Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 7, No. 2, 1994
Screening Cultural Studies
Edited by Tom O'Regan & Toby Miller

Introducing Screening Cultural Studies

Sister Morpheme (Clark Kent - Superman's Boyfriend)

Toby Miller

Harry Callahan: 'College boy, huh? Got your degree?'
Chico Gonzales: 'Sociology.'
Harry Callahan: 'Sociology? You'll go far - if you live.'
Dirty Harry (1971)

It is 21 November 1993, Sunday night in New York. The evening is given over on numerous networks to the formation of public memory. Program after program is dedicated to jogging, creating, or supplementing a memory of thirty years ago tomorrow. Just as the umpteenth screen version of The Three Musketeers comes to the theatres (Douglas Fairbanks, Don Ameche, Gene Kelly, and Michael York displaced by Chris O'Donnell), Trente Ans Apres is happening, anachronistically, in public affairs television. CBS offers a reprise of The Waltons: twenty-five diegetic years after the Depression and fifteen after the non-diegetic cancellation of the program, John-Boy comes home, companion-in-love in tow. It is 1963 ('While a nation mourned, the Waltons saw more clearly than ever what was most'). ABC offers J.F.K.: Reckless Youth, a mini-series on Kennedy off the leash in the 1940s ('If you knew him when he was young you'd never believe he would become President: His battle with deadly illness/The wild parties/The story behind PT 109/The women he loved before Jackie/Finally, thirty years later, the untold story'). On the cable stations: there is a 150-minute profile of Lee Harvey Oswald; five and a half hours are reprised from NBC's broadcast of the asassination and its aftermath; E.G. Marshall narrates highlights of the late President's press conferences by turning his 1993 NTSC gaze in the State Department's media room away from the camera and towards the angle from which Kennedy will appear in suddenly monochromatic eyeline-matched archival footage from 1961; "November 22, 1963: Where Were You?" finds Larry King with Clinton/Gore/Nixon/Belafonte/Carter/Cronkite/Streisand/Connery + a special 800 number allowing viewers to 'share your memories' with 'celebrity guests'. And elsewhere, a repeat of a TV-film about the good Kennedys versus the bad Hoover (no trademark); Warren Beatty in The Parallax View (1974) uncovering murder in public life; a re-creation of the Dallas event; and finally, Cliff Robertson emerges from his triumphant role in Wind (1991) to conclude our night's viewing in PT 109 (1963) (or maybe not; Brando follows as Julius Caesar (1953) at 2 a.m.: I come to bury America, can I help but praise it?). Let's not bother with the schedule for the day of the anniversary itself, other than to note Linda Ronstadt hosts a special commemorative episode of Good Morning America. Because the networks had day after day of commercial-free TV for the funeral, the assassination is often held up as the moment when television matured and became the principal forum of national expressiveness. So this is also a meta-textual moment, a space for popular public culture to re-work its own history as re-programming; with commercials.

That same 1993 Sunday saw the obituary notices for Kenneth Burke, dead at 96, announcing him rather idiosyncratically as a founding parent of New Criticism. (This followed close upon the passing away of E.P. Thompson earlier in the season, which produced a remorselessly mindless critique of Althusser, and the death of Christian Metz, which passed unremarked.) Burke continues to be anthologised not merely for his criticism, but for his notion of "Literature as Equipment for Living". He begins his discussion of that topic with a consideration of proverbs, asking how they manage to make their point. Burke stresses here that the interpretation of such figures of speech must of necessity be provisional; or rather, 'active' (77). Any notion of proverbial significance will depend on the conditions accompanying the occasion of its telling and hearing. Burke then extends his analysis to literature in general, arguing that just as proverbs offer advice on dealing with recurrent issues, so the less epigrammatic form of the novel is a strategic document in how to handle information and best use it. Critical classification is just that: morphological choices determined by the situation at hand, a practice of making sense that attends to the problems that are put to it (a very Marxist/Rogerian/ethnomethodological formulation). Taste is simply one more classificatory system; what is needed is the integration of all the available methods for understanding texts as 'equipments for living' (81).

There was one other event that evening: the prime-time continuation, edgily up against Murder, She Wrote and Spielberg's Seaquest, that of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Lois and Clark is startling television. Henry Louis Gates, the principal of African-American male literary criticism, thinks it's wonderful. The audience figures are alright amongst urban intellectuals, poor in the viewing heartland outside the cities. Lois and Clark is the first Girardian program. Whenever Lois is with Clark, she desires Superman and tells him so. When she is with Superman, she is speechless. When Clark is with Lois, he desires her and is speechless when she refers to Superman. When Superman is with Lois, he is just speechless. As the impostor Clark (invented by his "parents" after arriving in Smallsville), he wants to be desired as the real Clark. As the real Superman (invented only in Program One), he also wants to be desired as the real Clark. He loves Lois for the way she is with Clark, but wants her to act with Clark the way she acts with Superman. Deceit, desire, and krypton/tonite.

Have you just been reading "cultural studies"?

Cultural studies continues to be magnetic. Three anthologies edited from Australia appeared in the latter half of 1993: the omnibus internationalist survey from nowhere/the English Department (Simon During for Routledge); the local mixture of solid gold and future memories (John Frow and Meaghan Morris for Allen and Unwin/the University of Illinois Press); and greatest hits from the Sydney and Brisbane push (Graeme Turner for Routledge). And David Birch's selection of bright young regionals for the South East Asian Journal of Social Science will appear in 1994. Textbooks have been available for some time (Brantlinger; Punter; Turner British; Alomes and den Hartog; and, latterly, Dirks et al.; Gray and McGuigan Studying; Jenks; Storey; Blundell et al.). The gigantic Cultural Studies collection (Grossberg et al.) has been out since 1992, and family-resemblance volumes exist in lesbian and gay and multicultural studies (Abelove et al.; Dent). The journal Cultural Studies has been re-launched, its origins in Australia wiped from the slate of history (see Turner "Dilemmas" 8-10). Revisionist critiques are well in place, including the proud claim that Dr Johnson invented the discipline (Davies 115), the rather dismal Reading into Cultural Studies volume (Barker and Breezer), Jim McGuigan's discovery that cultural populism might be a problem, and Antony Easthope's claiming of cultural studies as literature's outpouring (see also Bennett; Cunningham Framing; Trigger). Courses proliferate, research award categories adapt, journals re-birth themselves.

The genre of heroic introductory essays prefacing new anthologies is beginning to take on the appearance of the Shavian preface: the meta-text delivers more than the essays which follow. New research contributions are being collected, such as Sarah Franklin et al.'s feminist reader, and there has been a series of welcoming special issues of Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Critical Studies, the Journal of Communication, and so on. It seems as though several segments of the humanities (literature, film, communication, social theory, cultural anthropology, social history), themselves splintered by questions of feminism, queer theory, and post-colonial studies, are confronted by the constitution of those trends inside and alongside cultural studies. Cultural studies is not 'tightly coherent', but 'loosely coherent'. It is a 'group of tendencies', not 'a fixed agenda' (Brantlinger ix). So what is it? For the editors of a recent introduction to the field, the "what" question is a legitimate one. But no conclusive response would be legitimate. Instead, the reaction must be comprised of 'evasions' and further 'questions that are much more pertinent than the desire to achieve comfort' by describing/prescribing definite co-ordinates to the area. To do other than pose additional questions would 'do violence to the values of openness' (Gray and McGuigan "Introduction" vii). A similar logic permits a rewriting of history to place Stuart Hall's early work on deviancy as a retrospectively ordained vanguard of lesbian and gay studies and Pierre Bourdieu on sport as the last word on cultural studies in the area (Abelove et al.; During).

