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Scene Thinking: A Special Issue of Cultural Studies

A special issue of Cultural Studies that revisits Will Straw’s work on cultural scenes is now available online. Edited by Benjamin Woo (Carleton University), Jamie Rennie (University of Toronto), and Stuart R. Poyntz (Simon Fraser University), this issue brings scene theory into contemporary cultural practices and expands it far beyond North American and U.K. contexts to produce a truly global approach to thinking about cultural scenes in the field of cultural studies. It is my privilege to have worked with these editors, the result of which is an article on the Queen West comedy scene in Toronto (link to full text below).

Contents:

Scene Thinking: Introduction
Benjamin Woo, Jamie Rennie & Stuart Poyntz

Some Things a Scene Might Be: Postface
Will Straw

‘We Weren’t Hip, Downtown People’: The Kids in the Hall, the Rivoli and the nostalgia of the Queen West scene
Danielle J. Deveau

Bodies That Remember: Gleaning scenic fragments of a brothel district in Yokohama
Ayaka Toshimizu

The Power of Scenes: Qualities of amenities and qualities of places
Daniel Silver & Terry Nichols Clark

Copy Machines and Downtown Scenes: Deterritorializing urban culture in a pre-digital era
Kate Eichhorn

Border Scenes: Detroit & Windsor
Michael Darroch

Approaching the Underground: The production of alternatives in the Bangladeshi metal scene
Shams Bin Quader & Guy Redden

Little Big Scene: Making and playing culture in Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet
Sara M. Grimes

When Scenes Fade: Methodological lessons from Sydney’s drag king culture
Kerryn Drysdale

 

Post-Doctoral Scholars and the Non-Academic Labour Market

Check out this discussion of the value of non-academic work for the post-doctoral scholar. I argue that the private sector is missing out on a large and talented labour force.

post-doctoral scholars as industry problem solvers

Excerpt:

A rapidly growing knowledge economy requires a creative, ambitious, and skilled workforce. Surplus PhDs offer a crucial labour force from which to draw. Currently, there is a disconnection between how post-docs articulate their skills and career objectives, and how the private sector frames job qualifications. Organizations that find ways of incorporating this labour force will not only be gaining access to the best and brightest, but will also be gaining an important corporate strategic advantage. Whatever research problem you are dealing with, it can almost be guaranteed that somebody, somewhere, has written a thesis on it. That person should be working for you.

Advice for PhDs can also be found here: reframing doctoral skills for the private sector.

Hook and Eye

For the past few months, I have been a regular contributor to the website Hook and Eye, a feminist blog that discusses research, teaching, and work-life balance. Here are a few of my recent posts discussing everything from the very serious issue of systemic violence against women to the banal challenges of not destroying your body by sitting at a computer all day long…

February 21, 2012 – Violence against women is always someone else’s problem

February 7, 2013 – Mission accomplished?

January 24, 2013 – Best laid plans…

December 6, 2012 – No pain, no gain

November 8, 2012 – Now welcoming women?

 

CFP – Cultural Production in Canada

Cultural Production in Canada
Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication
Guest Editors, Zoë Druick and Danielle Deveau

(La version française suit ci-dessous)

The neoliberal turn in global politics and economic policy over the past few decades has given the cultural sector a new prominence as the mechanism of national “branding.” At the same time, the cultural worker, entrepreneurial and flexible, has become the ideal image of labour in the creative economy. This paradigm has been heightened by the reliance of the interactive digital economy on the creativity of amateurs.

These shifts have been shadowed by academic work that merges political economy with ethnography and cultural studies in order to better consider both the centring of culture in the economy and the economization of culture as lived experiences (e.g. Beck 2003; Mayer, Banks and Caldwell 2009; McKinlay and Smith 2009).

This special issue seeks works that address issues of cultural production and cultural labour in Canada from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Guiding questions might include the following: What does cultural production in Canada look like today? Who undertakes it under which conditions? Where does it take place (creative clusters; suburban basements)? What kinds of culture are being produced in these new conditions? Finally, how are these shifting structures, geographies and experiences being addressed? What methodologies and bodies of scholarship are being brought to bear?

Although labour issues in the creative and cultural industries are currently the object of substantial research internationally (e.g. Banks 2007; Caldwell 2009; Deuze 2007; Hesmondhalgh and Baker, 2011), the analysis of the way that Canadian work and leisure activities can be framed by the topic of cultural production has so far remained piecemeal. This special issue aims to provide a record of the ways in which neoliberal strategies, such as the deregulation of markets and the deunionization of industries, as well as the globalization of markets for art and culture, has radically altered the landscape of cultural production in Canada.

