Monday, September 17, 2007

How sexy was Lee and Lipuma′s ″Cultures of Circulation″?

Very. And of course it was: jargoned, sleek, innovative, Lee and Lipuma adeptly borrowed terms from the comp-lit-y camp (i.e. performative, third-person subject) and coupled them with a dizzying slew of economic terminology to create a piece that really told us about our post-modern selves. Transgressive social performances and hedge funds…there is nothing more cool.

Rarely have I encountered a piece of critical analysis that has slapped so much of sensationalism and self-conscious ingenuity – the cotemporaneous attraction and revulsion I had for the piece I was reading reminded me more of my experience of watching hyper-cool movies (Kill Bill vol. 1) than of reading other critical texts.

But this is not to say I′m condemning ″Cultures of Circulation″ -- most of Lee and Lipuma′s arguments were quite revealing and compelling. I refer to my visceral reaction to the piece as a way of expelling ″Cultures of Circulation,″ from the privileged heights of academia and to expose it as the cultural object (dare I say – the commodity) that it is. I pick on ″Cultures of Circulation″ simply because it’s easy to target. Since the introduction to this class, we have been considering the newspaper and the novel as politically powerful cultural forms whose circulation throughout the national and international market is something subject to sociological and economic inquiry. I find myself curious as to why products of the academy are not subject to the same inquiry as other circulated objects. Do the concepts of Product and Market stink too much of low-culture to be considered viable principles for classifying⁄ investigating the academic realm? Is such reflexivity made impossible simply because academics lack the critical distance to investigate the matter? Robbins′ piece on ″Comparative Cosmopolitans″ might be a good place to start in answering these questions– as he seems to (heretically) toy with a conception of the academy as prone to the same cultural trends that define the sexy, the cool, that is popular culture.

These are intentionally provocative questions, but I just want to start the debate here – is ″Cultures of Circulation″ so different from Kill Bill?

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