey (ed.)
2014 | Palgrave Macmillan | 290 pages
The ability of popular art to offer societal critiques and challenge received ideas has been recognized throughout history. Through rap and hip-hop, composers, singers, and entertainers have recently provided a voice questioning and challenging the sanctioned view of the times. This book offers an in-depth reading of the works and cultural impact of Kanye West. Looking at the moral and social implications of Wests words, images, and music in the broader context of Western civilizations preconceived ideas, the contributors consider how West both challenges religious and moral norms and propagates them.
Strategic Reinvention in Popular Culture. The Encore Impulse
2013 | Palgrave Macmillan | 260 pages
Not all original works invoke the encore impulse in their audiences. Those that do generally spawn replications - sequels, spin-offs, or re-makes. This book presents a theory of why some replications succeed and others fail. Pfefferman analyzes replication attempts across various genres and media using the theorys principles to reveal strategies for identifying and maintaining works with potential for an encore. The book ultimately shows how true strategic reinvention distinguishes itself from mere imitation or mimicry by encompassing its own type of originality by retaining the essence of the original, factoring in the new place and time, presenting itself as authentic, conveying relevant meaning, and tapping into universal themes. For anyone interested in what constitutes an innovative work, these are more than just replication techniques. They are tools for illuminating the core of the creative process itself.
Populäre Serialität: Narration - Evolution - Distinktion
Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert
Frank Kelleter (ed.)
2014 | transcript | 404 pages
Wie lässt sich die starke Verbreitung von seriellen Erzählungen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert erklären? Welche neuen Erzählformate werden durch Serialisierung geschaffen? Wie beeinflussen populäre Serien unsere Wahrnehmung und Strukturierung sozialer Realität? Die Beiträge in diesem Band gehen diesen Fragen nach und zeigen u.a., welche Wandlungen Serienfiguren durchlaufen, wenn sie in neue Medien übertragen werden, oder wie bei lang laufenden Serien die Übergänge zwischen Produzenten und Nutzern immer fließender werden. So ergibt sich ein facettenreicher Blick auf einen wesensbestimmenden Erzähltypus der Populärkultur.
Facetten der Popkultur. Über die ästhetische und politische Kraft des Populären
Florian Niedlich (ed.)
2014 | transcript | 225 pages
Mittlerweile geht der Trend auch im deutschsprachigen Raum zu einer stärker differenzierten Perspektive auf die ästhetischen und politischen Potentiale der Popkultur. Dieser Entwicklung trägt der Band Rechnung. Die Beiträge befassen sich u.a. mit Popliteratur und Musikvideos, den Beatles und Hip-Hop, The Terminator und The Wrestler, Monty Python und Switch. Dabei thematisieren sie auch bislang unberücksichtigte Phänomene wie posthumanistische und Körper-Diskurse, Darstellungen des Alter(n)s und religiöse Eschatologie. Das Buch kombiniert prägnante Einzelanalysen mit einem profunden Einstieg in die Popkulturforschung und liefert einen Überblick über die dort aktuell geführten Debatten. Eine Untersuchung des Phänomens Pop in seinen vielfältigen Facetten.
Popular Music Fandom. Identities, Roles and Practices
2014 | Routledge | 234 pages
This book explores popular music fandom from a cultural studies perspective that incorporates popular music studies, audience research, and media fandom. The essays draw together recent work on fandom in popular music studies and begin a dialogue with the wider field of media fan research, raising questions about how popular music fandom can be understood as a cultural phenomenon and how much it has changed in light of recent developments. Exploring the topic in this way broaches questions on how to define, theorize, and empirically research popular music fan culture, and how music fandom relates to other roles, practices, and forms of social identity. Fandom itself has been brought center stage by the rise of the internet and an industrial structure aiming to incorporate, systematize, and legitimate dimensions of it as an emotionally-engaged form of consumerism. Once perceived as the pariah practice of an overly attached audience, media fandom has become a standardized industrial subject-position called upon to sell box sets, concert tickets, new television series, and special editions. Meanwhile, recent scholarship has escaped the legacy of interpretations that framed fans as passive, pathological, or defiantly empowered, taking its object seriously as a complex formation of identities, roles, and practices. While popular music studies has examined some forms of identity and audience practice, such as the way that people use music in daily life and listener participation in subcultures, scenes and, tribes, this volume is the first to examine music fans as a specific object of study.
