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Seeing is conceiving : gender, race and visual semantics at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural… Carnie, Henry Joseph 2002

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SEEING IS CONCEIVING: GENDER, RACE A N D VISUAL SEMANTICS A T THE BIRMINGHAM CENTRE FOR C O N T E M P O R A R Y C U L T U R A L STUDIES by H E N R Y JOSEPH CARNIE B . A . , The University o f British Columbia, 1993 A THESIS S U B M I T T E D IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FORTHE DEGREE OF M A S T E R ' S OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Department o f History)  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standards  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A September 2002 Henry Joseph Carnie, 2002  In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment  of  the  requirements  for  an advanced  degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department  or  by  his  or  her  representatives.  It  is  understood  that  copying  or  publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date  DE-6 (2/88)  OCT-  1 O  j  ^&>Q^  11  ABSTRACT  This paper deals with the discourses o f visuality in the intellectual history o f British cultural studies as it developed in the postwar period at the University o f Birmingham's Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies ( C C C S ) . Visual representation has long been perceived by western thought as a terrain unaffected by perception, language and conceptions; however, recent thought has contested this notion and i n the process problematized cultural "ways o f seeing." The paper asks how the subjects o f British cultural studies were produced but also how and why they were conceived through a visual discourse. It discusses the extent to which this visual discourse at the C C C S was ruptured by the breaking i n o f previously "invisible" subjects and how this visual discourse itself actually facilitated this rupture. The paper approaches this discussion through a close analysis o f key texts produced at the C C C S . It demonstrates that the intellectual trajectory of British cultural studies at the C C C S involved a shift from an oral means o f cultural expression to a visual one and then back to an oral form. It examines how the interventions by thinkers on gender and race influenced this shift. The paper concludes that visuality and orality were held in constant tension throughout the intellectual history o f British cultural studies at the C C C S , but that a more inclusive and democratic form o f orality finally gained ascendancy over a visuality, which was inherently implicated in social and cultural structures o f power.  iii  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract  ii  Table o f Contents  iii  List o f Figures  iv  Acknowledgements  v  Figures  1  SEEING IS CONCEIVING: GENDER, R A C E A N D VISUAL SEMANTICS A T THE BIRMINGHAM C E N T R E F O R C O N T E M P O R A R Y C U L T U R A L STUDIES  7  Bibliography  59  IV  LIST OF FIGURES  Figure 1 — A M o d on his scooter, 1964  1  Figure 2 - A young Teddy B o y , 1955  1  Figure 3 -- A Skinhead, 1980  2  Figure 4 — A "ton-up" woman on her bike, c. 1960  2  Figure 5.1 — Chain o f Representation  3  Figure 5.2 — Types of Imagery  3  Figure 7 - Conservative Party election poster, 1983  4  Figure 6 — R A R Montage "ROCK AGAINST RACISM: B L A C K A N D W H I T E U N I T E A N D F I G H T , " 1977  5  Figure 8.1 — Record Sleeve Art, "There's no place Like America Today."  5  Figure 8.2 — Record Sleeve Art  5  Figure 8.3 — Record Sleeve A r t  6  Figure 8.4 — Record Sleeve A r t  6  Figure 9 — Work by Ingrid, D-Max  6  V  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  I am i n gratitude to my thesis advisor Joy D i x o n for reading countless drafts o f this manuscript. Her unwavering enthusiasm and amazing editorial eye helped me make this work the best it could be. A l a n Smith offered invaluable input and suggested new ways of "looking" at my material. I am grateful to Joy Parr who read this thesis as it was first formulated in a seminar paper and gave me the inspiration and encouragement to continue refining my ideas. Special thanks to Martin Jay whose work was a vital inspiration and Denis Dworkin who provided much needed insight and background on the contemporary British cultural studies. Above all my profound thanks and appreciation goes to my parents, Harry and Dina, for all their love and support.  Figure 1 - A Mod on his scooter, 1964. (Baldwin et ai, 1999: 337.)  Figure 2 - A young Teddy Boy, 1955. (Baldwin et ai, 1999: 336.)  Figure 3 - A Skinhead, 1980. (Baldwin et al., 1999: 337.)  Figure 4 -- A "ton-up" woman on her bike, c. 1960. (Baldwin et al., 1999:337.)  Image likeness  resemblance similitude  Graphic pictures  statues designs  Optical mirrors projections  Perceptual sense data "species" appearances  Mental dreams memories ideas fantasmata  Verba] metaphors descriptions  Figure 5.1 — Types of Imagery. (Mitchell, 1986: 10.)  o  MA  A Object or Original Impression  Idea or Mental Image  Figure 5.2--Chain of Representation. (Mitchell, 1986:22.)  Word  inflation is now lower than it's been for over a decade, keeping all prices stable, with the price of fcxKJ now hardly rising at all •Meanwhile, many businesses throughout Britain are recovering, leading to thousands of new jobs. Firstly, inour traditional industries. but just as importantly in new technology areas such as microelectronics. In other words, the medicine iv working. Yet Labour want to change everything, and put us back to square one. They intend to increase taxaWHOSf MKWMMS AHTOUTOUUfVI? tion They intend to increase the When I jbour were in govern- National Debt. They promise import and exment, they promised to repeal Immigration Acts passed in 1%2 and port controls. Cast your mind back to the last 1971. Both promises were broken. This time, they are promising Labour government. Labour's to throw out the British Nationality methods didn't work then. They won't work now Act, which gives full and equal citizenship to everywa permanent* « r m * ttrriu* ly settled in Britain. The Conservatives believe that Bui how do the Cunserv.n t\ cs' everyone wants to work hard and be promises compare rewarded for it. We said that we'd abolish ihe Those rewards will only come 'S US'law. about by creating a mood of equal We kepi our promise. We said we'd recruit more col- opportunity for everyone in Britain, regardless of their race, oured policemen, get the police back into the community, and train creed or colour. them lor a better understanding of The difference you're voting vour needs. lor is this: To the Labour I'urty. you're a We kept our promise. black person. r v r r i N O TXI ECOMOMV s * c * O N I T S rax To the Conservatives, you're a British Citi/en. The Conservatives have alVote Conservative, and you ways said that the only long term answer to our economic problems vote for a more equal, more prosperwas to conquer inflation. ous Britain.  With the Gmservatives, there arc no'blacks,'no^hites,'just people Conservatives believe that treating minorities as equals encourages ihe majority to trem them as equals. Yet the I-abour Party aim to (real you asa'specialcasc.'asugroup all on your own. Is setting you apart from t herest of society a sensible way to overcome racial prejudice and social inequality? The question is, should we really divide the British people instead of uniting them'-'  5  LABOUR SAYS HE'S BLACK. TORIES SAY HE'S BRITISH. CONSERVATIVE X  Figure 7 - Conservative Party election poster, 1983. (Gilroy, 1987: 58.)  5  Figure 8.1 - Record Sleeve Art, "There's no place Like America Today." (Gilroy, 1993: 240.)  Figure 8.2 - Record Sleeve Art. (Gilroy, 1993: 240.)  6  Figure 9 -  Work bylngrid,  D-Max.  (Gilroy, 1993: 116.)  7 I dreamed I was in Yorkshire, going from Gomersal-Hill-Top to Cleckheaton and about the middle o f the lane, I thought I saw Satan coming to meet me i n the shape o f a tall, black man, and the hair o f his head like snakes; .. .But I went on, ript open my clothes, and showed him my naked breast, saying, 'see, here is the blood o f Christ.' Then I thought he fled from me as fast as a hare could run. 1  Paul Gilroy begins his book 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack' with this passage quoted from E . P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. Thompson originally takes this from the journal o f John Nelson, a Birstall stone-mason in the 1760s, who represents the emblematic subject for Thompson's historical narrative - a workingclass white man. The passage's racial aspect lies in the very fact that Satan appears in the image o f a "tall black man" with his hair in dreadlocks "like snakes" signifying a foreign, non-British "Otherness" whose very presence threatens the dreamer. However, it is also important to note that while the image o f the Other here is racially figured as foreign and non-white, it could have just as significantly been framed as an unruly woman. Hence, the quote is not important in itself but rather as an image that represents a nexus between two key themes in the intellectual history o f British cultural studies that we shall discuss in this paper: the recognition that the subject o f British cultural studies is implicitly raced and gendered and the ability o f an image to convey a range o f cultural meanings, understandings and prejudices. Thompson often used oral accounts from working-class subjects in his histories to access and articulate working-class lived experience. The excerpt above is indeed similar to a spoken recollection in its vernacular structure and rhythm. Richard Hoggart, one o f the founding figures o f British cultural studies and a contemporary o f Thompson, also sought to portray and analyze the lived experience o f the working class. Hoggart asserted  1  E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), 43.  that the oral culture o f British working-class subjects was an expression o f their historical and day-to-day experience. H i s emphasis on investigating working-class experience through their oral tradition was, however, disrupted in the 1970s when cultural researchers began to study the visual aspects o f working-class youth cultures. The result was a shift from analyzing oral modes o f cultural expression to a new attention to visual modes. However these visual modes were eventually found to be anything but objective and neutral as we shall see. The ways o f seeing and the images cultural researchers deployed were deeply implicated with gendered and raced power relations. But these power relations were hidden and later critiques o f the visual at the C C C S , by such writers as Paul Gilroy and Angela McRobbie, had to reveal them. Modern western thought has often considered visual representation to be unaffected by perception, language and concepts. However, many twentieth-century continental thinkers have contested this and have problematized cultural "ways o f seeing." This 2  paper is concerned with how researchers at the University o f Birmingham's Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies ( C C C S ) began to be influenced by such cultural ways o f "seeing." The work at the Centre was also shaped by the emergence o f persuasively "invisible" cultural subjects namely women and people o f colour. The way in which the dialectics of visuality facilitated  these interventions is further evidenced through a close  analysis o f the works o f key C C C S members. Scholars such as N o r m a Schulman, Dennis D w o r k i n and Graeme Turner have chronicled the intellectual history o f British cultural studies, but none have analyzed in  Some examples are Roland Barthes's deconstruction of popular images, in Mythologies (1972); Walter Benjamin's discussion of the display of commodities in the shopping arcades of Paris, in 77?e Arcades Project (1999); Jacques Lacan's work on the Mirror Stage, see "Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience" in Modern Literary Theory, a Reader. Ed. Philip Rice and 2  9 detail the importance of visual representation at the C C C S .  3  Throughout the intellectual  history of the CCCS visuality and orality have been held in constant binary tension. In the 1970s the emphasis on the visual even came to eclipse orality. The result was an important shift in relations of power. Visuality allowed for little possibility of dialogue with its subjects, while, as we shall see, orality encourages communication between the subject and the observer. In the late 1970s the Centre shifted from an oral to an ocular centric approach as researchers began to discipline their subjects by considering visual representations of them. The work on subcultures by CCCS writers like Paul Willis, Dick Hebdige, John 4  Clarke and others used visual languages and signs to set meanings and definitions in place. The 1970s ethnographic approach to subcultures was "a way of seeing" which brought with it its own scopic regime permeated with a physics of power. Subjects came 5  to be visually identifiable, and the researchers who attempted to analyze them drew on a language that was not only visual, but also gendered and raced. Later critics of this approach would come to draw on less visual and more oral tropes and meanings.  Patricia Waugh (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 122-2 and Michel Foucault's discussion of the Panopticon in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (cl977). There is much literature dealing with the theoretical approach of CCCS including accounts by its former members (Stuart Hall et at.). However, there is comparatively little work charting its intellectual history - the exception being Norma Schulman "Conditions of their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham," Canadian Journal of Communication, 18 no.l. [1993]: 51-71, Dennis Dworkin {Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and Origins of Cultural Studies [Durham and London: Duke University, 1997]) and Graeme Turner (British Cultural Studies: An Introduction, Second Edition [London and New York: Routledge, 1990]). Martin Jay uses the term ocularcentricism to describe the epistemological privileging of vision in Western thought that goes back as far as Plato's notion that ontological universals are accessible to "the mind's eye" and continues through the Renaissance discourse on perspective, the invention of the printing press, and the rise of modern science (Martin Jay, "Scopic Regimes of Modernity" in Vision and Visuality, Discussions in Contemporary Culture 2, ed. Hal Foster [Seattle: Bay Press, 1988], 2.). John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: The British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 1972), 9-10. 