Thursday, 21 November 2019

Britpop. A (not so subtle) tribute.

"The genre of Britpop, with its assertion of Englishness, evolved at the same time that devolution was striking deep into the hegemonic claims of English culture to represent Britain. It is usually argued that Britpop, with its strident declarations of Englishness, was a response to the dominance of grunge. The contributors in this volume take a different point of view: that Britpop celebrated Englishness at a time when British culture, with its English hegemonic core, was being challenged and dismantled."
Joni Stratton

In the 1990s, Britpop, or the era of "Cool Britannia", became an important part of national identity. It re-branded Britain (via), music and lyrics were "uniquely British" (via).
“Cool Britannia” as an identity was established by the Government. In 1997, New Labour established a landmark victory and promoted themselves as a new start for a Britain that was fast becoming ravaged by unemployment and poverty. New Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to build on his image by holding a reception at Downing Street for the great and the good on the British art and music scenes and both the Government and the media used the event to highlight the fact that the public should be proud of what was becoming established as a cultural high point for the arts in Britain. (via)
Blur, Oasis and Pulp were "The Holy Trinity of Britpop". While Oasis came from working class background and wrote songs about unemployment, dole checks, cigarettes, alcohol, and an absent father (via), and Pulp responded with "a certain romanticism of working-class culture" (via), Blur were billed as so-called "posh boys" from London with university education. Media, in fact, turned "the battle of the bands from a musical debate into a class war" (via) between the working-class northeners Oasis and the middle-class southerners Blur (via). Britpop finally became known for "highlighting working class Britain and bringing it to the forefront of national identity", blowing "against the repressive forces of political correctness, class division and petty snobbery". The dress code - baggy sports clothing, trainers and Parka jacket - were part of it (via).
Some critics say that the representations of British identity were not authentic and reinforcing "a nostalgic and chauvinist cultural turn which privileged whiteness and to a lesser extent maleness" and that Britpop was marketed by Tony Blair's New Labour (via). Others, again, speak of a proto-feminist movement coming out of Britpop (via) and point out that its representation of national identity was more complex and that non-white and non-English Britpop musicians were there but widely ignored in the academic critique (Lueders, 2016). One thing is clear, Britpop is fantastic. And, it is not really over since a great many bands in the post-Britpop era are influenced by it ... showing discontinuities but also continuities between post-Britpop and the first-generation Britpop (Collinson, 2010).

Britpop Selection:

::: The Bluetones: Slight Return LISTEN/WATCH
::: The La's: There She Goes LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: What If LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Boo Radleys: Wake Up Boo! LISTEN/WATCH
::: Travis: Tied to the 90s LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Charlatans: The Only One I Know LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Going Out LISTEN/WATCH
::: Blur: The Universal LISTEN/WATCH
::: Oasis: Champagne Supernova LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony LISTEN/WATCH
::: Super Furry Animals: Something 4 the Weekend LISTEN/WATCH
::: Pulp: Disco 2000 LISTEN/WATCH
::: Cast: Sandstorm: LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: What You Say LISTEN/WATCH
::: Oasis: Roll With It LISTEN/WATCH
::: Travis: Why Does It Always Rain on Me? LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Sugar Coated Iceberg LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Sun Hits the Sky LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: You Showed Me LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Lucky Man LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Alright LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Life's Too Short LISTEN/WATCH
::: Pulp: Babies LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Sonnet LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: All I Want LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Boo Radleys: Wish I Was Skinny LISTEN/WATCH
::: Echobelly: Great Things LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not LISTEN/WATCH

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- Collinson, I. (2010). Devopop: Pop-Englishness and Post-Britpop Guitar Bands. In A. Bennett & J. Stratton (eds.) Britpop and the English Music Tradition (163-178). London & New York: Routledge.
- Lueders, C. (2016). Britpop's Common People - National identity, popular music and young people in the 1990's. University of London: Doctoral Thesis, LINK
- photographs of Richard Ashcroft via and Damon Albarn via

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

"The art world is simply not the liberal, progressive bastion that it imagines itself to be."

