Should you need reminding of how good he was...
Monday, 11 March 2013
Gender in Neoliberalism and Beyond
Centre for Cultural Studies Research Seminar
24th April 2013
Confirmed speakers: Ros Gill, Bev Skeggs, Andrew Branch, Julia Dane, Roberta Garrett, Catherine Harper, Stephen Maddison
Venue: Room EB.2.44, East Building, University of East London, Docklands Campus
The event is free but registration is required in advance and places are limited. Please contact either Andrew Branch (email@example.com) or Stephen Maddison (firstname.lastname@example.org), the seminar conveners, to confirm your attendance.
Details of how to get to the Docklands Campus are located at: http://www.uel.ac.uk/campuses/docklands/
What does gender mean in an age defined by post-feminist ideologies, and in cultures that have been ‘sexualised’? Women may have been gaining economic, social and cultural entitlements in recent years, but post-Fordist economies continue to exploit gender inequalities. And whilst a variety of ‘new femininities’ have promised freedoms and opportunities, they have also articulated further responsibilities associated with being a woman in the twenty-first century. Similarly, the increasing visibility of so-called ‘softer’ masculinities and the continuing appeal of the metrosexual man seem to signal transformations in the idea of what it means to be a man. Yet such opportunities for softness and flexibility are unevenly available in economic conditions designed to install an equality of inequality. If men are becoming softer and women more post-feminist, how are we to understand the position of queer identities? Is homosexuality ‘disappearing’ in the drive towards homonormativity? Is there a place for gender dissent in lesbian and gay cultures, or do challenges to binary constructions of gender and domestic nuclearity no longer have any meaning in an era of gay marriage?
Future Sex brings together a range of speakers from media, cultural and literary studies, and sociology to consider the question of gender in neoliberalism. Topics under discussion will include the nature of the acceptable phallus, sex advice, competition and modern man, mum’s lit, the future of the sissy, gender and sex on MTV, and how women’s labour is performed.
Professor Bev Skeggs
Bev’s research interests consolidate around the issue of value and values. How do we know what value and values are? What do they do? Bev only realized this was her central concern recently when she was asked to summarise her work and noticed that all her research has been framed around these issues. Hence value/s has led her through issues of class and gender formation, an exploration of symbolic value through media and cultural formations; using feminist and poststructuralist theory, Pierre Bourdieu and to the economic abstractions of Marx, to help her understand. Bev’s still working on this topic (it is her life’s work), currently attempting to understand how value moves on, through and with people as they live the imperatives of exchange in capitalism. But, more significantly, what remains beyond exchange? What matters to people? How do they formulate value/s beyond economic perceptions? Bev has been developing the idea of ‘person value’ through ‘value struggles’ to understand how different forms of de/valued personhood are lived. In July 2011 she became the joint managing editor of the journal Sociological Review, a major journal which has just celebrated 100 years of shaping the field and became, in 2003, an elected Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. Bev’s paper is titled, 'Performing one's value in public; the sensual spectacle of women's labour’.
Professor Ros Gill
Rosalind Gill completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the Discourse and Rhetoric Group (DARG), Loughborough University in 1991, and has since worked across a number of disciplines including Sociology, Gender Studies and Media and Communications. She has been based at Goldsmiths College, the Open University and spent 10 years at the LSE before moving to King’s College London to take up a position as Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis in 2010. Ros’ current research interests centre around the following themes: cultural and creative work; media and popular culture; discursive, narrative, visual and psychosocial approaches and gender and sexuality. Ros, and her colleagues Laura Harvey and Meg Baker, will be discussing mediated sex advice in magazines, self-help texts, on TV and online.
Dr Andrew Branch
Andrew is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research and the London East Research Institute. His current research focus is on the representations of social class by those media which seek to regulate its hierarchical structure. He is particularly interested in how working-class youth subjectivities are embodied, formulated and negotiated in this respect and how cultural geography can help us explore specific sites of cultural incubation. Andrew’s working paper is titled, ‘In it to win it’ and will allow him to discuss his current project on sexuality and the making of modern men. His website is located at: www.andrewbranch.org.uk
Dr Julia Dane
Having obtained a degree in Psychosocial Studies at UEL, Julia conducted her Postgraduate research in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, London. Julia's research interests are around media representation of gender and sexuality. In particular, she is interested in teenage girls' engagement with contemporary discourses of femininity. Julia has taught Media and Advertising at UEL since 2006, with a focus on representation and audience/consumer research. Julia’s paper is titled, 'How low can you go? Gender and sexuality in MTV's The Valleys'.
