Postmodern Identities

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In this lecture I try to establish a context for our discussion of theories of identity that make us of ideas now thought of as 'postmodern'. In particular, the lecture will set the scene for our reading of Stuart Hall's chapter 'Questions of Cultural Identity'.

Text of Postmodern Identities

  • 1. Cultural Identities the postmodern self

2. The Postmodern Self

  • In this session we will contextualise Halls chapter The Question of Cultural Identity (1992) by looking at postmodern theory.
  • We will introduce Halls conceptualisation of identity and begin to trace the development of the fractured, decentred, postmodern subject.

3. Oliver Stone: Wall Street (1987) 4. Oliver Stone: Wall Street (1987)

  • Who is Gekko?
  • What does he stand for?

5. The Corrosion of Character Whats 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 normalNo 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. 6. The Corrosion of Character

  • The story of Nico
    • Emotionally adrift and vulnerable
    • Worries about neglect of wife and family
    • Worried about the weak ties that define his few friendships
    • Worries about a lack of ethical discipline fearing superficial morality
    • losing control of his purpose and sense of self

7. American Beauty: Sam Mendes (1999) 8. The Corrosion of Character

  • The unsettling experience of the potential of the self to define itself anew and create fluid and innovative social relationships.
  • As the coherent life narrative breaks down so does the symbolic texture of the self.
  • The supermarket self (an assemblage of scraps, random desires, chance encounters, the accidental and fleeting) takes over.

9. The Corrosion of Character

  • 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)
  • 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)

10. The Corrosion of Character

  • Sennett emphasises fragmentation, dislocation and decomposition of identity and everyday working life.
  • The role of information technology
  • The restructuring of global capitalism
  • The negative and destructive consequences for the self

11. Erik Gandini: Surplus (2004) 12. Modernity/ism

  • Defining the terms
    • Modernity the period of the modern [from the latinmodo , meaning just now] which was qualitatively and quantitatively different from pre-industrial societies of the past.
    • Modernity can be characterised by:
      • Industrialism
      • Urbanisation
      • A rise in the importance of science
      • Military power
      • Secularisation
      • Surveillance
      • Capitalism
      • Military power
      • Rationalisation

13. Modernism as a cultural aesthetic

  • Marx: all that is solid melts into air.
  • The markers of cultural modernism are:
      • Ambiguity
      • Doubt
      • Risk
      • Continual change

14. Modernism as a cultural aesthetic

  • Aesthetic self-consciousness
  • An interest in language and
  • representation
  • A rejection of realism
  • The use of montage/simultaneity
  • An emphasis on the value of theaesthetic experience
  • The exploration of fragmentation
  • The value of the avant-garde high culture

15. Postmodernity/ism

  • Postmodernity is that which comes after modernity.
  • It can be characterised by:
    • A shift away from production and towards an economy, culture, identities and lifestyles based on consumption.
    • 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.
    • the substitution of a dominant cultural meaning with an individual search for meaning. Life-style is a matter of choice.

16. Postmodernism as cultural aesthetic

  • structure of feeling (Williams, 1979)
    • a sense of the fragmentary, ambiguous and uncertain nature of living;
    • An awareness of the centrality of contingency;
    • A recognition of cultural difference;
    • An acceleration in the pace of living.

17. Postmodernism as cultural aesthetic

  • The collapse of cultural boundaries
  • Bricollage/Intertextuality
  • The aestheticisation of everyday life.

18. Endless Love: Soderberg (2006) 19. Next week

  • We will explore Halls work in The Question of Cultural Identity.
  • Required Reading
    • *Hall, S. (1992). The Question of Cultural Identity.Modernity and Its Futures . S. Hall, D. Held and T. McGrew. Cambridge, Polity Press. pp 281-290
    • Barker, C. (1999). Television, Globalisation and Cultural Identities. Milton Keynes, Open University Press. pp 9-32