On Friday 25th January, the CelebYouth team attended a workshop organised by Tori Cann and Ester McGeeney for postgraduate researchers working in the areas of gender, media and generation. While not strictly postgraduates, we were keen to attend the event and hear presentations of new and emerging work from ‘young’ scholars working in the field, as well as the keynotes from Bev Skeggs and Yvonne Tasker. In this post we give our overall impressions of the day. In separate posts we explore two of the themes that came through for us: social class and femininity and masculinity and race as absent presences. In addition to these, we have written a short post about contempotary spaces for feminist scholarship and collective action – a theme which emerged from discussions at the end of the conference.
The CelebYouth project sits at the intersection of a number of disciplinary fields and subject areas, including media and cultural studies, sociology and education. The day’s discussions covered mediated representations of gender, sexuality, class and age and the methods we use to make sense of these. These threw up some interesting questions for us about how we might make sense of the data we’re collecting about young people’s negotiation of celebrity culture and the nature of celebrity texts themselves.
The day was divided into two parts: the morning centred on representation and the afternoon on impact and engagement. However, even in the three afternoon papers, only one – Jane Traies’ ‘More Viewers Than Brookside’: Watching Older Lesbians on Television – involved actually talking to people about their relationship to the media.
For us, this once again flagged up the importance of doing empirical work and engaging not just with media texts and representations but with how these are put to work. We found Bev’s introduction to the afternoon helpful in thinking through the theoretical issues involved in doing this. She expressed her concerns about the predominance of theories of governmentality and ideology in scholarship on cultural texts. These approaches tend to take what’s been called the ‘cultural dope’ view of people as passively consuming everything from fast food to soap operas. We share her desire to think differently about how power works through contradictions, ambivalences and gaps. Already in our group interviews we’ve had participants having impassioned arguments about everything from One Direction’s authenticity to Katie Price’s parenting practices and the point of the royal family. This and our previous research show that people find spaces to resist classification and judgement: they don’t just live textually mediated subjectivities but they challenge these by mobilising alternative value systems.
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