“Scientific Authority Through Iconicity in Popular American Diet Literature”
A comparative analysis of the icons created and exploited by two popular American books on dieting, low-carbohydrate Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and low-calorie Dieting for Dummies. Sociologist Bruno Latour explains that literature becomes “scientific” “when the local resources of those involved are not enough [and] it is necessary to fetch further resources coming from other places and times,” a rhetorical maneuver he calls “ally-making,” while insisting that the making of scientific facts is thus always a “social” endeavor. Icons are both a product of and a tool for making such authoritative alliances, representing the identifiable--and therefore marketable--intersection of several interests, cultural vectors which may be working in tandem or in opposition to one another. Both these books utilize icons throughout, but this presentation focuses on just their covers, which alone display myriad attempts at authoritative iconicity. Low-carb guru Dr. Atkins himself (name, image, celebrity) has become an icon not only of rapid weight-loss, but of scientific anti-establishmentarianism, while the "...For Dummies" series and its related logos (e.g., "The Dummy") stand for popular understanding, i.e., the dominant paradigm. Such iconicity helps each book sell itself as authoritative, but also makes it vulnerable to attack, as they compete to make money as well as scientific facts.
Contested terrain: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a lieux de mémoire
With the category lieux de mémoire Pierre Nora developed a concept for the study of collective identities. Lieux de mémoire are understood as replacements for milieux de memoire, are symbolic realities that became necessary once experience and memory were not transmitted by traditional communities any more. Even if one does not share the sharp distinction Nora draws between history and memory, a moderated version of the concept proves to be a useful tool to analyse representations of collective identities.
In my paper I will apply Nora’s concept on the case of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The history of the monument can be read as the struggle over collective identity of veterans who returned from the Vietnam war defeated, who came home but never really arrived back into society, and who demanded a symbol in the middle of what can be viewed as the symbolic site for what the United States as a nation achieved and for what their national identity is all about: The National Mall in Washington, D.C. I will show that the story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of struggle over the representation of contested terrain: the idea of the nation, the soldier and the citizen.
The Kraftwerk-Effekt & DJ Culture : Towards an Analysis of the Deterritorialization of Pop in the 21st Century
Throughout the period of the Cold War the term pop was virtually synonymous with what Christopher Bigsby once termed American ‘superculture’. However the past two decades have witnessed profound transformations in the ways in which pop is produced, consumed and distributed on a global scale.
Focusing upon an analysis of pop culture in general, and pop music in particular, this paper aims to trace the origins and development of contemporary cultural deterritorialization. Relying upon a theoretical framework derived from theories of cultural globalization and employing examples from key sonic texts, it will be argued that the diminishing global importance of Anglo-American pop music can be traced back to key cultural and technological developments in Central Europe and the Caribbean during the 1970s.
Roadside Memorials: Pollution, Obsession, or a New Grief Process?
Over the past twenty years, roadside memorials and monuments have become common fixtures along most major thoroughfares and even many secondary surface streets across the United States. Families and friends honor the memories of loved ones lost in traffic accidents with anything from small, tasteful plaques to large garish displays that are refreshed for every season and holiday.
Law enforcement and public officials often dismiss these displays as distractive traffic hazards or unsightly litter, and employ special service details to remove them. Some members of communities view these memorials as obsessive mourning rituals performed by people unable to work through the grief process and move beyond the immediate loss toward healing.
However, given the frequency of such displays, perhaps these icons need to be investigated as an extension or grown of the grief process in the United States. My paper will explore the history of roadside memorials in the U.S. and the social significance of these icons as a part of the grief process. In addition, I will consider the resistance of some aspects of the community, such legal standards and some members of the social environment.
Sacred and profane icon-work: Jane Fonda and Elvis Presley
Based on some general theses - outlined briefly below - this paper aims to analyse collaborative and adversarial icon-work in two cases: Elvis Presley and Jane Fonda.
I propose that iconic representation of persons combines two modes of representation: It presents a stylised and sacralised image of the person. This duality originates in connotations of iconicity from two spheres of use of the term: The commercial icon or pictogram which works through simplified representation (i.e. is stylised), and the religious icon, which works through embellished representation and through symbolic detail (i.e. is sacralised)
Iconicity places us, as viewers and readers, in communi(cati)on with the person behind the icon, but, since we are not ourselves icons, a passive role is enforced on us as viewers or voyeurs - a role which we may resist, but are doomed to re-enact whenever we communicate with an icon. The relation between icon and viewer is basically unequal. Iconicity means a reduction of the person behind the icon (the iconic subject) to image, to object. Iconicity thus becomes a form of martyrdom as a reduction or translation from individuality to symbol. This causes problems for persons who become icons while still alive, since they experience an isolation from other people whom they only know as generic representatives of the voyeuristic gaze (the public, an audience – all un-individuated mass terms) and they must develop strategies for dealing with the public’s icon-work.
From the religious connotations of iconicity we as public inherit the position of worshipper. The need for icons is an expression of our longing for something beyond our own subject-hood, a desire to idolise. This need is no longer fulfilled in traditional religious ways, but has become transferred onto other manifestations of the extraordinary. From the industrial, service and information oriented connotations of iconicity we inherit the position of consumer. Both these positions are well served by dead icons, which offer no active resistance to commodification.
Icons, especially over-commercialised and over-familiarized ones, tempt people into actively resisting icons, e.g. by defacing them or tampering with them (slander, rumour-mongering, gossip, satire and co-optation are all possible strategies): The formerly passive worshippers become iconoclasts. All of these activities, however, ultimately serve chiefly to perpetuate the iconic person’s status and longevity.
Elvis Presley (whom for the purposes of this paper we shall presume dead) offers a sterling example of posthumous collaborative and adversarial icon-work. Sacralised images as well as other fetishised representations of Elvis’ body proliferate. Brief analyses of Elvis as saviour and as object of consumption in (un)holy communion will be supplied. In opposition to dead Elvis a still living iconic figure such as Jane Fonda can be read as a chameleonic re-inventor of self, strategically shedding layer after layer of her public personae: Barbarella, Hanoi Jane, Work-out Jane etc. All these past personae will be shown to remain in the public conscious as objects of fetishistic and adversarial icon-work, ranging from voyeuristic posters and web-sites devoted to Barbarella, via urinal-art depicting Jane Fonda in several of her personae, to tribute sites celebrating Fonda as an icon of eternal (sag- and wrinkle-free) female youth.