Cover

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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Quotes

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

Benjamin Lee

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pp. ix-xvi

A foreword to a book is not unlike a christening of a ship. It launches the reader into a new text at the same time, one hopes, that it accelerates the book’s circulation among an ever-widening audience. Greg Urban’s new book, Metaculture, not only partakes in these minor rituals of print capitalism, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

How does an amorphous idea take shape as a book? In the case of the present volume, the story began at the then Center for Psychosocial Studies (now the Center for Transcultural Studies) in the mid-1980s, when I first vaguely glimpsed what this book might become. ...

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1 The Once and Future Thing

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pp. 1-40

The answer is culture, but the riddle continues to vex, as if we have not yet gotten it, not seen quite clearly. What moves through space and time, yet has no Newtonian mass? What is communicated from individual to individual, group to group, yet is not a disease?1 Our sphinx, in vaporous apparition, peers down. ...

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2 In Modern Time

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pp. 41-92

The sleek curves and shiny surfaces of stainless steel cooking pots from the 1950s and 1960s—the period of my youth—seemed to me so natural, as if they were an expression of the scientific, rational surface texture of my then lived world, the same kind of smooth curvature found in the close-cropped, oiled hair of men ...

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3 This Nation Will Rise Up

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pp. 93-144

A pronoun—a single instance of the word “our” written on a page, for example—seems hardly an object in motion, as if it were a particle cutting a trail in a cloud chamber. Yet the cloud chamber analogy is not so far-fetched, or so I propose to argue. Even in the microtime of a given stretch of discourse, one instance of “our” looks back to another. ...

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4 This Is Ridiculous

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pp. 145-180

From an early twentieth-century logical positivist perspective, the imperative was an ugly duckling. It was measured against the yardstick of pure representation, uncontaminated by the observer’s paradox, unproblematized by the motion of language—as part of culture—through the world. ...

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5 The Public Eye

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pp. 181-227

Consciousness in motion—what a strange idea!1 Can consciousness, rather than being an inherent property of us as biological organisms, move through us, as individuals, much the way culture more generally moves through us? This seemingly nonsensical proposition accrues plausibility with the realization that consciousness is, in some measure, at least, lodged in the overt meanings ...

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6 Inability to Foresee

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pp. 228-270

It was Shakespeare who, depicting a dialogue between Brutus and Cassius on the occasion of their assassination of Julius Caesar, wrote: “[T]here is a tide in the affairs of men . . .” (act 4, scene 3, line 218). The words themselves participated in their own tidal swell, augmented in prominence through secondary replications, lapping up onto the shorelines of received culture, reaching people previously untouched by them. ...

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Conclusion: The Answer and the Question

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pp. 271-272

The riddle has proven subtler than it at first seemed: What moves through space and time, yet has no Newtonian mass? The answer is culture, to be sure. But the riddle turns out to be wrapped inside a mystery: How can something move at all if it has no Newtonian mass? ...

Notes

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pp. 273-296

References

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pp. 297-306

Index

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pp. 307-315