- Hop on Pop, The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture
Hop on Pop, the editors carefully and patiently explain, is a play on words. I wonder who would have thought otherwise? Hop on Pop, the editors even more carefully and patiently explain, is the printed place to be for those who want to travel along the new way of doing cultural studies. In their introductory "Manifesto," they claim that this new route is characterized by its immediacy, multivalence, accessibility, particularity, contextualism and situationalism. Which basically means that the practitioners of this style avoid any confrontation with whatever canon, tradition or theory of the past while they are writing about their own obsessions, delusions and hobbyhorses and still want to be recognized as academics and theoreticians.
The book is organized in seven parts, under the topics of "Self," "Maker," "Performance," "Taste," "Change," "Home" and "Emotion," but the editors carefully and patiently assure the reader that this has no real meaning and that each article or essay could go under a different topic. So why bother?
Most of the essays are structured along the same lines: experience or anecdote; and theory, rejection or critique of theory, experience or anecdote. Bar the anecdotes and the experiences, and what you are left with is a collection of overviews of theories of culture in general and popular culture in particular. Covering about every canonized author, starting from Marx, Gramsci and Weber, past Raymond Williams, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Cherteau and Michel Foucault, to arrive at Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Fredric Jameson, there is a lot of understanding and misunderstanding, digesting and indigestion in this book. (Unbelievably so, and telling for the quality of the work, there is not a single reference to Guy Debord, but some 10 references to Oprah Winfrey.) Mostly, no real insights are added, no theoretical frameworks constructed or expanded, no generalization endeavored. The only "real" subject is the particular, the individual, the local. That is as well, but why call this a new way of doing science unless you call it applied culturology, therapeutic sociology or plainly talkshow philosophy?
A lot of the essays, however, are very enjoyable. I liked the pieces on ethnicity in Star Trek (Peter Chvany); opera, television and the black diva (Dianne Brooks); and "Narrativizing Cyber-Travel: CD-ROM Travel Games and the Art of Historical Recovery" (Ellen Strain) most, probably because I am, myself, a Trekkie, an opera-lover and a player of Myst and the like. And this judgment is, true to the way cultural studies ought to be done according to the editors, as good as any other, since it is immediate, multivalent, contextual, accessible, particular and situated.
By the way, dear editors, "Hop on Pop" is not an alliteration but an assonance. Take this from an academic who still thinks scholarship counts for something. [End Page 259]