Rather like therapy, it seems that one is either in denial of cultural studies, or in recovery with it. But, to repeat, what is "it"? Even if this question is too singular and power-mongering in its drive towards a fixity of signification, surely attempts to elude it are similarly complicit with a network of power relations? The former exercises authority by requiring the highly circumscribed and heavily policed definitions usually associated with social science, the latter by engaging the touchingly familiar mystification of contingent meaning so beloved of humanities-based textual commentary. Is one of these so clearly preferable to the other? And doesn't a refusal to set limits indicate a certain arrogant imperialising (Grossberg "Introduction" 5)?

One way to know what constitutes cultural studies at present is to investigate these prefatory or synoptic discourses. Because it is just such accounts that allow the reader to say "Yes, that's me; I'm doing cultural studies"; or alternatively, "No, thankyou anyway; it was a nice offer". Such texts also generate other discourses, offering up as they do a series of manifestoes for redistribution by others: deans, newspapers, magazines, funding agencies, journal and book editors, students, cultural workers, and parents. To uncover what is confronting these others, this introductory essay will do three things. The first of these is to examine the genre of the heroic summary text; the second is to discuss debates within screen (especially film) studies about its adjacency to cultural studies; and the third is to lay out some new agenda items for the field.

The Heroic Summary

I began to think about crime in the 1960s after driving to Columbia University for an oral examination of a student in economic theory. I was late and had to decide quickly whether to put the car in a parking lot or risk getting a ticket for parking illegally on the street. I calculated the likelihood of getting a ticket, the size of the penalty, and the cost of putting the car in a lot. I decided it paid to take the risk and park on the street. (I did not get a ticket.)
As I walked the few blocks to the examination room, it occurred to me that the city authorities had probably gone through a similar analysis. The frequency of their inspection of parked vehicles should depend on their estimates of the type of calculations potential violators like me would make. Of course, the first question I put to the hapless student was to work out the optimal behavior of both the offenders and the police. (Gary Becker, 1992 Nobel Laureate's Lecture, 389-90)

Manthia Diawara, author of African Cinema, sat on a stage with Jean Rouch at the 1993 Margaret Mead Film Festival. Rouch had insisted that all participants in a panel discusion about his work should sit together on the stage-floor, rather than on the chairs provided. Denuded of the technology of form, they were to greet him as he did his 'African friends'. Diawara, eventually given just 5 minutes to deliver his talk, said that he had both prepared a paper, and prepared himself to sit, stand, and deliver in the conventional manner. He made the move, good-humouredly, of underscoring that he was quite keen on the modern, thank you very much.

Diawara has also provided perhaps the critical Northern Hemisphere multicultural trace of the field of cultural studies. His genealogy draws a connection between the old Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, through London-based black cultural workers, and on to people of colour in black and feminist studies areas in US colleges. This trajectory involves certain key transformations of perspective. The initial animating force comes from a desire to understand British culture in terms of class dominance and resistance. Its methods derive from a variety of culturalist and structuralist protocols of reading and research. The common point is the search for an agent of history that can move radicalism forward in class terms. But it is the very spatial site for the formation of public identity that black activists now bring into doubt: Britishness/Englishness itself is up for debate in a way that criticises 'ethnic absolutism' and seeks out signs of a new aesthetic molded from the diaspora. These revisions to canonical cultural studies involve a denunciation of left as well as right for mythifying a lost white working class (by Paul Gilroy), and a critique of moralistically anti-representational avant-gardism in cinematic technique (by Isaac Julien) (Diawara "Black" 262-63).

Diawara thinks that these dual heritages explain something about US cultural studies today. Race is quite central to one North American strand, via a debate about black modernism, sexual relations, hybridity, and essentialism. This strand is a bridge between cultural practice, criticism, and teaching. The other side to cultural studies has closer affinities to the Birmingham model, without the London influence. The focus here is on popular cultural artefacts, the meaning of the everyday, and the general production of sexual and ethnic difference, but in some isolation from the contribution of black studies, often on the grounds of a critique of essentialism. This latter note may be tied-in to the very literary basis of the new discipline, the detritus of its successful displacement of deconstruction as the critical site of text-based radicalism in the humanities that means a continued obsession with discovering essentialist reasoning in the Other in order to mark out its own terrain. History, identity, and development - in short, the modern - look rather different if viewed with a knowledge of African-American and global cultural discourses rather than exclusively grammatologically inflected literary ones. But Diawara is not actually privileging the separateness of these strands. Rather, he is calling for a synthesis of ethnographic urban method (Birmingham) and race sensitivity (London) inside the cultural, political, and economic specifics of the United States and diasporic contributions to a black public sphere, black happiness, and black creativity; in short, the context of black modernity that is unafraid of ghettoisation and uninterested in a de-differentiating integration, focusing instead on defining what the good life can be (Diawara "Black" 265-66). This historicity eludes the sense of academicist constriction suggested by pessimistic predictions of a settled existence for cultural studies inside 'the elephantine structure of the US academy' (Straw 87). It is vitally connected to the ability of groups such as black gay and lesbian film-makers to merge community, theory, and a popular reach, as Kobena Mercer emphasises (238-40).

The same question of national origins and transfers can be seen in any number of these importation rituals. In his review of the Cultural Studies collection, Fredric Jameson notes that 'the noisiest detractors of grand theory are the Australians', in keeping with 'the idiosyncratic and anarchist roots of Australian radicalism'. This hitherto 'harmless anti-intellectualism' also has a 'sinister variant' in Tony Bennett's 'Althusserian hectoring'. The cultural policy studies is derided for its 'reformist structures' that ignore the specificity of Australia's decade of relatively benign social-democratic governance in their extrapolation from that decade to global cultural guidance (as per the cultural policy studies push). Jameson takes this to be emblematic of the incapacity of the volume's Australian contributors (Bennett, Morris, Turner, and Ian Hunter) to distinguish between the specifics of national circumstances ("On" 28-30). At the same time, he quite likes the Australians when, as Canadians have long done, they themselves attack what he calls 'American parochialism' and insist on spatiality as a defining quality of cultural studies: a focus on the material co-ordinates of critique that acknowledges specificity but does not take this as its end-point, electing instead to seek out difference from elsewhere and not simply centre all deliberations on the national, regional, or A.N. Other self (Jameson "On" 46-47). Now whilst I might not wish to resume Marxism as the grand theory that is also impeccably local, as Jameson does, this recognition of the distribution of power and subjectivity across geopolitical space is surely critical, as my comments about international cultural relations indicate below.

Jameson's anxiety about place tallies ironically with accounts that refer disparagingly to alleged Australian sycophants of the Birmingham school (Ang and Morley 136). And Stephen Alomes and Dirk den Hartog's Australian Post Pop anthology is a lament for the foreignness and decadence of extra-Victorian cultural theory. Research coming from the 'hothouse cultures of the "new" universities of sunny Perth and Brisbane' has been influenced by the fact that many of their authors were born in Britain or - worse yet - elected to study there (Alomes and den Hartog 10, 16). There is no room in Post Pop's world for 'playful hedonistic intellectual pleasures' (Gill 38), and we must all be watchful for any attempted seductions by 'French thought' (Alomes and den Hartog 10) and 'Meaghan Morris' (Milner 46). So perhaps this is "the British invasion" of universities that the Beatles achieved in popular music three decades earlier, with their sensational arrival at Adelaide airport in Australia and the Beatlemania of the United States: is John Fiske Ringo, or John? And who wants to play George?

