Black Women and Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Discussions

For this week’s discussion prompt consider the involvement of black women in the CivilRights Movement and Black Power. What roles did they play? How did they organize? Write
100-250 words. Make sure to reference the readings, and bring your own insights. Respond to
at least one other student in the class to get the discussion going. This will be due before the
next class.
In ‘Culturalism,’ the third chapter of Cultural Theory and Popular Culture
(6th edition), John Storey takes a look at the work of several foundational
thinkers in the field of cultural studies.
For the first discussion thread, I would like to ask you to choose one of the
scholars whose work is described in this chapter and 1) summarize the
significance of their contribution to the study of popular culture and 2) tell
us what you find most interesting, surprising, challenging or disagreeable
about this author’s contribution.
Please choose one of the following:
Richard Hoggart, pg. 38-43
Raymond Williams, pg. 44-48
E.P. Thompson, pg. 49-51
Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel, pg. 51-56
Be sure to organize your posts into paragraphs! No posts should be just
one big block of text. Each post should be at least two paragraphs. In this
case, for example, it would make sense to address the first part of the
prompt in the first paragraph and the second part in the second paragraph.
S i X
Bridging Students to
the Movement
BY THK E A R L Y 19608, student-organized protests were spreading to southern cities
such as Nashville, Tennessee, and Greensboro, North Carolina. The direct-action
events in Greensboro precipitated by four students—–Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin
McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, all of North Carolina Agricultural
and Technical College—received widespread media attention and created a rash
of similar sit-ins at: lunch counters throughout the South. With the momentum
of these events in mind and frustrated by the dominance of ministers within the
SCl.c, Miss Ella Baker turned her energies to the development of a national student
movement organization. She believed thai student activists across the South would
benefit from contact with one another, and she discussed her idea with the SCLC.
Baker comments about the need to coordinate the sit-ins:
It hadn’t gone on so long before I suggested that, we call a conference of the sitinners. . . . It was very obvious to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that
there was tittle or no communication between those who sat in, say, in Charlotte,
North Carolina, and those who sat in at some other place in Virginia or Alabama.
They were motivated by what the North Carolina (our had started, but they were
not in contact with each other. . . . You couldn’t build a sustaining force just based
on spontaneity.’
Miss Baker began the process of bridging the students to one another and to
the movement as a whole. She sent announcements to college campuses regarding
a conference that was to take place on April 15-17, 1960, at Shaw University in
Raleigh, North Carolina. Baker and Dr. King did not agree on the selection of
the keynote speaker. Miss Baker had selected Reverend James Lawson, known for
his rapport with the Nashville students and his commitment to nonviolence, while
Dr. King wanted a speaker from the SCLC, who would encourage the students to
form an organization that would be an arm of the SCLC. Miss Baker recalls:
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference felt that they could influence how
things went [with the students]. They were interested in having the students become
an arm of SCLC. They were most confident that this would be their baby, because I
[was the one who] called the meeting. . . . Well, I disagreed. I wasn’t one to say yes,
because it came from the Reverend King. So when it was proposed, that [SCLC]
could influence . . . what [the students] wanted done, I was outraged. I walked out. 2
Though Reverend Lawson was the keynote speaker, the issue of student sovereignty was hotly debated. The compromise eventually reached accepted that the
student organization would not become an arm of the SCLC, but added that Dr.
King would join Miss Baker and Reverend Lawson as one of its advisors. The
meeting in Raleigh was a great success, with attendance exceeding expectations.
Instead of the one hundred youth expected to attend, there were approximately
three hundred. Black and White students attended the conference representing
many colleges and student groups from both the North and the South. The students decided to establish a committee with representatives from each organization
or college.’ Three times as many men as women were chosen delegates. However,
it was the women who provided the groundwork necessary for the establishment
of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
SNCC set up office in an unused portion of the SCLC headquarters in Atlanta.
Jane Stembridge, a White student at the Union Theological Seminary in New
York, volunteered to work in the office for a small stipend. The goal of SNCC was
to dispense information and act as a clearinghouse for protest activity. The group
published a newsletter that kept student activists abreast of interstate protest work.
Marion Barry, an active participant in nonviolent demonstrations in Nashville
at Fisk University, was elected chair of the coordinating committee.4 Diane Nash,
who was president of the Nashville student movement, served as a member of this
coordinating committee composed of student representatives. Also in attendance
were several adult leaders from various organizations including CORE, SCLC, YWCA,
ACLU, the National Student Association (NSA), and the NAACP. 5 Generally, there
were more men in attendance and they dominated discussions, though several
women were quite vocal.6 The most vocal women were either those who came to
SNCC with status from participation in local activist groups or those who, through
their activism in SNCC, proved themselves to be courageous. That most women
remained less vocal in meetings than men should not obscure the fact that their
activities were essential to the development of a solid base from which SNCC was
to operate.
In addition to creating SNCC’s structure, Ella Baker contributed her clear philosophy regarding leadership, goals, and tactics. Many of Baker’s ideas were formed
during the Harlem Renaissance. In the twenties and thirties, Harlem flourished
with writers, poets, and other intellectuals discussing the plight of Black people in
America. Some wondered whether black people would have a better life in a
communist or socialist state. Baker took part in many of these discussions. She
comments: “Wherever there was a discussion, I’d go. It didn’t matter if it was all
men, and maybe I was the only woman . . . it didn’t matter. . . . New York was the
hotbed of radical thinking.” 7
At the outset of the Depression, Baker went to work for a Harlem newspaper
and met George Schuyler, a prominent Black newspaper writer. She and Schuyler
were not willing to sit back and watch as Black people struggled to feed and clothe
themselves. They developed a cooperative in Harlem so that people could obtain
necessities below cost. The ideal of mutual assistance and communal support was
central to Baker’s notions of activism. She did not believe that leaders should
define a movement, and she often stated that “strong movements don’t need strong
leaders.” Instead, her focus was on development of community leadership and
grassroots mobilization.8 Baker’s views became central to the operation of SNCC.
Early in SNCC’s development, conflicts arose between student groups. The Fisk
University and Howard University students were more articulate than the other
southern university students and tended to dominate discussions. Students from
Fisk had already experienced direct confrontations with the police and had the
benefit of Reverend Lawson’s nonviolent teachings. The groups were not simply
divided by experience and articulation, however, but also by philosophical orientation. The Nashville group believed in nonviolent direct action while another
contingency supported political action—that is, voter registration. Tensions arose
over who would be the chairman; it was suggested that SNCC divide, but Miss Ella
Baker intervened to prevent such an action. She recalled:
It was one of the few times, I suppose, that I had anything to say in terms of that
type of discussion. I usually tried to present whatever participation I had in terms of
questions and try to get people to reach certain decisions by questioning some of the
things themselves. But in this instance I made a little plea against splitting, pointing
out the history of organizations among black people and the multiplicity of organizations and the lack of effectiveness as a result of this, to the extent that they decide[dj against it. … g
Because of her extensive experience, Miss Ella Baker gained immediate respect
from the students. She encouraged them to think for themselves and did not
attempt to dominate. With Ella Baker’s guidance, it was decided that rotating
the chairmanship would ease some of the tensions between groups and would
prevent a single “strongman” from usurping power. Unlike the centralization
of power within the other movement organizations, SNCC was a decentralized
organization. There were rotating chairs and an executive committee. The official
positions within SNCC, much like those in other movement organizations, were
dominated by men, but women in SNCC were more visible and held more power
than those in other organizations. These differences are attributable to Miss Ella
Baker, whose emphasis on group-centered leadership required that decisions be
made through group consensus. Such a consensus automatically included women’s
input. As Carol Mueller, in her description of Ella Baker’s philosophy, states:
the emphasis on participation had many implications, but three have been primary:
( i ) an appeal for grassroots involvement of people throughout society in the decisions
that control their lives; (2) the minimalization of hierarchy and the associated emphasis on expertise and professionalism as a basis for leadership; and (3) a call for
direct action as an answer to fear, alienation, and intellectual detachment.’ 0
This emphasis 011 group participation and the decentralization of power in the
decision-making process created an environment in which everyone was expected
to participate fully, even women. This tended to mitigate, though not eliminate,
traditional beliefs that had encouraged deference to males or ministers as leaders
because, even if one held the belief, one was expected to participate.
Yet there is still a disparity that needs clarification. Though the women in SNCC
held considerable power, here too they were not part of the primary formal leadership. Although SNCC’s decentralized structure prevented the development of
oligarchy—rulership by the few—it did not ensure that power was any less gender
determined than that of the centralized organizations. Though their philosophy
was one of group-centered leadership, visibility was still heavily dictated by traditional beliefs about the legitimacy of male authority. Even SNCC, with its decentralized structure and relatively decentralized power relations, was dominated
by male leaders. As Faye Bellamy states,
1 think there was a hierarchy. I think there was more than one, let me say that. I
think that hierarchies oftentimes come from personalities and charisma of various
individuals. So in SNCC there was a Foreman kind of hierarchy. There was a Stokely
kind of hierarchy. [A] Bob Moses kind of hierarchy . . . ”
According to Bellamy and other interviewees, three distinct groups emerged
through which power was organized. While these power groups each formed around
a male leader, taken as a whole women had greater access to organizational power
here than in groups where power was centralized around one key figure. Even
within SNCC:, men were perceived as the representative leaders by both men and
women. As Diane Nash states:
Before the women’s movement, men and women tended to see the males as naturally
in leadership positions. . . . The thing that we didn’t do is to take the out-front positions, and when the TV cameras were around I know I for one and I think many
other women were content to let the men who were interested in dealing with the
press be with the press.’3
However, because of the townhouse, “consensus required” nature of decision
making, and the relatively decentralized nature of leadership, a few women were
able to become secondary formal bridge leaders, though many remained community
bridge leaders. Yet the secondary formal bridge leadership tier was gendered. Men
in this position, though working just as their female counterparts, could advance
to the primary formal bridge leadership tier. However, despite the lack of primary
formal leadership positions, women did enjoy greater power in this organization
than in primary formal and secondary formal organizations.
