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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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16

Cultural History and Media Studies

Richard K. Popp

ABSTRACT

Understanding meaning making and its capacities to shape social experience is difficult enough in the present. Yet interpretation poses particularly thorny questions when researchers are interested in describing social worlds and patterns of thought that years ago dissipated into the past. Historians have argued fiercely about these challenges and scholars in media studies stand to benefit from eavesdropping on these historiographical debates. For one, they can help us clarify our conceptions of media and culture. And second, they offer insight into how theories of culture can be translated into historical projects. Taking readers through the primary ways that culture has been operationalized in recent historiography, sections examine symbolic anthropology, critical theory, cultural studies, discourse, identity, and recent calls for a more cultural materialist approach. The chapter closes by examining a number of cultural materialist frameworks that might be especially useful to media scholars.

Media studies' interdisciplinary nature has meant that it has borrowed liberally from fields across academia, pocketing a useful theory here or a helpful methodology there. In this way, the field can be seen as almost a direct outgrowth of the “genre mixing” (Geertz, 1983, p. 19) that reshaped academic study in the closing decades of the twentieth century. Variously called the “cultural turn,” the “linguistic turn,” and the ...

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