3  4  5  10 But how exactly can "looking" act as a conduit o f power relationships? Martin Jay and W.J.T. Mitchell both explore the putative predominance o f the visual i n modern Western thought, arguing that there is "a close analogical connection between the rationalism and humanism o f the Enlightenment project, and the notion o f human vision as an agent o f illumination and clarification."  6  Unlike language, which can produce and  communicate more nuanced meanings, vision can only produce an understanding that is "external" and "without any meaningful continuity between past and future."  7  Jay has  revealed the recent "antiocularcentrism" or devaluing o f sight as a sign o f disillusionment with scientific observation and a renewed appreciation for more subjective interpretations - this shift has occurred especially within Marxian thought. This intellectual shift is 8  significant as Marxist thought has formed the lingua franca o f modern British Cultural Studies since its Postwar inception. Indeed, M a r x i s m itself was crucial to the development o f the C C C S , as M a r x ' s conception o f class relations formed the intellectual basis for the examination o f popular culture as an expression o f working class agency.  9  In order to explain the reasons for M a r x ' s importance herein it is necessary to briefly trace the historical circumstances o f British cultural studies itself. The project, as it took root at Birmingham in the mid-1960s, was partially shaped by the postwar British social and political movement o f the N e w Left. Dennis D w o r k i n asserts that British cultural  Kaja Silverman, The Threshold of the Visible World(New York: Routledge, 1996), 138. See specifically Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) and W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986). Georgia Warnke, "Ocularcentrism and Social Criticism," in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, ed. David Michael Levin (Berkeley: University of California Press, cl993), 288. Their main concern is the place of the visual in Marxism's metaphors of truth and knowledge. Marxism, in Jay's words, was "beholden" to ocularcentric speculation, that is, the belief that access to truth and knowledge could be obtained by seeing it, in modern western phenomenology (Jay, 374). Norma Schulman, "Conditions of their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham," Canadian Journal of Communication, 18, no.l (1993): 51-71. 6  7  8  9  11 studies "cannot be viewed i n isolation; it must be seen i n the context o f the crisis o f the British Left, a crisis virtually coterminous with the postwar era."  10  The individuals  involved with the N e w Left gathered in reaction to the success o f the Conservative government and the corresponding weakness o f the Labour Party in the 1950s. The movement came together to revitalize Leftist politics, but its members distanced themselves from the conventional Left, which they saw as out o f touch with the economic and social realities o f postwar Britain. Although the N e w Left did not coalesce into a permanent organization, it did foster "a new political space" in which both a radical historiography and British cultural studies could be nurtured.  11  Contemporary British cultural studies as an "institution" arrived in 1969 with the founding o f the C C C S as a postgraduate research institute at the University o f Birmingham. British cultural studies owes much to this as the C C C S produced what are generally regarded as the foundational texts o f the field. Indeed, Tony Bennett contends that the history o f the C C C S "has come to function as an exemplary narrative whose rhetorical claims and manoeuvres have been drawn on to help sustain and develop similar stories elsewhere."  12  British cultural studies can, however, be traced to earlier cultural commentators in the nineteenth and early twentieth century such as Mathew Arnold, the Leavises, and T.S. Eliot.  These "traditional" commentators narrowed their definition o f culture to texts  produced by "high" culture - the "Great Tradition" o f English literature (for example,  Dennis Dworkin, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and Origins of (Durham and London: Duke University, 1997), 3. Dworkin, 45. Tony Bennet, Culture: A Reformer's Science (London: Sage, cl998), 44.  Cultural Studies 11 12  12 Chaucer, M i l t o n , and Shakespeare).  Although these pioneers are credited with being  the first to negotiate the "text" o f culture from a British perspective, they derided mass or popular culture. The Birmingham group, i n contrast, granted popular culture an entirely new order o f importance. Its primary intent was to cast light on the working-classes' lived experience through the study o f working-class culture. Richard Hoggart is the most important example o f this generation o f researchers. Hoggart, the director o f the C C C S from 1964 to 1969, himself came from a workingclass background and was involved in teaching adult education. He was also very interested in the role o f culture in Britain's class-based society. Postwar Britain promoted extended educational opportunities (specifically adult education) as part o f an effort at renewal and reconstruction, but class politics were still very much prevalent in everyday life. Hoggart enthusiastically valorized popular culture as a genuine expression o f the British working class. He was interested not only in how popular culture was created, but also i n how it expressed a lived working-class experience. According to Hoggart, the elite within society attempted to legitimate their power and privilege by projecting their "fields o f value," which then became the dominant culture. Hoggart saw popular culture, or the "authentic" working-class culture o f pre-war Britain, as an instrument o f class struggle by which the working class could express its own values and outlook. He interpreted working class popular culture as an interconnected, entity - a Gestalt reflecting working class family structure, recreational patterns, language and communication, and an organic sense o f community. This rich working class culture was, Hoggart asserted, in direct contrast to the "commodified" culture (consisting o f  13  Dworkin, 80.  13 popular music, television programs, pulp novels, and Hollywood movies) imported largely from the United States in the post-war years.  14  Intellectuals like Hoggart came to  see popular culture as a subject worth studying and preserving as it was losing ground to this imported, banalized mass culture. Hoggart based much o f his work on the Leavises' methodology o f applying literary criticism to culture i n general. This approach asserted that by looking at culture and art, one could gain insight into the true complexity o f a society as it is experienced by people day-to-day - what Hoggart referred to as "the felt quality o f l i f e . "  15  But while Hoggart  subscribed to the literary-critical approach, he also emphasized an oral analysis o f cultural experience. H i s accounts were derived from his personal experiences and were intended as a visceral expression o f what it "felt like" to grow up as part o f the working class in Britain. The power o f the spoken word to invoke a emotive response from the reader is emphasized in Hoggart's recollection o f the hardships endured by his grandmother:  Today, i f I hear someone using words like 'sorrow' and 'misery' freely, they usually sound slightly archaic; they are to be reserved for special events. To my grandmother they were regular words together with 'care' and 'hardship', used as often and as meaningfully as 'nuisance' and 'awkward' among many o f the people I know today. When my grandmother spoke o f someone 'taking the bread from her mouth' she was not being dramatic or merely figuratively; she was speaking from an unbroken and still relevant tradition, and her speech at times had something o f the elemental quality o f Anglo-Saxon poetry. 16  Hoggart saw the attitudes and experiences o f the working class reflected in the oral tradition o f speech patterns and common idioms. Even the title o f one o f Hoggart's most  14 15  Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (London: Chatto and Windus, 1967), 23-4. Hoggart, 20.  14 important works, Speaking to Each Other, consisted o f an oral trope. The Uses of Literacy expressed similar ideas: "Speech w i l l indicate a great deal, in particular the host of phrases in common use. Manners o f speaking, the use o f urban dialects, accents and intonations, could probably indicate [even] more."  17  Hoggart recalled many phrases  which allow a glimpse into the quotidian experiences o f the working class. For example, " ' ' E shows well for it anyway' (of a well-nourished child)... and ' I f it's not there y ' can't put it there' (of the intelligence needed to pass the scholarship examination)"  18  He  also drew on extensive examples o f idioms that expressed the working class attitude o f "putting up with things" in the course o f their difficult lives. Sayings like '"mek yer own life'; 'keep yer end up', [and] 'life is what y ' mek it" exhibited such a stoic working class outlook.  19  The English urban popular song and the "popular art" o f club-singing were other important expressions o f this oral tradition. In Hoggart's view, this popular art played a significant role in allowing the working class to maintain its ties to its traditions and history within the context o f day-to-day leisure activities: "Some features o f songs and singing among the working-classes illustrate better than anything else both their contact with older traditions and their capacity for assimilating and modifying new material to their established interests." Hoggart, however, generally avoided romanticizing this oral community. H i s recollections were mixed and equivocal as he mentioned not only the gentle and nurturing aspects o f working-class culture but also its more vulgar aspects: "Listen to [the  16 17 18 19  Hoggart, 44. Hoggart, 21. Hoggart, 27. Hoggart, 78.  15 working class] speaking o f their sexual adventures and plans; [and] you are likely to feel smothered by the boring animality, the mongrel-dogs-rutting-in-alleyways quality. It is a quality which owes as much to an insensitivity in relations as to a freedom from hypocrisy. To each class its own forms o f cruelty and dirt; that o f working-class people is sometimes o f a gratuitously debasing coarseness."  21  Nevertheless the orality o f  working class culture (including its vulgar aspects) was indispensable to its functioning as a community o f shared values and shared lived experiences. This perspective evokes Leonard Bloomfield's work on Speech-Communities in which he claimed that group o f people "interact by means o f speech" and that this is the most important kind o f social *  *  22  cohesion - even more so than economic or political or groupings. Stuart H a l l became the director o f the C C C S in 1969 following Hoggart's departure and his incumbency marked a profound change in British cultural studies. H a l l was born in Jamaica in the early 1930s to middle-class conservative parents; he earned a scholarship to Oxford in 1951 and set off for England. In 1964, Hoggart invited him to serve as his deputy at the C C C S . Hall was acutely aware o f the need for cultural discourse to ask both theoretical and political questions, and so he became a progressive activist as well as an academic. H a l l ' s directorship facilitated a shift in direction for the C C C S , towards the analysis o f mass culture. Since that culture was overwhelmingly visual, he also helped shift its focus in that direction by encouraging the analysis o f movies, television, and fashion. Under Hall's directorship, work began on audience  '"Hoggart, 124. \ Hoggart, 77. Leonard Bloomfield, "Speech-Communities (1933)" in The Routledge Language and Cultural Theory Reader, ed. Lucy Burke, Tony Crowley and Alan Girvin (ondon: Routledge, 2000) 261-8. 2  22  16 reception o f the mass media, the consumption o f commodities, and, most significantly, youth subcultures. In the 1970s, researchers at the C C C S began examining the visual "performances" o f youth groups such as "punks," "mods," and "skinheads" and began to read them as a form o f symbolic resistance to the dominant cultural system. Researchers like D i c k Hebdige saw subcultures as a strategy for youth groups to "renegotiate their position" and make a cultural and social space for themselves.  23  Youth subcultures came to be seen by  those at the C C C S as a symbolic response to the decline o f the traditional working class culture praised by Hoggart and others. These subcultures attempted to reproduce traditional notions o f working class community while simultaneously embracing modern consumer society. They did this not through oral traditions but through the visual strategy o f "style." Consequently, the researcher's job was to decode this style by observing and deciphering its meaning. The importance o f the visual in the ethnographic techniques at the C C C S was first evident in Phil Cohen's "Subcultural Conflict and Working-Class Community" (1972), originally published in the second issue o f the Centre's journal, Working  Papers.  Cohen's work, instrumental to subsequent C C C S research, studied British urban youth, and focused on strategies that allowed subordinate groups o f youth to construct their own cultural meanings. These social groups defined themselves through their distinctive beliefs and practices, social relations, institutions, and, most importantly, by their display of material objects.  24  A colleague o f Cohen's at the C C C S , Steve Butters, noted that  while there was no formal methodology for the work being done on subcultures at C C C S ,  23 24  Chris Barker, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice (London: Sage Publications, 2000), 322. Turner, 103.  