Praxes of popular culture

Broj 1 - Godina 9 - 12/2018

Uvodnik

Years after the Frankfurt School, Roland Barthes’s work, Laura Mulvey’s film analysis, The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, various essential books and readers on popular culture, countless conferences and gatherings on popular culture that have taken place all over the world, it may seem that trying to point out the importance of popular culture in yet another scholarly journal is mundane. However, certain phenomena prove that this kind of topic is a necessity: the omnipresence of comic-book adaptations – such as the recent Black Panther phenomenon that has many global and local social, cultural, political, and economic implications, not least through the money-making promotions of certain kinds of active citizenship (NGOs’ promoted voter registration in theaters) – or videogame adaptations and rampant sexism and racism in one of the most successful industries of the day, or constant claims about the connection between mental health issues and video games, as well as the ongoing on- and offline struggle to give the neglected, minor voices their representation in popular products, or the timely #MeToo movement that called out Hollywood first and then almost entire creative industries on violence, coercion, and taking advantage over women. Popular culture is an industry as well as a community; it is profitable and it is marginal; it is equally monumental and trivial. The truth behind one of the most analyzed aspects of human culture today shows that it is ever-changing, transformative, that it is one of the most productive praxes for creators and audience alike, and, in the end, that it has important social, cultural, political, and economic effects, simultaneously producing affects and emotionality. ..

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NOTE: Due to a possible editorial conflict of interest the author did not participate in the editing/publishing process of this issue of the journal.What this analysis proposes is a reevaluation of the crucial, and often neglected, issues of space/place within the Batman opus, concentrating primarily on Batman’s use of various spaces/places in order to enforce control and/or discipline. The study will initially be premised on the use of the Foucauldian discourse regarding the implementation of invisible control and therefore power, structuring its arguments around the theoretical concepts of the dispositive/apparatus as well as Bentham’s Panopticon. The paper will develop the idea of the Batcave as the actual site of control, the starting point of the Foucauldian notion of the “gaze being alert everywhere” (Discipline and Punish 195). Symbolically made visible by the prominent brightness of the Bat-signal, but nevertheless constantly hidden from the eyes of the criminals, the Batcave assures the presence of power that “should be visible and unverifiable” (Foucault, Discipline 201), and therefore exerts discipline. The paper will also address the issue of Crime Alley as a site of inversion by using the theoretical concept of heterotopian space as proposed by Foucault, as well as Gaston Bachelard’s idea of subjective/domestic spaces. Following the idea of a space recoded by tragedy, the analysis will explore the immunity of Crime Alley in relation to Batman’s disciplinary praxis and the Panoptic gaze, as well as its potential to subvert Batman’s “laboratory of power” (Foucault, Discipline 204)....

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The cultural treatment of wagelessness and welfare as its potential relief serves as a potent example of how popular culture has long functioned as a site at which American society articulates and negotiates its anxieties. Observing a recent departure from the figure of the “welfare queen” as the privileged site at which anxieties related to welfare are organized, and linking this change to the neoliberal transformations of welfare in the United States introduced by the 1996 reform, this paper adopts a Foucauldian approach to the issue of government in order to set the ground for an analysis of contemporary films which negotiate the conditions of wageless life in what has often been termed a post-welfare society. Looking at Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Florida Project as illustrative of a broader representational trend, this paper examines the role of popular culture in negotiating social changes by exploring the ways in which the two films negotiate dominant discourses of personal responsibility and work opportunity through the newly emergent figure of the “surplus population.”...

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The television series Lost uses the motif of time travel to consider the problem of human free will, following the tradition of Humean compatibilism in asserting that human beings possess free will in a deterministic universe. This paper reexamines Lost’s final mystery, the “Flash Sideways” world, presenting a revisionist view of the show’s conclusion that figures the Flash Sideways as an outcome of time travel. By considering the perspectives of observers who exist both within time and outside of it, the paper argues that the characters of Lost changed their destinies, even though the rules of time travel in Lost’s narrative assert that history cannot be changed.Keywords: Lost, time travel, Hume, free will, compatibilismMy purpose in this paper is twofold. First, I intend to argue that ABC’s Lost follows a tradition of science fiction in using time travel to consider the problem of human free will, making an original contribution to the debate by invoking a narrative structure previously unseen in time travel stories. I hope to show that Lost, a television show that became increasingly invested in questions over free will and fate as the series progressed, makes a case for free will in the tradition of Humean compatibilism, asserting that human beings possess free will even in a deterministic world....

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NOTE: Due to a possible editorial conflict of interest the author did not participate in the editing/publishing process of this issue of the journal.When considering the complexity and intricacy of Japanese history, as well as the endless innovation and colorfulness which defined, over the centuries, the development of martial arts in Japan, a potential reader might be a bit skeptical about the ability to pick up just one book and find a clear, well-structured, and informative overview of a large portion of Japanese history. However, Alexander Bennett in his book titled Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide manages to do just that. Starting with a somewhat obvious and unavoidable chapter on the actual and metaphoric meaning/value of the samurai, Bennett initiates a narrative journey that, through its approximately 150 pages, never falters in conveying the main issues and pinpointing various crucial historical turning points. By opening with a self-explanatory title to the first chapter – “Who were the Samurai?” – Bennett colloquially dives into the historical intricacies of the Japanese bushi (samurai), initially defined by their elite warrior status, only to become the ruling class of Japan in the period from the 12th to the 19th century. While relying on various illustrations, directly or indirectly related to the subject at hand (a narrative dynamic present through the entire text), the author manages not only to provide a succinct overview of some of the major samurai-era figures and occurrences, but he also enriches the discourse with numerous historical trivia facts, successfully avoiding in such a way the dangers of an overly static historical recount. Perhaps the most interesting segment within this samurai/male-based narrative is the one focusing on the outcasts – women warriors, the ronins (samurais without a “master”), and the popularized and (unnecessarily) mystified ninjas. It is within this segment that the author’s academic and real-life experience comes to life and becomes articulated through a series of verbal sketches which properly contextualize the various mythical and cultural approaches to Japanese history. This analytic tone continues in the following two chapters as well. The strongly titled chapters “Core Concepts of Bushido” and “Killing as an Art Form” necessitate a lighter narrative tone not only due to the attempt to simplify complex philosophical and existential paradigms, but also to more successfully expose the intricate cultural undertones which characterize Japanese martial traditions. Ranging from the highly-ritualized seppuku (ritual suicide) to politics, literature and, finally, to martial arts schools and the aesthetic of death, Bennett touches upon a number of critical moments and concepts, and by doing so, he traces an evolutionary path of the samurai thought all the way up to its modern incarnations. The fourth chapter, “Martial Arts in Japan Today,” summarizes the previously described traditions, folklore, and philosophies into Budo – the martial ways of Japan. Developed around the idea of self-cultivation through discipline and dedicated training, Budo becomes, through the narrative of the author, not only a path to self-perfection but also an educational tool, as well as an active narrative, developed and modernized with the aim of internationally promoting Japan. Although this chapter could mark a logical conclusion to the narrative arc of the book, Bennett opts for two additional chapters titled “Life in a Japanese Dojo” and “Surviving Japan.” It is with these two chapters that the title of the book itself becomes much clearer. Instead of a potentially structurally rigid (although humorous) history lesson, the author reaches for years of his own personal experience in living, training, and working in Japan. The result is a fascinating, although unfortunately brief rundown of rules, traditions, and customs to which a non-Japanese ind...

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