Serialization in Popular Culture
Rob Allen, Thijs van den Berg
2014 | Routledge | 210 pages
From prime-time television shows and graphic novels to the development of computer game expansion packs, the recent explosion of popular serials has provoked renewed interest in the history and economics of serialization, as well as the impact of this cultural form on readers, viewers, and gamers. In this volume, contributors—literary scholars, media theorists, and specialists in comics, graphic novels, and digital culture—examine the economic, narratological, and social effects of serials from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century and offer some predictions of where the form will go from here.
Asian Popular Culture. Global (Dis)Continuity
Anthony Y. H. Fung
2013 | Routledge | 274 pages
This book examines different aspects of Asian popular culture, including films, TV, music, comedy, folklore, cultural icons, the Internet and theme parks. It raises important questions such as – What are the implications of popularity of Asian popular culture for globalization? Do regional forces impede the globalizing of cultures? Or does the Asian popular culture flow act as a catalyst or conveying channel for cultural globalization? Does the globalization of culture pose a threat to local culture? It addresses two seemingly contradictory and yet parallel processes in the circulation of Asian popular culture: the interconnectedness between Asian popular culture and western culture in an era of cultural globalization that turns subjects such as Pokémon, Hip Hop or Cosmopolitan into truly global phenomena, and the local derivatives and versions of global culture that are necessarily disconnected from their origins in order to cater for the local market. It thereby presents a collective argument that, whilst local social formations, and patterns of consumption and participation in Asia are still very much dependent on global cultural developments and the phenomena of modernity, yet such dependence is often concretized, reshaped and distorted by the local media to cater for the local market.
Redefining Mainstream Popular Music
Sarah Baker, Andy Bennett, Jodie Taylor
2013 | Routledge | 240 pages
Redefining Mainstream Popular Music is a collection of seventeen essays that critically examines the idea of the "mainstream" in and across a variety of popular music styles and contexts. Notions of what is popular vary across generations and cultures – what may have been considered alternative to one group may be perceived as mainstream to another. Incorporating a wide range of popular music texts, genres, scenes, practices and technologies from the United Kingdom, North America, Australia and New Zealand, the authors theoretically challenge and augment our understanding of how the mainstream is understood and functions in the overlapping worlds of popular music production, consumption and scholarship. Spanning the local and the global, the historic and contemporary, the iconic and the everyday, the book covers a broad range of genres, from punk to grunge to hip-hop, while also considering popular music through other mediums, including mash-ups and the music of everyday work life. Redefining Mainstream Popular Music provides readers with an innovative and nuanced perspective of what it means to be mainstream.
Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time
2013 | Asghate Publishing | 222 pages
Since the emergence of rock’n’roll in the early 1950s, there have been a number of live musical performances that became hugely influential in the way they shaped the subsequent trajectory and development of popular music. Each, in its own way, introduced new styles, confronted existing practices, shifted accepted definitions, and provided templates for others to follow. Performance And Popular Music explores these processes by focusing on some of the specific occasions when such transformations occurred. An international array of scholars reveal that it is through the dynamics of performance – and the interaction between performer and audience – that patterns of musical change and innovation can best be recognised.
Masculinity in the Contemporary Romantic Comedy: Gender as Genre
2013 | Routledge | 136 pages
This volume addresses the growing obsolescence of traditional constructions of masculine identity in popular romantic comedies by proposing an approach that combines gender and genre theory to examine the ongoing radical reconstruction of gender roles in these films. Alberti creates a unified theory of gender role change in the movies that combines the insights of both poststructuralist gender and narrative genre theory, avoiding binary approaches to the study of gender representation. He establishes the current "crises" in both gender representation and genre development within romantic comedies as examples of experimentation and change towards narratives that feature more egalitarian and less essentialist constructions of gender.