17  there was a set o f principles called the "Participant Observation Paradigm" (POP). This research methodology involved the observer studying a group as an active participant. The vocabulary o f the visual was dominant in "Participant Observation" as the ethnographer "enters 'the field' to observe at close hand 'how it w o r k s ' . "  25  A s Butters  put it, the observer functions by  practicing a childlike "open gaze" o f attentiveness; or by repeatedly shifting his observational site.... He must constantly develop his "grounds for watching" what he is working on, so as to discover more in it, or alongside it. ...whether he has a clear rationale for looking at events, in terms o f an appropriate perspective which w i l l help to characterize them.... 26  Objective detachment was still thought to be achievable through copious notes which 97  could be "scanned" later for observations and codings.  This methodology was thus  highly visual - a point underscored by Butters's use o f visual tropes such as "gaze," "watching," and "scanned." It was questionable methodology however, both as an objective way o f looking and in the value assumptions it imposed on subcultural practices and symbols. Pierre Bourdieu claimed that academics occupy a particular social space, a space that is a social universe unto itself; consequently a "scholastic point o f v i e w " or "scholarly 9&  vision" is inseparable from this "scholastic situation."  Hence, what is perceived from  Steve Butters, "The Logic of Enquiry of Participant Observation: A Critical Review," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 244 (My emphasis). Butters, 267. Butters, 265. The scholastic situation refers to the economic, social, and cultural conditions that exist inside academe and that are in fact necessary for scholastic work to be accomplished in the first place. This includes the existence of paid tenured teaching positions, the economic means to concentrate on research, the network or community of academics to support such endeavors and a culture that values and puts pride in academic work for its own sake (Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations [Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, c2000], 54, 128). 26 27  28  18 observing a subculture is partially a product o f the researcher's own subjectivity and social circumstances. This phenomenon became unavoidable i n British cultural studies: indeed researchers were encouraged  to let personal politics play itself out in their work.  This is an example o f what Bourdieu calls a "scholastic fallacy" as the motivations that were seen in a subcultures were actually a reflection o f the researcher's own i •  • •  29  subjectivity. The way in which scholarly vision may be influenced by subjective politics can be seen in the history o f British urban ethnographic observation itself. The fallacy o f "scholastic vision" can be clearly seen in the "Mass-Observation" experiments o f the 1930s, which set out to produce an ethnographical record o f the British working class's social behavior. Historian Peter Gurney claims that "this quest was highly voyeuristic," as researchers exercised a "scoptophilic" gaze over their subjects, reproducing upper class representations o f the working class as a highly sexualized group. Gurney emphasizes that Mass-Observation's "project was shot through with an intentionality informed by particular class and gender assumptions that need to be properly unraveled."  30  Ethnographic researchers have traditionally taken their vision to be neutral  and empty o f preconceptions; this, however, is an illusion. Researchers at the C C C S were just as susceptible to this error as they too began to rely profoundly on the visual. The shift o f attention at the C C C S to a "looking" at youth subcultures first began with Paul W i l l i s ' s Profane  Culture  (1978), based on his 1972 dissertation, which was one o f  the most influential studies on youth subcultures to be produced at the C C C S .  3 1  It was an  Pierre Bourdieu, Practical Reason (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, cl998), 130. Peter Gurney, "Intersex" and "Dirty Girls": Mass-Observation and Working-Class Sexuality in the 1930s," Journal of the History of Sexuality, 1997, 8(2), 256-290. Dworkin, 155. 29 30  31  19 ethnographic analysis o f two working-class subcultures: motorcycle boys and hippies, both o f which contested the values o f the dominant culture.  32  While the radicalism o f  these groups was eventually appropriated by the culture industry, W i l l i s saw a valuable political lesson even in their defeat.  33  These groups had a creative and subversive  dimension even in the face o f the oppressive forces "immobilizing" them.  34  Indirect  resistance came to be the dominant trait o f subcultures, which was manifested through style rather than more overt forms o f protest. Resistance Through Rituals (1974) and W i l l i s ' s second book Learning to Labour (1977), both advanced this understanding o f subcultural resistance.  35  Learning to Labour  was an ethnographic "snapshot" o f the cultural experiences o f a specific group o f working class boys living through the transition between school and w o r k .  36  This work  serves as the prime example o f a case-study o f youth subcultures; however, the broader methodological approach o f Resistance Through Rituals remained "the Centre's quintessential statement on subcultures."  37  It was this latter work that set the theoretical  groundwork for the C C C S ' s shift towards studying the visuality o f youth subcultures. The first chapter o f Resistance Through Rituals, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class," outlined the overall theoretical approach o f the project, which was that cultures, even working class cultures, were not homogenous, but consisted o f fragmented social groups that possessed their own "distinct patterns o f life" and gave "expressive form to their  Dworkin, 155. Willis, in this way, recalls E. P. Thompson's approach of "history from below," and the notion that even failed acts of resistance have much to teach contemporary social action. Dworkin, 157. Although Learning to Labour was published before Profane Culture, it is a later work. Paul Willis, Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (New York: Columbia University Press, cl977). Dworkin, 164. 32 33  34 35  36  37  20 social and material life-experience."  38  Such "maps o f meaning" distinguished  subcultures from each other and the parent culture for both their members and for 39  outsiders.  The focus o f concern was to show how these maps were understood,  interpreted and experienced by the subcultures themselves and encourage researchers to re-create these maps through participant-observation.  40  In participant-observation the researcher dealt "first, with the most immediate aspect the qualitative novelty o f Youth Culture.... [and then] with the most visible aspects o f social change which were variously held to be responsible for its emergence."  41  For  example, Hebdige observed that punks did not merely respond to the British social decline o f the late 1970s, but "dramatized" i t  4 2  Indeed punk as a "style" was a visual  articulation o f the social and economic travails facing British youth at the time. This interpretation o f "style" recalls Benjamin's concept of'"ur-phenomena" whereby the total historical character o f a historical period can be revealed more profoundly through an image than it can be through a descriptive and critical-reflexive diegesis o f itself.  43  For example, some photographs o f specific events instantaneously convey the spirit or mood o f the time to the viewer, far more effectively than a verbal description would. John Clarke, a researcher at the C C C S and a key contributor to Resistance  Through  Rituals, wrote that style "stands apart - a visible construction, a loaded choice. It directs attention to itself; it gives itself to be read."  44  Hence, a subculture's "style objectifies the  group's self-image": it is by appearance that members distinguish and project their group 38 39 40 41 42 43  44  Cited in Turner, 103. Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 10. Dworkin, 154. Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 17 (Emphasis in original). Hebdige, Subculture, 85. Susan Buck-Morss, 777e Dialectics of Seeing (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1991), 56-7.  Hebdige, Subculture,  101.  21 identity.  43  But the approach to subcultures outlined in Resistance Through Rituals also  situated youth subcultures in terms o f both the parent culture (that is the working class culture o f parents) and the dominant culture. Subcultures were above all visually "coded" representations o f conflicts and contradictions affecting the working class as a whole. Basing their approach on Gramsci's theory o f hegemony, the researchers in Resistance Through Rituals argued that the struggles o f subcultures could be folded into a grand historical narrative o f the British class struggle.  46  Subcultures were taken to be  expressions o f the larger working class struggle; what needed attention was the particular form this expression took. In Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979), Hebdige explicitly shifted the emphasis from "class politics" to the "politics o f style."  47  This was, crucially, a move away from  the privileging o f oral expression Hoggart had engaged in and a move towards a concern with visual expressions o f identity. Drawing heavily on the semiotic theory o f Roland Barthes, Hebdige's study o f styles more profoundly represented a shift o f emphasis from diachronic, lived experience to synchronic expressions o f identity. Unlike orality, style was read not as the expression o f "lived-lives"; it was a signifying system that visually communicated cultural belonging. The ethnographer's job was consequently to decode the hidden meanings in the subculture's identity by examining its style. Hebdige elaborated: "the challenge to hegemony which subcultures represent is not issued directly  45  John Clarke, "The Skinheads and the Magical Recovery of Community," in Resistance through  Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 180.  Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci provided a compelling framework for analyzing society and culture, which had a significant influence on the CCCS. Gramsci's theory of hegemony postulated an understanding of how a society is bound together without direct authoritative control. The dominant group exercises their control over the subordinate classes not simply through their access to force, but through their ability to create consent through "intellectual and moral leadership." Significantly, culture is the location in which this struggle over hegemony occurs (Antonio Gramsci, The Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935, ed. Davis Forgacs [New York: New York University Press, 2000], 249). 4 6  22 by them. Rather it is expressed obliquely, in style."  For example, the M o d s (see Figure  1) "fetishizing" o f their appearance was viewed as an act o f resistance by way o f an inverted symbolic representation o f the parent culture: "The mod dealt his [sic] blows by inverting and distorting the images (of neatness, o f short hair) so cherished by his employers and parents, to create a style, which while being overtly close to the straight world was nonetheless incomprehensible to i t . "  49  Although Hebdige felt unable to call  this subcultural style politically successful, as it did not significantly influence the social or cultural status quo, he did interpret it as a "romantic victory" by virtue o f its symbolic resistance through  being-seen.  50  B y focusing intently on the subcultural use o f the visual, Hebdige and other researchers actually reproduced the subculture's fetishization o f the image. This is evident in Tony Jefferson's meticulous description o f the Teds' (see Figure 2) style o f dress:  51  Originally, the Edwardian suit was introduced in 1950 by a group o f Savile R o w tailors who were attempting to initiate a new style. It was addressed, primarily, to the young aristocratic men about town. Essentially the dress consisted o f a long,  Turner, 107. Hebdige, Subculture, 17. Dick Hebdige, "The Meaning of Mod," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 87-93. We might now consider the pleasure of transgressive display in terms of Foucault's "will to resist." Michel Foucault implicitly acknowledges the consistent presence of "resistance" (both unconscious and conscious) in his conception of power. For Foucault power is not an artifact with clearly defined boundaries: it is, by its very nature, diffuse. Correspondingly "resistance" is also diffused throughout the microphysics of power. Resistance is part of the physics of power; resistance is always present in these power relationships. "The will to power" and "the will to resist" are interlinked and naturally constitutive (Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow [New York: Pantheon Books, 1984], 64.). The Ted or Teddy Boys of the 1950s appropriated an upper class style of dress - usually a suit. Their meticulous style emulated the appearance of being upwardly mobile: it also evoked the "all-dressed-upand-nowhere-to-go" experience of working class youth on a Saturday night (See Tony Jefferson, "Cultural Responses of the Teds," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson [London: Routledge, 1975], 85-6). 4/  48  49  50  51  23  narrow - lepelled, waisted jacket, narrow trousers (but without being 'drainpipes'), ordinary toe-capped shoes, and a fancy waistcoat. Shirts were white with cutaway collars and ties were tied with a 'windsor' knot. Headwear, i f worn, was a trilby. The essential changes from conventional dress were the cut o f the jacket and the dandy waistcoat.... The later modifications to this style by the Teds were the bootlace tie; the thick-creped suede shoes (Eton clubman chukka type); skin-tight, drainpipe trousers (without turn-ups); straighter, less waisted jackets; moleskin or satin collars to the jackets; and the addition o f v i v i d colours. The earlier sombre suit colours occasionally gave way to suits o f v i v i d green, red or pink and other 'primitive' colours.... Blue-suede shoes, post-Elvis, were also worn. The hairstyle also underwent transformation: it was usually long, combed into a ' D - A ' with a boston neck-line (straight cut), greasy, with side whiskers and a quiff. Variations on this were the 'elephant's trunk' or the more extreme 'apache' (short on top, long at sides). 