Possible topics could include, but are not limited to:

  •  material conditions for the production and circulation of high art
  •  labour patterns in the cultural and media industries
  •  local, national and global facets of amateur participatory culture (YouTube, blogs, gaming, crafting, etc.)
  •  neoliberalization and the creative economy
  •  adoption of creative cities policies
  •  cultural economy of Indigenous art practices
  •  culture and tourism in rural, secluded, or minority language areas
  •  the mainstreaming of subcultural and minoritized art and culture
  •  the politics and economics of producing and consuming popular culture in Canada
  •  the commodification of folk culture
  •  historical studies of cultural production

Proposals of 500 words will be accepted until 31 March 2013. Submissions are invited in both English and French. Complete versions of essays (7,000-9,000 words) will be due by 30 September 2013. Please address all submissions and queries to the editors at cultprodincanada@gmail.com.

*******

Le tournant néolibéral que connaissent depuis quelques décennies les politiques mondial et économique crée un intérêt grandissant dans le secteur culturel en tant que mécanisme de « branding » national. Simultanément, le travailleur culturel, vu comme entrepreneurial et polyvalent, est devenu l’image idéale de la main-d’oeuvre au sein de l’économie de la création. Ce paradigme se trouve renforcé par la dépendance de l’économie numérique et interactive sur la créativité des amateurs.

Ces transformations ont été explorées par des études académiques mariant économie politique, ethnographie et études culturelles afin de mieux comprendre la centralisation de la culture dans l’économie ainsi que l’économisation de la culture sous forme d’expériences vécues (e.g. Beck 2003; Mayer, Banks et Caldwell 2009; McKinlay et Smith 2009).

Ce numéro spécial vise des travaux provenant de diverses perspectives disciplinaires traitant des questions de production et de travail culturels au Canada. Par exemple : Comment se fait actuellement la production culturelle au Canada? Qui entreprend la production culturelle et dans quelles circonstances? Où cette production a-t-elle lieu (regroupements [« clusters »] culturels, sous-sols en banlieue)? Quels types de culture sont produits dans ces nouvelles conditions? Comment ces structures, géographies et expériences changeantes sont-elles abordées? Sur quelles méthodologies et connaissances ces analyses s’appuient-elles?

Bien que la question du travail dans les industries créatives et culturelles soit actuellement un important sujet de recherche à l’international (e.g. Banks 2007; Caldwell 2009; Deuze 2007; Hesmondhalgh et Baker, 2011), les analyses adoptant la lunette de la production culturelle pour comprendre les activités de travail et de loisir au Canada ont été, jusqu’à présent, plutôt rares. L’objectif de ce numéro spécial est de documenter les manières dont les stratégies néolibérales, telles que la déréglementation du marché et la désyndicalisation des industries, ainsi que la mondialisation des marchés de l’art et de la culture, ont radicalement transformé la réalité de la production culturelle au Canada.

Liste non exhaustive de sujets possibles :

  •  les conditions matérielles requises pour la production et la circulation du grand art
  •  les logiques de travail dans les industries culturelle et médiatique
  •  les aspects locaux, nationaux et mondiaux de la culture amateur participative (YouTube, blogues, jeux, artisanat, etc.)
  •  la néolibéralisation et l’économie de la création
  •  la mise en place de politiques de villes créatives
  •  l’économie culturelle des pratiques artistiques autochtones
  •  la culture et le tourisme dans les régions rurales, isolées ou de langue minoritaire
  •  l’intégration de la culture et de l’art minorisés et de sous-cultures
  •  la politique et l’économie de la production et de la consommation de la culture populaire au Canada
  •  la marchandisation de la culture populaire
  •  les études historiques de la production culturelle

Les soumissions de 500 mots, en anglais et en français, seront acceptées jusqu’au 31 mars 2013. Les versions complètes des articles (7 000 à 9 000 mots) devront être soumises le 30 septembre 2013 au plus tard. Veuillez envoyer toute soumission et question à l’adresse suivante : cultprodincanada@gmail.com.