Online Games, Social Narratives
2014 | Routledge | 208 pages
The study of online gaming is changing. It is no longer enough to analyse one type of online community in order to understand the plethora of players who take part in online worlds and the behaviours they exhibit. MacCallum-Stewart studies the different ways in which online games create social environments and how players choose to interpret these. These games vary from the immensely popular social networking games on Facebook such as Farmville to Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games to "Free to Play" online gaming and console communities such as players of Xbox Live and PS3 games. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of social gaming online, breaking down when games are social and what narrative devices make them so. This cross-disciplinary study will appeal to those interested in cyberculture, the evolution of gaming technology, and sociologies of media.
Popular Culture in Asia: Memory, City, Celebrity
Lorna Fitzsimmons | John A. Lent
2013 | Palgrave Macmillan | 240 pages
This book provides perspectives on relationships between Asian popular culture and a number of major socio-political issues and movements, including war responsibility, democratization, globalization, urbanization, modernization, and gender reconstruction. It consists of studies of film, music, television, anime, architecture, and computer-mediated communication in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Themes include the relationships between popular culture and nationalism, Western social forces and cultural forms, regionalism, political change, modernity, traditionalism, and gender identity. The three sections of the book—memory, city, celebrity—are interlinked in their shared concern with the socio-political functions of popular culture.
Gender and Popular Culture
Katie Milestone | Anneke Meyer
2013 | Polity Press| 200 pages
This book examines the role of popular culture in the construction of gendered identities in contemporary society. It draws on a wide range of popular cultural forms - including popular music, newspapers and television - to illustrate how femininity and masculinity are produced, represented and consumed.
The authors blend primary and secondary research to offer the reader a balanced yet novel overview of the area. Students are introduced to key theories and concepts in the fields of gender studies and popular culture, which are made accessible and interesting through their application to topical examples such as DJs, binge drinking and computer games.
The book is structured into three clear, user-friendly sections:
1. Production, gender and popular culture: An investigation of who produces popular culture, why gendered patterns occur, and how they impact on content.
2. Representation, gender and popular culture: An examination of how men and women are represented in contemporary popular culture, and how notions of (in)appropriate femininity and masculinity are constructed.
3. Consumption, gender and popular culture: An exploration of who consumes what in popular culture, how gendered consumption relates to space, and what the effects of consuming representations of gender are.
The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-Humanitarianism
2013 |Polity Press | 248 pages
This path-breaking book explores how solidarity towards vulnerable others is performed in our media environment. It argues that stories where famine is described through our own experience of dieting or or where solidarity with Africa translates into wearing a cool armband tell us about much more than the cause that they attempt to communicate. They tell us something about the ways in which we imagine the world outside ourselves.
By showing historical change in Amnesty International and Oxfam appeals, in the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts, in the advocacy of Audrey Hepburn and Angelina Jolie as well as in earthquake news on the BBC, this far-reaching book shows how solidarity has today come to be not about conviction but choice, not vision but lifestyle, not others but ourselves – turning us into the ironic spectators of other people’s suffering.
American War Cinema and Media since Vietnam: Politics, Ideology, and Class
2013 |Palgrave Macmillan | 276 pages
By the 1990s the Pentagon had greatly expanded its global and imperial reach and deeply embedded itself into the commerce and ideology of Hollywood war movies, video games, television, and the private arms industry. Post-Vietnam Hollywood attempted to resurrect the "good war". The Pentagon, Hollywood, video games, and the arms industry were now working in tandem, all hugely profiting. As always, paying the ultimate price for this commercial success were the working-class men and women who actually fight these wars. No other media genre more sharply illustrates the contradictions of American society, notions about social class, politics, and socio-economic ideology, than the war film. American War Cinema and Media Since Vietnam examines the representations of war in feature films and documentaries, television, and war video games since Vietnam to reveal how they illustrate the complexities and contradictions of America´s post-Vietnam wars of "discretion", class issues, commerce, and politics.