According to a study that looked at 26 art museums and institution in the US and an analysis of the global art market ranging from 2008 to 2018, only 2% of global art auction is spent on work by women. In addition, five artists make up 40.7% of these 2%, with Yayoi Kusama accounting for 25%. 11% of the art acquisitions for permanent collections were by women, i.e., 29.247 of 260.470 acquisitions.(via).

"The art world is simply not the liberal, progressive bastion that it imagines itself to be."
Helen Molesworth

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photograph (Picasso exhibition, Tate Gallery, 1960) via

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Stereotyping - a Distancing Mechanism

"Stereotyping involves the representation and evaluation of others in ways that ratify and endorse unequal social relations. It does so by making such representations appear fixed and unchanging as well as in stark contrast to the identities of those who engage in and perpetuate them. Stereotypes diminish the social standing of those targeted, reducing them to a particular attribute or disposition that either demeans them or confines them to achievement only in association with this attribute or disposition. This acts as a distancing mechanism, radically separating those stereotyped from those among whom the stereotypes circulate and are reproduced. Stereotyping always occurs within a two-way, but one-sided relationship, and operates in favor of the existing status quo."
Pickering (2015)

Read the whole paper:
Pickering, M. (2015). Stereotyping and Stereotypes. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism: LINK

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photograph by the amazing Vivian Maier via

Friday, 15 November 2019

Narrative images: Socialite Gathering (1964)

"At this socialite gathering in Dallas, the maid was just another piece of furniture." (Kelen, 2012). The photograph was taken by Bob Adelman in Texas, Dallas in 1964.

- Kelen, L. G. (2012). This Light of Ours. Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement. University Press of Mississippi
- photograph via

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Meet Me in Cannes

No, I won't be at the Cannes Film Festival, and I won't walk the red carpet, and tabloids won't be bothered about what I wear ... But I'll be on Campus International de Cannes where I will be talking about ethnic stereotypes in character design.

In the past years, I analysed stereotypical African and Asian characters in popular European comics and animated cartoons from the 1930s to the 21st century. One conclusion: Both African and Asian characters still represent "the Other", uncivilised, black monkey-like, and yellow buck-toothed people.

15 November 2019
Campus International de Cannes

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photograph of Annie Girardot in Cannes (1972) via

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Quoting Damon Albarn (II)

"I was looking through stuff not that long ago, and I found a front page of the Sun from the Britpop era. I’d written on a bit of it in Biro when I was doing Parklife: ‘Anglo-Saxistentalism’. I thought: ‘That’s weird – that’s what I’m talking about now.’ In the most crass form, we say we want our country back. But you need to know what your country is before you want it back. And part of that is understanding who we are. We’re Vikings. We’re Anglo-Saxons. We’re French, Belgian, Nigerian, Caribbean, Ghanian, Somalian, Pakistani. To say, ‘We’re just this’ seems ridiculous to me. That’s all. That’s my biggest problem with [Brexit]: don’t limit yourself, guys. I don’t think we can afford to have that attitude. We need to be very outward-looking."
Damon Albarn

Blur on YouTube:
::: There's No Other Way: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Chemical World: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Beetlebum: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Young and Lovely: LISTEN/WATCH
::: To the End: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Charmless Man: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Under the Westway: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Parklife: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Girls and Boys: LISTEN/WATCH
::: End of a Century: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Music is My Radar: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Lonesome Street: LISTEN/WATCH
::: She's So High: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Country House: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Stereotypes: LISTEN/WATCH

Related postings:
::: Quoting Damon Albarn: LINK
::: Hallelujah Money: LINK

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photograph via

Monday, 4 November 2019

An Abstract. A Nice One. On Populism.