Dr Roberta Garrett
Roberta teaches Literature and Cultural Studies at UEL. She has published a book on postmodern cinema and women's film (Postmodern Chick-Flicks, Palgrave, 2007) and is currently working on representations of parenting and family culture in neoliberalism. Roberta will be discussing novels and children in the form of mum lit and the public mother.
Professor Catherine Harper
Catherine started as the new Dean of the School of Arts and the Digital Industries in October 2011. She has led Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton for five years, with previous academic, research and management experience at the University for the Creative Arts, the University of the Arts, Goldsmiths College and the University of Ulster. Originally a visual arts and textiles practitioner, she has specialised in public commissions, installation and performance, undertaking artist residencies in Ireland, Canada and the Czech Republic. She now writes on textiles, is UK editor of Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, and sits on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. Her first book was published by Berg in 2007, and her third, Fabrics of Desire, will be delivered in late 2012. A member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College and an Arts Council Advisor, Catherine is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and sits on the International Committee for Fashion in Fiction. Catherine’s paper is titled, ‘The acceptable phallus...’.
Dr Stephen Maddison
Stephen is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at UEL and of the On/Scenity AHRC-Funded Research Network, and co-runs the website OpenGender where you can read many of his articles and chapters, as well as writing by colleagues on sexuality, gender and neoliberalism. Stephen's research addresses questions of sexuality and gender, cultural politics and popular culture. He is currently working on two major projects, one on the materialism of pornography, and one on the author Philip Pullman. Pornography is the world's most prolific and profitable culture industry, with a social impact beyond the tens of thousands of porn films and sites produced each year. Stephen's work on pornography has appeared in several major collections, including Mainstreaming Sex (2009), Porn.com (2010) and Hard to Swallow (2011). Philip Pullman is the hugely successful author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, and is a prominent cultural commentator. Stephen’s research, undertaken collaboratively with Dr Christine Butler, addresses notions of childhood, education, agency and bourgeois dissent in the context of neoliberalism. Stephen’s paper is titled, ‘Is the future sissy?’
Posted by Andrew Branch at 11:37 am
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Reading two really engaging books at the moment, with each complimenting the other's focus: David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2007, Oxford) and Reacting to Reality Television (2012, Routledge) by Bev Skeggs and Helen Wood. All three authors are helping me to develop further my understanding of how to make best sense of the complex production of our (classed) subjectivities in late modernity. The section on 'social affect and reality television' in Skeggs and Wood is particularly inspiring, critiquing as it does those scholarly accounts of affect theory which fail to acknowledge the social realm, in which our affective experiences become encoded - and accordingly measured by certain groups for the value they may hold - in our emotional responses.
Posted by Andrew Branch at 2:39 pm
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Take a look at Godard's British Sounds (1969), made for London Weekend Television, which declined to air it. Agitprop for sure but still a fascinating period piece that contains more ideas in its 54 minutes than the syllabi of most contemporary degree courses.
The opening tracking shot of British Leyland workers at its Cowley car plant - and final sequence showing Essex University students amidst the paraphernalia of revolution - might say more about the dilettantism of French avant-gardistes and British middle-class youth but that shouldn't detract from the intellectual force of Godard's polemic. Flawed, then, but still vital film making.
Posted by Andrew Branch at 10:35 am
Friday, 15 June 2012
'The Hammer Or The Nail', an excellent film by MatDo, exploring the pleasures and unpleasures of working in the music industry, male competitiveness and how Southend-on-Sea functions as a cultural incubator. Dirty old river...
Posted by Andrew Branch at 9:51 am
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Is it safe to resurface yet? Has the fog of forced jollity lifted sufficiently to reveal again the iconography of moribund Old Blighty? It is surely no coincidence that those John Lydon butter adverts have resurfaced over this official extended holiday: a salutary reminder, presumably, that we all soften in the end and that Johnny's radicalism was, after all, a conceited, self-serving pose; a revolt into style. Party poopers 0 – conservatives 1. Except that I’m not convinced we're witnessing a ringing endorsement either, despite the determination of the BBC to construct a narrative of British patriotism in which deferential subjects are praised for all the clichéd attributes they've been historically labelled with. And Lydon can say what he wants now, it's what he said in the latter half of the seventies that counts; context is everything.
