This review contrasts the relative lack of interest in “popular culture” within anthropology with the close, increasingly critical attention this concept has received within cultural studies. Rejecting both a production-oriented model of a manipulative mass culture imposed from above and a reception-oriented model of an expressive culture of the people, cultural studies scholars broke with essentialized conceptions and redefined the popular in Gramscian terms, as a zone of contestation, a site where the struggle for hegemony unfolds. The review uses this approach to relate the production of popular culture to class formation in the United States. Against overemphasis on the ideological effectivity of popular culture and a revisionist tendency to redefine it in affirmative, politically essentialized terms, the review suggests that contradictions and instabilities characterize all stages of the popular cultural circuit: commodity, text, and lived culture.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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