Moreover, the organization possessed many powerful women leaders, and Diane
Nash was one. Nash became a key figure in the development of SNCC and the
movement in general. Committed to the philosophy and principles of nonviolence,
she and fellow Fisk student Peggi Alexander outlined the purposes of SNCC in a
paper entitled “Non-Violence Speaks to the Movement.” This paper included
recommendations on ways that SNCC should approach protest.’3
Reverend Lawson, a member of King’s inner circle, has been credited by numerous scholars with producing SNCC’s statement of purpose; an early SNCC newsletter indicates that Lawson prepared the statement himself. No credit is given to
either Diane Nash or Peggi Alexander. Certainly Lawson, who conducted nonviolence workshops with college students, influenced the philosophy of SNCC;
nevertheless, Nash and Alexander’s handwritten document clearly contributed a
great deal to the organization’s statement of purpose. Once again, this demonstrates
the visibility differential between formal leaders and those who work as bridge
leaders, behind the scenes. By her writing arid through the several nonviolence
workshops she led during the SNCC conferences Nash set the tone for the strategies
and tactics employed by SNCC’s membership.
Diane Nash, a much younger woman than Ella Baker, was a formal local community bridge leader whose capacity to lead placed her well on her way to becoming a professional bridge leader. The initial respect of her activist peers was gained
because of her activities in the Nashville movement as the organizer and leader
of several protests. She recalls:
I ran into some real problems in terms of being the only woman at the stage where
we were just, setting SNCC up as an organization. It was really rough not being just
one of the guys. They did tend to look at me that way. However, they had to tolerate
me because I had such a strong local base in Nashville, and at that time I had gotten
probably more publicity than any other student in the movement and had been on
the cover of Jet magazine a couple of times and things like that, . . .
Even though they disagreed a lot of times, they tolerated me because they didn’t
want me to say that these guys just really aren’t okay. I had a real good image because
I took truth and love seriously, the basic tenets of non-violence. And people who
knew me and worked with me knew that and so my word would tend to be taken
seriously. I was taken seriously by a lot. of people. That’s what’s helped me. . . . [Otherwise] they’d have wiped me out.’ 4
However, as had happened during the development of the M I A , most of the
women rank and file found themselves listening to men. In the momentumbuilding years, one of the central factors contributing to a woman’s acceptance as
a leader was her record of previous actions, which needed to be of an extraordinary
nature. However, as the organization grew and the number of projects increased,
women’s leadership options expanded.
Community Bridge Leaders as Temporary Formal Leaders
During its formation, SNCC was primarily a men’s organization: no women served
on the field staff. During an interview, one respondent pointed out that while most
mothers would be reluctant to have their sons participate in SNCC, they would
adamantly oppose their daughters doing so. This particular female volunteer was
disowned for her active participation.’ 5 In correspondence sent to the SNCC office
in 1962, a prospective female volunteer wrote:
Many of us are interested in the possibility of going to the South but are hesitant
because from the information we have received about SNCC we could find only male
students’ names in the accounts of students working there.’6
In response, Julian Bond, a SNCC field secretary, replied:
Although we do not presently have any girls on our field staff, we do have a very
capable office manager who is very female. Diane Nash one of the leaders of the
Nashville Student Movement, was a leader on SNCC’s staff until her recent marriage.
Glen Green, Joy Reagan, Bertha Gober, and other college girls have been members
of the staff in the past as well. . . . In addition, let me say that if we were able to hire
a girl to type some of our correspondence, I wouldn’t have made as many mistakes
as I have. 17
However, many more women began to join SNCC and their positions began to
change in February 1961, when students in Rock Hill, South Carolina, were arrested. Among them were several women whose reputations as loyal activists would
elevate their power in SNCC. Hearing of the arrests, four SNCC workers—Diane
Nash, Charles Sherrod, Ruby Doris Smith, and Charles Jones—traveled to Rock
Hill to stage a sit-in as a show of solidarity. Before 1961, SNCC had initiated no
formal group actions; in their capacity as a clearinghouse, they dispensed whatever
information about protests they could come by through the “Student Voice,” their
newsletter. When the SNCC workers were arrested in Rock Hill, they decided to
follow their comrades’ example by choosing to serve their full thirty-day jail term.
In this way use of the “jail-no-bail” tactic gained momentum. Other organizations
began to use this approach for arrests of their members, conserving badly needed
money for uses other than bail.’ 8
During 1961, CORE began development of a project called the Freedom Rides,
in which a busload of Black and White activists would tide from Washington,
D.C., to New Orleans to test the desegregation of local bus and transportation
facilities. The goal was to force the southern states to comply with the 1960
Suptcme Court decision banning segregation on interstate trains and buses. Moreover, they were challenging the segregated facilities in the terminals, rest rooms,
and lunch counters that served the passengers. The first ride took place on May
4, 1961 and proceeded through the South without much difficulty until it reached
the Rock Hill, South Carolina, terminal. There two of the Black male riders were
beaten by a mob of White men for attempting to use the rest rooms designated
for White men only. They continued the rides, however, making it safely through
stops in Winnsboro, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. After a stop in Atlanta, they thought it best to divide up, with half of the Freedom Riders boarding
a Greyhound bus and the other half a Trailways bus. When they reached Birmingham, Alabama, a mob tore into the riders, beating them severely. Many were
near death. Ruby Doris Smith, a participant, in the rides and later a central figure
in SNCC, recalls the request for federal protection prior to the attacks.
I remember Diane Nash called the Department of Justice from Nashville, and Lormie
King—you know he was head of the Atlanta student movement—also called the
Department. Roth of them asked the federal government to give protection to the
Freedom Riders on the rest of their journey. Arid in both cases the Justice Department
said no, they couldn’t protect anyone, but if something happened, they would investigate. You know how they do. . . . “J
Eugene “Bull” Connor, Birmingham’s commissioner of public safety, was known
for his intolerance of Black civil rights. (As discussed in chapter 4, Ruby Hurley
had encountered him during her work in the 19508.) Police were not sent to the
mob scene for nearly a half hour. Though the CORE riders were unable to continue,
Diane Nash phoned Reverend Shuttlesworth, a leader in Birmingham and part of
King’s inner circle, to insist that the rides continue. She told Shuttlesworth, “The
students have decided that we can’t let violence overcome. We are going to come
into Birmingham to continue the Freedom Ride.” Shuttlesworth responded,
“Young lady do you know that the Freedom Riders were almost killed?” She replied, “Yes, that’s exactly why the rides must not be stopped. If they stop us with
violence, the movement is dead. We’re coming; we just want to know if you can
meet us.”20 Spontaneous decisions were often made by community bridge leaders
during moments of crisis, when they were propelled into temporary formal leadership positions. Many felt that “the spontaneity was as important as being organized.”21
Diane Nash organized a group of Nashville students to begin a ride to Birmingham. Emotions ran high as the students who volunteered contemplated the
consequences of continuing the rides. Lucretia Collins, one of the volunteers,
recounts her decision to join the rides:
I could see how strongly someone would have to be dedicated because at this point
we didn’t know what was going to happen. We thought thai some of us would be
killed. We certainly thought that some of us, if not all of us, would be severely
injured. At any moment I was expecting anything. I was expecting the worst and
hoping for the best. 22
Diane Nash explained the high emotions of the riders:
These people faced the probability of their own deaths before they ever left Nashville.
. . . Several made out wills. A few more gave me sealed letters to be mailed if they
were killed. Some told me frankly that they were afraid, but knew this was something
that they must do because freedom was worth it.23
Although realistically afraid and contemplating their own deaths, the students
overcame their fears and continued the rides. Eight student volunteers hoarded
the bus, were stopped on the outskirts of Birmingham, jailed for a night, and driven
by the police chief, “Bull” Connor, to the Tennessee border. Nash and others
returned to Nashville and assembled even more students to ride to Birmingham.
Ruby Doris Smith joined the group in Birmingham, and they struggled to persuade
a bus driver to take them on to Montgomery. This time, the Kennedy administration convinced Alabama’s Governor Patterson to send police to escort the bus
from the outskirts of Montgomery to its bus terminal. The police kept their word
until the city limits were reached, then disappeared. When the bus pulled into the
terminal, it was met by hundreds of angry Whites brandishing clubs and baseball
bats. Several Freedom Riders were severely beaten.
That evening Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church hosted a gathering to
honor the Freedom Riders, at which Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Diane Nash, and
John Lewis (another SNCC leader) held a press conference. Though King rallied
in support of the rides and supported their decision to continue, he did not join
the riders as they continued to Jackson, Tennessee. SNCC activists were increasingly becoming disillusioned with Dr. King’s decisions.
Off the record, SNCC member Julian Bond bluntly voiced the growing student perception of King: “He has been losing since he left Montgomery. He lost when he
didn’t go on the Freedom Ride when the students begged him to go on the Freedom
Ride and he didn’t go. I think he’s been losing for a long time. And I think eventually
that more Negroes and more white Americans will become disillusioned with him,
and find that he after all is only another preacher who can talk well.’ “34
Within the movement sector, SNCC operated much as a bridging organization.