Not quite, then, a resounding ideological victory for monarchists. Rather, the public tone seems to be one of resignation, expressed with varying degrees of ardency; if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em. This phantasmagoric reaction seems to entail either a selective celebration of 'community', with residents territorially marking their boundaries; or else the prevailing sentiment appears to be to just enjoy yourself, accede to the spectacle and, in a moment of collective amnesia, forget that the hierarchies which serve those with a vested interest in maintaining them, exist.
So, what to make of the dissenting voices? Again, the BBC has been quick to remind us, in an effort to recuperate any opposition, that ‘only 100’ protestors gathered at Tower Bridge on Sunday. Over on the popular culture front, for those of us looking for some respite there, hearing that Madness played on the roof of the Palace has provoked a mixed reaction in me: it seems too naïve to express my disappointment in their apparent capitulation when I'm not sure that they were ever really dissidents in the first place. Yet they did mean something back in the late seventies/early eighties – theirs was an anarchic irreverence that always seemed to hint at, if not exactly anti-establishment values, then at least a structure of feeling which suggested there was a ‘them’ to mock and position yourself against. ‘All I learnt at school was how to bend not break the rules’ Suggs once sang, which sums up the ambivalent politics of the band rather well, I think. Did they play Baggy Trousers?
They certainly played Our House, with its nostalgic yearning for an earlier moment of working-class cultural cohesion, echoing the early work of Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams. Except that this time the context is 'Broken Britain', 2012, with what remains of those now ostracised cultures under attack from Cameron's austerity-driven coalition government. Here ‘our’ house is the Palace itself, a symbolic home for the nation's subjects to take refuge in (or take over?). In moments of crisis we come together; just remember to stay below the stairs. Two dreamers indeed…
Posted by Andrew Branch at 3:39 pm
Monday, 6 February 2012
Here's an article I wrote for the latest edition of Cambridge University Press' Popular Music journal...
All the young dudes: educational capital, masculinity and the uses of popular music
All the young dudes: educational capital, masculinity and the uses of popular music
Posted by Andrew Branch at 1:07 pm
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Attended an exhilarating Centre for Cultural Studies Research talk by Jack Halberstam yesterday to promote her new book, The Queer Art of Failure (Duke University Press, 2011). In these tumultuous political times theorising failure as a productive negation of dominant heteronormative discourses, which serve to reproduce the logic of neoliberal capitalism, is a salient reminder of the limits of more organised, hierarchical forms of protest. And any argument which compels me to view again Finding Nemo, Chicken Run and Dude, Where's My Car? has to have merit. Go read...
Centre for Cultural Studies Research
Posted by Andrew Branch at 10:16 am
Monday, 15 August 2011
The recent rioting in England's urban centres has predictably provoked many commentaries, most notably on Facebook and Twitter. The immediacy of social networking sites is understandably attractive to those who watched representations of the events unfold and felt compelled to comment (although such commentary never extended to a critique of the ideological underpinnings of said representations).
This urge to make public one's views is hardly objectionable - and a charitable reading might argue that it at least shows people are politically engaged - but so many of the comments I've read have been steadfastly devoid of any desire to question why people acted in the way they did. In this respect the affective allure of conducting violent acts for those involved in the disturbances - the fleeting thrill of destruction and spectacular consumption in the here and now - has been matched by the sense of smug self-satisfaction commentators appear to have acquired in hitting the share and tweet keys as speedily as possible; a race to see who can post their snap judgement first. The need for wider recognition in this sense was not confined to those youth who saw in the rioting an opportunity to act out mediated fantasies of omnipotence.
Rather than one of reflection, then, the tone has been generally one of moral righteousness, whereby those involved in the violence are denounced unequivically as mindless, amoral thugs. Further, they are represented as 'scum' who, by not behaving in the dignified manner exemplified by previous generations, serve only to tarnish the good name of the deserving working class. Thus, sentimentalised accounts of an earlier epoch - in which anxieties about multiculturalism magically disappear - are set against a contemporary moment in which feckless, celebrity-obsessed youth demonstrate that they are incapable of keeping their heads down and, in a dignified manner, refusing to whinge about their place in the social hierarchy. These rioters are to be loathed too because their actions indicate that they clearly do not value the educational opportunities, health care and housing they've been given access to. At this point, the (absolutely) impoverished Other is usually cited as the real wretched of the earth, by whom these ungrateful, spoilt juveniles should measure themselves against.