52  Jefferson takes care to place each style element within its pop culture context and its special significance in the style as a whole was thoroughly explicated. Just as the subcultures themselves were consumed with the visual significance o f their dress, so too was the researcher. Hebdige's description o f the mods also makes this very clear:  The life style to which the mod ideally aspired revolved around night clubs and city centres which demanded a certain exquisiteness o f dress H i s ideal modelmentor for this style would be the Italian mafiosi-type so frequently depicted in crime films shot in N e w York.... Alternatively, an equally acceptable, perhaps even more desirable image was projected by the Jamaican hustler (or later "rudie") whom the mod could see with increasing regularity as the decade [1970s] wore on operating with an enviable "savoir-faire" from every available streetcorner. Thus the pork-pie hat and dark glasses were at one time essential mod accessories.... Another and perhaps more pervasive influence can be traced to that o f the indigenous British gangster style, the evolution o f which coincides almost exactly with that o f the mods. 5  CCCS Mugging Group, "Some Notes on the Relationship Between the Societal Control Culture and the News Media: The Construction of a Law and Order Campaign," in Resistance through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 85-6.  24 The visual was similarly important for other subcultures: "Fights which ensued when individuals insulted Teds are explicable in terms o f a defence of the self and the cultural extension of the self symbolised in their dress and general appearance.."  54  Indeed the  Ted viewed his own appearance as synonymous with his identity as a member o f the group. Researchers never critically questioned this visual regime as a process deeply implicated with forms o f societal power other than class (such as gender and race) but took stylistic appearance as a meaningful form o f resistance neutral to extraneous factors. According to the editors o f Resistance through Rituals, the visibility o f subcultures was inseparable from their political and historical class role.  55  Style was implicitly conceived  as an epiphenomenon o f the deeper historical experience o f class. Visible characteristics, which distinguished the subculture from the norms o f the parent culture, were seen to be based on political choices.  56  These characteristics  constituted a transgressive visual spectacle. They were, i n Hebdige's words, "profane articulations," that "are often and significantly defined as 'unnatural'."  57  For C C C S  researchers, "style" allowed subcultures to articulate an experience that relied on class as the primary form o f collective agency. Dick Hebdige's frequent use o f the term "spectacular subculture" signifies visual resistance, which occurs in the interstices o f a modern capitalist society, which is itself, a "society o f spectacle." Guy Debord writes i n  The mods appeared in London in 1964. They were very self-conscious of their style as a parodic display of the consumption and expropriation of "modern" commodities. The Italian scooter became one of the most famous mod icons (Hebdige, "The Meaning of Mod," 89). CCCS Mugging Group, "Some Notes on the Relationship Between the Societal Control Culture and the News Media: The Construction of a Law and Order Campaign," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 82 (Emphasis in original). John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson and Brian Roberts, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 9. Paul Corrigan and Simon Frith, "The Politics of Youth Culture," in Resistance through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 238. Hebdige, Subculture, 91-2. 53  54  55  56  57  25 The Society of the Spectacle, "The spectacle is not a collection o f images; rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images." In other words, in late capitalist society visual representations become increasing important i n societal CO  relationship.  Hebdige noted that "the success o f the punk subculture as spectacle [is] its  ability to symptomatize a whole cluster o f contemporary [class] problems."  59  It was this  transgressiveness that "magically" linked subcultural style to expressions o f a communal class experience.  60  This transgressiveness was in turn accomplished by inverting or  subverting dominant cultural meanings in highly visual ways. Researchers interpreted a subculture's use o f commercial commodities as an important tool in the challenging o f cultural hegemony. In simple terms, subcultures created style through their consumption o f goods produced by mass culture, which were already cultural signs or symbols with their own "meanings, associations, [and] social connotations."  61  The strategy employed by members o f subcultures was then to take  these signs and "intensify or exaggerate or isolate" their meanings and thereby change them.  Subcultures combined these signs "according to a 'secret' language or code, to  which only members o f the group [possessed] the k e y . "  63  The display o f commodities  did not in itself produce style; rather it was the organization o f signs according to a code that reflected the values o f the group that made style. Nevertheless, the organization o f  Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1995), 12 Hebdige, Subculture, 87 (My emphasis). See Clarke, "The Skinheads and the Magical Recovery of Community," 99-105. Marx calls them "social hieroglyphs." See Karl Marx, "Capital, Volume One," in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (London: W. W. Nortin & Company, 1978), 322. Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning ofStyle, 94-5 and Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 55. Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 55. Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 55-6. 58  5 9 6 0 61  62 63  26 these signs was to be read visually. This to-be-looked-at-ness was above all the defining characteristic o f "style." Hebdige invoked the idea o f "bricolage"  whereby subcultures appropriated  commercially produced commodities for their own ends.  64  These commodities were  combined in ways not intended by their producers in order to produce oppositional meanings.  65  Through bricolage, subcultures engaged in a form o f symbolic resistance to  both the dominant culture and the parent working-class culture.  66  While subcultures  strived for "novelty," they moved from originality and resistance to commodification and ideological dispersion o f their style, as subcultural artifacts fed back into the commodity producing industries.  67  "Style" was not only defined by those who displayed it, but also by the parent culture who pictured it as an Other through negative media representations. The media identified subcultures as visual metaphors for "youth" as a whole. For the media the "image o f youth often carried with it the threat o f 'what could go w r o n g . ' "  68  Hebdige describes the  creation o f representative images o f social groups by the media:  ...a credible image o f social cohesion can only be maintained through the appropriation and redefinition o f cultures o f resistance (e.g. working-class youth cultures) in terms o f that image. In this way, the media not only provide groups with substantive images o f other groups, they also relay back to working-class  Bricolage was originally coined by Claude Levi-Strauss referring to "the re-ordering and recontextualisation of objects to communicatefreshmeanings, within a total system of significances, which already includes prior and sedimented meanings attached to the objects used" (John Clarke, "Style," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson [London: Routledge, 1975], 177). Hebdige, Subculture, 103. Jean Baudrillard has noted, culture involves the production of symbols, but every cultural symbol is recycled from an earlier form and is therefore a simulation. Subcultural styles thus took this notion to its logical and spectacular conclusion (Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995]). Hebdige, Subculture, 95-6. Clarke, "Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview," 27. 64  65 66  67  68  27 people a 'picture' o f their own lives which is 'contained' or ''framed? by the ideological discourses which surround and situate i t . 69  Clarke used as an example the skinhead (see Figure 3), whose "image [was] presented to the [media] audience with wholly negative connotations."  70  In this way the media's  negative representations served to provide the nationalist discourse with a series contrasting images, which helped define and delimit normalcy. Yet, despite this ground-breaking work, researchers o f subcultures at the C C C S were trapped into limited ways o f seeing. The intellectual concerns o f British cultural studies were not only inflexibly class-based, but also focused implicitly on white, working-class, male subjects. The visual approach at the C C C S thus failed to "see" other cultural subjects, particularly women. In their 1976 paper, "Girls and Subcultures: A n Exploration," Angela M c R o b b i e and Jenny Garber asked two critical questions: " A r e girls... really not active or present in youth subcultures? Or has something in the way this research is done rendered them invisible?"  71  McRobbie and Garber answered the first  question by observing that girls were active within youth cultures but often i n much different ways than boys. They answered the second question in the affirmative. Women at the C C C S i n the 1970s recognized that female cultural subjects were nowhere to be seen and that both the groups and the topics studied had an "unambiguously masculine •  prerogative."  72  Male-centered studies o f style consequently "unconsciously reproduce[d]  their subculture's repressible [sic] attitude towards w o m e n . "  73  M c R o b b i e also noted that  Hebdige, Subculture, 85 (My emphasis). Clarke, "Style," 186. Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber, "Girls and Subcultures: An Exploration," in Resistance Through Rituals, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1975), 100. Angela McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture (London: Macmillan, 1991), 24. Turner, 165. 69  70 71  72  73  28 "This is not to say that women are denied style, rather that the style o f subcultures is primarily that o f its men. Linked to this are the [subculture's] collective celebrations o f itself through its rituals o f stylish public self-display and o f its (at least temporary) sexual self-sufficiency."  74  Subcultures relied on phallogocentric strategies o f style to display  their identity. These strategies were implicitly male as they emphasized vigorous independence coupled with masculine conceptions o f personal agency. Subcultures drew on patriarchal meanings and male-oriented notions o f resistance by mimicking popular movie images o f the lone manly protagonist (for example, the cowboy, the gangster, or the private eye) who needed no one and survived by his tenacity and wits. McRobbie and Garber's paper marked the beginning o f feminist interventions i n these discussions o f subcultures at the C C C S . Women Take Issue (1978) was a further critique of the middle-class, male bias o f the Centre. The Editorial Group responsible for this groundbreaking volume articulated the barriers it faced: "Women's continuing 'invisibility' i n the journal [Working Papers in Cultural Studies], and i n much o f the intellectual work done within C C C S (although things are changing), is the result o f a complex o f factors, which although i n their particular combination are specific to our own relatively privileged situation, are not unique to i t . "  75  Women Take Issue was the  work o f a collective, including Angela McRobbie, Charlotte Brundson, Dorthy Hobson, Janice Winship, and Rachel Harrison, who came together at the C C C S as the Women's Studies Group in 1974 with the mission o f investigating and analyzing women as cultural agents. It was an important opening into the study o f the cultural lives o f women and o f  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 117. Editorial Group, Women's Studies Group Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies University of Birmingham, Women Take Issue: Aspects of Women's Subordination (London: Hutchinson, 1978), 7 (My emphasis). 74 75  29 "feminine" cultural forms (such as teenage and women's magazines). The Women's Studies Group stressed that the work at the C C C S , even the avant-garde studies o f subcultures, contributed to patriarchal oppression by relegating women to "relative obscurity."  76  Over a decade after the initial feminist inroads in British cultural studies, McRobbie put forth a more developed critique o f the masculinized approach to subcultures in Feminism and Youth Culture (1991). Her critique o f Learning to Labour paid particular attention to its romanticization o f the "lads" and its neglect o f the fact that their rebellious creativity reproduced misogynist attitudes: "unambiguously degrading to women is the [way the study reports without comment the] language o f aggressive masculinity through which the lads kick against the oppressive structures they inhabit - the text is littered with references o f the utmost brutality." McRobbie found a prime example o f this in an account o f classroom behavior:  Her being labelled a 'cunt' undermines one teacher's authority. Boredom in the classroom is alleviated by mimed masturbating o f a giant penis and by replacing the teacher's official language with a litany o f sexual 'obscenities'. The lads demonstrate their disgust for and fear o f menstruation by substituting 'jam rag' for towel at every opportunity. 77  Here W i l l i s failed to comment on "the [sexual] violence underpinning such imagery." Neither did he acknowledge the cruelty o f the boys' sexual double standard or problematize the way "images o f sexual power and domination" were used as a defensive ploy by "the lads.  78  ° McRobbie herself was conscious o f the intention o f this passage -  Schulman, 51-71. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 21. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 21.  30 to convey the agency o f the boys to resist authority - but chose to read it against the grain to reveal the way in which hostility to women was imbedded in both the boys' behavior and the study's account o f it. While the passage valorized boys as agents o f resistance, it silenced other agents, specifically women. The author's admiration for the lads' "subversion" blinded h i m to the sexist aspects o f the boys' behavior. He presented the scene as an uncomplicated image o f youth's resistance against traditional expectations o f growth into manhood. What, however, would an examination o f issues that did pay attention to women look like? Or, as M c R o b b i e put it, "Where girls are visible, what are their roles and do these reflect the general subordination o f women in culture?"  79  Observing girls who were  pushed to the periphery o f sight - such as the "teddy-girls" o f the 1950s, and the "motorbike girl," "mod g i r l " and the "hippy" o f the 1960s (see Figures 4) - would serve to 80  answer these questions.  Such observations would, for example, show that as the mod  unisex style gave way to the ambiguous sexuality o f the hippie, "both women themselves and femininity as a representational form became more acceptable within the prevailing 81  vocabulary o f youth subcultures."  Furthermore, McRobbie proposed that women living  within youth subcultures were also influenced by stylistic regimes: Participation was almost wholly reliant on wearing the right clothes, having the right hairstyle and going to the right clubs. With this combination right, the girl was a mod. L i k e her male counterpart, the mod girl demonstrated the same fussiness for detail in clothes, the same over-attention to appearance. Facial styles emphasized huge, darkened eyes and body-style demanded thinness.  0 1  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 2. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 7. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 7.  31 This, however, had been completely neglected by male researchers at the C C C S mainly because the role women played had to be excavated from beneath the surfaces o f styles something the researcher's visual approach simply was not concerned with. McRobbie, and the other women researchers at the C C C S , revealed that girls created distinctive cultures, not in public spaces, but in the private spaces o f the home and bedroom: "The important question may not be the absence or presence o f girls in male subcultures, but the complementary ways i n which young girls interact among themselves and with each other to form a distinctive culture o f their o w n . "  83  The "orthodox"  approaches to youth subculture that focused on public displays o f style accordingly failed to see a whole world o f girl culture: "the rituals o f trying on clothes, and experimenting with hairstyles and make-up were home-based activities. It might be suggested that girls' culture o f the time operated within the vicinity o f the home, or the friends' home. There was room for a great deal o f the new teenage consumer culture within the confines o f the 84  girls' bedrooms."  This "domestic" culture o f leisure and consumerism, hidden from the  prying eyes o f the male researcher, involved the creation o f styles within intimate groups of girls. Male researchers at the C C C S may have overlooked these cultural activities, but girls had long been targeted and marketed to, through commodities like girls' comics and magazines with "feminine" content containing articles on fashion, pop music and 85  romance.  This new research began to reveal the extent to which, in the modern  configuration o f public and private spheres at least, boys participated in more public and overt displays o f style while girls gravitated to more private forms o f expression. 82 83 84 85  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 9. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 11. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 6. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 11.  32 Girls, like boys, McRobbie continued, manufactured their own unique styles through innovative techniques o f consumption. However, while male subcultures deployed style for public display, female subcultures encouraged an intimate dialogue and discussion between close-knit groups o f friends: "They prefer fashion, beauty and 'female' interests to the team spirit o f the club. That is, their culture finds expression partly in and around the commodities focused directly on aspects o f femininity. They prefer these to the as;  official youth club 'activities'."  McRobbie noted that there were girls who also  participated in spectacular public displays in the subcultures, but they remained the exception rather than the rule.  87  Hence, the emphasis on the public spectacle o f style by  Hebdige and others reinforced both the idea o f subcultures as a male domain and, at the same time, the street as an "arena" o f male dominance: "It has always been on the street that most subcultural activity takes place... it both proclaims the publicisation o f the group and at the same time ensures its male dominance."  88  The display o f style on the  street consequently reinforced the modern cultural dichotomy o f public spaces being gendered masculine and o f private spaces being gendered feminine. But moreover it deployed notions o f display and ways o f looking that were gendered in-and-of themselves. In the decade between the publication o f McRobbie and Garber's article and the publication o f Feminism and Youth Culture, a range o f work was done which reinterpreted cultural practices that were previously devalued in British cultural studies, most notably, dance. McRobbie declared that "when dance has found its way into accounts o f working-class culture, it has tended to be either derided as trivial or else 86 87  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 42-58. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 29.  33 on  taken as a sign o f moral degeneration."  For example, Hoggart, in The Uses of Literacy,  saw dancing as a part o f the culture o f femininity, and therefore as transitory and inconsequential. He wrote: "Everything [girls choose] to do seems urban and trivial; it would be difficult to hold their attention for long to anything not part o f the dream."  90  McRobbie countered that "The link between dance and youth subculture is reflective o f how a crucial element i n subcultural activity was played down, i f not altogether ignored."  91  Through the study o f dance, McRobbie explored an alternate "feminine" mode o f expression that contrasted with the overtly masculine display o f subcultures. While dance is an artistic practice, it is also a social practice, a leisure activity and a visual means o f social and sexual communication, "a way o f speaking through the body." M c R o b b i e ' s observation o f dance reemphasized the potential for dialogue that exists within female youth subcultures: "Dance for girls represents a public extension o f the private culture o f femininity which takes place outside the worried gaze o f the moral 09  guardians and indoors in the protected space o f the home."  This implies an interesting  dichotomy: M c R o b b i e equates the "gaze" (that is the visual) with the authoritarian patriarchal aspect o f culture while "speaking through the body" suggests more democratic possibilities through feminine bodily communication. Although dance was a means o f conforming to the social and cultural expectations o f the feminine, it also had the "ability to create a fantasy o f change, escape, and o f achievement for girls and young women who are otherwise surrounded by much more 88 89 90 91  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 29. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 195. Hoggart, 45-6. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 196.  34 mundane and limiting leisure opportunities."  McRobbie interpreted dance as "an art, a  representational form, a performance and a spectacle, it has an extremely strong, almost symbiotic relationship with its audience.... Images o f dance have the effect o f making people want to do i t . "  94  Like the experience o f a spectator in the darkness o f a cinema,  the act o f dancing is an immersive form o f visual escapism "capable o f transporting... the viewer away from the difficulties o f everyday life." However, there is an important difference between the fantasy afforded by cinema and that realized through dance. A s McRobbie explained, "Dance operates as a metaphor for an external reality which is unconstrained by the limits and expectations o f gender identity and which successfully and relatively painlessly transports its subjects from a passive to a more active psychic position."  95  Dance is obviously a visual performance, but it suggests the possibility o f  dialogue between dancer and audience. It is o f an entirely different order o f the visual than phallocentric subcultural forms o f display and "looking" in male subcultures, which were extremely exclusionary. The exclusionary elements in masculine ways o f looking were also explored in feminist film theory. A discussion o f this body o f theory w i l l perhaps facilitate our understanding o f visuality's role in the study o f subcultures. Laura M u l v e y ' s "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975) published in the film journal Screen, was a highly influential analysis o f the gendered nature o f film audiences and how they, in turn, watched.  96  Mulvey drew on psychoanalytical accounts o f the formation o f the " s e l f in  McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 195-7. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 192. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 192-3. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 201. Dennis Dworkin describes Screen as "an alternative approach to cultural studies" in the 1970s that closely examined "the ideological dimension of cultural practices, texts, and genres" (Dworkin, 144). 93  94 95  96  35  order to examine how popular Hollywood cinema reproduces the "male gaze."  Cinema,  she argued, produces visual pleasure in two contradictory ways. The first is scopophilia: "taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze." This concept o f the controlling gaze requires the subordination and obj edification o f women. The second involves "developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect."  99  This  refers to the connection fostered between the male character on the screen and the male audience member. It is this second aspect that has a relevance to our discussion o f the visual relationship between male ethnographer and male subcultural member. The subjectivity o f the viewer, M u l v e y argued, is a construction.  100  Using Jacques  Lacan's concept o f the mirror phase - which refers to a period in the development o f the ego in which the child recognizes itself in the mirror - she suggested that, like the child, the film spectator identifies himself with the male character on the screen.  101  This also  articulates the visual relationship between the male researcher and the male subcultural subject. The researcher observing style idealized his object o f study and identified subjectively with him (see our earlier discussion o f the researcher's projection o f his own political perspective onto the subject). This was further evident in the fetishization o f the details o f the stylistic modes o f dress, and the valorization o f dramatic displays o f resistance. Feminist interrogations o f the work on subcultures not only showed how visuality at the C C C S was gendered but it also showed that there were alternative ways o f conceiving  "Popular" is used here not in Hoggart's sense of the word, but synonymously with mass cultural commodities. Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," in Screen, Vol. 16, 3 (1975), 6-18. Mulvey, 25. "General Introduction," in The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality, ed. John Caughie and Annette Kuhn (London: Routledge, 1992), 4. Mulvey, 6-18. 97  98  99  100  101  36 culture - such as the emphasis on orality - that were not so implicated with male power. The intervention o f feminists also allowed other vectors o f analysis to be pursued at the C C C S . The most important o f these was race. Just as women had not been seen initially, so it was realized in the late 1970s that other subjects had become "invisible" in British cultural studies because o f their racial difference. Work at the C C C S thus came to examine raced ways o f looking. This drew on a long and complex history o f the relationship between race and vision. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries European scientists developed a vision o f the natural world that was profoundly gendered and racialized. The scientific gaze was anything but neutral, as Londa Schiebinger demonstrates in her book Nature's Body, rather it was profoundly shaped by preconceptions about gender and race. The scientist organized his work in terms o f these sexual and racial notions, mapped what he saw through his scientific gaze, and made his findings confirm these presumptions.  102  In Policing the Crisis (1978), the first publication from the C C C S to discuss racial issues, Stuart Hall observed how in the late 1970s the media's construction o f the "mugging" crisis in London and the social subject o f the "mugger" were conflated with cultural perceptions o f racial minorities and broader social problems. The racially circumscribed image o f the "mugger" (the young, black male) provided a convenient scapegoat for the dominant white cultural order to reassert itself through a policy o f "cracking down" on crime. The next important work on race to emerge from the C C C S , The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in '70s Britain (1982),  103  was a collection o f  essays written in the aftermath o f Thatcher's 1979 victory and the race riots o f the early  See Londa Schiebinger, Nature's Body: Gender in the Making Of Modern (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993). 