The primary goal of SNCC was to develop leadership within each community
of entry. They did not want to act as leaders for the community. While the
SCLC did some of this, as in the case of the Citizenship Education Program, its
primary objective was to mobilize communities in an organized and nonviolent
fashion with the ultimate goal of securing state legitimacy and support. Dr. King
became the legitimate voice of the movement, and he was the central figure around
which the movement revolved. Yet his decisions could not be made without
careful consideration of the state’s response. Consequently, SNCC and the SCLC
were often at odds because of their distinctly opposing foci and philosophies of
leadership. James Forman, in The Making of Black Revolutionaries, states: “I recalled
. . . King’s statement that he was not going to take a Freedom Ride because he
was then on probation and his advisors had told him it would be unwise.” He
HOW I . O K C i f ]-H”)W L O N G ?
r’.vcn Diane Nasb, who had strong convictions but tried not to speak evil of anyone,
expressed a mixed, opinion of Or, King. “I Ic’s a good man but as a symbol of this
movement, lie leaves a lot to lie desired. Me lias been affected by a lot of middleclass standards. J i lie. wanted t.o, lie could really do something about the South. He
could go to Jackson and t e l l diose people wiry they should participate in and support
the Freedom Rides.””‘
As a community bridge leader, Nash was able to come to the fore when the
formal leadership was either unable or unwilling to risk alienating their legitimacy
with the state. Because she was without such responsibilities, Nash could acknowledge and build upon the emotions of the masses. At that time, the momentum of
the movement depended on. the continuation of the Freedom Rides. They had
become a critical factor in mobilizing support from mainstream America, who
watched the coverage of the horrible beatings on the evening news.
Angered by the police betrayal, the Kennedy administration sent in federal
marshals to protect the riders on the last legs of the journey through Meridian and
Jackson, Mississippi, io Mew Orleans. The following morning a bus left for Jackson,
escorted by National Guardsmen. Upon a nival, the riders attempted to use the
all-White facilities and were arrested. Frank Holloway describes the scene:
When we got there we met several men in ten-gallon hats, looking like something
out of an old Western, with rides in their hands, staring at us. . . . Soon they took
us oul to a i’ooni, boys on one side and girls on the other. One by one they took us
into another room (or questioning. . . . ) hete were about eight guards with sticks in
their hands in the second room and the Freedom Kider being questioned was surrounded by these men. Outside we could hear the questions and the, thumps and
whacks, and sometimes a quick groan or a. c i y . . . . I hey heat several riders who didn’t
say “Yes, sir. . . .” Reverend (”. I . Vivian ol Chattanooga was beaten pretty bad. be came out be had blood streaming from his head. . . . We could hear somebody slap a girl Freedom Rider, and her quick l i t t l e scream. . . . She was about five
feet tali and. woie glasses •-”
Ruby Doris Smith and others were sentenced to prison for their activities. The
first two weeks of her sentence were spent in a four-bunk cell with twenty-three
others. Though crowded, the conditions were not as dismal as those in Parchmen,
where she spent the next six weeks of her sentence. Here they were stripped,
issued clothing, and placed in cells with hardened criminals. The cells were filthy
and infested with bugs. In the Minds County jail, they had been allowed to sing;
here they had to remain quiet under the threats o( the guards, who removed
mattresses for such infractions. Many women refused to comply and spent several
nights on steel springs, while cold air was deliberately blown into the cells.27
just like their male comrades, women risked their lives for the movement. Some
even risked the lives of their children. Diane Mash, who married SCLC Field Secretary James Bevel, was four months’ pregnant when she was brought to trial in
Jackson., Mississippi, for “contributing to the delinquency of minors.” Her offense
was teaching workshops on nonviolence io young Black children. Instead of plead-
ing guilty and accepting a fine, she allowed the charges to go to trial. She was
sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, but served only ten days. Prior to Dr. King’s
arrest in Albany, he stated his intention to remain in jail without bond, but within
hours of his arrest he allowed a bond to be posted for his release. Many members
of SNCC were deeply disappointed with King’s action, and Diane Nash Bevel ad’
dresses this issue in a memo describing her decision to serve a full two-year term
rather than to accept bail. She wrote:
I believe that the time has come, and is indeed long past, when each of us must
make up his mind, when arrested on unjust charges, to serve his sentence and stop
posting bonds. 1 believe that unless we do this our movement loses its power and
will never succeed. We in the nonviolent movement have been talking about jail
without bail for two years or more. It is time for us to mean what we say. . . . If we
do not do so, we lose our opportunity to reach the community and society with a
great moral appeal and thus bring about basic changes in people and in society. . . .
I think we all realize what it would mean if we had hundreds and thousands of people
across the South prepared to go to jail and stay. There can be no doubt that our
battle would be won. . . . We have faltered and hesitated. . . . I can no longer cooperate with the evil and corrupt court system of this state. Since rny child will be a
black child born in Mississippi, whether I am in jail or not he will be born in prison.
I believe that if I go to jail now it may help hasten the day when my child and all
children will be free—not only on the day of their birth but for all their lives/ 8
Dr. King’s decisions, while a disappointment to those in SNCC, were made
based, in part, on consideration of his image in the eyes of the state. King and
the SCLC needed to remain credible. This was, after all, a movement for inclusion,
and recent civil rights legislation and court decisions indicated some support for
the movement by those in power. It was critical that King not alienate his state
supporters. His primary task was to maintain a balance between the needs of the
movement and the judgment of the state.
An obvious strength of the community bridge leadership tier was their relative autonomy. The emotions and the spontaneity so critical to movement momentum and mobilization could be harnessed by community bridge leaders.
Moreover, this freedom in leadership served constantly to remind formal leaders
of the flesh-and-blood constituency they represented. Nash’s decision to remain
in jail undoubtedly influenced Dr. King’s decision to remain in jail after his sentencing in Albany, Georgia.29 This symbiosis between the formal and bridge
leader tiers ensured that movement momentum would not be sacrificed to governmental reluctance.
Community Bridge Leaders as Secondary Formal Leaders
In addition to their spontaneous leadership during moments of crisis, community
bridge leaders took on more formal leadership positions as the movement grew.
By the summer of 1964, SNCC had begun its Freedom Summer program, which
established thirty-one Freedom Schools across the state of Mississippi, swelling the
number of volunteers to nearly one thousand. 3 ” This ambitious expansion required
an increase in the number of field workers who could supervise the activities of
these novices. With the greater need for seasoned supervisors, women began to
gain titled positions with greater responsibility over the activities of others. Early
in SNCC’s development, most women were less vocal in meetings, but by [964
women seemed to participate fully by setting the agenda, making proposals, and
guiding the discussions, though men still chaired meetings and initiated discussions
to a greater extent than did women. Although Ella Baker, Ruby Doris Smith
Robinson, and Diane Nash Bevel were always considered a part of the leadership,
and women such as Gweri Robinson, Prathia Hall Wynti, Muriel Tillinghast, Cynthia Washington, Lois Rogers, and Mary Lane as community bridge leaders were
considered essential to 8NCC operations, the sharp increase in demands upon leadership resources placed these respected and capable women in new positions of
responsibility and power as secondary formal bridge leaders.3′
With the exception of Ella Baker, Diane Nash Bevel, and Ruby Doris Smith
Robinson, most of the newly arrived cadre of women leaders came to SNGC after
its first few years of operation. From the beginning, a core of males remained
central in various positions of power. Such men leaders as James Forman, John
Lewis, Marion Barry, Bob Moses, Worth Long, Court!and Cox, Ivanhoe Donaldson, and later Stokely Carmichael were either chairs of SNGC or representatives
on the Executive Committee. While this is an important factor, since “longevity
was the standard by which people were chosen for leadership,”3′- it. still remains
that women did not acquire comparable titled positions, despite longevity. Instead,
women tended to rotate in or out of the Executive Committee positions and to
align themselves with primary formal leader Forman, Moses, or Carmichael.33 Muriel Tillinghast, one of the most vocal and powerful secondary formal bridge leaders, felt that “then: was a band of people right, around [the core].” This band
included many women community bridge leaders and the few secondary formal
bridge leaders.
Though women were viewed as capable and many participated in ways that
endangered their lives, titled positions remained gender based. In .1964, the Atlanta staff, which included Administration, the “Student Voice,” Photography Department, Research Department, Northern Coordination, Southern Coordination,
Communications, office managers, telephone operators, Financial Department,
Freedom Singers, arid the category listed in SNCG papers as “others” were generally
headed by men. Similarly, the office managers and telephone operators were supervised by men.
Carol Merritr was the only woman in Administration; she directed the education program. The executive secretary, program director, administrative assistant,
chairman, Freedom Summer coordinator were all men. There were no women on
the staff of the “Student Voice.” At the most, one or two women worked in each
area within SNOG, with the exception of the telephone operators and the Financial
Department, which were exclusively women.
Listed in that “others” category mentioned above was Ruby Doris Smith Robinson’s position, in charge of personnel. 34 While she was responsible for hiring and
firing volunteers, and for signing the checks dispersed to the various SNCG projects,
giving her a great deal of power, she had no formal title.35 There were also women
campus travelers who solicited funds and volunteers. These included Jean Wheeler,
Enoch Johnson, Joyce Brown, and Judy Richardson.36
A 1964 Atlanta office list of job descriptions and personnel clearly illustrates
that job title and job descriptions adhered to gender-based divisions of labor. For
example, the executive director, the office manager, and the staff coordinator were
all men. The descriptions of their jobs included words that indicated authority
over others, such as supervises and directs, while women’s job descriptions, such as
those of Forman’s secretary and of the women coordinators, included the verbs
answers and handles, connoting production rather than leadership. The receptor of
women’s authority was generally an object, namely correspondence.37
In a 1964 office staff meeting, Horace Julian Bond, the director of communications, indicated his dislike of working with women and was honored with the
appointment of a male as his coworker. As the staff minutes state, “Julian doesn’t
like working with women. . . . Would like to have Mike Sayer as requested earlier.”
