Sam Friedman

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What is funny? What makes you laugh? We think of laughter as being universal idea that applies to everyone, no matter their age, ethnicity, gender or social class. In Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour (Routledge, 2014), Sam Friedman tries to overturn our assumptions about comedy. The book draws on the work of Pierre Bourdieu to show how comedy is deeply related to social position, both in terms of what sorts of comedy people watch and listen to and also in terms of their sense of humour. Comedy is the basis for a form of distinction, as social groups differentiate themselves from others by their tastes. This applies not only to the upper and working class groups in society, but has implications for socially mobile individuals too. Moreover, the book shows how the assumption of good taste in comedy, which is related to having omnivorous cultural interests, is often bound up with symbolic violence from high social status groups towards the rest of society. Alongside the book’s detailed consideration of cultural consumption, the text offers an insight into both the history and the business of comedy, illustrating how the tastemakers of comedy scouting and criticism reinforce the social divisions found in comedy consumption. In exploring both the production and consumption of comedy Friedman develops the idea of cultural capital in comedy, a theoretical idea that will be useful for anyone thinking about the sociology of culture. For the more general reader the book shows how important comedy is to modern society, as opposed to those who would see it as a lowbrow cultural form. By the end of the text the reader will understand that comedy is no laughing matter.


Bruce FinkAgainst Understanding: Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key

November 17, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Psychoanalysis] What can possibly be wrong with the process of understanding in psychoanalytic treatment?  Everything, according to Bruce Fink.  In Against Understanding. Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key (Routledge, 2014), he argues that since understanding is part of the Lacanian imaginary, it often leads to fixed assumptions and projections on the part of [...]

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Randal MarlinPropaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion (Second Edition)

November 17, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Journalism] It’s been 100 years since the start of the First World War, a conflict that cost millions of lives. In his recently revised book, Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion (2013), Randal Marlin writes that Britain pioneered propaganda techniques to sell that war that have been imitated ever since. He tells how the [...]

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Bonnie J. MannSovereign Masculinity: Gender Lessons from the War on Terror

November 12, 2014

In the aftermath of 9/11, the American political landscape and its discourses took a peculiar turn. America’s national sovereignty-conceived as the expression of its indomitable masculinity-had been challenged. Its mythical invulnerability had been crushed. The response of the United States to these events was both disturbing and enlightening. It revealed the darker underbelly of the [...]

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Marisol SandovalFrom Corporate to Social Media: Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communications Industries

November 5, 2014

What would a truly ‘social’ social media look like? This is the core question of From Corporate to Social Media: Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communication Industries (Routledge, 2014),  the new book by Marisol Sandoval. The text is concerned with the emergence of a seemingly open and democratic space, social media, which is in [...]

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Kathrin YacavoneBenjamin, Barthes, and the Singularity of Photography

October 29, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in French Studies] Kathrin Yacavone‘s Benjamin, Barthes, and the Singularity of Photography (Bloomsbury, 2014) is an engaging study that explores connections between two of the most significant thinkers of the twentieth century: Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) and Roland Barthes (1915-1980). Considering Benjamin’s influence on Barthes’ later work on photography, the book also opens up the [...]

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William VineyWaste: A Philosophy of Things

October 15, 2014

What is waste? William Viney‘s Waste: A Philosophy of Things (Bloomsbury, 2014) explores the meaning of waste across a variety of contexts, including literature, sculpture and architecture. The text begins by stressing the importance of time to our understanding of waste, as opposed to more traditional conceptions that are grounded in spatial distinctions. Rather than looking at [...]

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Vernadette V. GonzalezSecuring Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippines

September 22, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Asian American Studies] Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez‘s Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippines (Duke University Press, 2013), examines the intertwined relationship between tourism and militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippines. Dr. Gonzalez questions dominant narratives of tourism as a tool of development by focusing on tourism as a means of both [...]

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Mari RutiThe Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living

September 21, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Psychoanalysis] Exploring everything from the impact of her own psychoanalysis on her mode and mien to the effect of consumer culture on the psyche, the delightful Mari Ruti keeps the ball rolling.  We pondered with her so many things that the interview feels like xmas morning! Traversing the advent of self-help books, [...]

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Karl SpracklenWhiteness and Leisure

September 12, 2014

Our taken for granted assumptions are questioned in a new book by Karl Spracklen, a professor of leisure studies at Leeds Metropolitan University in England. Whiteness and Leisure (Palgrave, 2013) combines two bodies of theoretical literature to interrogate leisure activities which seem innocuous or inoffensive. The book deploys insights from critical race theory along with the work [...]

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