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MSA 18: Culture Industry / Cottage Industries

In the waning years of World War II, Adorno and Horkheimer gave a name to their fears of increasing cultural uniformity. It was only in the war's aftermath, however, that it became clear just how prophetic their sense of the "culture industry" would prove. In Britain, for example, Richard Hoggart would bemoan the lingering death of the "full, rich life" of local urban culture in the face of the banalizing forces of "Americanisation" in The Uses of Literacy (1957). The response to this problem, for Hoggart, was to rethink the metropolis not as imperial center, inhabited by a decaying cosmopolitan high culture, but as populous city, as an aggregate of "small worlds, each as homogeneous and well-defined as a village"€“ -- and each able to contribute in its own way to a plural, collective culture.

This proposed panel will explore the significance of Hoggart'€™s gesture considered more broadly (though contributors need not engage with Hoggart himself). Faced at once with the decline of Anglo-modernism and the dissolution of empire, stable understandings of British culture became unmoored. Rather than imagine a vacuum into which American mass culture could pour unhindered, this panel asks another set of questions. What happens if we look not at the culture industry, nor at the "high" culture it was ostensibly replacing, but at what was occurring between and below them, just out of view? At a network of cottage industries, so to speak, working alongside one another (though not necessarily in full awareness of one another) to produce something new?

This panel is therefore interested in what happens if we return to the scene of mid-century Britain searching not only for signs of what Genevieve Abravanel has termed "Britain€'s invention of the American Age," but for examples of cultural continuity and innovation alike occurring at more local levels. The panel especially welcomes papers considering immigrant and regional literatures across the early and mid-century; late and hybrid modernisms; the shifting contours of "high" and "popular" arts; Mass-Observation and the origins of Cultural Studies; and so on. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome.

Please email abstracts (250-300 words) and a brief scholarly bio to Ian Bignall (ian.bignall@rutgers.edu) by April 12th.

Conference Location: Pasadena, USA
Conference Starts: November 17, 2016
Conference Ends: November 20, 2016

CFP Submission Deadline: April 12, 2016

For more information, contact: Ian Bignall

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