Spring 2015

Popping the Question - The Question of Popular Culture
Issue 4 | Spring 2015
Editorial

 - The Question of Popular Culture [Sónia Pereira & Ana Cristina Cachola]

articles

Mic Checks and Balances: Politically Conscious Hip-Hop’s Engagement with the Presidency of Barack Obama
[Kareem R. Muhammad]
Abstract | Hip-hop subculture has long existed as an anti-establishment space that has provided some of U.S. society’s strongest and most unfiltered critiques against the federal government. This adversarial posture has been most effectively communicated by hip-hop MC’s. While far from monolithic, the collective sentiment that has most consistently been communicated to the men residing in The Oval Office has ranged from hostile to ambivalent. The presidential check and balancing inherent to hip-hop has come in a variety of forms over the years through rap music, hip-hop’s most visible element. The election of the nation’s first black president, however, has presented an interesting quandary for the hip-hop nation. On one hand, hip-hop has an obligation to stand up to power. On the other hand, there is also a long standing tradition for hip-hop to mobilize and band together when its members are under attack from outsiders. This article tries to explore the extent that hip-hop artists view Barack Obama as an outsider or an insider. A qualitative content analysis will be conducted of politically conscious rap music in an attempt to find out now that Obama is in the White House, has hip-hop gone soft in its traditional role in challenging White House orthodoxy? The qualitative and quantitative data used here makes it hard to make the case that hip-hop has not gone soft on President Obama in comparison to previous presidents, specifically President George W. Bush.

Popping (it) Up: an exploration on popular culture and TV series Supernatural
[Diana Gonçalves

]
Abstract | Supernatural is a TV series created in 2005 that draws inspiration from urban legends, folklore and mythological tales to tell the journey of two brothers who hunt monsters, ghosts and creatures from the underworld in an apocalyptic scenario. This article intends to explore Supernatural as a reflection of/on the present time, its main concerns and practices. First, it analyzes the show as part of a post-9/11 culture that is deeply affected by the events of 2001 and the underlying sense of terror. Even though the show privileges the horror genre as a framework to deal with 9/11-ensued fears and anxieties, it also brings into play many other genres that blur its categorization and reproduce today’s fast pace and fluidity. Second, the article looks at how the show integrates and has been integrated into contemporary pop culture. Supernatural is known for pushing the boundaries, communicating with other cultural products, self-referencing and interacting with the audience, thus fostering an active interchange between the show, pop culture products, different media, and viewers. The article therefore understands Supernatural as both a cultural manifestation and a manifestation of culture, a product that impacts popular culture and is, in turn, impacted by it. It investigates how the present social, cultural and political context in America has influenced the creation of the series and its plot, and how the use of popular culture references, which pop up regularly throughout the show and create a sublayer of meaning the viewer must decode and interpret, has become a distinctive characteristic of the show and a key factor for its success and durability.

(Re)creando al ‘Otro’ a través de pósteres de propaganda maoísta: entre manifestación popular de identidades y recuerdo kitsch
[Beatriz Hernández

]
Abstract | With the triumph of Mao, the construction of a Chinese identity was delineated through incessant watchwords and ubiquitous advertising. Facing the nation one could distinguish the ‘Others’, this time differentiated between friendly countries – the socialist brothers – and opponents– or the imperialistic and capitalistic demons Yizu (异族) – following the socialist revolutionary dialectics. This binary opposition inspired a great number of propaganda posters, put into circulation between 1949 and 1976 in order to instruct the mainly illiterate population. The same visual code that portrayed foreigners as barbarians and invaders – which resonated all through the 90’s – reverberates also nowadays, showing that the dynamic cultural shifts, contradictions and tensions that it preserves are a product of the constant accumulation of meanings, adjoined due to experiences, appraising and shifting contexts. As a matter of fact, the multiplicity of usages and the difference of contexts promote the sense of a ‘deferred’ meaning that both ‘differs’ and ‘defers’. By looking at original propaganda posters and its sequels, this article traces what has changed in the image that China formulated about its ‘Others’ – whether westerners, transnational or transregional identities, such as hongkongers -, what has been excluded, neglected, repressed or affixed in the process of rearranging beyond their original context. 

Teatro de Feira: O Genuíno Popular do Público Erudito?
[Paula Gomes Magalhães

]
Abstract | During the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, funfairs and their entertainments were one of the most sought-after manifestations of popular culture in Lisbon. These funfairs were created to amuse the underprivileged classes, yet they were also attended by the uprising bourgeoisie who sought to flaunt there its wealth and status. Among several attractions, theatre was one of the most appreciated. However, this preference was being brushed off from the writings of the elite of that time, mostly fascinated with progress, speed and erudite entertainments. Many depreciated it as popular (in those days meaning a ‘lower entertainment’), thus fleering its conditions and performances, while others praised its uniqueness. This article intends to reanalyse the audience who attended these theatres and to show that, despite the clear division drawn between popular culture and erudite culture, this division was not always real.

 

interviews

Why (Popular) Culture Matters. Interview with David Hesmondhalgh
[Sónia Pereira

] 

Alma Mater: De Portugal para o Mundo. Entrevista com Fernando Ribeiro
[Sónia Pereira

]

The Popular in China. Interview with Carlos Rojas
[Beatriz Hernández & Tânia Ganito

]

 

book reviews

Strategic Reinvention in Popular Culture: The Encore Impulse | Richard PFEFFERMAN
[Maria Alberto]

Policy and the Popular | David LOOSELEY (ed)
[Aleksander Sedzielarz]

Indie: An American Film Culture | Michael Z. NEWMAN
[MaoHui Deng]