Postmodern identities


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  • Four of the above characteristics come from Giddens (1990) which calls the institutions of modernity. What are they: 1 industrialism 2 surveillance 3 capitalism 4 military power Describe contemporary examples of each of them. 1 industrialism … .. 2 surveillance 3 capitalism 4 military power
  • Modernism refers to the human cultural forms which are bound up with the process of modernisation – the promise that the transformations caused by industry, technology and communications would eradicate material scarcity. But there’s a downside. Comm Tech produce communications networks, infotainment, personalised services etc. etc. but they are also at the heart of weapons, surveillance systems etc. etc. Optimism of modernists doesn’t mean it is a culture of certainty – Giddens sees modernism as a ‘risk culture’ because the dynamism of modernity is premised on the notion of the perpetual revision of knowledge – all institutions are therefore founded on the principle of doubt. Risk culture = increased role of risk factor in the lives of institutions and individuals. The markers of cultural modernism ‘ tradition’ – things are as they are because they are as they should be. Self-identity is a question of social tradition. It is also a question of structures not surface appearance – metaphors of depth predominate. This is illustrated by Freud’s understanding of the unconscious and it place in identity formation. ‘ modernism’ – change is all-important, life-planning fundamental and reflexivity vital. Self-identity is a reflexive project. Identity is not fixed but dynamic and built-upon through the ‘reflexive reordering of self-narratives.’ (Giddens, 1991: 244)
  • Modernism – we can’t represent the real – representation is not mimetic/reflection but of conventionalised construction. In modernist literature there was the attempt to capture the deep reality of the world – the mytho-poetic real. This led to the concern of the place of language in the construction and a self-consciousness in its use. Expression of depth through fragmentation. Problem of realism. Accepts the idea of the meaningful real beneath or beyond the appearance. It rejects the idea that the real can be represented unproblematically. It can’t show what is real but only its own construction of the ‘real’. So modernists look for practices which reveal their own techniques of representation and allow – even demand – that the reader/viewer reflect on them. So modernist stories don’t follow the linear mode of causality – or if they do they put it into relief and make us reflect on it. Typically uses montage to do this. Jean-Luc Godard. The tension = between fragmentation/instability/the ephemeral and a concern for depth, meaning, universalism
  • A shift away from production and towards an economy, culture, identities and lifestyles based on consumption. this has happened rapidly – a generational time-frame A rejection of the enlightenment preoccupation with absolute truth and certainty. Truth, certainty and reality are provisional and relativistic. Knowledge is a commodity and a form of power, not an absolute truth. as a scientific and moral/political project the enlightenment philosophy sought universal truth – ie knowledge and moral principles that applied across time, space and cultural difference. illustrated by the philosophy of Rousseau/Hume and the ideas of Taylor and the organisation of production for maximum efficiency. ‘Instrumental rationality’. In postmodernity all truth claims are made in discourse – there are no universal philosophical foundations for human thought/action. All truth is culture-bound. Dominant cultural meaning has been replaced by a an individual search for meaning. Life-style is a matter of choice. based on the consumption economy. Ultimately uncertainty confusion and plurality will be all that’s left.
  • Not all believe we are into postmodernity – so would deny there is a postmodern aesthetic – see Habermas, Giddens (1990) and Bauman (liquid modernity). But the rate of social and cultural change enable us to refer to a postmodern era – a transitional period looking to the future rather than a radical break with the past.
  • The collapse of cultural boundaries ‘ the distinction between high and low culture is no longer valid – discuss. Bricollage/Intertextuality rearrangement and juxtaposition – MTV, Shrek, Ali G. self-conscious intertextuality – Twin peaks, Tarrantino The aestheticisation of everyday life. linked to identity projects – creation of lifestyles centred on consumption – houses, gardens, clothes, gadgets …
  • Postmodern identities

    1. 1. Cultural Identities the postmodern self
    2. 2. The Postmodern Self <ul><li>In this session we will contextualise Hall’s chapter ‘The Question of Cultural Identity’ (1992) by looking at postmodern theory. </li></ul><ul><li>We will introduce Hall’s conceptualisation of identity and begin to trace the development of the ‘fractured’, ‘decentred’, ‘postmodern’ subject. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Oliver Stone: Wall Street (1987) <ul><li>Who is Gekko? </li></ul><ul><li>What does he stand for? </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Corrosion of Character “ What’s peculiar about uncertainty today is that it exists without any looming historical disaster; instead it is woven into the everyday practices of a vigorous capitalism. Instability is meant to be normal…‘No long term’ disorients action over the long term, loosens bonds of trust and commitment, and divorces will from behavior.” The supermarket self takes over – we are as we consume.