102  37 1980s.  104  This work was built on the foundations laid by Hall i n Policing the Crisis and  it too emphasized the need to reexamine race and racist images in a historical and social context, rather than viewing them as universal constants across the range o f human experience.  105  Both works explicitly identified their projects as "raced" interventions in  British cultural studies. This newfound emphasis on raced ways o f seeing did not arrive in a vacuum. The 1970s marked a period o f painful social and economic disenfranchisement for black people in Britain due to widespread economic hardship. Racial conflict was exacerbated by the increasing tendency o f white Britons to see black Britons as outsiders incapable o f assimilation. The result was the entrenchment o f the disadvantages faced by blacks. Contrary to white Britons' belief that black people were treated the same way as whites in every respect, Britons o f Asian and West Indian descent continued to face discrimination in employment, housing, and education.  106  A s a result o f this "crisis," a  cultural and social discourse emerged in an attempt to manage the problem o f race relations. In due course, this discourse on race constructed a knowable image o f blacks based on white fears and anxieties. It was this image that C C C S observers, operating with the aid o f a new postcolonial theory, began to consider and dissect. Assisted by Said's Orientalism in 1978, postcolonial thinkers had taken up the idea that the formation of a body o f knowledge concerning the colonial (or raced) subject and the consequent construction o f a stable "knowable" representation o f this raced "other" is crucial to the  Paul Gilroy, Pratibha Parmar, Hazel V. Carby, and Errol Lawrence were among the contributors. Dworkin, 180. Like Women Take Issue, this was a collection of essays written at the Centre. Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 1984), 387.  38 workings o f colonial (or racial) p o w e r .  107  A s postcolonial thinker H o m i Bhabha put it,  "colonial discourse produces the colonized as a fixed reality which is at once an 'Other' 1 OR  and yet entirely knowable and visible."  Researchers on race at the C C C S and  postcolonial thinkers elsewhere emphasized the importance o f recognizing how conventional understandings o f race rested on images that serve to reify racial prejudices. The sociologist Paul Gilroy was one o f the most important C C C S intellectuals to provide an exegesis o f these new meanings o f race during this period. In 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack' (1987), Gilroy critically analyzed the relationship between race in Britain and the construction o f a British national cultural identity.  109  Race, for Gilroy,  does not correspond to "any biological or epistemological absolutes:" it is rather an "open political category."  110  But though race is a mutable category that is culturally contingent,  it is nonetheless linked to skin colour - an emphasis on the visual that, as Bhabha suggested, served to secure "race" in what appeared to be a knowable structure (in that race could be seen), that reinforced existing power relationships.  111  Gilroy's idea that  race could not be classified by any natural means (not even physiologically or genetically) thus opposed the prevalent power o f the visual towards race in modern society. Taking up the thread o f inquiry begun in Policing the Crisis, Gilroy discussed the evolution o f "race" as a policing problem during the m i d 1970s, when blacks became associated with crime and urban centers. He asserted that "Britain's 'race' politics were See Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, cl979). Homi K. Bhabha, "The Other Question - the Stereotype and Colonial Discourse," Screen vol. 24, 6 November-December 1983, 18-36. Work done on this book was technically done after Gilroy had left the Centre however it is a clear extension of the work that he had done there. ' Paul Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' The Cultural Politics of Race and Nations (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), 247. 107 108  109  10  quite inconceivable away from the context o f the inner city which provides such foundations for the imagery o f black criminality and lawlessness."  112  This, in turn,  produced a constellation o f conceptual images that illustrated the racial anxieties o f white Britannia. Rather than facilitating understanding o f race relations, these images simplified and fixed racial concepts, closing off the possibility for further dialogue about race. For example, the power o f the "image o f the lone white child in a class full o f blacks which was so central to that nightmare vision still makes this a theme a public political issue with great popular resonance."  113  Such mental images belonged to a  cultural visual field categorized by the authors o f Policing the Crisis as a "public image" - an image that arises i n contemporary culture in order to make sense o f the world (see Mitchell's useful diagram on the etymology o f the image, Figure 5.1). H a l l defined a public image as "a cluster o f impressions, themes and quasi-explanations, gathered or fused together." This visual representation is a powerful means o f simplifying complex issues - such as race relations. Public images are "graphically compelling," but, as H a l l suggested, this is also their failing. They "stop short o f serious, searching analysis," and instead "they tend to appear in place of analysis - or analysis seems to collapse into the image." In this way, the public image serves to "foreclose the problem." This is the especially case where "further analysis threatens to go beyond the boundaries o f a dominant ideological field" - in other words, where it disrupts dominant cultural ways o f understanding and t h i n k i n g .  114  Bhabha, 18-36. Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 228. " Paul Gilroy, Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture (London: Serpent's Tail, 1993), 111  112  J  59.  ' Stuart Hall (et al.), Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order (London : Macmillan, 1978), 118 (Emphasis in original). 14  40 What was important was how these "public images" o f race traversed political divides. Gilroy observed that throughout the 1980s the British Left's political strategy attempted to counter the Right's monopoly on British patriotism by constructing an "alternative" national identity around the English working-man. British Leftist historians, most notably E . P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm, attempted to locate the working man at the center o f a "true" British cultural identity, yet this identity was unambiguously white (as can be seen in Thompson's use o f John Nelson's dream image). Hence, "modern English cultural uniqueness" was conceived largely through the visual binary o f black and white which, in turn, helped shape cultural idioms o f "Britishness." This explicitly visual way of conceiving and understanding race displaced earlier more plastic concepts: "Notions o f the primitive and the civilised which had been integral to pre-modern understanding o f 'ethnic' differences became fundamental cognitive and aesthetic markers in the processes which generated a constellation o f subject positions in which Englishness, Christianity, and other ethnic and racialised attributes would finally give way to the [contemporary age's] dislocating dazzle o f 'whiteness.'"  115  Indeed the power o f visual representations  o f race overwhelmed any possibility o f problematization through meaningful dialogue. While prior racial discourses had allowed some play and negotiation in the conception o f race, the visual served to fix race into the poles o f black and white. There could be little discussion o f the nature o f race when visual racial representations presented themselves as indisputably "true" by the very fact they could be seen. These "new" conceptions o f race and "Britishness" were primarily embodied in the form o f popular media images. Appeals to a pure ethnic Britishness were combined with  " Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, cl993), 9. 5  41 metonymic "public" images denoting Britishness (such as the U n i o n Jack, B i g Ben, or men with bowler hats) that may not have had a single concrete referent, but were what W.J.T. Mitchell calls "hyper-icons."  116  A s the authors o f Policing the Crisis pointed out,  "Together, these images produce and sustain an uncodified but immensely powerful, conservative sense o f Englishness, o f an English 'way o f life', o f an 'English' viewpoint which - it also, by its very density o f reference, asserts - everyone shares to some extent."  117  Images o f racial difference were excluded from this nationalist discourse, but  when they were included, they frequently constituted a non-British Otherness by which to define a "true" national identity. Gilroy used a specific example o f the way the visual played out in racial/political discourse: the Conservatives' ethnic election poster o f 1983. This poster was encoded with raced signifiers that could be read on several levels (see Figure 7). The poster's central message was a variation o f the "one nation, one people" theme, and criticized Labour's treatment o f blacks as a minority deserving "special" treatment. Gilroy explained: "the poster states that the category o f citizen and the formal belonging which it bestows on its black holders are essentially colourless, or at least c o l o u r - b l i n d . "  118  Clearly influenced by Barthes's semiotic decoding o f popular cultural images that are vested with taken-for-granted meanings, Gilroy offered a deeper analysis o f the visual signifiers in the poster.  119  While the poster's surface message purported to be "colour  blind," Gilroy revealed an insidious underlying racism:  1,6 117 118 119  See Mitchell, 162. Hall, Policing the Crisis, 140. Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 59. Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 11.  42 A t this point the slightly too large suit worn by the young [black] man, with its unfashionable cut and connotations o f a job interview, becomes a key signifier. It conveys what is being asked o f the black readers as the price o f admission to the colour-blind form o f citizenship promised by the text. Blacks are being invited to forsake all that marks them out as culturally distinct before real Britishness can be guaranteed. National culture is present in the young man's clothing. Isolated and shorn o f the mugger's key icons - a tea-cosy hat and the dreadlocks o f Rastafari - he is redeemed by his suit, the signifier o f British civilization. The image o f black youth as a problem is thus contained and rendered assimilable. The w o l f is transformed by his sheep's c l o t h i n g . 120  These "key icons" were o f course used to visually signify particular representations o f race. The very presence o f black and Asian diasporas that overtly refused to conform (or could not because o f their skin colour) to the national visual ideal represented a threat that had to either be ignored or defined outright as "non-British." The field o f cultural studies itself was not innocent o f this racial myopia. Gilroy felt that the cultural studies movement in Britain was inexcusably side-stepping race in favor o f ethnic homogeneity. He declared, "I have grown gradually more and more weary o f having to deal with the effects o f striving to analyze culture within neat, homogeneous national units reflecting the 'lived relations' involved; with the invisibility of 'race' within the field and, most importantly, with the forms o f nationalism endorsed by a discipline which, in spite o f itself, tends toward a morbid celebration o f England and Englishness from which blacks are systematically excluded."  121  In his later work, The  Black Atlantic (1993), Gilroy argued that the connection o f British cultural studies to an atavistic ethnic nationalism was to blame for this deficiency.  122  Part o f the problem was  that culture was viewed not as "intrinsically fluid, changing, unstable and dynamic," but  121 122  Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 59. Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 12. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 5.  43 rather as a "natural" product o f ethnically uniform social groups.  123  In other words,  British cultural studies, as it stood at the moment o f G i l r o y ' s interrogation, was unable to conceive o f its subject as anything but white. Gilroy, as we have seen argued that the use o f visual images tended to place race into an unquestioning framework that ran counter to an open, dialogue on race and ethnicity. But he did see one anti-racism campaign in late-1970s London as a successful subversion of these rigid visual representations o f race. In 1977, the pop cultural forum provided by Rock Against Racism ( R A R ) allowed British youth (both black and white) to unite and give expression to the social disparities they witnessed and experienced under capitalism. Gilroy asserted that " R A R had allowed space for youth to rail against the perceived inequities o f 'Labour Party Capitalist B r i t a i n ' " through the medium o f popular music and poster art.  124  The strength o f R A R was its use o f the visual, specifically poster art, to  communicate its message:  More important still was the designers' commitment to the power of looking, rather than reading, as a source o f political feelings and consciousness. The fractured form o f the montages in particular reproduced the fragments o f R A R ' s own contradictory constituency while conveying the discontinuity and diversity o f the complex social and political process in which a growing British authoritarianism was being generated. In the visual and verbal rhetoric o f both R A R and the punks, racism was now more than a s y m b o l . 125  According to Gilroy, seeing the poster was itself a transgressive act (see Figure 6). The gaze o f the viewer is never transparent but is always shaped by cultural understandings o f race that she or he is exposed to day-to-day. Since the viewer's vision is inherently  123 124 125  Gilroy, Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture, 24. Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 133. Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack,' 128 (My emphasis).  