Given that this was before the women’s movement, there was no attempt to confront this issue by either the men or women present at the meeting.38 Later that
year, in an Executive Committee meeting that included four women and fourteen
men, the group discussed the possibility of training a SNCC member to become a
fund-raiser. In the minutes of this meeting, Forman suggested:
Let’s discuss whether we should have someone from own ranks or hire someone for
lots of money. This person should have “internal drive,” should be someone who
feels fundraising is very important, who is willing to learn and who can move into
cities and move the people there, who will attend to details, who will travel, who
won’t dump the program because of a commitment to be in the South. Ivanhoe
[Donaldson] could do this. . . .
Some discussion on the person to fill this job. T. Brown asked if it had to he a
male and suggested Prathia [Hall Wynn]. John Lewis suggested we refer the names
to a committee but Forman thought it was too important a question to be referred
to committee. Forman mentioned that male would be better since job involved living
virtually out of a suitcase.M
Clearly, gender-based assumptions governed decisions regarding certain jobs.
Yet women’s leadership was never viewed as unimportant by either women or men.
Rather than extinguishing their desire to lead, women shaped their participation
in ways that sustained their feelings of empowerment and complemented the efforts
of primary formal bridge leaders.
Women, Power, and Titled Positions
Within SNCC, women often avoided titled positions. Such positions were gendered
even though the structure was decentralized—that is, titled positions meant office
work. Since women could type and men generally could not, women would end
up doing the typing. Within SNCC, the combination of an emphasis on grassroots
leadership and the decentralization of decision making created an atmosphere
I 10
where women could lead as long as the position was entitled or was given a unique
title (though a few women, as discussed, did hold titled leadership positions). Yet
titles in SNCC were relatively unimportant because the absence of a title or a
relatively unimportant title did not mean one lacked power.
Many of my respondents stated that women did not want to be relegated to
the office but preferred to work in the field. One respondent recalls, “If you had
a title, you were in the office.” 40 It is important to recognize that, for women,
titled positions often translated to less power, while the titled positions for men
often signified greater decision-making power. If a woman was titled, her duties
would be restricted to clerical activities. On the other hand, when she participated
without a title, her workload could more easily stretch beyond the duties contained
in her job description. In other words, it was unsuitable for a woman to hold a
titled position with an undue amount of power. Women could have the power
without the title or the title without the power.
That titles failed to reflect women’s authority in the movement is clearly illustrated by those given to Diane Nash, Miss Ella Baker, and Ruby Doris Smith
Robinson. In Nash’s case, her titled position of office manager completely disregarded her repeated leadership during moments of crisis. Miss Baker was an outside
consultant, though clearly her influence dominated and created SNCC’s structure
and philosophy. Like Miss Baker, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson’s position as personnel manager and bursar was uniquely buried, placed in the “others” category.
Women leaders wasted no energy challenging these inequalities, aware of the
vastly greater goal all those in the movement pursued. Cognizant of the fact that
titles restricted their leadership opportunities, women chose to either avoid them
or ignore the restrictions imposed by their titles.
Women preferred to work in the field, though here, too, they did not often
hold titles. Still, such positions allowed for more autonomy. They worked at canvassing in local communities and on a day-to-day basis were able to make decisions
within the local community. Canvassing included finding out: what was on people’s
minds—what kinds of things they would like to see done; getting individuals to
register to vote; and recruiting individuals for local demonstrations.
Few women became project directors or secondary leaders, though more were
appointed to the position at the beginning of the 1964 Freedom Summer. Between
1964 and 1965, of the fifty staff in Mississippi, there were twelve women. In
Mississippi, southwest Georgia, and Alabama, there were twenty-nine project directors, seven of whom were women. These included Muriel Fillinghast in Greenville, Mississippi; Mary Lane in Greenwood, Mississippi; Willie Ester McGee in
Itta Bena, Mississippi (she worked alongside Stokely Carmichael who was the
district director); Mary Sue Gellatly in Shaw, Mississippi; Lois Rogers in Cleveland, Mississippi; Cynthia Washington in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and Gwen
Robinson in Laurel, Mississippi. Women project directors did not generally supervise more than one field worker, while most men supervised three or more.41 Additionally, some of the women received the position because no man was willing
or able to take it on. Muriel Tillinghast, for example, received her position after
Charlie Cobb, her friend, decided to move on. Tillinghast had had movement
leadership experience as a member of N A G in Washington, D.C. prior to her
involvement in SNCC. Later she would become project director in Jackson, Mississippi, in an equally spontaneous way. Tillinghast elaborates:
Jesse Morris, in the Jackson office where COl-‘O [Council of Federated Organizations]
was headquartered, announced that he was giving up running the office. He was
exhausted. He had been working, I guess, for the better part of a year. Anyhow, he
said that if anyone wanted to take over, he’d be leaving on such and such a day by
12 o’clock. I drifted in on that day to see what the story was. Turns out thai I was
the only one who showed up, and Jesse handed me the keys and left. . . . By the
time[I] got to Jackson, the major civil rights organizations had pulled their people
and their money out. 1 guess the killings . . . really frightened a lot of people.1’
In 1963, under extremely dangerous conditions, another powerful community
bridge leader, Prathia Hall Wynn, though not on the official roster of project
directors, became head of the project in Selma. Hall Wynn explains:
Jim Forman and 1 (and ! don’t even know why 1 was asked to go, but Jim asked me)
went to Selma. it was an extremely dangerous time. I remember the first mass meeting
and how the church had been ringed by the sheriff on horseback and carrying these
huge carbines and rifles and Al Lingo and the Alabama State troopers surrounding
the church. . . . In the week . . . which followed . . . all of the men who had been
involved in the project were in jail and at that moment I became the project director.
. . . Need determined how people were utilized.'”
Dangerous circumstances prevailed throughout the South, and it was impossible
to plan and organize every decision and activity. Women moved in and out of
positions frequently and served the movement in ways that were critical to its
continued sustenance. The fact that women’s participation options as titled staff
members were limited neither suggests that women were not leaders nor that they
were not looked to for leadership. Likewise, the women interviewed did not perceive their activities as limited. Women felt themselves to be an important and
integral part of SNCC. They would not be simply relegated to office duties and felt
that titled positions were restrictive since they were supposedly limited to office
Women Bridge Leaders and Their Heroines
Black women understood their centrality in the community and in the leadership.
They did not feel sexually discriminated against; instead they felt empowered by
their activities in the movement. Most of these young women were aware of the
courageous leadership of older women such as Mrs. Daisy Bates, who had (ought
for school desegration in Little Rock, Arkansas. For example, Prathia Hall Wynn
was well aware of the critical leadership that had been supplied by Mrs. Boynton,
an activist who knew Mary McLeod Bethune. Hall Wynn explained:
Now of course there had been a local Seima movement with Mrs. Boynton, who was
clearly, it seemed to me, if not the leader—in ray experience she was the leader of
the local movement. There were men and ministers and others who were leaders,
but it seemed to me that she was clearly respected as a peer among them. And she
certainly was by the SNCC people.*1
Women participants understood that: women’s leadership was no less important
to the movement than men’s. Miss Ella Baker, who was considerably older than
the students in SNCC, provided a role model for both the young men and women.
One woman respondent, who wished to remain anonymous recalls.
In terms of the organization’s basic philosophy, strategy and tactics, both Diane [Nash
Bevel] and Miss Baker were key in those processes. As far as 1 know, they didn’t
have any titles . . . but as far as a young woman coming into the organization, I saw
people trying to arrange meetings with Miss Baker . . . saying 1 don’t understand this,
let’s go talk to Miss Baker. And it was the same thing with Diane. Well . . . they
didn’t have to have titles. 4 ‘
Young people of both sexes understood the courage demonstrated by women,
such as Rosa Parks and later Fannie Lou Hamer. These youth were surrounded by
strong, intelligent, and capable women who treated them with respect. These
women leaders were often featured in Jet, a popular Black magazine, and routinely
spoke in churches. Young Black people were aware of them and considered them
heroines. Before corning to SNCC, Black women, as one respondent states, were
aware that “women played pivotal roles in history . . . arid could change the course
of history.”46 Gloria Richardson, the leader of the Cambridge, Maryland, movement describes the relationship of Black women’s history to her own involvement
in the movement.
I think mine was more an extension of Eastern Shore history because 1 came from
an area that’s like fifteen minutes from Harriet Tubman’s home in Sharptown.
Arid grandchildren of the lubman family had gone to school with my children. . . .