References/Références:
Banks, Mark. The Politics of Cultural Work. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007.
Beck, Andrew, ed. Cultural Work: Understanding the Cultural Industries. London: Routledge, 2003.
Caldwell, John T. Production Culture. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008.
Deuze, Mark. Media Work. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
Hesmondhalgh, David and Sarah Baker. Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries. New York: Routledge, 2011.
Mayer, Vicki, Miranda Banks, and John Thornton Caldwell, eds. Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries. London: Routledge, 2009.
McKinlay, Alan and Chris Smith. Creative Labour: Working in the Creative Industries. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Last night, I went to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Apart from all of the obvious criticisms that many others have already made (for example, the eery similarity of many scenes to other epic/magical films), one of the issues that stood out most for me was the silencing of Snow White. When the previews for this film emerged months ago, I found it curious that the title character was not shown speaking. Having now seen the film, I understand why, she just didn’t have that many lines. In a film which centers around the relationship between two female characters, Queen Ravenna and her step-daughter Snow White, I would expect that women would be doing most of the talking. While the film’s writers (Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini) seem to have been able to write speaking parts for the Queen in the first half of the film while she is evil and powerful, the second half of the film where she deteriorates into a weaker, more vulnerable position generally involves her speechlessly starring into mirrors. The portrayal of Snow White as virtuous seems to have been an even harder task to achieve through speech. She spends the majority of the film silently starring gape-mouthed at things or into the distance or into the camera. She really doesn’t say much. For the most part, men do the talking in this film about two women. It seems very odd to me that the creators of this film opted for the female characters to remain largely seen and not heard. Indeed, many of the characters’ more complex characteristics—the Queen’s fear of aging and death, Snow White’s virtuosity and caring—were portrayed not through words and actions, but through their speechless faces. Did the writers have difficulty writing for women? For me, this film about women which ended up really being about men offers a good example of why behind the scenes positions like writing need to be more diverse. It had lots of beautiful scenes and fantastic special effects, but it missed the mark in most other respects.

Congress 2012, the National Post, and the fallout…

My conference paper, “Single, Awkward, Female: Debra DiGiovanni and the rise of the female stand-up comic in Canadian popular culture”, was picked up by the National Post to be covered as part of their “Oh the Humanities” section featuring work presented at Congress 2012. This research discusses the success and visibility of DiGiovanni in Canadian popular culture, and potential for this to alter cultural attitudes about women and humour (which unfortunately remain resistant to funny women). As noted in Boesveld’s article, a 2006 study of McMaster University students found that heterosexual males only valued a “sense of humour” in female partners insomuch as they like women who laugh at their jokes. Conversely, they expressed a lack of interest in women who were skilled humour producers.

In relation to this research, I found it notable that DiGiovanni (who I would argue is currently the most visible female stand-up comic in Canada) frames much of her comic persona around failure to attract men. This particular form of self-deprecation has a long history in comic performance. Indeed, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers both engaged in this type of humour, defining themselves as undesirable despite their actual and very obvious attractiveness. Given the continued cultural resistance to women being funny (for another discussion of this issue see: The Independent), I considered that this type of self-deprecating performance might be a useful strategy in gaining access and acceptance in the comedy field, where women remain a minority of participants.

Unfortunately, it would seem that Boesveld’s article has been very negatively received. The actual parameters and aims of my research have clearly not been conveyed to readers. Some of the main points that readers seem to have taken away from the article very much contradict the actual claims that I make in my research, especially my exploration of the ways that dominant attitudes towards gender frame the performance of humour. Admittedly, analyses such as this can be tricky to articulate, and have a tendency to be poorly received because individuals are often resistant to seeing how social structure might impact their daily lives or actions.

Academic conferences are important spaces for scholars to present work in progress to our peers, and receive critical feedback. The research that I presented is not a completed project, but initial observations in an ongoing study. I’m glad that Boesveld’s article received so much debate, and there is some useful feedback in many of the reader comments. The very articulate reactions from readers, especially working comedians, offer valuable insights upon which I will no doubt draw as I continue thinking through this research.

Humour is a notoriously difficult subject to study. Once a scholar attempts to deconstruct and explain a joke, it often looses its comic appeal. However, this doesn’t mean that we should not study humour. Through joking, we offer indications of the cultural, social, and political norms and issues with which we engage in our daily lives. This makes it a very important (if dangerous) topic of analysis.

You can check out Sarah Boesveld’s article about the research that I presented at Congress this year here: Must women act undesirable to be funny? | News | National Post.

Note: comments are disabled on this website because I generally only receive nonsense spam comments advertising pharmaceuticals. I got tired of deleting them, so I disabled comments. Please feel free to contact me at daniellejdeveau at gmail.com if you would like to discuss my work further or provide additional feedback.