    5. 5. The Corrosion of Character <ul><li>The story of Nico </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emotionally adrift and vulnerable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worries about neglect of wife and family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worried about the weak ties that define his few friendships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worries about a lack of ethical discipline – fearing superficial morality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… losing control of his purpose and sense of self </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. The Corrosion of Character <ul><li>The unsettling experience of the potential of the self to define itself anew and create fluid and innovative social relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>As the coherent life narrative breaks down so does the symbolic texture of the self. </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘supermarket self’ (an assemblage of scraps, random desires, chance encounters, the accidental and fleeting) takes over. </li></ul>
    7. 7. The Corrosion of Character <ul><li>A pliant self, a collage of fragments unceasing in its becoming, ever open to the new experience – these are just the psychological conditions suited to the short-term work experience, flexible institutions, and constant risk-taking. (Sennet, 1998: 133) </li></ul><ul><li>In the flexible, fragmented present, it may seem possible only to create coherent narratives about what has been, and no longer possible to create predictive narratives about what will be. (ibid: 135) </li></ul>
    8. 8. The Corrosion of Character <ul><li>Sennett emphasises fragmentation, dislocation and decomposition of identity and everyday working life. </li></ul><ul><li>The role of information technology </li></ul><ul><li>The restructuring of global capitalism </li></ul><ul><li>The negative and destructive consequences for the self </li></ul>
    9. 9. Modernity/ism <ul><li>Defining the terms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Modernity’ – the period of the modern [from the latin modo , meaning ‘just now’] which was qualitatively and quantitatively different from pre-industrial societies of the past. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Modernity can be characterised by: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Industrialism </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Urbanisation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A rise in the importance of science </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Military power </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Secularisation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Surveillance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Capitalism </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Military power </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rationalisation </li></ul></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Modernism as a cultural aesthetic <ul><li>Marx: ‘all that is solid melts into air’. </li></ul><ul><li>The markers of cultural modernism are: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ambiguity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Doubt </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Risk </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continual change </li></ul></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Modernism as a cultural aesthetic <ul><li>Aesthetic self-consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>An interest in language and </li></ul><ul><li>representation </li></ul><ul><li>A rejection of realism </li></ul><ul><li>The use of montage/simultaneity </li></ul><ul><li>An emphasis on the value of the aesthetic experience </li></ul><ul><li>The exploration of fragmentation </li></ul><ul><li>The value of the avant-garde high culture </li></ul>
    12. 12. Postmodernity/ism <ul><li>Postmodernity is that which comes after modernity. </li></ul><ul><li>It can be characterised by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A shift away from production and towards an economy, culture, identities and lifestyles based on consumption. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A rejection of the enlightenment preoccupation with absolute truth and certainty. Truth, certainty and reality are provisional and relative. Knowledge is a commodity and a form of power, not an absolute truth. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the substitution of a dominant cultural meaning with an individual search for meaning. Life-style is a matter of choice. </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Postmodernism as cultural aesthetic <ul><li>‘ structure of feeling’ (Williams, 1979) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a sense of the fragmentary, ambiguous and uncertain nature of living; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An awareness of the centrality of contingency; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A recognition of cultural difference; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An acceleration in the pace of living. </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Postmodernism as cultural aesthetic <ul><li>The collapse of cultural boundaries </li></ul><ul><li>Bricollage/Intertextuality </li></ul><ul><li>The aestheticisation of everyday life. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Next week <ul><li>We will explore Hall’s work in ‘The Question of Cultural Identity’. </li></ul><ul><li>Required Reading </li></ul><ul><ul><li>*Hall, S. (1992). The Question of Cultural Identity. Modernity and Its Futures . S. Hall, D. Held and T. McGrew. Cambridge, Polity Press. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Barker, C. (1999). Television, Globalisation and Cultural Identities. Milton Keynes, Open University Press. pp 9-32 </li></ul></ul>