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How to Survive the Postfeminist Impasse

Grace Helbig’s Affective Aesthetics

Catherine McDermott

An emerging genre across literature, screen, and digital media is beginning to articulate profound dissatisfaction with postfeminist social norms and scripts. In this article, I explore how American comedian Grace Helbig exploits and reworks classic postfeminist self-improvement genres through her parodying of the YouTube how-to video. Using Helbig’s video as an illustrative case study, my analysis demonstrates that affect theory has the capacity to make a vital contribution to current postfeminist debates. Recent research finds postfeminist analysis lacks the facility to fully comprehend the complexity of contemporary femininities, suggesting that postfeminist media studies as a genre of scholarship has reached a critical impasse. Drawing on Lauren Berlant’s (2008, 2011, 2015) work, I examine how Helbig affectively deflates popular postfeminist fantasies of fun-loving confident girlhood. More widely, I argue that affective approaches offer feminist scholars a dynamic framework to make sense of the continuing impact and legacies of postfeminist media culture.

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Miley, What’s Good?

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, Instagram Reproductions, and Viral Memetic Violence

Aria S. Halliday

Images on popular social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter that are the most entertaining are loaded with memetic power because their value is based on cultural attitudes that already constitute our lives in the everyday. Focusing on memes appropriating the artwork from Nicki Minaj’s single, Anaconda, I explore how popular memetic culture is fueled by Black women’s creativity yet positions Black women’s bodies as the fodder for potent viral images on social media platforms and in everyday experiences; Black girlhoods, at this level of representation and in lived experiences, are rarely awarded the distinction from womanhood that many other girlhoods enjoy. Thus, Black feminist discourses of desire which speak to both girlhoods and womanhoods inform my argument that social media has become a site of reproduction and consumption—a technological auction block where Black women’s bodies, aesthetics, and experiences are vilified for viral enjoyment.

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Tweens as Technofeminists

Exploring Girlhood Identity in Technology Camp

Jen England and Robert Cannella

In this article we discuss how the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp (GRTC) empowers tween girls to challenge sexist and misogynistic media portrayals of girlhood by constructing their own digital identities. Drawing from campers’ projects and blogs, we foreground two important outcomes of the camp: the development of technological, critical, and rhetorical literacies as girls pursued their own technology-related goals; and the crafting of powerful, positive articulations of girlhood through girls’ production of new media and technologies. We conclude with further considerations for the development of girls’ technology camps.

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Mariano González-Delgado and Manuel Ferraz-Lorenzo

This article explains the approach to mass consumption developed in social studies textbooks in the early years of the transition to democracy in Spain. It begins by examining the way in which school textbooks represented consumer society and mass media in the late 1970s. This is followed by an in-depth explanation of the reasons that led the authors of these textbooks to choose one theoretical framework over another. Above all, this article emphasizes the complexity and variety of the historical materials used to represent consumer society, and how this process of social construction is reflected in the textbook content of the time.

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Berlin's Potsdamer Platz as an Interactive Textbook

Space, Perspective, and Critical Research Skills

Maria Stehle

This article investigates the potential of one of the most contested and debated spaces of German Studies research, the Postdamer Platz in Berlin, as an interactive "textbook." By employing the notion of "play" the areas around the commercialized Postdamer Platz can be "read" and explored as contradictory, chaotic, messy, and haunted by ghosts of the past, despite—or possibly amplified by—the newly constructed, glossy surfaces of global media and capitalism that form a center for the German capital. I consider the subversive possibilities as well as the limits of this playful approach to teaching, exploring, and learning about commercialized urban centers in the twenty-first century.

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"We Need to Get Away from a Culture of Denial"?

The German-Herero War in Politics and Textbooks

Lars Müller

The question of whether the German-Herero War (1904-1907) may be called a genocide has been debated in German politics for over twenty years. This article explores the representations of this event in German history textbooks in the context of this ongoing debate. Textbooks are not merely the end product of a negotiation process. Rather, as media and objects of memory politics, they are part of a societal negotiation process to determine relevant knowledge. Changes made to textbooks in relation to this controversial topic take place in very short periods of time and often go beyond what appears to meet with mutual agreement in the political sphere.

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Cutting the Face

Kinship, State and Social Media Conflict in Networked Jordan

Geoffrey Fitzgibbon Hughes

The local uptake of new media in the Middle East is shaped by deep histories of imperialism, state building, resistance and accommodation. In contemporary Jordan, social media is simultaneously encouraging identification with tribes and undermining their gerontocratic power structures. Senior men stress their own importance as guarantors (‘faces’), who restore order following conflicts, promising to pay their rivals a large surety if their kin break the truce. Yet, ‘cutting the face’ (breaking truces) remains an alternative, one often facilitated by new technologies that allow people to challenge pre-existing structures of communication and authority. However, the experiences of journalists and other social media mavens suggest that the liberatory promise of the new technology may not be enough to prevent its reintegration into older patterns of social control.

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Digitizing the Western Gaze

The End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign

Jessica Cammaert

The increasing digitization of print media has resulted in the expansion of female genital mutilation (FGM) eradication efforts from print articles, editorials and novels, to online newspapers. The Guardian recently launched an online “End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign,” incorporating video, film, and multimedia. This report reviews the digitization of FGM eradication efforts by comparing End FGM to past anti-female circumcision screen texts. Focusing on a film featured in the campaign, Shara Amin and Nabaz Ahmed’s 2007 documentary, A Handful of Ash, this report applies a post-colonial feminist critique of gender, sexuality and colonialism to examine how the digitization of pain and suffering is mobilized and consumed. Comparing the film to anti-circumcision screen texts, Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé and Sherry Hormann’s Desert Flower, this report historicizes the global media campaign and highlights its’ repackaging of past imperialist discourses on the body in new digitized ways.

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The Contemporary Turn

Debate, Curricula, and Swedish Students' History

Thomas Nygren

In 2010, a proposal for a new history syllabus was criticized in the Swedish media for emphasizing contemporary history at the expense of ancient history. This study shows how contemporary history has increasingly been the focus of the guidelines developed by UNESCO and the Council of Europe, the national curricula, and students' work since the 1950s, while graduating students had generally rather chosen to focus on the early modern era up until the 1930s. Although history and civics were given status as separate school subjects in 1961, students' work in history continued to focus on contemporary subject matter. This study shows that the dominance of contemporary history in students' history is by no means a new phenomenon.

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Shreya Ghosh

If nations are “imagined communities”, as many theorists like to define them, then they need an ideology to create a cohesive imagination. In modern times, the project of writing “history” has been an important instrument in the service of this ideological purpose of justifying and reproducing the modern nation-state as the predestined and legitimate container of collective consciousness. School textbooks, at least in South Asia, have long been among the most exploited media for the presentation of the history of the national collective. This essay is a study of school textbooks in Bangladesh. It looks at narrative representations of selected episodes from the past, both pre- and postindependence, in order to reflect on how they construct “history”. Through this work I endeavor to relate textual images to issues of community relations and identity by identifying and sharing the ways in which the audience for nationalist discourse is created, nurtured, and secured through symbolic means.