44 "raced," looking at the poster was therefore a subversion o f preconceived racist conceptions. Gilroy thus proposed that "the white reader who does look at this poster thereby puts themselves in a different category from those who w i l l not look... the poster suggests that by the act o f looking at the slogan and absorbing its message, anti-racism is created and racism itself abolished."  126  The photomontage o f popular images presented on the R A R  poster subverted the individual "intended" meanings o f these images and created new meanings. It deployed a form o f what Benjamin called "thinking-in-pictures" (Bilddenken), whereby understanding emerges spontaneously from the act o f looking, rather than through didactic explanation.  127  The success o f the R A R poster campaign can  thus be summarized as the use o f visuality to encourage an epistemological questioning of racist images and conceptions. More recently, Gilroy has declared that the real agent o f historical, cultural and political change is an international black expressive culture. He points to a set o f expressive and artistic "subversions" by the black community i n Britain that offset the nationalist cultural politics o f exclusion. This culture takes a visual form, but also an oral one. T w o o f the most important outlets for this black expressiveness reside in the British visual arts and black music.  In the cheekily-titled essay "Wearing your art on your  sleeve," which appeared in Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture (1990), Gilroy calls attention to the way in which artistic expression was played out through the graphic art on record sleeves. This art used visual signs and codes to convey a sense o f  Gilroy, 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack, '141. See Walter Benjamin, "One-Way Street (selection)," in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1978), 61-94. Gilroy, Small Acts, 79. 126 127  128  45 the black experience, and had a complex inter-textual relationship with the music it packaged:  The text and images found on sleeves existed in relation to the music they enclosed but these different dimensions o f communication had a significant measure o f independence from each other. Together they constituted an intricate commodity that fused different components o f black cultural and political sensibility in an unstable and unpredictable combination. In the 1960s and 1970s, black political discourse migrated to and colonized the record sleeve as a means towards its expansion and self-development.  Musicians were often able to use record sleeve art "to collude with their preferred audiences i n telling ways." Through visual codes and images, artists were able to give voice to a political and historiographical discourse that was largely ignored in mainstream popular culture at the time. One o f the most important ideas communicated through these means was the re-historicizing o f race. The illustrations on record sleeves frequently focused on images that were symbolic to black history, yet they grounded themselves in the present by referencing contemporary culture (see Figures 8.1 to 8.4):  For example, the prevalence o f images o f ancient Egypt during the 1960s and 1970s proved to be an important means for communicating pan-African ideas in an inferential, populist manner. It is worth noting that, appropriated in this way, the 'traditional' imagery o f ancient Egypt was not counterposed to views o f 'modern' reality but rather presented in a way that emphasized its continuity with contemporary technological and scientific developments. It is noteworthy that, although these images are still part o f a visual culture that supports African-American music, they were used i n a number o f rather different ways during the 1980s. One recent vision mediates the heritage o f N i l e Valley civilizations by inserting the borrowed and 'blackened' image o f Indiana Jones, the superhuman hero from Steven Spielberg's adventure films, between the cartouche and the v i e w e r . 130  Gilroy, Small Acts, 240.  46  Gilroy's interpretation o f the political use o f visuality on record sleeves recalls earlier methods o f reading subcultural "styles." The "stylistic" images on record sleeves reinvented black history by combining it with symbols taken from modern consumer culture in a way comparable to subcultures' use o f bricolage.  The result was a hybrity in  these images that blurred the line between modern mass culture and a "silenced" black history - complicating the "familiar" with the "alien." Such visual strategies provided "provisional" spaces, which necessitated an active decoding by the consumer/audience. This "folk art" allowed black artists to express a sense o f lived experience and history beyond conventional cultural modes o f "seeing," which had either occulted black visual subjects completely or depicted them as stereotypes.  131  Elsewhere, Gilroy shows how other images were used as a means to subvert dominant modes o f seeing. In 1988, Gilroy wrote a catalogue piece for the D - M a x exhibition in London, which has since been reprinted in a longer version in Small Acts. The six black British photographers in D - M a x collaborated and developed their art together over the course o f two years. Their work collectively seeks to address "the meaning and status o f 132  blackness itself i n contemporary Britain."  Many o f their pieces aim to trouble the  ways in which contemporary racism constructs Englishness and blackness as "mutually 133  exclusive" categories.  The D - M a x article, as it is published in Small Acts, includes a  photograph by Ingrid Pollard called " W o r k by Ingrid" which attempts to negotiate an interstitial passage between the poles o f blackness and Britishness. Pollard's photograph depicts a black woman (the photographer herself) sitting with her camera in front o f a 1 3 0  131  1 3 2  m  Gilroy, Small Acts, 241-2. Gilroy, Small Acts, 241-3. Gilroy, Small Acts, 116. Gi\roy, Small Acts, 117-8.  47 barbed wire fence, the rolling hills o f the English country-side receding into the distance behind her (see Figure 9). Her posture is stiff as she looks off to the side o f the frame apprehensively. Although Gilroy offers no comment on this work, its racial semiotic significance is clearly suggested in an article he penned two years later for The New Statesman (1990), which is also reprinted in Small Acts. In this article, " A r t o f Darkness," Gilroy discusses the place o f black art within the national oeuvre o f English painting. "The British school" centers its aesthetic and cultural discourse on a national identity linked to the symbolic imagery o f the English landscape. Given that this artistic discourse is implicated in the notion o f a homogeneous, ethnically uniform national culture, Gilroy notes, "It becomes necessary to ask whether the aesthetic that underlies these suggestions would view blacks as a natural and acceptable presence in the English landscape it reveres?"  134  Contemporary racist discourses, in contrast, "situate" blacks  within British cities - in an image o f "urban chaos" in which "dangerousness and 135  hedonism" abounds.  The photograph depicting a black woman i n the English  countryside thus complicates conventional cultural idioms o f blackness and "authentic" Englishness by juxtaposing these images in an iconoclastic strategy similar to that o f the R A R poster. It compels an erasure o f the separateness o f its two constituents: the black photographer and the English countryside. The fact that the woman in the foreground is physically separated from the rolling landscape i n the background re-emphasizes this questioning o f the incongruity between blackness and Britishness. In this same article Gilroy historicizes the ways in which black people have been visualized in the British cultural consciousness even before contemporary postwar 134 135  Gilroy, Small Acts, 80. Gilroy, Small Acts, 80.  48 concerns over black settlement and urban crime. His example takes the form of Joseph Mallord William Turner's famous painting "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying: Typhoon coming on" (also known as "The Slave Ship"). Turner's painting depicts a slave ship disgorging its gruesome cargo - the bodies of dead and dying slaves being swallowed up by a hostile sea. This painting, which was exhibited in London at time of the World Anti-slavery Convention of 1840, became symbolic of the national discourse of the time, calling into question the shape of Britain's future: Turner "deploys the imagery of wrathful nature and of dying slaves as powerful means to highlight the degenerate and irrational nature of English civil society as it entered the 1840s."  136  But  most importantly, the painting demonstrates how inextricably linked English artistic culture and aesthetics were to English reflections on race: "Thinking about England is being conducted through the 'racial' symbolism that artistic images of black people suffering provide. These images were not an alien or unnatural presence that somehow intruded into English life from the outside. They were an integral means with which England was able to make sense of itself and its destiny."  137  Hence, Gilroy suggests that  this picture may serve as a historically-grounded challenge to the separation of blackness and Britishness. The result would be the creation of a "hybrid cultural heritage" in which the two poles were accepted as having deep ties to each other through a shared culture and history. Gilroy tentatively suggests that the historical narrative of Britain and the alterity of the black experience may be found to be not separate categories but actually one-and-the-same:  Gilroy, Small Acts, 81. Gilroy, Small Acts, 84.  49  .. .we may discover that our story is not the other story after all but the story of England in the modern world. The main danger we face in embarking on this difficult course is that these divergent political and aesthetic commentaries will remain the exclusive property of two mutually opposed definitions of cultural nationalism: one black, one white. Each has its own mystical sense of the relationship between blood, soil and seawater. 138  The breaking-down of this binary would also signal a deprivileging of whiteness, as race and ethnicity would no longer be perceived as the basis for British national identity. Blacks traditionally have no place in the construction of Britishness; however, they may now be revealed as in fact having an integral role in the make up of British cultural and historical identity. Gilroy however is aware of the drawbacks of relying too heavily on the visual as a tool of cultural expression and subversion. For example, in his recent book Between Camps (2000), he critiques the proliferation of multi-racial images in contemporary consumer society. Despite the recent celebration of the "hyper-visibility" of racial diversity in popular images, he asserts that an underlying white "norm" remains against which these images are aesthetically judged. The result is a fetishization of blackness, as the images of beautiful black women and men are exoticized as an "other." Gilroy elaborates on the racist preconceptions that remain entrenched in contemporary western culture, despite the new found emphasis on diversity:  The historic associations of blackness with infrahumanity, brutality, crime, idleness, excessive threatening fertility, and so on remain undisturbed [; however,] the appearance of a rich visual culture that allows blackness to be beautiful also feeds a fundamental lack of confidence in the power of the body to hold the boundaries of difference in place. It creates anxiety about the older racial hierarchies that made that revolutionary idea of black beauty oxymoronic, just as  G i l r o y , Small Acts, 84 (Emphasis in original).  50 it requires us to forget the political movement that made its acknowledgement imperative.  139  But while these older racist preconceptions are now disturbed and subverted by beauty being found i n blackness, the unease caused by this recent inability to enforce traditional racial boundaries (such as white as desirable, black as undesirable) creates a need for a new racial and aesthetic discourse that delineates black beauty as exotic and different from that o f w h i t e .  140  The black body is no longer characterized as a repugnant object  but it remains an alterity but in this discourse. The black body is subordinated to the gaze o f a primarily white mass culture, but while the aesthetics o f this modern mass culture purport to be "multi-ethnic," they are still Eurocentric. The black body is deemed a beautiful object through its exoticization as an other and exists as an object to give pleasure to the ostensibly white v i e w e r .  141  The  gaze o f mass culture fixes it as an aesthetically knowable and therefore controllable body. In such a visual regime the black body cannot be taken as an object o f beauty in-and-ofitself, rather it is always other ed. This pleasure-seeking way o f looking still seeks to discipline the colonial or racial subject by imposing a set o f criteria that place it within a framework o f aesthetic knowledge. The black body, though it is now seen as an object o f beauty, is still profoundly inscribed with the "social optics o f race."  142  Recently work by postcolonial theorists has outlined the visual mechanisms by which such images o f racial difference are transformed into Otherness. Bhabha, for example, sees a functional relationship between pleasurable looking and Foucault's conception o f  139 140 141 142  Paul Gilroy, Between Camps: Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race (London: Penguin, 2000), 22. This is a process similar to the psychoanalytic notion of "fetishism." An example of this is the controversial work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Paul Gilroy, Between Camps, 23.  51 surveillance as a form o f societal control. Moreover, Bhabha sees this gaze as also part of the Lacanian impulse to look (the scopic drive) in the construction o f subjectivity and its corresponding alterity. B y looking, the individual constructs its own subjective identity in opposition to an Other through a process Lacan calls "Imagining."  