So we had come up in that environment, so for us it was like an extension of
Indeed, Black women have had a long and continuous history of rebellion and
struggle. During slavery, women who did not want to leave their children would
rebel in other ways. They would slow their work or verbally confront or strike the
overseer. These defiant acts often led to brutal beatings.48 Frederick Douglass describes such a rebel:
When the poor woman was untied, her back was covered with blood. She was
whipped, terribly whipped, but she was not subdued and continued to denounce the
overseer and to pour upon him every vile epithet of which she could think.4”
Many women, however, did manage to escape. Best known among these and
known to Gloria Richardson, was Harriet Tuhman. Bom into slavery, Tubman
escaped alone in 1849. Upon reaching freedom in Philadelphia, she realized that
I had crossed the line which I had so long been dreaming. I was free, but there was
no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land,
and my home, after all, was down in the old cabin quarter, with the old folks, and
my brothers and sisters. But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they
should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord
helping me, I would bring them all here. . . . 5°
Returning numerous times to Maryland, Tubman succeeded in freeing approximately three hundred people, including her parents, rescued in 1857. None of her
escapees were ever recaptured. Tubman was a fierce and wily leader who planned
the tactics and strategies necessary for the survival of her charges.5′
She is less well known for her leadership during the Civil War. Tubman helped
John Brown plan his attack on Harper’s Ferry, and would have accompanied him
had she not been ill. Later she led three hundred Black soldiers in a famous June
2, 1863, raid on South Carolina’s Combahee River. According to the Commonwealth, a Boston newspaper, dated July 10, 1863, Harriet Tubman inspired, originated, and conducted the raid. “Many and many times she has penetrated the
enemy’s line and discovered their situation and condition, arid escaped without
injury, but not without extreme hazard.”52
Therefore, as the anonymous interviewee concludes, “the issue of women’s participation had already been resolved” because the history of Black women’s activism had preceded the activities of women in SNCC. Black women in SNCC were
more concerned about living up to these role models than they were about gender
equity in SNCC.”
It is clear that Miss Ella Baker’s keen understanding of movement mobilization
bridged students to the movement and provided an organizational base, an infrastructure, from which the movement could be bridged to the masses. SNCC, as a
bridging organization, possessed a philosophy of leadership that facilitated the leadership of those who would ordinarily be excluded from formal leadership positions.
Although women were not primary formal bridge leaders, because of the decentralized nature of power within SNCC and the need, after 1963, to expand the
formal leadership tier, several women held titled positions as secondary formal
bridge leaders. Women, it has been shown, are better able to obtain power where
power relations are decentralized.
Several other arguments have been presented regarding women’s participation.
First, women’s official positions did not always reflect their power. Leadership
power, within the context of social movements, is not limited to the ability to
make national decisions regarding tactics, strategies, and goals, but also includes
the ability to influence formal leaders, represent the local and/or organization’s
constituency, harness the emotions of the constituency to sustain movement momentum, and inspire collective action in others. Women community bridge leaders, and those who later became secondary bridge leaders, acted in this manner
even though their official position..’) were either notified, titled in a unique way, or
inadequately reflected their activities. The official roislabelirig of women’s actual
work served as a means of giving legitimacy to women’s positions of power without
violating the norms surrounding legitimate authority figures. For example, Diane
Nash was clearly more than an office manager, but she operated as a community
bridge leader and. never possessed a secondary bridge leadership title. Additionally,
SNCC women often preferred unfitted positions because titles meant that they were
confined to positions that maintained gender norms. Untitled positions often
brought the freedom io work semiautonomously and therefore exercise their leadership capabilities,
Moreover, 1 have shown thai: the community bridge leader’s power increases
during situations of organizational strain or crisis when normative views of authority break down and women receive greater external visibility- that is, that of
the media and masses—as well as an increased visibility within the organization.
Organizational strain may he defined as a situation in which the primary and/or
secondary organization’s primary formal and secondary leaders are either unable or
unwilling to act to lead the masses. 1 he situation that has become uncontrollable—for exainp)e ; protest marches or Freedom Rides may be one that was initiated through rational decision making and organizai tonal planning but in practice
fell apart. In such situations, community bridge leaders gain visibility.
Moreover, it. has been illustrated that one’s leadership position, as well as one’s
organization’s position, within the movement sector can act as a powerful determinant in decision making, opectfi.cally, primary formal leaders of primary organizations are often constrained by their relationship to the stair.. The foci of these
leaders is in marked contrast to bridge; organization:;, whose allegiance is primarily
with the constituency while relations with the state remain peripheral.
In. this chapter, as well as in previous and subsequent chapters, several instances
of protest in which rational planning was not always possible have been discussed.
Although this in no way suggests that the civil rights movement was disorganized
and unplanned, what it does suggest is that even when activities are planned,
events emerge that; either stifle the original plaits or create disorder. In this sense,
spontaneity and emotions are not divorced from planned action. It is during these
crises, when the primary formal and secondary leaders are unavailable, that community bridge leaders emerge ami act as formal leaders. Such an emergence is
generally short-lived. Likewise, such leadership emerges when the organization expands and must draw upon these leaders as formal leaders, even if temporarily.
Finally, it is clear that, young African-American women were influenced by the
activism of their predecessors as well as oider women in the movement. As older
professional and community bridge leaders., these women inspired confidence in
those who would risk their lives to change the oppressive system.
In this fifth edition of his successful Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, John Storey
has extensively revised the text throughout. As before, the book presents a clear and critical survey
of competing theories of and various approaches to popular culture.
Retaining the accessible approach of previous editions, and using relevant and appropriate examples
from the texts and practices of popular culture, this new edition remains a key introduction to the area.
New to this edition
• Extensively revised, rewritten and updated
• Improved and expanded content throughout including:

The new edition remains essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students of cultural studies,
media studies, communication studies, the sociology of culture, popular culture and other related subjects.
CVR_STOR4090_05_SE_CVR.indd 1
John Storey is Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Research in Media
and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland. He has published widely in cultural studies,
including seven books. The most recent book is The Articulation of Memory and Desire (Guangxi
Normal University Press, 2007). His work has been translated into Chinese, German, Japanese,
Korean, Persian, Polish, Serbian, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian. He has been a Visiting
Professor at the universities of Henan, Vienna and Wuhan.

• New chapter on ‘Race’, racism and representation
• New sections on the Panoptic Machine and Convergence Culture
Continued explicit links to the new edition companion reader Cultural Theory and Popular Culture:
A Reader
More illustrative diagrams and images
Fully revised, improved and updated companion website at providing
practice questions and extension activities, as well as annotated links to relevant sites on the web
and further reading, and a glossary of key terms, to promote further understanding of the study of
cultural theory and popular culture
4/11/08 14:50:04
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page i
Cultural Theory and Popular Culture
An Introduction
Visit the Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, fifth edition
Companion Website at to find
valuable student learning material including:

Extension activities for each chapter
Extra questions to aid revision and further understanding
Annotated links to relevant sites on the web and further
Multiple choice questions to check basic understanding
Glossary of key terms
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page ii
We work with leading authors to develop the
strongest educational materials in cultural studies,
bringing cutting-edge thinking and best learning
practice to a global market.
Under a range of well-known imprints, including
Longman, we craft high quality print and electronic
publications which help readers to understand and
apply their content, whether studying or at work.
To find out more about the complete range of our
publishing, please visit us on the World Wide Web at:
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page iii
Cultural Theory and Popular Culture
An Introduction
Fifth edition
John Storey
University of Sunderland
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page v
Publisher’s acknowledgements
What is popular culture?
Popular culture
Popular culture as other
Further reading
The ‘culture and civilization’ tradition
Matthew Arnold
Mass culture in America: the post-war debate
The culture of other people
Further reading
Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy
Raymond Williams: ‘The analysis of culture’
E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class
Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel: The Popular Arts
The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
Further reading
Classical Marxism
The Frankfurt School
Post-Marxism and cultural studies
Further reading
Freudian psychoanalysis
Lacanian psychoanalysis
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page vi
Slavoj yizek and Lacanian fantasy
Further reading
Structuralism and post-structuralism
Ferdinand de Saussure
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Will Wright and the American Western
Roland Barthes: Mythologies
Jacques Derrida
Discourse and power: Michel Foucault
The panoptic machine
Further reading
Gender and sexuality
Women at the cinema
Reading romance
Watching Dallas
Reading women’s magazines
Men’s studies and masculinities
Queer theory
Further reading
‘Race’, racism and representation
‘Race’ and racism
The ideology of racism: its historical emergence
Anti-racism and cultural studies
Further reading
The postmodern condition
Postmodernism in the 1960s
Jean-François Lyotard
Jean Baudrillard
Fredric Jameson
Postmodern pop music
Postmodern television
Postmodernism and the pluralism of value
The global postmodern
Convergence culture
Further reading
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page vii
10 The politics of the popular
A paradigm crisis in cultural studies?
The cultural field
The economic field
Post-Marxist cultural studies: hegemony revisited
The ideology of mass culture
Further reading
Supporting resources

Visit to find valuable online resources
Companion Website for students
Extension activities for each chapter
■ Extra questions to aid revision and further understanding
■ Annotated links to relevant sites on the web and further reading
■ Multiple choice questions to check basic understanding
■ Glossary of key terms

For instructors
■ Extension activities for the classroom
■ Discussion topics
■ Homework ideas
Also: The Companion Website provides the following features:
■ Search tool to help locate specific items of content
■ E-mail results and profile tools to send results of quizzes to instructors
■ Online help and support to assist with website usage and troubleshooting
For more information please contact your local Pearson Education sales
representative or visit
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page viii
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page ix
Preface to fifth edition
In writing the fifth edition I have revised, rewritten and edited throughout. I have also
added new material to most of the chapters (the book has grown from a first edition
of around 65,000 words to a fifth edition that is in excess of 114,000 words). The most
obvious addition is the new chapter ‘Race, racism and representation’ and the new
sections on the panoptic machine (Chapter 6) and convergence culture (Chapter 9).
I have also added more diagrams and illustrations.
The fifth edition is best read in conjunction with its companion volume, Cultural
Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, fourth edition (Pearson, 2009).