But such cultural-imperialist calibrations are too simple. The putatively monochromatic white-male Englishness of cultural studies' origins is pleasurably compromised by anybody who cares to research it: the conventional lineage of Williams-Hoggart-Thompson is quickly decomposed by an analysis of the Universities & Left Review, the formative periodical that appeared in the 1950s. Its editors were Canadian (Charles Taylor!), Jamaican (Stuart Hall), and Jewish (Gabriel Pearson and Raphael Samuel). Similarly, the critique of impersonal male lineages and the traditional cultural left came in the foundational (a decade before Screen) use of feminist psychoanalysis by someone born in New Zealand (Juliet Mitchell). If this is a British invasion, then it occurred after the Commonwealth of Nations had transformed such invasions from empires to self-help groups for the public re-definition of national identities (Davies 118, 129). And in any case, cultural studies was locally customised in the 1980s to mesh with such traditions as Canadian communications theory and Australian anti-suburbia critiques. The latter might be linked in turn to non-university environments such as the Workers' Educational Association and the boundary-moving contribution of feminisms (J.D.B. Miller 446-48; Frow and Morris "Introduction" xxiii, xxv, xxvii). For some observers, Britain and the US are the backwaters of cultural studies by comparison with Canada and Australia (Straw 101). It is to Australian theorisations of the modern that Lawrence Grossberg turns to find a way out of the libertarian-determinism couplet of much American work ("Introduction" 16-18). Just as the English cricket team has been led by people born in South Africa, Australia, Scotland, Wales, Peru, India, and Italy (not to mention Yorkshire), so the centre forms itself at the margins.

Cultural studies in Britain is itself going through significant alterations. One of Routledge's latest collections has a flag-filled cover, with the Canadian and Australian colours flanking the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack simply one anachronistic component next to the Southern Cross (Blundell et al.). In the UK, the Birmingham Centre has been replaced by an undergraduate Department of Cultural Studies, with open admissions policies (unlike the extraordinary elitism that marked out its previous life). It has been formed through a merger with the disestablished Sociology Department inside the Faculty of Commerce (emphasis added) and Social Science (so much for the earnest Australian critics of cultural policy studies as complicit cultural policy studies simply by virtue of its proximity to traditional ogres). Some analysts of the British situation suggest that cultural studies failed to wrest control of the academic high-ground on culture from literature and sociology and was therefore left with no position from which to produce a research tradition. When mingled with the field's anti-disciplinary prejudices, this proved a major institutional fallibility (Gray and McGuigan "Introduction" ix).

Conflicts over space are as evident in methodological terms as more geopolitical ones; hence the uptake of ethnographic tropes and their critique inside cultural studies. The anthropologist David Trigger has registered an intense irritation within his discipline at this combination of borrowing and attacking. In place of attempts to account for cultures by interpreting texts, he calls for 'empirical evidence drawn from careful study of social action, i.e. from what members of Australian society actually do and say in the course of their everyday lives'. One of Trigger's particular concerns is with Bob Hodge and Vijay Mishra's dismissive treatment of anthropologically-reported Aboriginal meanings (607, 611-12). In turn, Hodge and Mishra bring him to the bar for ignoring the epistemological and professional crisis within anthropology that is itself represented by cultural studies. This exchange took place in the pages of Anthropological Forum, and was followed by a discussion involving some of the participants at an Anthropological Society meeting in Perth. The housing for this debate is of some significance. For whilst Trigger is constantly distancing anthropologists from literary critics (whose tendencies he identifies with cultural studies), Hodge and Mishra name cultural studies as 'a critical tendency' inside the humanities and social sciences as a whole, including the discipline of anthropology, which itself depends on the interpretation of a series of inscriptive practices in the form of notes, tapes, drawings, and photographs (614). This notion of cultural studies as a tendency rather than a discipline is evident in its practitioners' simultaneously expressed desire to refuse definition, yet also to insist on differentiation. We might in turn connect this ambivalence to the centring of the everyday inside the academic that points uncomfortably to a logocentric interdependence of the student and the object of study, a problem investigated by Alison Griffiths in this volume (see also Frow and Morris "Introduction" xxi).

Sociology, confronted by departmental closures and amalgamations, or a transmogrification into social policy, either buries its head in methodological anguish when confronted by cultural studies, or claims the turf and terminology as its own. Question: "What do you get when you cross a Parsons with a Durkheim and a Garfinkel?" Answer: "A New Proposal for Cultural Studies" (Alexander and Smith). Question: "How exactly does one 'do' cultural studies?" Answer: The Unobtrusive Researcher (Kellehear). In the first answer, civil society is to be re-theorised by values analysis; in the second answer, social research methods are to be bound together with an analysis of the everyday. Given that both the United States and Australia are moving away from the brief period when research and higher education were intimately connected, cultural studies may be the way to forge one space in which they are conjoined (Ray 60). As for literature, Rey Chow explains its investment in cultural studies in two ways. Firstly, the providential interest in "culture" by business students offers teachers of non-European language and literature the space in which to work. Whilst this mostly leads to very conservative pressures from the point of demand, it may also offer up research time and facilities. And secondly, cultural studies has gained force because it has become clear that the sovereign-state is no longer the primary axis of knowledge in the humanities. Whereas Western social science always knew to find its relevance in other worlds, the humanities was slow to make such a move (130-31, 137).

Perhaps the wisest of the heroic summaries comes from Frow and Morris. Their selection of materials as editors is debatable because of its predictable collocation of text-trained names, its strong south-eastern Australian emphasis, and the decision not to address unaesthetic/unfashionable objects (there is no cultural studies worth anthologising, it seems, on sport, or current affairs TV, or gay politics, or radio, or popular fiction; "literature", "art", and "photography", by contrast, make the grade). But their introduction to the field is exemplary. They begin by locating culture inside its conceptualisation by elite power-brokers, who see it as infinitely plastic, a route to economic efficiency. This plasticity is then contrasted with the cultural studies take on the term, which also stresses malleability, but with power and subjectivity as a central axis, in place of the extraction of surplus value. Such an account is vitally concerned with auditing the denial, italicisation, assimilation, and invention that take place each time unitary concepts of nation, community, and society are brought into discourse. This tendency is then connected to a wider move within Australian public life away from essentialist definitions of national identity and towards a more pluralised account of person and polity. The definition of the nation has certainly been a preoccupation of Australian cultural studies, a search for the specific that has merged with the problematisation of totalising accounts of the struggle for meaning which neglect to consider the sensitivities of time and place ("Introduction" viii-ix, xv). Tom O'Regan deploys a similar logic in contending that much of what we call cultural studies can be understood in the same space as the analysis of policy, but in terms of capillary action rather than a descent from an apex of power (192-93). And this propensity to identify resistance from below, whilst also constructing (and acting from the presumptions of) a power-profit-and-loss sheet, is what leads Fiske to try to 'Gramscianize Foucault while Foucauldianizing Gramsci' (255).

Cultural studies emerges from these surveys and debates as a trend referencing an epistemic shift in knowledge akin to the foundational moments of the human sciences that marked out nineteenth-century Europe and twentieth-century North America: the location of academic respectability shifts from the cloisters to the town in a grand reversal of legitimacy that is in keeping with the awkwardly simultaneous emergence of the citizen and the consumer as representatives of the civic and the selfish in the nexus of community with market (T. Miller Well-Tempered 154-58, 165-66). And there is some originary excavation in support of this account of cultural studies as a re-definition of the academy as a site of stately remove. The very fact of the area's 'squeamishness about orthodoxy' is a sure sign of shifts in discourse (Hartley 7). It remains to be seen whether a similarly upset tummy is troubling the sons and daughters of cinema.

