In the first few minutes of the opening episode of depression-era drama Damnation, one character asks another about the local farmers’ strike: ‘What are you striking against‘? The other replies: ‘The American economic system‘. As this pithy response suggests, Damnation is a mainstream US television series dramatising the struggle between capital and labour across 10 nail-biting episodes. It aired on the USA Network between November 2017 and January 2018 and is now to stream globally via Netflix. Damnation‘s viewing figures were low and a week after the season finale, the USA Network announced it would not be commissioning a second season. It’s not surprising it got cancelled after one season – what is surprising is that it got commissioned at all. So where does Damnation sit in the canon of woke US TV?
Today we submitted our draft book to Bloomsbury. It will be called ‘Celebrity, Aspiration and Contemporary Youth: Education and Inequality in an Era of Austerity’ and be out in early 2018. Here’s the abstract and brief chapter outlines…
This book uses the lens of celebrity to explore young people’s education and employment aspirations under austerity and after four decades of neoliberalism.
During 2016, I’ve been to a lot of political events which have had a lot of potential but have been frustrating. Often I’ve had to listen to people speak for over an hour (some of them apologising for overrunning their time before they drone on for another 5-10 minutes). Sometimes I ‘ve had to sit through a series of questions that aren’t questions but are statements (and ones that I feel sure the people making them have made 100 times before). These events are often billed as part of movement building but are as likely to alienate people from a movement as to involve them in it.. What all these experiences have underlined to me is that political organisers need to pay attention to pedagogy, the ways that we can support political learning, as much as we attend to the political knowledge we want people to develop. In this post I advocate for a political pedagogy drawing on my experiences in Momentum Hackney. Although what I say is framed by my recent experience, it also applies to most of the academic conferences and seminars I have attended where the lack of pedagogy is just as common and just as damaging.
On 26th October 2016, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) finally came to an end on the BBC. In its seven series, the show has become a national institution, credited with the sharp rise of the popularity of home baking in the UK. In this guest blog, Laura Clancy discusses the significance of the inclusion of the royal family in the 2016 finale, and how this can be interpreted as a cultural crafting of nationhood.
In England, young people’s talk is now dominated by an entrepreneurial version of success in which they must project themselves as future-oriented, flexible, resourceful individuals. Such success is based in the idea that through aiming high, working hard, sheer determination and a modicum talent, anyone can achieve their dreams. It feels very like The American Dream. The idea, in the words of historian James Adams that ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’ regardless of circumstances of birth. So, asks Heather in this post, Does England now have its own version of The American Dream?
When I first started working as an academic, I did a year in a traditional highly-ranked university. It was there that I first met an ambiguous attitude to evaluations that I have found to be pervasive across academia. Evaluation work is valued by institutions for the money attached to it but dismissed as not ‘proper’ research. In this blog post I challenge this value system and explain why I think academics working in sociology should do more evaluation work.
In the UK, the educational failure of Black and Ethnic Minority young people, is largely blamed not on systemic racism, but on a lack of ‘role models’. Multiple initiatives exist to diversify the teaching workforce justified on the basis of the need to provide more role models to inspire young people. These initiatives contain naïve assumptions of culture matching, and gender matching. They simplify the relationships between teachers and students to ones of mimicry and ignore the experiences of the teachers involved. A new study by Patricia Alexander (pictured), focuses on teachers’ experiences. In this post I summarise what she found when she spoke to Black and Ethnic Minority teachers who identify as role models.
Last week Heather from CelebYouth took part in a Roundtable panel, at the University of East London, on the audit processes that are taking over UK universities. There were four speakers two male and two female. Unfortunately the Times Higher Education, in reporting on the event, only mentioned the men. In response, we’re publishing summaries of what Heather and Miriam David had to say about the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the existing Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Through the CelebYouth research, we have been exploring how celebrity talk is a way that young people play with their identity. Our most recent publication is a book chapter looking at how celebrity provides cultural resources that young people can, as Mary-Jane Kehily and Anoop Nayak put it, “talk with” and “think with’’. In the chapter we give three examples of how young people draw on celebrity as they negotiate and navigate transitions.
In this post Heather provides a taster of the chapter by looking at one of those transitions: age and maturity. We hope that, if you want to read about the other two – gender and sexuality and social status – you’ll encourage a library to buy the book: Play and Recreation, Health and Wellbeing. We are sorry that it’s so incredibly expensive. All our other publications are Open Access and the CelebYouth book (out in 2017) will be an affordable paperback.
In 1967, Guy Debord published The Society of the Spectacle, in which he argued that capitalism had reached a phase in which commodities (things to be bought and sold, rather than to be used) have colonised our entire existence. They have transformed all our social relationships. He saw this new phase as characterised by the spectacle of endless images from visual media of everything from fashion and consumer goods to war and terror.
‘Spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image’.
He located celebrity as a key part of our spectacular society. While his strident polemical style means he ignored contradictions and nuances, his ideas have been immensely influential. They inspired many of the people who took part in the 1968 uprisings in Paris and remain provocative. In this post we share some extracts from his book that speak directly about celebrity culture and celebrities, from JFK to Chairman Mao.