143  Judith  Butler takes this point further noting that this process o f privileging the specific subjectivity o f the viewer is concealed within the western gaze: "within [western] culture the ethnographic conceit o f a neutral gaze w i l l always be a white gaze, an unmarked white gaze, one which passes its own perspective off as the omniscient, one which presumes upon and enacts its own perspective as i f it were no perspective at a l l . "  1 4 4  Indeed it is a crucial aspect o f the gaze that it presents itself as neutral, transparent and disembodied while simultaneously concealing its links to gender, race and a subjectivity. The critical analysis o f this process is one o f the key objectives o f G i l r o y ' s work, as we saw in his analysis o f the Conservative campaign poster. But i f the visual is always influenced by forms o f societal power, what alternative is there for the subordinated Other to express her or his own identity and experience? While visuality has provided thinkers on race in British cultural studies with an important means to critique images o f race, Gilroy is wary o f relying solely on visuality as a means to express identity since ways o f seeing are so profoundly imbued with the physics o f power. For example, in his discussion o f record sleeve art, images are an auxiliary to the music they package. It is, he implicitly argues, through more oral forms o f cultural expression that the marginalized may find more egalitarian means o f expression and communication.  143  Bhabha, 18-36.  52  Both dance and music, as they are discussed by McRobbie and Gilroy respectively, invoke orality as a mode o f communication.  145  Gilroy's historical characterization o f  both music and dance within the black experience and community - specifically i n slave society - emphasize a link to oral culture. Walter J. Ong, in Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing  of the Word, has argued that the audience interacts with the oral  performer (of speech, music, or dance) and his or her performance is, consequently, shaped by this relationship. In this way orality is conducive to communication and a sense o f "community" in that it encourages participation and dialogue (more so than visuality).  146  Similarly, Gilroy observes, "The expressive cultures developed in slavery  continue to preserve in artistic form needs and desires which go far beyond the mere satisfaction o f material wants. In contradistinction to the Enlightenment assumption o f a fundamental separation between art and life, these expressive forms reiterate the continuity o f art and l i f e . "  147  Gilroy presents black art and culture (mainly in the form o f  music) as the products o f the "lived relations" o f black people. He sees this "lived-in" oral culture as a historical means o f expressing experience, and more importantly, as a historical means o f resistance against oppression. Hence his view o f black culture has much in common with Hoggart's organic reading o f working-class culture. The chapter " 'Jewels Brought from Bondage': Black M u s i c and the Politics o f Authenticity" in The Black Atlantic examines music and performance as a means o f  Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993), 134-6. There are clear parallels between McRobbie and Gilroy's respective perspectives and conclusions. They often reference each other's work, most notably concerning the place of music and dance culture. For example see McRobbie's "Shut Up and Dance: Youth Culture and Changing Modes of Femininity" in Postmodernism and Popular Culture and "Recent rhythms of sex and race in popular music" in her most recent book In the Culture Society: Art, Fashion and Popular Music (1999). Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New York: Routledge, 1982), 74. 144  145  146  53 communicating the unspeakable racial terror o f the slave experience. Music, Gilroy claims, "can be used to challenge the privileged conceptions o f both language and writing as preeminent expressions o f human consciousness. The power and the significance o f music within the black Atlantic have grown in inverse proportion to the limited expressive power o f language."  148  While music is a means o f expressing the  inexpressible, it is also instrumental to creating a transatlantic black diasporic identity. In both The Black Atlantic and 'There Ain 't No Black in the Union Jack'he  149  draws  attention to contemporary black music's transnational and transcultural genealogy by discussing musical genres such as Reggae and Hip-Hop. The revaluation o f orality and the apostasy of the visual through the work o f McRobbie and Gilroy in a way represents a coming full circle in the intellectual history of British cultural studies. Hoggart and other early thinkers at the C C C S were acutely aware o f culture as a "lived" and "felt" phenomenon that could not be understood completely by "looking." Culture for them could not simply be read; it reposed in its living subjects who had to speak about their experiences. That is not to say that later on Hebdige and other observers o f subcultures totally abandoned orality; they were still conscious o f listening to their subjects. But, as this paper has demonstrated, they turned to visuality as the primary means o f delineating their subjects. Undeniably the intellectual trajectory o f the C C C S has taken it back to orality, but this is not necessarily the orality o f Hoggart. It is an orality fundamentally different from its earlier manifestation. The emphasis on the oral in the early history o f British cultural studies at the C C C S , thorough the work o f Hoggart and others, was intended to authorize  1 4 7  148  Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 157. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 74.  54 the organic culture o f the working class, and emphasize the shared community values and experience reflected i n vernacular speech. This oral culture was nativist in that it rested on an ethnically reducible conception o f the British working class and was - to recall Gilroy's memorable phrase - a "morbid celebration o f England and Englishness." It was the product o f a different historical period, predating both second-wave feminism and the mass colonial migrations and racial awakening o f the 1970s. What is the ontological nature o f this latter "orality"? According to Gilroy, the oral cultures o f music and dance represent a rejection o f modern modes o f cultural communication, such as text and images.  150  These oral forms are "actively reimagined in  the present" while being simultaneously transmitted through history from the past.  151  In  other words, this orality draws on modes o f communication (such as music and dance) that are pre-modern but that are acutely aware that they reside in a temporal state o f postmodernity. This orality, as a rejection o f the visual, is paradigmatic o f the recent antiocularcentrism that Jay has asserted is characteristic o f postmodernity. Both G i l r o y ' s view o f music and M c R o b b i e ' s analysis o f dance signify oral modes o f communication: dance is a "way o f speaking through the body" and music is as "important as the gift o f speech."  152  Gilroy notes that "The oral character o f the cultural  setting in which the diapora musics have developed presupposes a distinctive relationship 153  to the body."  This connection between music and dance - sound and the body - is  articulated further as "reggae, soul and hip-hop share a cultural pattern in which listening  150 151 152 153  Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 15. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic,! A. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 74. McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, 195; Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 75. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 74.  55  to music, [which is] inseparable from dancing to it, becomes an active social process."  154  Orality, as a form o f communication, thus again becomes linked to notions o f community, the body, and, o f course, dialogue.  155  Both dance and music, as they are  discussed by M c R o b b i e and Gilroy respectively, are forms o f what philosopher John L . Austin refers to as "illocutionary acts" - intentional acts o f communication.  156  It is through the discourse o f cultural studies that both M c R o b b i e and Gilroy implicitly see these oral forms o f communication as facilitating dialogue and exchange. A n ideal theoretical community for such oral communicative acts to occur has been postulated by M i k h a i l Bakhtin's notion o f the "dialogic" - a textual and/or social space wherein several voices are heard and yet no voice dominates.  157  Bakhtin's ideal speech situation is  constituted by a plurality o f contending and mutually qualifying social voices, with no possibility o f a decisive resolution in the form o f a "monologic" truth or single 158  authoritative consensus.  While ways o f looking which, as we have seen, are  overdetermined by the social architecture o f power, the dialogic, in contrast, represents a location for oral modes o f expression to occur without being dominated as much by the physics o f power. Does then the C C C S represent a possible dialogic space for such oral expression and identities to be realized? The answer is a cautious "yes." One o f the key factors for making this possible has been the deconstruction o f pre-existing structures o f identity. The orality articulated by Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 215. Ong notes that oral cultural expression is linked to ideas of community, corporality and the organic ways of conceiving while typographical (or text and visuality based) culture emphasizes the individual, the disembodied mind, and "Sparsely linear or analytic thought" (Ong, 40). See John L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words, (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1962). Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems ofDostoevsky's Poetics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 6. G. Douglas Atkins and Laura Morrow "Dialogic Criticism" in Contemporary Literary Theory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989), 223-4. 154 155  156 157  158  56 McRobbie and Gilroy is an attempt to suture together new identities based not on a priori essentialized structures (such as class, gender, or race) but on hybridized and improvised contingencies. In the ambiguous aftermath o f feminism and critical race theory, British cultural studies has attempted to construct an intellectual space in which all voices can be heard and not only those o f class, gender and race. This is not to say that it has always succeeded in this task, but other voices have found a place within this very tenuous "polyphonic heterogeneity."  159  In early 2000, M c R o b b i e and Gilroy co-published a collection o f articles on H a l l ' s intellectual contribution to British cultural studies entitled Without Guarantees: In Honour of Stuart Hall, a book they co-edited with Lawrence Grossberg.  160  The title  refers to the challenges facing British cultural studies both from within and without. The field's future success or failure to resolve these challenges remains continually "without guarantees." Nevertheless, tensions are woven into the very intellectual fabric o f British cultural studies itself. H a l l himself declared, "there is something at stake in cultural studies, in a way that I think, and hope, is not exactly true o f many other important intellectual and critical practices. Here one registers the tension between a refusal to close the field, to police it and, at the same time, a determination to stake out some positions within it and argue for them. That is the tension."  161  Indeed such tensions have  existed throughout the history o f the C C C S , yet they have never conflicted to the point o f theoretical or political aporia.  M. M. Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas 159  Press, 1981), 314. See Lawrence Grossberg, Paul Gilroy and Angela McRobbie, Without Guarantees: In Honour of Stuart Hall (London: Verso, 2000). Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies," in Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 278 (Emphasis in original). 160  161  57 M i c h e l Foucault has used the term parrhesia to denote acts o f communication that put the speaker at risk. These are "speech activities" that are linked to a certain social situation: it is the speaking o f a social or political "truth" that puts the speaker itself in danger by provoking the response o f the dominant order.  162  This was the conscious  intention o f intellectuals at the C C C S , most famously under H a l l ' s directorship: to interrogate conventional cultural wisdom even in the face o f great risk. O n June 27, 2002 The Guardian reported that the University o f Birmingham administration had decided to liquidate their Department o f Cultural Studies and Sociology at the end o f the academic year.  163  A s o f the writing o f this paper, this  "restructuring" has brought the illustrious history o f the C C C S " i n its present form" to a close.  164  This has led to the protest by a "who's who" o f intellectuals.  165  However, there  has been precious little ink spilled over the issue in the mainstream British press, a fact which is perhaps a sign o f dark days ahead for cultural and media studies departments all over Britain. In 1993, during the waning o f the Thatcher era, Norma Schulman speculated that there was "less danger that [the C C C S ' s ] adversarial thrust w i l l be spent in this era [of neo-conservative politics] than there would be in a more egalitarian, populist, anti-elitist, and liberal age."  166  Given recent events, it appears she prophesied  with uncanny accuracy. After five years o f N e w Labour government the C C C S ' s story may end in both silence and invisibility. However, the fact remains, the Centre for  See Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, ed. Joseph Pearson (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001). The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies was merged with the department of Sociology in the late 1980s. See Polly Curtis, "Birmingham's cultural studies department given the chop," Thursday June 27, 2002. See Polly Curtis, "Cultural elite express opposition to Birmingham closure," Thursday July 18, 2002. 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