Screen Studies/Cultural Studies

After people see a film, they often talk about it. Sometimes they write or give lectures about it. At least some of the things people say or write count as interpretations in anybody's sense of that term. But what enables people to produce those linguistic constructs we call film interpretations? What are, we might say, the psychological, social, and historical conditions which make this possible? (David Bordwell, Response to his Critics, "Film" 93)

The traditional means of politicised screen analysis are well-known to us all: take an audio-visual text, beat it to anthropomorphic death with a blunt hermeneutic, and effortlessly extrapolate from this (unargued-for) selection of text and instrument, transforming both from one watcher's syntagmatic organisation to an overarching theoretical and social contour and legitimacy. Why do we do this? Rather like psychoanalysis as a textual guide, I think we have done it out of the desire that Richard Dyer has captured so tellingly: the desire 'to explain why socialists and feminists liked things they thought they ought not to' (4). But is this imperative central to the actual forms of life that mark out screen studies? Does screen studies want to take up the offer of an authorisation from new social identities which cultural studies holds out (Straw 87)?

As cultural studies has always been concerned with television, and has itself formed part of TV studies, we concentrate here on its relations with the adjacent field of cinema, which has tended to define itself outside cultural studies. Can this definitional policing continue? Film Criticism journal recently obtained funds from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences to bring journalists and scholars together to assess David Bordwell's Making Meaning. None of the newspaper and magazine reviewers participated; half the academics did, most of them either condemning or ignoring his book, and preferring to embark on their own grand synoptic renderings. (Some are sympathetic. Bruce Kawin, for instance, relates the experience of ennui that so troubles highly-paid academics with job security when they are called upon to read dissertations that are politicised but underachieved academically (53).) This relative silence may suggest that Bordwell's own findings about what he calls "Interpretation, Inc." are right. But they are equally applicable to his own practice: that screen studies is a rent-seeking enterprise which is primarily beholden to establishing itself as a professional academic entity, rather than to the object of its analysis or to the development of a distinctive theoretical model.

Those who did contribute to the discussion provide some sense of how the field is looking in the United States. Rick Altman reminisces about film conferences from the 1970s. The names that resounded through pathways of knowledge and speech and down corridors of rumour then were the new scions of a Romance-language-led theory recovery: Metz, Kuntzel, Barthes, Eco, and Jakobson. Now it is a different set of surnames: Hitchcock, Waters, Catapano, and Germano. These are not author-functions, or a later brand of theorist. They edit the film-book series at American publishing houses (respectively, Texas, Harvard, Indiana, and the inevitable Routledge). The last fifteen years has seen the efflorescence of print opportunities for screen scholars, as the expansion of the curriculum has put pressure on the supply of pedagogic and research materials. Altman suggests that US doctoral students frequently have multiple offers of publication, competing royalty deals, and sizeable advances, prior even to the completion of the dissertation. This raises the question of standards, as commodification through the competitiveness between entrepreneurial university presses outruns the profession's credentialisation of film academics. This in turn is said to facilitate the granting of tenure to cinema studies people, whose artificially inflated, historically temporary propensity to obtain publishing contracts makes it easier to be kept on than is the case in many other fields. Altman makes much of the number of manuscripts sent to him by presses which are published, against his advice, in unrevised and shoddy form. But the historical specificity of this boom is ever-present in contemporary deliberations. As more and more programs appear across the university spectrum, supply and demand will eventually meet; some think this has already happened. And when the supply of professionals is relatively inelastic, until signals from the market reach students, or faculty impose stricter limits on intakes in order to make for an equilibrium, there is liable to be a long period of unemployment (25-27, 30). For Robert Ray, the over-supply is already with us (59). Hence the attractiveness - for the moment - of cultural studies as a kind of humanities conglomerate, engaging in unfriendly take-overs of job positions throughout the area in a task of consolidation that may even ultimately diminish difference.

For his part, David Cook traces a more desperate, and to Australian eyes more familiar outline. It takes the following form, stripped of the pretension which would so alienate a Bordwell or Bennett: he has devoted fifteen years to persuading powerful university bureaucrats that space should be made for showing humanities students how 'to make informed critical judgements on the basis of received tradition, aesthetic form, and exegetic practice. And I believe in this proposition very firmly'. The Emory prospectus specifies that students will emerge from graduate study with the capacity to 'undertake and impart value discrimination'. For Cook, this is simply a set of attainable goals, one that has been at times tacitly agreed and at times fought over, and which now stands as a statement of the possible that sets up an implicit contract between faculty, students, and administration. Nor does he see this as remorselessly hierarchical. The project is 'to make what is accessible to the few meaningful to the many'. And unlike Australians labouring with Leavisism and worse, this is in contradistinction to the life he left behind, 'in the English Department, where I could sip sherry on late Friday afternoons with colleagues who think in miniature and trade bon mots over the TLS, BBC, or latest novel by David Lodge' (32, 38). Film studies continues to be popularly connected in his eyes, even though the pedagogic form suggested by Emory's publicity sits snugly alongside just the elitist cosiness which he abjures.

Could we resolve this apparent contradiction by simply translating the signifier 'discrimination' a few degrees? Such a change would recast its shadow. Instead of a penumbric obscurity forming over texts that fail to represent "man" at his best in an aesthetic sense, that dread darkness would light upon the political fall of "man". Or put another way, does a text-based cultural studies simply displace artistic and humanistic orders of preference by political ones? And if so, then does the nature of the object analysed (popular, culturally specific, and committed to a democratic urge) overdetermine, or re-inflect, what seems to be a tutelary norm that merely puts ideological fashion over art in its register of reference?

I think the question which began the previous paragraph can be answered in the affirmative. The very place of work in cultural studies - outside the living-room, outside the cloister, outside the word-processing laboratory - should encourage a different dynamic from the text-based seminar. And this is where we can see a return to origins. The early history of cinema as part of a vaudeville bill is being reprised, as the moving image becomes part of a multi-form, highly animated, and diverse network of entertainment. The brief moment when cinema could be viewed as a fairly unitary phenomenon both in terms of exhibition and criticism (say, 1930 to 1980) set up the prospect of its textual fetishisation, which became pedagogically feasible with video technology and a discourse of aestheticisation. Now that viewing environments, audiences, technology, and genres are so multiple, the cinema is again in its mixed-medium mode. The American screen has extended its reach so that it now can be said to be 'colonizing outer space, inner space, and virtual space' (Elsaesser 44). The very fact of this promiscuous travel may serve to destabilise screen studies' professionalising practices, just as the extraordinary internationalism of film has always militated against anything other than, in effect, a "comp. cin." model (Ray 57).

Thomas Elsaesser juxtaposes the first phase, which culminated in film studies with the establishment of a very comprehensive theorisation of the unconscious of the gendered viewing subject, with the new turn towards a more historically precise account, which has brought forward hitherto neglected archival materials but has reinstated very blunt sociological categories that manifest what he calls 'a retreat from the text'. As the methods of textual analysis were crucial to the discipline's establishment as a core of technique, this rejection leaves it without an agreed modus operandi. Or more precisely, the heavily materialist bias in contemporary revisionist film history, signalled by Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery's Film History and later work, plus controversies over the chaser theory, is a reaction to the psy-monolith of Lacanian theory. Whereas the Freudian frame called for the exhaustive analysis of individual screen texts as a site for the demonstration of prolixity mixed with acuity, the economic frame is constantly in search of new materials to add to or disprove findings based on previously available sources (Elsaesser 42-43).