Preface to fourth edition
In writing the fourth edition I have revised, rewritten and edited throughout. I have
also added new material to most of the chapters (the book has grown from a first edition of around 65,000 words to a fourth edition that is well in excess of 100,000
words). The most obvious addition is the new chapter on psychoanalysis and the
sections on post-Marxism (Chapter 4) and the global postmodern (Chapter 8). I have
also added more diagrams and illustrations. Finally, I have changed the running order
of the chapters. The chapters are now chronological in terms of where each begins.
However, where each chapter ends may sometimes disrupt chronology. For example,
Marxism begins before post-structuralism, but where the discussion of Marxism ends is
more contemporary than where the discussion of post-structuralism ends. There seems
to be no obvious solution to this problem.
Preface to third edition
In writing the third edition I have sought to improve and to expand the material in the
first two editions of this book. To achieve this I have revised and I have rewritten much
more extensively than in the second edition. I have also added new material to most
of the chapters. This is most evident in the renamed, and reorganized, Chapter 6, where
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page x
I have added a new section on queer theory, and where I have extended the section on
reading women’s magazines. Perhaps the most visible change is the addition of illustrations, and the inclusion of a list of websites useful to the student of cultural theory
and popular culture.
Preface to second edition
In writing the second edition I have sought to improve and to expand the material in
the first book. To achieve this I have revised and I have rewritten. More specifically, I
have added new sections on popular culture and the carnivalesque, postmodernism
and the pluralism of value. I have also extended five sections, neo-Gramscian cultural
studies, popular film, cine-psychoanalysis and cultural studies, feminism as reading,
postmodernism in the 1960s, the cultural field.
Preface to first edition
As the title of this book indicates, my subject is the relationship between cultural
theory and popular culture. But as the title also indicates, my study is intended as an
introduction to the subject. This has entailed the adoption of a particular approach. I
have not tried to write a history of the encounter between cultural theory and popular
culture. Instead, I have chosen to focus on the theoretical and methodological implications and ramifications of specific moments in the history of the study of popular
culture. In short, I have tended to treat cultural theory / popular culture as a discursive
formation, and to focus less on historical provenance and more on how it functions
ideologically in the present. To avoid misunderstanding and misrepresentation, I have
allowed critics and theorists, when and where appropriate, to speak in their own
words. In doing this, I am in agreement with the view expressed by the American literary historian Walter E. Houghton: ‘Attitudes are elusive. Try to define them and you
lose their essence, their special colour and tone. They have to be apprehended in their
concrete and living formulation.’ Moreover, rather than simply surveying the field, I
have tried through quotation and detailed commentary to give the student of popular
culture a ‘taste’ of the material. However, this book is not intended as a substitute for
reading first-hand the theorists and critics discussed here. And, although each chapter
ends with suggestions for further reading, these are intended to supplement the reading of the primary texts discussed in the individual chapters (details of which are
located in the Notes at the end of the book).
Above all, the intention of this book is to provide an introduction to the academic
study of popular culture. As I have already indicated, I am under no illusion that this
is a fully adequate account, or the only possible way to map the conceptual landscape
that is the subject of this study. My hope is that this version of the relationship between
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page xi
popular culture and cultural theory will encourage other students of popular culture to
begin their own mapping of the field.
Finally, I hope I have written a book that can offer something to both those familiar
with the subject and those to whom – as an academic subject at least – it is all very new.
I would like to thank students on the ‘Cultural Theory and Popular Culture’ modules
(1990–2008) at the University of Sunderland, with whom I have rehearsed many
of the ideas contained in this book. I would also like to thank colleagues in the
(University of Sunderland) Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, and
friends at other institutions, for ideas and encouragement. I would also like to thank
Andrew Taylor of Pearson Education for giving me the opportunity to write a fifth edition.
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page xii
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page xiii
Publisher’s acknowledgements
We are grateful to the following for permission to reproduce copyright material:
Photo 6.1 (Paris Match), with permission from Hachette Filipacchi Associés; the text in
Photo 6.2 from an advertisement recruiting teachers in Empire, for the Department for
Education and Skills (1991). Reproduced with permission of the Controller of HMSO;
Figure 9.1 (Daily Express headline) reproduced by permission of Express Newspapers;
Figure 10.1 (Queen’s Theatre playbill) with permission from The Arts Library,
Manchester Central Library.
The following are the author’s own: Photo 2.1 (day trip to Blackpool), Photo 4.3 (two
figures on a beach), Figures 6.1 and 6.2 (Rock-a-day Johnny), Photo 9.1 (Cocacolonization of China), Figure 9.2 (the ‘foreign’), all © John Storey.
In some instances we have been unable to trace the owners of copyright material, and
we would appreciate any information that would enable us to do so.
We are grateful to all the reviewers who generously gave their comments on this new
CULT_A01.qxd 10/25/08 16:27 Page xiv
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 1
1 What is popular
Before we consider in detail the different ways in which popular culture has been
defined and analysed, I want to outline some of the general features of the debate that
the study of popular culture has generated. It is not my intention to pre-empt the
specific findings and arguments that will be presented in the following chapters. Here
I simply wish to map out the general conceptual landscape of popular culture. This is,
in many ways, a daunting task. As Tony Bennett (1980) points out, ‘as it stands, the
concept of popular culture is virtually useless, a melting pot of confused and contradictory meanings capable of misdirecting inquiry up any number of theoretical blind
alleys’ (18). Part of the difficulty stems from the implied otherness that is always absent/
present when we use the term ‘popular culture’. As we shall see in the chapters which
follow, popular culture is always defined, implicitly or explicitly, in contrast to other
conceptual categories: folk culture, mass culture, dominant culture, working-class culture, etc. A full definition must always take this into account. Moreover, as we shall also
see, whichever conceptual category is deployed as popular culture’s absent other, it will
always powerfully affect the connotations brought into play when we use the term
‘popular culture’.
Therefore, to study popular culture we must first confront the difficulty posed by the
term itself. That is, ‘depending on how it is used, quite different areas of inquiry and
forms of theoretical definition and analytical focus are suggested’ (20). The main argument that I suspect readers will take from this book is that popular culture is in effect
an empty conceptual category, one that can be filled in a wide variety of often conflicting ways, depending on the context of use.
In order to define popular culture we first need to define the term ‘culture’. Raymond
Williams (1983) calls culture ‘one of the two or three most complicated words in the
English language’ (87). Williams suggests three broad definitions. First, culture can be
used to refer to ‘a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development’
(90). We could, for example, speak about the cultural development of Western Europe
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 2
Chapter 1 What is popular culture?
and be referring only to intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic factors – great philosophers,
great artists and great poets. This would be a perfectly understandable formulation. A
second use of the word ‘culture’ might be to suggest ‘a particular way of life, whether
of a people, a period or a group’ (ibid.). Using this definition, if we speak of the cultural development of Western Europe, we would have in mind not just intellectual and
aesthetic factors, but the development of, for example, literacy, holidays, sport, religious
festivals. Finally, Williams suggests that culture can be used to refer to ‘the works and
practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity’ (ibid.). In other words, culture
here means the texts and practices whose principal function is to signify, to produce or
to be the occasion for the production of meaning. Culture in this third definition is
synonymous with what structuralists and post-structuralists call ‘signifying practices’
(see Chapter 6). Using this definition, we would probably think of examples such as
poetry, the novel, ballet, opera, and fine art. To speak of popular culture usually means
to mobilize the second and third meanings of the word ‘culture’. The second meaning
– culture as a particular way of life – would allow us to speak of such practices as the
seaside holiday, the celebration of Christmas, and youth subcultures, as examples of
culture. These are usually referred to as lived cultures or practices. The third meaning –
culture as signifying practices – would allow us to speak of soap opera, pop music, and
comics, as examples of culture. These are usually referred to as texts. Few people would
imagine Williams’s first definition when thinking about popular culture.
Before we turn to the different definitions of popular culture, there is another term we
have to think about: ideology. Ideology is a crucial concept in the study of popular culture. Graeme Turner (1996) calls it ‘the most important conceptual category in cultural
studies’ (182). James Carey (1996) has even suggested that ‘British cultural studies
could be described just as easily and perhaps more accurately as ideological studies’
(65). Like culture, ideology has many competing meanings. An understanding of this
concept is often complicated by the fact that in much cultural analysis the concept is
used interchangeably with culture itself, and especially popular culture. The fact that
ideology has been used to refer to the same conceptual terrain as culture and popular
culture makes it an important term in any understanding of the nature of popular culture. What follows is a brief discussion of just five of the many ways of understanding
ideology. We will consider only those meanings that have a bearing on the study of
popular culture.
First, ideology can refer to a systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular group
of people. For example, we could speak of ‘professional ideology’ to refer to the ideas
which inform the practices of particular professional groups. We could also speak of
the ‘ideology of the Labour Party’. Here we would be referring to the collection of political, economic and social ideas that inform the aspirations and activities of the Party.
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 3
A second definition suggests a certain masking, distortion, or concealment. Ideology
is used here to indicate how some texts and practices present distorted images of reality. They produce what is sometimes called ‘false consciousness’. Such distortions, it is
argued, work in the interests of the powerful against the interests of the powerless.
Using this definition, we might speak of capitalist ideology. What would be intimated
by this usage would be the way in which ideology conceals the reality of domination
from those in power: the dominant class do not see themselves as exploiters or oppressors. And, perhaps more importantly, the way in which ideology conceals the reality of
subordination from those who are powerless: the subordinate classes do not see themselves as oppressed or exploited. This definition derives from certain assumptions
about the circumstances of the production of texts and practices. It is argued that they
are the superstructural ‘reflections’ or ‘expressions’ of the power relations of the economic base of society. This is one of the fundamental assumptions of classical
Marxism. Here is Karl Marx’s (1976a) famous formulation:
In the social production of their existence men enter into definite, necessary relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corresponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production.