This paper posits four possible reasons there may exist a fundamental, non-incidental connection between populism and the rhetoric of bullshit, as defined by Frankfurt as speech whose truth value its speaker is indifferent towards:

1) “Bullshit as Sincerity”: Populists’ claim to authentically represent “the people” and their “folk” values, combined with their wholesale rejection of the intellectual class and their values, makes them value sincerity over accuracy, leading them to construct statements with little regard for their veracity;
2) “Bullshit as Symbolism”: populist communication is frequently primarily meant to convey symbolic, unarticulated messages, leading literal meaning to be overlooked;
3) “Bullshit as Partisanship”: populists’ audiences are likely to assess their claims as true regardless of content, giving populists incentive to be construct statements without regard for the truth;
4) “Bullshit as Unfalsifiability”: Populists regard as unfalsifiable a central claim – the exclusivity of their claim to popular representation - and will thus tend to bullshit whenever contradicting evidence arises.
Based on these connections, possible strategies for combatting bullshit propagated by populists is discussed.
(Green, 2019)

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- Green, A. (2019). Speaking Bullshit to Power: Populism and the Rhetoric of Bullshit; link
- photograph of preacher with bible in London's Speaker's Corner taken by Philip Wolmuth in 1993 via

Friday, 1 November 2019

The Corner Shop Stereotype + Cornershop

"Few stereotypes are more enduring than that of the Asian shopkeeper. The image is that of a hard-working businessman with strong family loyalties and Thatcherite values, who makes a small fortune by exploiting every niche in the market. It is an image of success which politicians often hold up as proof of 'opportunity Britain' where even penniless immigrants can make it through hard graft and business flair. It is also, according to a new study, a myth." (via)

In their paper published in 1980, Aldrich et al. describe Asian shopkeepers in Britain as an economically segregated sector that serves "a socially segregated population" (Aldrich et al., 1980). The number of these shops started declining once the first generation of immigrants retired and their children were not willing to take over the family business saying, "I am not going to work 16-hour days in a corner shop for peanuts and get all that abuse from people who are no better than me, and in some cases are not as good." (via).
This picture of Asian entrepreneurs busily working towards their own self-defined goals and seemingly immune from the constraints imposed by the surrounding social environment is entirely consistent with a view which frequently underpins studies of Asian communities in Britain. In explaining Asian relationships with white society and especially the acute segregation of the two groups, many writers emphasise what might be termed the "principle of minority group autonomy". Segregation from the white majority, it is argued (or implied), should be seen not so much as a consequence of white rejection but rather as an expression of minority free choice.
Aldrich & McEvoy (1980:8)

In the 1990s, Asian bands started entering the British mainstream music industry, bands that were "extremely uncomfortable with the idea of using their Asianness to promote themselves" fearing that it would have a negative impact on how Asians were viewed by society and foster negative stereotypes (Hyder, 2004). One of them was Cornershop founded by Tjinder Singh. His parents had emigrated to England, "where he was born and raised in Wolverhampton, with a foot in both cultures. Sort of." The name of the band is an ironic comment on the British Asian corner shop stereotype.
I think it’s also an element of growing up outside those two cultures as well. I don’t consider myself either one of those. But that was a good thing. It meant that I was a lot more open about things.
It was rough. . . . There was [racism]. But I did a lot of other things that helped me have a wider view of some things early on. Like playing on the chess team, traveling a lot with them. . . . My [friends] were pretty mixed, in the main nationalities that you get in England--African, Caribbean, Asian [Indian], English. . . . I quite liked that. I used to tend to get to know everyone.
Tjinder Singh
Like he says in one of his songs, he’s kind of a walking contradiction or puzzle or paradox. I think a lot of his makeup is [from] not being accepted by either parts of his family to maybe parts of the music communities in England.
David Byrne on Tjinder Singh

Cornershop on YouTube:

::: Brimful of Asha: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Sleep on the Left Side: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Soul School: LISTEN/WATCH

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- Aldrich, H. E., Cater, J. C., Jones, T. P. & Mcevoy, D. (1980). Business development and self-segregation: Asian enterprise in three British cities; LINK + LINK
- Hyder, R. (2004). Brimful of Asia. Negotiating Ethnicity on the UK Music Scene. Routledge.
- photographs of Cornershop via and via

Monday, 28 October 2019

Spock, the Outsider Struggling to Understand Humanity

"Leonard Nimoy inspired many boys and girls, men and women, to embrace cultural diversity."
Robert Greene