Along with this technological movement comes a tug of attention away from cinema and towards television. As Elsaesser notes, cultural studies has made television and video into legitimate spaces for the application of protocols of close reading, freeing the home screen from the reductive excesses of American media sociology and communication studies. This has had the additional effect of dislocating the humanities from any attempt to operationalise a hierarchisation of the screen in traditional avant-garde terms. All of this he welcomes. But the inattention of cultural studies to the image - its twin legacies of literature and sociology turning it towards a narrativisation of texts and a valorisation of audiences - reduces the chances that film studies will continue its labour as a location for 'the guardians of a heritage of images'. Any loss of that heritage and its extraordinarily powerful influences over the passage of bodies through time and space, as well as how those bodies are understood and mimicked, risks the loss also of people's experience of the modern (Elsaesser 46-47).

Of the other critics responding to Making Meaning, E. Ann Kaplan has the most to say that relates directly to cultural studies. She concurs with Bordwell's desire to reprimand ideologues who simply go back over literary ground whilst claiming a populist political rectitude. But Kaplan is anxious to indicate the importance of new developments in the cultural industries themselves, in particular the major productive work being undertaken by people from minority categories. She fears that Bordwell would simply reduce such texts, and the critical apparatus that is emerging along with them, to one more case of a fatigued and fatiguing ideology critique that is too reflexive in its moves and insufficiently analytic in its methods (48-49). The purview of Making Meaning is very Western, very American, and very conventional in academic terms. It is straightforward meta-critique, but without any clear account of itself other than as a superior form of screen studies. No argument is made for why such an area should exist; what it might do; or whom it should address. Such a take is really dedicated to building academic culture (as Bordwell himself happily announces, 'we are understanding...' 'we are writing...' ("Film" 110)). So perhaps Stuart Cunningham is right to describe Making Meaning as a doleful sign that film studies has lost its innovative edge as a challenge to established ways of thinking (Framing 20). What account could Bordwell produce of the intense intermingling signalled by Diawara, or the overtly theorised and politicised nature of films such as Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1990) and Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1991) that are directly from the subcultures of black gayness and screen theory, whilst also being popular objects (Parkerson)?

Kaplan admires the work done by Bordwell and his colleagues, that empirical reading and research that characterises Wisconsin folk, but finds it very typical of modern university life. In cultural studies, she encounters a more splintered, energetic, outreach logic that resonates with 'the fin de siecle moment'. And this is more than fashion. It is a challenge across disciplinary boundaries (48-51). This should not encourage us to follow the example of Robin Wood's reaction. He holds university film studies responsible for the Gulf War, the bombing of Hiroshima, the neglect of Andrew Britton, and the disasters of the future that will follow patriarchal capitalism's 'logical culmination in fascism' (82-88, 91). But at least this encourages some contemplation of the cultural context to the very practice of film study, provided that all practices are up for inspection and symptomatic critique, and not merely those from the right (Bordwell "Film" 104). In an even-handed but properly political meditation on Making Meaning that recently appeared in Screen, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith sums this up in terms akin to Kaplan's. Yes, cinema studies has had its moments of silliness, self-importance, self-investiture with extra-academic significance, and so on. But perhaps the explanation for this lies in the nature of the screen: it actually cannot be constrained within inferential reasoning and textual clues. Because films are the most patronised form of publicly consumed art this century, their force as sites for interpreting culture and person resides in the discussions they produce, not in their internal characteristics (Charmaine McEachern's tracery in this volume of the necessary inter-connexions of social theory, social movements, and television genres indicates a similar awareness). In fact, one of Bordwell's collaborators, Janet Staiger, has engaged very seriously with cultural studies in her work on the historical interpretation of Hollywood film (68-95). And the extra-textual audience and its activity are animating forces behind Judith Mayne's analysis of cinema spectatorship, in a way that incorporates aspects of both traditions.

This uptake and blending returns us to Dyer's provocation; why does all this matter? The velocity with which Hollywood genres adapt and circulate, and their increasing dispersal, along with the growth of international cultural capitalism, must be our answer. On the left, screen studies has been mired in a rather monolithic approach to this, operating in a tightly circumscribed space of binaristic critique that just barely keeps domination and co-optation apart in its continued reliance on implicit dominant ideology theses. We might do better to see a productive aspect to the intermingling of dominance and oppositionality in screen texts. Jim Collins models this in his analysis of Chariots of Fire (1981). Conventional critiques explain the success of the film in Britain in terms of its chauvinistic nationalism, as an ode to a bygone time of international hegemony and domestic oneness that eulogises this most jingoistic of pasts. But it was enormously popular in the North America as well, and the US is comprehensively demonised in the text. For Collins, the reasons for this polyvalence reside in the film's paradoxes. Chariots always compromises and revises its nationalism, and then compromises it again. Judaism, gender, professionalism, race, christianity, class, obedience, region, and individualism are locked in a series of brawls for subjective, inter-subjective, and public space. And sport becomes a crucial site of bodily transcendence that ineffably bonds people even as it individuates them, through its jouissance-like nexus of the sublime and the beautiful, exemplified in the syuzhet via loving slow motion, extreme close-ups, and a confessional voice-over as a meta-textual meditation. This multiplication of authorising perspectives makes the text akin to the historical mini-series as a location encouraging public deliberation on the life and morphology of the nation (90-92, 94-96; Cunningham "Style").

The push towards this multi-factorial analysis, an interdisciplinary analysis that should have an account of itself outside career-building, whilst demonstrating an awareness of the limitations on any appeal to extra-academic constituencies, is in evidence in the work of Jane Gaines. Her study of image ownership and control began its life as an examination of commodity tie-ins to films. This was a research design clearly located within Marxist understandings of commodity fetishism: how screen texts endowed associated merchandise with some of their aura. An interview-based methodology of encounters with former publicists inevitably led to a consideration of legal relations, in keeping with the work of Bernard Edelman: who owns the image? Who owns the right to replicate it? Who owns the rights to a star-image in particular, with all its confused lineage in diegetic and extra-diegetic meaning? When does Bela Lugosi cease to be Dracula and vice versa, for instance? This set of difficulties turned her gaze in the direction of licensing character. In this sphere of knowledge, canonical texts circulate in altogether different ways from their aesthetico-symbolic currency inside conventional cinema studies. Dark Passage (1947) matters because of its status in the history of copyright. Gaslight (1944) figures in case-law as the object of a parody on radio (Noel King's interview with Gillian Leahy in this volume uses it a jumping-off point for feminist insights into the dialogic paramaters to madness). The Maltese Falcon (1941) is central to disputes over serial rights. No account of the diegesis or ideology of the new version of The Three Musketeers, for example, can explain the fact that the French Government's droit d'auteur is able to ban the showing of the film there because the producers refuse to name Dumas as one of its authors. Such a revelatory sense of the radical restructuring of texts in their circulation leads Gaines to situate her work inside cultural, rather than film, studies because it offers a way to combine theory and method across sites (xiii-xvi). Here lies a way forward for both areas and for their nexus.

A New Agenda

'Metz? How do you spell that?' - James Bond
'M....Get out, you irritating little man' - Dr Metz (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971)

In amongst the alternatively utopic and dystopic announcements of the decline of grand theory and the old world order, the question of international cultural relations is increasingly pressing. In particular, the disparities in the means of communication between the US and most other countries (the extraordinary imbalances in textual trade), allied to a lack of methods and materials with which to know to what degree and in which direction readers actually make sense of this trade, leaves cultural studies in a dilemma. For here the economic and the interpretative turns really should meet. And in ways that most theorisation has simply not touched. The cultural reductionism people situate economic determinations as relatively autonomous from the life of the text, which is sufficiently rupturous to elude the grips of a capitalist ideology. But they offer no account of culture beyond the shore, as a travelling memorandum on how to live. Conversely, the economic reductionists situate cultural determinations as relatively autonomous from the life of the text; there is no rupture of ideology possible here, because the truth of the text resides in its carriage, its pathway, and the identities of its producer and receiver. Practices of making sense are entirely subordinated to the political economy of transmission.