The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of
society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The
mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual
life process in general (3).
What Marx is suggesting is that the way a society organizes the means of its economic production will have a determining effect on the type of culture that society produces or makes possible. The cultural products of this so-called base/superstructure
relationship are deemed ideological to the extent that, as a result of this relationship,
they implicitly or explicitly support the interests of dominant groups who, socially,
politically, economically and culturally, benefit from this particular economic organization of society. In Chapter 4, we will consider the modifications made by Marx and
Frederick Engels themselves to this formulation, and the way in which subsequent
Marxists have further modified what has come to be regarded by many cultural critics
as a rather mechanistic account of what we might call the social relations of culture and
popular culture. However, having said this, it is nevertheless the case that
acceptance of the contention that the flow of causal traffic within society is
unequally structured, such that the economy, in a privileged way, influences political and ideological relationships in ways that are not true in reverse, has usually
been held to constitute a ‘limit position’ for Marxism. Abandon this claim, it is
argued, and Marxism ceases to be Marxism (Bennett, 1982a: 81).
We can also use ideology in this general sense to refer to power relations outside
those of class. For instance, feminists speak of the power of patriarchal ideology, and
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 4
Chapter 1 What is popular culture?
how it operates to conceal, mask and distort gender relations in our society (see
Chapter 7). In Chapter 8 we will examine the ideology of racism.
A third definition of ideology (closely related to, and in some ways dependent on,
the second definition) uses the term to refer to ‘ideological forms’ (Marx, 1976a: 5).
This usage is intended to draw attention to the way in which texts (television fiction,
pop songs, novels, feature films, etc.) always present a particular image of the world.
This definition depends on a notion of society as conflictual rather than consensual,
structured around inequality, exploitation and oppression. Texts are said to take sides,
consciously or unconsciously, in this conflict. The German playwright Bertolt Brecht
(1978) summarizes the point: ‘Good or bad, a play always includes an image of the
world. . . . There is no play and no theatrical performance which does not in some way
affect the dispositions and conceptions of the audience. Art is never without consequences’ (150–1). Brecht’s point can be generalized to apply to all texts. Another way
of saying this would be simply to argue that all texts are ultimately political. That is,
they offer competing ideological significations of the way the world is or should be.
Popular culture is thus, as Hall (2009a) claims, a site where ‘collective social understandings are created’: a terrain on which ‘the politics of signification’ are played out in
attempts to win people to particular ways of seeing the world (122–23).
A fourth definition of ideology is one associated with the early work of the French
cultural theorist Roland Barthes (discussed in more detail in Chapter 6). Barthes argues
that ideology (or ‘myth’ as Barthes himself calls it) operates mainly at the level of connotations, the secondary, often unconscious meanings that texts and practices carry, or
can be made to carry. For example, a Conservative Party political broadcast transmitted
in 1990 ended with the word ‘socialism’ being transposed into red prison bars. What
was being suggested is that the socialism of the Labour Party is synonymous with
social, economic and political imprisonment. The broadcast was attempting to fix the
connotations of the word ‘socialism’. Moreover, it hoped to locate socialism in a binary
relationship in which it connoted unfreedom, whilst conservatism connoted freedom.
For Barthes, this would be a classic example of the operations of ideology, the attempt
to make universal and legitimate what is in fact partial and particular; an attempt
to pass off that which is cultural (i.e. humanly made) as something which is natural
(i.e. just existing). Similarly, it could be argued that in British society white, masculine,
heterosexual, middle class, are unmarked in the sense that they are the ‘normal’, the
‘natural’, the ‘universal’, from which other ways of being are an inferior variation on an
original. This is made clear in such formulations as a female pop singer, a black journalist, a working-class writer, a gay comedian. In each instance the first term is used to
qualify the second as a deviation from the ‘universal’ categories of pop singer, journalist, writer and comedian.
A fifth definition is one that was very influential in the 1970s and early 1980s. It
is the definition of ideology developed by the French Marxist philosopher Louis
Althusser. We shall discuss Althusser in more detail in Chapter 4. Here I will simply
outline some key points about one of his definitions of ideology. Althusser’s main contention is to see ideology not simply as a body of ideas, but as a material practice. What
he means by this is that ideology is encountered in the practices of everyday life and
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 5
Popular culture
not simply in certain ideas about everyday life. Principally, what Althusser has in mind
is the way in which certain rituals and customs have the effect of binding us to the
social order: a social order that is marked by enormous inequalities of wealth, status
and power. Using this definition, we could describe the seaside holiday or the celebration of Christmas as examples of ideological practices. This would point to the way in
which they offer pleasure and release from the usual demands of the social order, but
that, ultimately, they return us to our places in the social order, refreshed and ready to
tolerate our exploitation and oppression until the next official break comes along. In
this sense, ideology works to reproduce the social conditions and social relations necessary for the economic conditions and economic relations of capitalism to continue.
So far we have briefly examined different ways of defining culture and ideology.
What should be clear by now is that culture and ideology do cover much the same conceptual landscape. The main difference between them is that ideology brings a political dimension to the shared terrain. In addition, the introduction of the concept of
ideology suggests that relations of power and politics inescapably mark the culture/
ideology landscape; it suggests that the study of popular culture amounts to something
more than a simple discussion of entertainment and leisure.
Popular culture
There are various ways to define popular culture. This book is of course in part about
that very process, about the different ways in which various critical approaches have
attempted to fix the meaning of popular culture. Therefore, all I intend to do for the
remainder of this chapter is to sketch out six definitions of popular culture that in their
different, general ways, inform the study of popular culture. But first a few words about
the term ‘popular’. Williams (1983) suggests four current meanings: ‘well liked by
many people’; ‘inferior kinds of work’; ‘work deliberately setting out to win favour with
the people’; ‘culture actually made by the people for themselves’ (237). Clearly, then,
any definition of popular culture will bring into play a complex combination of the different meanings of the term ‘culture’ with the different meanings of the term ‘popular’.
The history of cultural theory’s engagement with popular culture is, therefore, a history
of the different ways in which the two terms have been connected by theoretical labour
within particular historical and social contexts.
An obvious starting point in any attempt to define popular culture is to say that
popular culture is simply culture that is widely favoured or well liked by many people.
And, undoubtedly, such a quantitative index would meet the approval of many people.
We could examine sales of books, sales of CDs and DVDs. We could also examine
attendance records at concerts, sporting events, and festivals. We could also scrutinize
market research figures on audience preferences for different television programmes.
Such counting would undoubtedly tell us a great deal. The difficulty might prove to be
that, paradoxically, it tells us too much. Unless we can agree on a figure over which
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 6
Chapter 1 What is popular culture?
something becomes popular culture, and below which it is just culture, we might find
that widely favoured or well liked by many people included so much as to be virtually
useless as a conceptual definition of popular culture. Despite this problem, what is
clear is that any definition of popular culture must include a quantitative dimension.
The popular of popular culture would seem to demand it. What is also clear, however,
is that on its own, a quantitative index is not enough to provide an adequate definition
of popular culture. Such counting would almost certainly include ‘the officially sanctioned “high culture” which in terms of book and record sales and audience ratings for
television dramatisations of the classics, can justifiably claim to be “popular” in this
sense’ (Bennett, 1980: 20–1).
A second way of defining popular culture is to suggest that it is the culture that is left
over after we have decided what is high culture. Popular culture, in this definition, is
a residual category, there to accommodate texts and practices that fail to meet the
required standards to qualify as high culture. In other words, it is a definition of popular culture as inferior culture. What the culture/popular culture test might include is a
range of value judgements on a particular text or practice. For example, we might want
to insist on formal complexity. In other words, to be real culture, it has to be difficult.
Being difficult thus ensures its exclusive status as high culture. Its very difficulty literally excludes, an exclusion that guarantees the exclusivity of its audience. The French
sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues that cultural distinctions of this kind are often used
to support class distinctions. Taste is a deeply ideological category: it functions as
a marker of ‘class’ (using the term in a double sense to mean both a social economic
category and the suggestion of a particular level of quality). For Bourdieu (1984), the
consumption of culture is ‘predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfil a
social function of legitimating social differences’ (5). This will be discussed in more
detail in Chapters 9 and 10.
This definition of popular culture is often supported by claims that popular culture is mass-produced commercial culture, whereas high culture is the result of an
individual act of creation. The latter, therefore, deserves only a moral and aesthetic
response; the former requires only a fleeting sociological inspection to unlock what
little it has to offer. Whatever the method deployed, those who wish to make the case
for the division between high and popular culture generally insist that the division
between the two is absolutely clear. Moreover, not only is this division clear, it is transhistorical – fixed for all time. This latter point is usually insisted on, especially if the
division is dependent on supposed essential textual qualities. There are many problems
with this certainty. For example, William Shakespeare is now seen as the epitome
of high culture, yet as late as the nineteenth century his work was very much a part of
popular theatre.1 The same point can also be made about Charles Dickens’s work.