"Spock’s importance to the Trek mythos is unmistakable. His character was the first of several characters in Star Trek used to explore the human condition. Data in The Next Generation, Odo in Deep Space Nine, Seven of Nine and The Doctor in Voyager, T’Pol in Enterprise: all these characters are just different incarnations of Spock, the outsider struggling to understand humanity. He was the consummate outsider to the rest of the Enterprise crew. In a sense, we could all relate to Spock. When have you felt misunderstood, alone, or isolated? Or have you ever experienced being stuck between two worlds, two cultures, two distinct ways of thinking? In that case you were, for a moment, Spock."
Robert Greene

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 photograph of Leonard Nimoy (Westwood, California, 1966) via

Friday, 25 October 2019

Speaking to the Whole Family of Humankind. Nichelle Nichols, NASA Recruiter (1977)

"I had always been proud of our feats in space. But something always bothered me: Where are the women? Where are the people of color?"
Nichelle Nichols

The United States landed a man on the moon in 1969 -- but our astronauts needn't be limited to white males.
There were no women, and there were no minorities in the space program -- and that's supposed to represent the whole country?
Not in this day and age. We just absolutely cannot have that. I can't be a part of that. 
I was somewhat of a celebrity in their eyes. I had gone on television and in several interviews spoke of why they should get involved, and they took it up and said 'she's absolutely right'.
Nichelle Nichols
In the 1960s, spaceflight was a (white) male-dominated programme. After Kennedy's speech to the nation calling for Congress to give "all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public", Kennedy and Johnson (at the time Vice President) "took steps to create more inclusive job opportunities as part of the buildup for the Apollo lunar landing program" and NASA started to encourage black US-Americans to work at one of their facilities. Initially, progress was rather slow. In 1967, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. (1935-1967) became NASA's first black astronaut, Guy Bluford was the first black US-American to fly in space in 1983 - the same year Sally Ride became the first US-American woman in space (via) who, by the way, had heard about the space programme through Nichelle Nichols (via).
In an unprecedented move, knowing that NASA was planning to hire approximately 200,000 people in Southern states, recruiters were asked to travel around the country trying to persuade African-American scientists and engineers to work in the space program.
Janet Petro

Nichelle Nichols was hired to change the face of NASA by recruiting women and minority astronauts such as Ronald McNairSally Ride and Mae Jamison (via). She promised to bring "many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants"...
When NASA was developing the Space Shuttle in the 1970s, it needed to recruit a new group of astronauts to fly the vehicle, deploy the satellites, and perform the science experiments, and was encouraging women and minorities to apply to be astronauts. The Agency hired Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Nyota Uhura as the Communications Officer on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, to record a recruiting video. She came to JSC in March 1977, and accompanied by Apollo 12 and Skylab 3 astronaut Alan L. Bean, toured the center and filmed scenes for the video in Mission Control and other facilities. NASA hoped that her stature and popularity would encourage women and minorities to apply, and indeed they did. In January 1978, when NASA announced the selection of 35 new astronauts, among them for the first time were women and minorities
John Uri, NASA Johnson Space Center
...and kept her promise.
I am going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don't choose one… everybody in the newspapers across the country will know about it.
Suddenly the people who were responding were the bigger Trekkers you ever saw. They truly believed what I said… it was a very successful endeavor. It changed the face of the astronaut corp forever.
Nichelle Nichols

"Hi, I'm Nichelle Nichols but I still feel a little bit like Lieutenant Uhura on the Starship Enterprise. You know, now there is a 20th century enterprise, an actual space vehicle built by NASA and designed to put us into the business of space. (...) The shuttle may even be used to build a space station in order to orbit the earth. And this would require the services of people with a variety of skills and qualifications. (...) Now, the shuttle will be taking scientists and engineers, men and women of all races into space just like the astronaut crew on the Starship Enterprise. So that is why I'm speaking to the whole family of humankind - minorities and women alike. If you qualify and would like to be an astronaut, now is the time. This is your NASA, a space agency embarked on a mission to improve the quality of life on planet earth right now."

Related postings:

::: The Future of Women Astronauts Seen From 1962: LINK
::: The Nonstereotypical Role of Lieutenant Uhura: LINK
::: Public Library: LINK
::: Nichelle Nichols. Her Legacy Project: LINK
::: "It's as simple as that.": LINK
::: Tomorrowland & The Cultural Lag Theory: LINK

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- images via and via
- NASA 1977 recruitment film