We can see evidence of this dilemma at quite micrological sites. Cunningham has set down some key questions for film history in his important biography of Charles Chauvel. These are relational questions: what is the connexion of culture and society, of aesthetic output and industry, of film style and the individual film-maker? How do we conceive of Hollywood inside world film history; or should we reverse the question, and locate the world in relation to the United States (Featuring 5)? When we examine the discourse of film history, there are certain conventional criticisms that come to mind: surveys of directors' careers lack an attention to the details of studio papers, governmental records, newspaper reviews, and industry and audience magazines. In short, there needs to be a new form of research that goes beyond the dual strategies which were once dominant: the cataloguing of an individual life and its artistic and personal progression, or the investigation of films as guides to broader socio-cultural matters. The first of these should be complexified, by looking at the biographical legend and the textual relationships to genre and international co-ordinates. The second should be domesticated and made less immodest, a turn away from the assumption that a group of screen texts provides the hermeneutic key to huge economic and social issues (Cunningham Featuring 6-7).

Cunningham is critical of the Allen and Gomery film history textbook for the way that it quarantines theory from history, bracketing semiotic and psychoanalytic approaches away from the study of "the past". This is done to service the authors' own separation between the aesthetics and the social circulation of cinema. Their book unpacks technology, text, economy, and society in ways that are useful as first steps, but which should lead to a process of integration if the existence of a studio, a genre, a spectator, or a visual trope is to be followed across its life (Featuring 8).

In addition, their approach is relentlessly centred on the United States. How might we investigate cinemas from other nations? The traditional means for doing this have been characterised by what Cunningham calls 'an imprecise jumble' of author-function celebration and "me-first" pronouncements on innovations in style, such as debates over which country can first lay claim to the use of the close-up. The search for great art as a formative component of national cinema discourse frequently denies the marginal role of domestic production inside host nations by contrast with their dominance by Hollywood. This results from a denial of the utility of political economy appoaches. By contrast, the newer forms of writing about national cinema embrace approaches derived from Franz Fanon and Antonio Gramsci. These methods look at the overall nature of national film circulation, theorise them in psychoanalytic, post-colonial, and Marxist terms, and hence are able to tease out contradictory structures and strictures in the constitution of the nation. Amongst those contradictions is of course the ambivalence we all feel towards Hollywood, as the measuring point of most taste cultures and the site of appropriation, domination, pleasure, and internationalism. The evolutionary histories of the continuity system and of global distributional and exhibitionary networks of power see sometimes interlocking, sometimes quite separate forces, operating with both joint and independent logics at certain moments (Cunningham Featuring 8-10).

Cunningham warns of the dangers in certain recuperative moves that are frequently made as part of resuming national cinemas supposedly hidden from the historical gaze. Such moves generally divide into three: the 'excavatory, celebratory and polemical' tradition relies on a repetitive cycle of development, destruction, and resuscitation which tends to deny continuities and is often highly specific to the feature film industry. The 'transitional' mode of writing national film history is still caught in this recuperative project, but is also beholden to addressing certain theoretical questions about the differences between European and other parts of the world, about the specificity of post-colonial countries, settler countries, and post-revolutionary ones. But it continues to be assumed that a vibrant cultural nationalism can be discerned in the texts to be recovered from oblivion. As the 'theoretical' mode of historiography points out, this writing tends to argue for a notion of cultural imperialism, in which passive recipients are overwhelmed by the ever-evil, all-powerful United States. In the process, there is an imposition of the stature of the passive victim onto host nations and viewers and an ignorance of the complicity and resistance dance of difference entered into by indigenous bourgeoisies (Featuring 10-14).

We need to situate ourselves in a liminal state that borrows from the interpretative strengths of textual analysis and the distributional strengths of cultural economics, a "middle-range" methodology (Miller and Cunningham). This would combine the scepticism of political economy with the anti-foundationalism of cultural studies. To illustrate the need for such an approach, this paper concludes with a reading of two texts from each quarter, by Herbert Schiller and Anne-Marie Jagose, and a distillation of future practice from Alec McHoul and Tom O'Regan, Bruno Latour, Frow and Morris, Grossberg, and Partha Chatterjee.

Schiller is one of the founding figures of international cultural political economy (ICPE). His books from the 1960s are now being re-released in updated versions, and his scholarly commitment to liberatory cultural definition continues to inspire a new generation of activists. Schiller's latest work endeavours to account for the questions raised by the customising labour of readership protocols and the new world order. He is dubious about the former and the latter. Instead, he explains the present moment of ICPE as the triumph of 'transnational economic interests' over the mechanisms of accountability which derive from sovereign-states and their international organisations. The world communications system is dominated by commercial rationality, its heart and head reconciled in the magic sphere of marketing. There may be significant sense-making practices at all points on the continuum of a text, from its origins as signs in the production houses of the United States to its destinations as signs in the audiences of elsewhere, but the flow is uni-directional and increasingly dominant in terms of the sources of information in recipient cultures. The model of the consumer society is being taken up by more and more countries, under pressure from global economic organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the institutions and cultural contents that comprise these models are determinedly American in their ownership, operation, and signification. As the international penetration of American material increases, so does its mimetic production power: indigenous culture is modelled on American genres. And in terms of what actually constitutes the United States, what Schiller calls 'the corporate perspective' is dominant, the opposing positions of farming, labour, and civil rights now subsumed by the sanitising evolution of the culture industries. Adversarialism is displaced by a flattened-out mediocrity that privileges the confessional narrative of individual comings-into-consciousness to the exclusion of questions of structural inequality (47, 49-52).

By contrast, Jagose is newly installed in an Australian university English department. Her labour is to question the foundational humanism underpinning various recent accounts of lesbianism as a status that exceeds the limiting power of sex and gender discourses. This has the paradoxical effect of obliterating differences, fixing lesbianism inside a compulsory utopics. In its place, she favours a nuanced variety of feminist cultual analysis that will produce 'increasingly precise articulations of unassimilated difference', whilst also sensing the limitations of this 'new magical sign' of pluralism and its gorgeous propensity to elude critique by pluralising all noun-forms. This should not provide an alibi for the return to foundational humanism, as the work of feminism must always be to produce "woman", not claim "woman" as its already achieved impulse that can be known outside contradiction, beyond 'cultural legislation'. The idea is to forge a path that evades the limitations of the conventional feminist binary of voluntarist libertarian desire and structuralist determination through the bonds of language (265, 272-73, 276, 278, 281).

Can we synthesise these perspectives, either in terms of the unification that would position them both inside cultural studies, or - more ambitiously - as methodological tools? I think so, and screen studies is a good location to try: newly installed, but ready to run out of jobs for its graduates, it is infinitely closer to "the popular" than its maiden uncles in Literature, and still keen to appear avant-gardiste.

McHoul and O'Regan have introduced the notion of 'textual technologies' to cultural studies as a means of productively bracketing politics and reading. They criticise the idea that 'local instances' of people refusing the dominant interpretations preferred by global producers can be made to 'guarantee any general statement about textual meaning'. The urgent search for resistive readers who can delegate their wildness to researchers produces an extraordinary inflation of transgression into an inevitability that identifies unruly reading with both originary texts and exegetical academics. Aberrant decoding becomes a professorial passport to the popular and a means, ironically, of making the output of the culture industries isomorphic with a demotic, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist politics (see also Morris). Criticisms of these methodological leaps tend to be answered by a translation a few degrees away from notions of reading and towards the space of morality: opposing the search for resistance becomes itself opposed to resistance. By contrast - topos of the modest writing couple - they propose a shift away from this system of delegation and from its world of all-encompassing politics. Instead of the system of readerly delegation favoured by cultural relativist textual resisters, McHoul and O'Regan commend a 'discursive analysis of particular actor networks, technologies of textual exchange, circuits of communicational and textual effectivity, traditions of exegesis, commentary and critical practice'. In other words, the specific 'uptake' of a text by a community should be our referent; but it will not necessarily reveal anything about the properties of that object or its likely uptake anywhere else or at any other time. In place of a general model of the political, they call for attention to the 'general outline' of 'interests', an outline which can only be applied to specific cases 'upon a piecemeal and local inspection' that in turn can influence the wider model. Politics and texts are both about the means of communication as they function along a continuum of time and space (5-6, 8-9).