Similarly, film noir can be seen to have crossed the border supposedly separating popular and high culture: in other words, what started as popular cinema is now the preserve of academics and film clubs.2 One recent example of cultural traffic moving in the
other direction is Luciano Pavarotti’s recording of Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. Even the
most rigorous defenders of high culture would not want to exclude Pavarotti or Puccini
from its select enclave. But in 1990, Pavarotti managed to take ‘Nessun Dorma’ to
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 7
Popular culture
number one in the British charts. Such commercial success on any quantitative analysis would make the composer, the performer and the aria, popular culture.3 In fact,
one student I know actually complained about the way in which the aria had been supposedly devalued by its commercial success. He claimed that he now found it embarrassing to play the aria for fear that someone should think his musical taste was simply
the result of the aria being ‘The Official BBC Grandstand World Cup Theme’. Other students laughed and mocked. But his complaint highlights something very significant
about the high/popular divide: the elitist investment that some put in its continuation.
On 30 July 1991, Pavarotti gave a free concert in London’s Hyde Park. About
250,000 people were expected, but because of heavy rain, the number who actually
attended was around 100,000. Two things about the event are of interest to a student
of popular culture. The first is the enormous popularity of the event. We could connect
this with the fact that Pavarotti’s previous two albums (Essential Pavarotti 1 and Essential
Pavarotti 2) had both topped the British album charts. His obvious popularity would
appear to call into question any clear division between high and popular culture.
Second, the extent of his popularity would appear to threaten the class exclusivity of a
high/popular divide. It is therefore interesting to note the way in which the event was
reported in the media. All the British tabloids carried news of the event on their front
pages. The Daily Mirror, for instance, had five pages devoted to the concert. What the
tabloid coverage reveals is a clear attempt to define the event for popular culture. The
Sun quoted a woman who said, ‘I can’t afford to go to posh opera houses with toffs and
fork out £100 a seat.’ The Daily Mirror ran an editorial in which it claimed that
Pavarotti’s performance ‘wasn’t for the rich’ but ‘for the thousands . . . who could never
normally afford a night with an operatic star’. When the event was reported on television news programmes the following lunchtime, the tabloid coverage was included as
part of the general meaning of the event. Both the BBC’s One O’clock News and ITV’s
12.30 News, referred to the way in which the tabloids had covered the concert, and
moreover, the extent to which they had covered the concert. The old certainties of the
cultural landscape suddenly seemed in doubt. However, there was some attempt made
to reintroduce the old certainties: ‘some critics said that a park is no place for opera’
(One O’clock News); ‘some opera enthusiasts might think it all a bit vulgar’ (12.30
News). Although such comments invoked the spectre of high-culture exclusivity, they
seemed strangely at a loss to offer any purchase on the event. The apparently obvious
cultural division between high and popular culture no longer seemed so obvious. It
suddenly seemed that the cultural had been replaced by the economic, revealing a division between ‘the rich’ and ‘the thousands’. It was the event’s very popularity that
forced the television news to confront, and ultimately to find wanting, old cultural
certainties. This can be partly illustrated by returning to the contradictory meaning
of the term ‘popular’.4 On the one hand, something is said to be good because it is
popular. An example of this usage would be: it was a popular performance. Yet, on
the other hand, something is said to be bad for the very same reason. Consider the
binary oppositions in Table 1.1. This demonstrates quite clearly the way in which
popular and popular culture carries within its definitional field connotations of inferiority; a second-best culture for those unable to understand, let alone appreciate, real
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 8
Chapter 1 What is popular culture?
Table 1.1 Popular culture as ‘inferior’ culture.
Popular press
Popular cinema
Popular entertainment
Quality press
Art cinema
culture – what Matthew Arnold refers to as ‘the best that has been thought and said in
the world’ (see Chapter 2). Hall (2009b) argues that what is important here is not the
fact that popular forms move up and down the ‘cultural escalator’; more significant are
‘the forces and relations which sustain the distinction, the difference . . . [the] institutions and institutional processes . . . required to sustain each and to continually mark
the difference between them’ (514). This is principally the work of the education system and its promotion of a selective tradition (see Chapter 3).
A third way of defining popular culture is as ‘mass culture’. This draws heavily on
the previous definition. The mass culture perspective will be discussed in some detail
in Chapter 2; therefore all I want to do here is to suggest the basic terms of this
definition. The first point that those who refer to popular culture as mass culture want
to establish is that popular culture is a hopelessly commercial culture. It is massproduced for mass consumption. Its audience is a mass of non-discriminating consumers. The culture itself is formulaic, manipulative (to the political right or left,
depending on who is doing the analysis). It is a culture that is consumed with brainnumbed and brain-numbing passivity. But as John Fiske (1989a) points out, ‘between
80 and 90 per cent of new products fail despite extensive advertising . . . many films fail
to recover even their promotional costs at the box office’ (31). Simon Frith (1983: 147)
also points out that about 80 per cent of singles and albums lose money. Such statistics should clearly call into question the notion of consumption as an automatic
and passive activity (see Chapters 7 and 10).
Those working within the mass culture perspective usually have in mind a previous
‘golden age’ when cultural matters were very different. This usually takes one of two
forms: a lost organic community or a lost folk culture. But as Fiske (1989a) points out,
‘In capitalist societies there is no so-called authentic folk culture against which to measure the “inauthenticity” of mass culture, so bemoaning the loss of the authentic is a
fruitless exercise in romantic nostalgia’ (27). This also holds true for the ‘lost’ organic
community. The Frankfurt School, as we shall see in Chapter 4, locate the lost golden
age, not in the past, but in the future.
For some cultural critics working within the mass culture paradigm, mass culture is
not just an imposed and impoverished culture, it is in a clear identifiable sense an
imported American culture: ‘If popular culture in its modern form was invented in any
one place, it was . . . in the great cities of the United States, and above all in New York’
(Maltby, 1989: 11; my italics). The claim that popular culture is American culture has
a long history within the theoretical mapping of popular culture. It operates under the
term ‘Americanization’. Its central theme is that British culture has declined under the
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 9
Popular culture
homogenizing influence of American culture. There are two things we can say with
some confidence about the United States and popular culture. First, as Andrew Ross
(1989) has pointed out, ‘popular culture has been socially and institutionally central
in America for longer and in a more significant way than in Europe’ (7). Second,
although the availability of American culture worldwide is undoubted, how what is
available is consumed is at the very least contradictory (see Chapter 9). What is true is
that in the 1950s (one of the key periods of Americanization), for many young people
in Britain, American culture represented a force of liberation against the grey certainties of British everyday life. What is also clear is that the fear of Americanization is
closely related to a distrust (regardless of national origin) of emerging forms of popular culture. As with the mass culture perspective generally, there are political left and
political right versions of the argument. What are under threat are either the traditional
values of high culture, or the traditional way of life of a ‘tempted’ working class.
There is what we might call a benign version of the mass culture perspective. The
texts and practices of popular culture are seen as forms of public fantasy. Popular culture is understood as a collective dream world. As Richard Maltby (1989) claims, popular culture provides ‘escapism that is not an escape from or to anywhere, but an escape
of our utopian selves’ (14). In this sense, cultural practices such as Christmas and the
seaside holiday, it could be argued, function in much the same way as dreams: they
articulate, in a disguised form, collective (but repressed) wishes and desires. This is a
benign version of the mass culture critique because, as Maltby points out, ‘If it is the
crime of popular culture that it has taken our dreams and packaged them and sold
them back to us, it is also the achievement of popular culture that it has brought us
more and more varied dreams than we could otherwise ever have known’ (ibid.).
Structuralism, although not usually placed within the mass culture perspective, and
certainly not sharing its moralistic approach, nevertheless sees popular culture as a sort
of ideological machine which more or less effortlessly reproduces the prevailing structures of power. Readers are seen as locked into specific ‘reading positions’. There is little
space for reader activity or textual contradiction. Part of post-structuralism’s critique of
structuralism is the opening up of a critical space in which such questions can be
addressed. Chapter 6 will consider these issues in some detail.
A fourth definition contends that popular culture is the culture that originates from
‘the people’. It takes issue with any approach that suggests that it is something imposed
on ‘the people’ from above. According to this definition, the term should only be used
to indicate an ‘authentic’ culture of ‘the people’. This is popular culture as folk culture:
a culture of the people for the people. As a definition of popular culture, it is ‘often
equated with a highly romanticised concept of working-class culture construed as the
major source of symbolic protest within contemporary capitalism’ (Bennett, 1980: 27).
One problem with this approach is the question of who qualifies for inclusion in the
category ‘the people’. Another problem with it is that it evades the ‘commercial’ nature
of much of the resources from which popular culture is made. No matter how much
we might insist on this definition, the fact remains that people do not spontaneously
produce culture from raw materials of their own making. Whatever popular culture is,
what is certain is that its raw materials are those which are commercially provided. This
CULT_C01.qxd 10/25/08 16:29 Page 10
Chapter 1 What is popular culture?
approach tends to avoid the full implications of this fact. Critical analysis of pop and
rock music is particularly replete with this kind of analysis of popular culture. At a conference I once attended, a contribution from the floor suggested that Levi jeans would
never be able to use a song from The Jam to sell its products. The fact that they had

Calculate your order
Pages (275 words)
Standard price: $0.00
Client Reviews
Our Guarantees
100% Confidentiality
Information about customers is confidential and never disclosed to third parties.
Original Writing
We complete all papers from scratch. You can get a plagiarism report.
Timely Delivery
No missed deadlines – 97% of assignments are completed in time.
Money Back
If you're confident that a writer didn't follow your order details, ask for a refund.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price:
Power up Your Academic Success with the
Team of Professionals. We’ve Got Your Back.
Power up Your Study Success with Experts We’ve Got Your Back.
WeCreativez WhatsApp Support
Our customer support team is here to answer your questions. Ask us anything!
👋 Hi, how can I help?