What seems so depressing about this line of thinking is the desire to dismiss any notion of poverty being made sense of relationally. Thus, if you're on benefits, get free prescriptions and have a roof over your head, you have no right to behave anti-socially in order to express your anger at the inequalities you're confronted with on a daily basis. The idea that the self-image of England's underclass - normally invisible in public discourse - might be in some way connected to the self-image of those with a stake in society is given short shrift. But actually we are always defining ourselves in relation to others and to suggest otherwise is blague. What seems to irk most commentators, then, is that last week's events suggest that the underclass won't do its job properly and exist quietly in order to make the rest of us feel better about our own relentless pursuit of wealth and status.
Neither will these 'vermin' articulate their desire for material advancement in the appropriate manner - how vulgar that all they can worry about is stealing sportswear and plasma televisions rather than marching in an orderly line to Westminster, carrying banners proclaiming their right to participate fully in society. And to the chagrin of the hypocritical Labour MP, Diane Abbott - Hackney resident and mother of a child educated in the private school system - they couldn't even be bothered to loot Waterstones in order to read a book or two. If only they had done. In the social sciences section (buried in a corner behind the priority sections on celebrity-endorsed tat and formulaic novels) they could have picked up any number of texts pointing out that neo-liberal, free-market capitalists couldn't give a shit about full employment, increased disparity in income or the importance of secure, skilled work for people's sense of self-worth.
As Will Hutton pointed out years ago, in what now seems like a conservative calculation, 40% of our population is in secure employment, 30% is reliant on short-term contracts and temporary work, while the final 30% is eligible for unpaid 'voluntary' work or a life on welfare. In this sense the savage budgetary cuts equals random violence equation is simplistic; the Coalition is extending the inequality that Labour perpetuated. As others have pointed out, Peter Mandelson was echoing the views of Labour senior management when he stated that, 'we [Labour] are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.'
The interesting challenge, then, is how the nihilistic, barely articulable anger of some of our fellow citizens - and, yes, their destructive, violent urges - might be redirected at those in power, at those who should be held accountable. These are the people who consistently argue for cuts over progressive taxation; reduced regulation over accountability, the divisiveness of private education and selection over a well-funded comprehensive system (which, by definition, we've never had) and the 'rights' of the individual over the needs of communities. Their lack of moral fibre in relation to their own conduct speaks volumes. It is also many of these people who cynically capitulated long ago to a vision of the nation state as nothing more than a consumer society in which the pursuit of instant gratification and sensory overload is embraced rather than challenged. If we are to begin a debate about the importance of relocating our collective moral compass, we should do so in the knowledge that the greatest impediment to a just society is inequality.
Two films which I kept being reminded of whilst watching these events unfold are Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine. Both contain key scenes in which marginalised groups confront the other seeking to define them. Perhaps one way in which we can all start to begin to understand the significance of last week's events is to continually remind ourselves that constructing arbitary differences between us in order to shore up our own sense of self worth is, ultimately, a destructive act. This doesn't mean advocating the erosion of individuality, nor does it mean ignoring the material inequalities which divide us. It means simply that true understanding can only be achieved when 'they' become 'us'.
Do the Right Thing (from 5 minutes in)...
Posted by Andrew Branch at 9:17 pm
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Posted by Andrew Branch at 9:47 am
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
I've no idea how I missed Lynne Segal's Straight Sex: the politics of pleasure (Virago, 1994) first time round but I'm making up for it now. It's one of those rare works that actually confronts the key questions and attempts to answer them without recourse to polemical rhetoric. It's an exhilarating read, beautifully written and thus highly recommended.
Posted by Andrew Branch at 9:19 am
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Posted by Andrew Branch at 10:06 am
Friday, 24 June 2011
Monday, 20 June 2011
In addition to working on a monograph on glam rock, I'm in the process of writing a couple of journal articles:
'"I'm a man": the interrelation between social class and softer masculinities in the work of Jarvis Cocker.'
'"Stop flexing your roots, man": social class, habitus and the aesthetics of punk.'
Posted by Andrew Branch at 12:04 pm
I organised a symposium on this topic last week. Excellent speakers and a generous audience. I talked about Jarvis Cocker in relation to social class. I'd like to think he would approve. More details here: http://culturalstudiesresearch.org/?p=727
Posted by Andrew Branch at 11:00 am