For his part, Latour - clearly a crucial influence on McHoul and O'Regan - values intellectual work that concentrates on cross-categorical difficulties, the spaces and practices that elude taxonomic ease. He seeks to straddle nature and culture, knowledge and power, through the work of interdisciplinary translations and networks that see the objects of nature and culture as equally subject to orders of discourse that centre events, structures, deliberations, agency, and determination. He rejects a discussion of things, populations, or discourses in themselves. Latour exemplifies his preferred alternatives by looking at a series of science-sociology studies: on the internal guidance systems of missiles, which must always be understood as a technology of death as well as logic; the informational career of articles in science journals, which is equally illustrative of capitalist industry and of academic method as it is of molecular truth; the history of inventors, which is about the space between internal mental workings and global transformations; and 'the domestication of microbes', which is about society, and textuality, and biology. '[R]hetoric, textual strategies, writing, staging, semiotics - all these are really at stake, but in a new form that has a simultaneous impact on the nature of things and on the social is not reducible to the one or the other' (3-5).

If we link this to Frow and Morris' litany of interdisciplinarity, we might be able to specify cultural studies as a mixture of economics, aesthetics, formalism, politics, gender, ethnography, history, physical objects, textual analysis, policy, and the inscriptive self, undertaken as a way of seeing who controls the means of communication and culture, with a constant vigilance on its own raison d'etre and modus operandi ("Introduction" xvi-xviii). This could be read alongside Grossberg's useful tabular matrix mapping cultural studies along axes of cultural method and social theory. He sets up a grid comparing five forms of method (literary humanism, dialectical sociology, culturalism, structuralist conjunctures, and postmodern conjunctures) with eight formations of theory (epistemology, determination, agency, social formation, cultural formation, power, specificity of struggle, and the site of the modern) to offer up an historicised system for conducting cultural analysis ("Formations" 35). Such an approach frees us from the semantic reduction which flows from a reliance on etymological traces of "culture" as a concept used by founding parents and opens up a sense of its actual material effects in the sphere of 'social management' (for instance, tourism) (Bennett "Useful" 69-70). With holiday travel emerging as the largest global industry, the concept of 'heritage', that most ambiguated of aesthetic and anthropological cultural tropes, is central to such questions; and marketing plus finance are intimately tied to its meanings (Boniface and Fowler xi, 1). Culture is increasingly critical as a sign of economic and social power and counter-power.

In looking back at the last five years, the editors of Queer Looks think about the polysemic moment of 1989. At one level, the year brought forward an immense richness in lesbian and gay film and video production, with funding and distribution options becoming available in the US and the UK in an unparalleled way. But 1989 was also the year of Clause 28 and the emergence of Jesse Helms into the real cultural policy debate. And at the level of cultural theory, a silence was about to end, as more and more people grew 'bored with tired seventies notions of positive role models, tired of boring seventies preoccupations with classic narrative structures' (Gever et al. "On" xiii-xiv). That tiny capsule history surely indicates the barrenness of research and activism which locate themselves in the happily secure, sealed-off spaces of text but not context, policy but not politics, and so on. In academic terms, this means that an adequate scholarly product - adequate in terms of this multi-factorial approach - would be produced from routine encounters with resources such as Peggy Phelan's Unmarked, the Journal of Cultural Economics, the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, Steven C. Dubin on public art, Celia Lury on cultural rights, Public Policy and the Aesthetic Interest (Smith and Berman), Gay Hawkins on community arts, Tom O'Regan's Australian Television Culture, Arthur C. Danto on the philosophy of art, David T. Evans' Sexual Citizenship, Geoffrey Lawrence on rural capitalism, Jim McKay's No Pain, No Gain?, The Economics of Art and Culture (Heilbrun and Gray), and Critical Issues in Public Art (Senie and Webster). This is not the list of required-reading stops for most of us now. But if the debate in Australia over policy versus text is to move beyond the disabling co-optation/representation couplet, it can only do so by seeing that the real opposition is to do with the fact that the synthesis of the non-empiricist social sciences and the humanities inside cultural studies is necessarily an incomplete one, but also something to be sought (on this point, see Mattelart and Mattelart 39-41; T. Miller "Culture"; Murdock). This form of academic labour is not necessarily onerous or grand, but it is interdisciplinary. An instance of just such analysis is suggested in this volume's Leahy-King interview. In discussing the textual protocols of My Life Without Steve (1986), the reader is offered two systems for understanding the equilibrium signals generated by the film's use of Bob Dylan's music. One account, the film theory one provided by the interviewer, suggests that the use of the same song at the beginning and the end of the text is an instance of classical cinematic symmetry and rhyme, as enunciated by Raymond Bellour. A second account, the economic one provided by the writer-director, concentrates on the cheap rates available for using Dylan's work. Neither account is adequate on its own in terms of production history and available interpretation. Together, they offer new ways into the text.

This drive towards new methods is occasioned by material factors. Within twenty years, a combination of digitisation, compression, and monopoly capitalism will potentially see any television signal around the world available to any personal computer for the price of a local telephone call. Initially, profits are expected to come from the obsessions of game-playing compu-nerds (the 'nasty little boys' market, as it is known), home-shoppers, and betting people. Then the simple-minded techneophyte will become a key money-making centre. Multi-media applications of established figures and sequences from film libraries will be sampled for re-deployment, much as the wave of violent crime television in the late 1950s worked its way through archival footage from the Depression-era's gangster films. Cost structures are low for such genres, and cable companies in the US are accustomed to making profits from just 1% of the available audience. Meanwhile, the newest programming innovation sees a limited number of high-budget films exclusively screened on pay-per-view television prior to theatrical release; this promotes an instant re-capitalisation, rather than debt servicing over the many years that it takes screen texts to come into profit ("you" can gross US $50 million in an evening). The gambling industry in North America now has annual revenue of US $30 billion, six times the size of cinema ticket sales. Much of this comes from film-related activities. The new Luxor Pyramid in Nevada has a theme-park casino designed by the special effects team from Blade Runner (1982). It allows guests to boat on an indoor Nile from hotel registration to the elevator, and features past, present, and future virtual-reality theatres. MGM is about to open the largest hotel in the world there, a casino organised around a huge Hollywood theme park. The usual moralisms about Godliness and the dangers of organised crime have not been forthcoming, because the gradual spread of lottery systems across the country has seen church and state become dependent on finances from the area. And Native American people have been major beneficiaries of the gambling industry, with casinos set up in 65 reservations over the past five years, producing a combined yearly turn-over of US $900 million.