Deviant Bodies, Revolt! | Congress 2012 of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Deviant Bodies, Revolt! | Congress 2012 of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Check out the coverage of my panel at Congress last weekend. My paper argued that female comedians use self-deprecation as a performative strategy to gain entry into an industry that remains male-dominated, as well as gaining acceptance from audiences that continue to be resistant to the idea of women being funny.

 

Montreal tourist season at risk over tuition protests | News | National Post

 

As stand-up comedy is often conflated with some sort of critical, political project, it is easy to forget that it is at its base an entirely commercial enterprise. The gatekeepers that deliver the stand-up product are at all times preoccupied with producing the optimum conditions for big sales. Case in point, festival president and founder spoke out against Montreal’s student protests this week, noting that they might keep tourists away from the city’s festivals:

You work hard for years to build a good image. Montreal has a good image, as a fun city, a place where you go and enjoy life and you’re going to have a great party time. What’s going on now is not scary but certainly troubling. – Gilbert Rozon

Montreal tourist season at risk over tuition protests | News | National Post.

 

No Joke – JFL Stages ‘Smartphone’ Comedy Festival in Toronto | Mediacaster Magazine – Broadband & Content

 

 No Joke – JFL Stages ‘Smartphone’ Comedy Festival in Toronto | Mediacaster Magazine – Broadband & Content.

mediacaster is reporting that this years Toronto-based Just for Laughs festival will use mobile technology and social media to allow comedy audiences to alter programming choices. Essentially, by creating buzz, audience members will be (supposedly) able to have shows added or moved to larger venues. Louis CK is headlining the event, JFL42, which runs September 21-28th, 2012.

DiGiovanni Storming the Boys Club

Released earlier this year, Debra DiGiovanni’s comedy special Single, Awkward, Female (entertainmentone, 2012) brings together all of her best diet, cat lady, and cougar jokes.

“I found a much better way to lose weight. I am crossing my fingers and hoping to get a parasite. A tapeworm is like a metabolism buddy – you sit there and they do all the work.” – DiGiovanni

I have really enjoyed Digiovanni’s stand-up for awhile. I believe she is having a major impact upon a field that continues to be male-dominated. Here are my thoughts on how she is changing the game:

1) She is highly recognizable in the Canadian stand-up comedy market: DiGiovanni is everywhere, clubs, festivals, various television programs, the list goes on…. She is practically the popular media’s go-to-person for all things comic. As she once said on The Debaters (CBC Radio, 2009), “I’m on TV an annoying amount, I know it.” Now, for a field that includes relatively few women, this is a big deal. For me, she is already the current face of Canadian stand-up comedy, and I expect that she will continue on this recognizable, upward trajectory.

2) The kids know who she is: It is not that DiGiovanni is ever present in the media generally that is a major coup, but that she has been highly visible as a comic personality on MuchMusic. Highly impressionable youth know her as a very funny lady. As she jokes in her comedy special, even Justin Bieber is a fan. Apparently there are still huge swaths of the population that still have difficulty associating women with being funny, so DiGiovanni’s role in socializing youth to accept women as funny could have a big impact.

3) She’s got control of the audience: The comedy club remains a challenging and potentially hostile space for female performers. Like many female comics, DiGiovanni employs self-deprecating humour strategically. By presenting her own humorous self-criticisms, she protects herself from vocal, set-disrupting audience members. Her sets are disarming. In fact, while I am sure that it has happened in her career, I have never seen her heckled at a performance. Despite the self-deprecation, she still seems tough and in control when on the stage. This is a hard act to balance, and probably one of her most important skills.

4) She loves her cat: Unfortunately, creative work such as stand-up remains difficult to align with a family life. This is especially the case for women in their 30s who find the erratic hours and fluctuating wages interfere with child-rearing. This is embedded in the structuring of creative work which results in the exclusion of women (and family oriented men) from participation. The cat can be left alone for a couple of days, the baby can’t. The cat can hangout with you for a few hours at 3am when you get home from the comedy club, the baby really shouldn’t (though, with a little cola in the bottle, probably would). It’s not fair that having a cat and not a baby is the best way to ensure her continued success as a comedian, but it seems to be working and I’m inclined to hope that she sticks with the program.

5) She’s on the rise: DiGiovanni has achieved a lot in the just over 10 years that she has been working in stand-up. Importantly, she doesn’t appear to be slowing down. There aren’t that many female comedians that make it into headliner territory, so her continued presence on the scene is important. She has an international comedy career ahead of her. Get out of the way boys!

Check out Single, Awkard, Female available for purchase here.

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