The most invigorating and lively panel I attended was the Professional Development panel chaired by Bob Batchelor on Saturday morning at 11:15. Four of us presented to a packed house, offering ideas and explorations of the current pop culture landscape and considering how Pop Culture studies and Theory could interact in the future. Quick summaries of my co-panelists:
- Brian Cogan spoke first, offering ten thirty-second nuggets of wisdom and prophecy about popular culture studies and the future of theory. He reminded us that the study of Popular Culture was the study of everything, even nonPopular culture. Cogan reminded us that Ray Browne saw the field as a kind of meaning making, the exploration of the ideas of cultural capital. He championed our “now”ness — the fact that our field studies texts as they emerge, and thus takes a greater risk than those who wait to study texts until they’ve entered the canon. Finally, he mentioned two Japanese words, which I’m sure I’ll spell wrong here,otaku meaning geek, and amaru meaning mutual responsibility.
- Sarah MacFarland-Taylor spoke next, offering a critical theoretical exploration of the relationship between religious studies and popular culture studies. She discussed how both explore the resonances of the primitive/civilized split, how Popular Culture itself operates as a kind of religion (Ed note: Echoes of Ulmer here: Orality = Religion; Literacy = Bureaucratic Government; Electracy = Entertainment), and how the classic opposition between work and play becomes upended by popular culture.
- Then I spoke (see below)
- Bob Batchelor closed the initial five-minute talks with a proposal for Popular Culture Theory 2.0. Batchelor described how Browne’s original vision saw theory as a hindrance to Popular Culture, that it allowed scholars to perpetuate the elitism of the academy, that it was undemocratic. But, Batchelor suggests, now we’ve got a moment where we can embrace some of the theoretical strategies to explicate meaning and understand our context. He urges us to be omnidisciplinarians, a practice that has been part of Pop Culture study as Browne always envisioned it. We should shape our writing for a global audience.
I’ve included my PowerPoint slides below. I’ve noted when each slide would start. Please note: this talk was given extemporaneously from rough notes, so the content here differs slightly from what I said on 14 April.