These innovations - which it is so easy to list in the characteristic pomo manner of presenting signifiers without analysing them - will have complex politics attached to their design, administration, regulation, availability, and reception. The new era superficially suggests a chaotic plenitude of meaning, which we conventionally associate with the impossibility of sustaining grand narration. Warning, Will Robinson. Two very grand narratives have emerged triumphant from the end of the century of revolution in the late 1980s. They are far from distinct from one another, as participation in either involves a shuffling between each: I am referring of course to the individual and the nation. One discipline within the human sciences has improved itself over the last two decades, to the point where it now offers accounts of all human activity in such a way that it is routinely employed by governments, businesses, organised labour, and charities: the discourse of economics and the rational calculator. This takes certain givens about the person's instinctive drive towards self-improvement, combines these with a set of reasoning processes about preference and method, and comes up with formative prescriptions for international trade, crime and punishment, marriage and divorce, homosexuality, the building and management of parking lots, drug use, minority discrimination; in short, life itself (Becker). This is a discourse which claims to locate itself in each human body. By contrast, the discourse of national fealty positions itself between such bodies, lodging them together in the binding of invented tradition and memory. It travels under a greater plurality of academic signs than does economics. These include the idea of free public communication (Carey), citizenship (Murdock; Evans), and pro-social collective values (Cunningham Framing).

There is nothing especially insidious about utilising the nation as a technology for opening up such possibilities. Despite the touching fantasies that used to circulate between Washington and Moscow, it is wars of relatively autonomous national liberation that have characterised the post-World War II decolonisation process. As Schiller demonstrates, we may now be at a point when the nation is being used to impose a doctrine of free exchange and economic growth based on a model of the person which, after Jagose, seems utopic and untenable; but which has definite effects at the level of international policies of culture and communication. At the same time, we should beware reducing nationalism to the conventional Western political tradition of a unitary subject and thereby disavowing the force of culture. As Chatterjee has shown in his contributions to subaltern studies, post-colonial sovereign-states are always at risk of being reduced to the status of 'perpetual consumers of modernity' by such formulations. A more cadenced understanding of anti-colonial nationalism as it was practised in Africa and Asia would allow for the play of difference from the West's modular formulae. This play of difference arose because there was an anti-colonial national sentiment in existence prior to the enunciation of specifically political claims made on imperial powers. It was a sentiment that worked with the areas that the West had not unpacked and displaced - the realm of the spiritual - prior to engaging in the areas that had seen the coloniser triumphant - the material/infrastructural. As a set of practices, it carved out a safe zone for ethical nationalism kept separate from the constitutional and economic spheres of settler dominance (5-6). Perhaps this, too, provides a model for theorising shifting relations of power between subjects. For the movement between these two sites of strategic thought (person and nation) is achieved again and again by very reactionary forces in public discourse, because areas of alternative identity formation such as cultural studies engage all too rarely in these sites and systems for handling information. It is crucial that cultural studies depart from its fixation on an opposition between the popular and the official as a binary axis and instead looks at the mutual imbrication of pluralised marginal and central cultural forms inside the discourse of the nation (Ross 28).

This volume has not been designed to breach the space between the sites, but to acknowledge it. Screening Cultural Studies references the principal contemporary concerns in both areas of its title: gender (McEachern, Susan Bye, Rosemary Iwamura, Kate Gilroy, Griffiths, King-Leahy, and Joseph Roach); popular memory (Toby Miller, Griffiths, Lorraine Mortimer, and Bye); the intellectual sites of meaning construction (Roy Grundmann and O'Regan); and methods for understanding the popular (Scott Bukatman, William Routt, Christa Ludlow, and Griffiths). The papers cover a wide range of media: cinema (Miller, Iwamura, Routt, Gilroy, King-Leahy, Bukatman, and Mortimer); television (McEachern, Roach, and Bye); print (Grundmann, Bukatman, and Ludlow); theatre (Roach); and museums (Miller). The genres we address are also varied: cinema verite, film criticism, situation comedies, comics, science fiction, art cinema, the new pragmatism, magazines, Hollywood social humour, feminist essay film, music video, and crime fiction. And the methods used include ethnography, new historicism, textual technologies, textual analysis, autobiography, film history, the interview, and the archive. The concatenation of these sites and systems of interpretation should gesture in the direction of a way forward. In fact it has become a prerequisite for reading texts, for remaking sister morpheme.

Just such a permissive intertextual mingling is licensed, or perhaps necessitated, by the spill-over in popular logic between sites. When we evaluate Bill Collins as a television textual form, as Bye does here, we of necessity combine many different formations of culture and sign-systems in order to know his travel through the continuum of meaning: a particular version of North American and world film history; a set of telegenics; a fashion for kitsch and retro-art; a specific occasion of human expertise and excess; in short, a form of commercial-television male Hollywood on wheels. Collins, once derided by the Australian cultural left, has become iconic for his personification of these complexities. And he is not alone. David Cassidy is now a US prime-time fixture on re-runs of The Partridge Family. This follows on two decades in which he stood for all that cultural oppositionality defined itself against (he was out of fashion with music and television corporations). Cassidy has his own explanation of this transformation. It reads rather like an MBA's executive summary of Jameson's Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and Stuart Hall's re-iterations of the contingency of his personality:

I've worked very hard at satirizing myself, the former self, my incarnation from television. In the 90's, it was almost like the curse had been lifted and almost overnight, I went from being yesterday's news to like a cutting-edge sort of kitsch hip. (Quoted in Pener)

Why should Keith Partridge be the only person to have such pragmatic access to contemporary cultural theory?

Whether people are "in denial" or "in recovery" over doing cultural studies, they, "the people", are many and varied. It does seem as though screen studies in particular is being re-fashioned to account for shifts in cultural formation in terms of differing subjectivities, different sites, and different modes and valencies of transmission. The question of power and person as expressed in the technologies of culture is the one that should be raised each time the question "Have you just been reading or writing or recording cultural studies?" is put. The meanings that circulate within a community are not equally available to all. The beating anthropomophic heart of cultural studies must analyse the ways in which the means of self-definition and promulgation are - and are not - promiscuously up for redisposition (Allen 31).


The judge pronounced the words the way you wanted him to do
That changed your name from Brown to Jones and mine from Brown to Blue (Elvis Costello)

23 November 1993, Tuesday night in New York, brought an end to the J.F.K.: Reckless Youth mini-series ('Power. Women. Intrigue. Nothing you saw on Sunday will prepare you for Tonight'). Do we call this capitalist desire, sexism, popular memory, prime-time history, white man's fantasy, grotesque intrusiveness, consumer-responsiveness, or public service? Is this an exemplar of Dyer's 'born-again hedonists' at play (ix)? Or do we re-write it? "Cultural Studies: power/subjectivity/the modern". This is the travel of the commodity and the person, the sign and its knower, through time, space, and knowledge. It is Grossberg's 'radical contextualism' at work: both a 'theory of contexts' and a 'practice of making contexts' ("Introduction" 5). This means shuffling between 'cultural texts and social events or discourses', teasing out the often indirect relations between the two even as they intersect and come to be knowable inseparably (how do we understand Batman (1989) without looking at corporate entertainment logics, or Do The Right Thing (1989) in isolation from youth subculture?) (Ross 28). As Danto has so persuasively argued, the achievement of pop art was to draw attention to art history as a series of erasures, of canonical exclusion rather than obedience to the native beauty of a series of texts. By its very presence in galleries and museums, pop art made it apparent that the difference between commercial dross and aesthetic address lay in two areas: firstly, the power to tell history in institutional terms and control space in institutional physics; and secondly, the power to theorise the democratic potential of everyday life and the liberating meaning it offers up to artistic representations (3-7). Alright: that is cultural studies.

So, where were you the day cultural studies was born? Was there a grassy knoll? How many people were involved? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Unlike the case of the dead Kennedys, we can't even be sure when it happened, or where. Conspiracy theories abound. One thing is certain: nothing you read in Lit. will prepare you for this. (But perhaps you might refer back to Kenneth Burke).

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New: 30 November, 1995 | Now: 23 March, 2015