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America in Global Popular Culture

America in Global Popular Culture

Coordinator

Dr. Jaap Kooijman

Participants

The research group welcomes participants from different disciplines within the Humanities, including American Studies, Art History, Cultural Analysis, Cultural Studies, English Language and Literature, Film Studies, History, New Media Studies, and Television Studies.

Description of the research programme of the research group

Even as the ongoing development of globalization and convergence culture has enabled a more participatory model for popular entertainment, American corporate entertainment still has a defining presence in global popular culture. This group brings together scholars from different disciplines within the Humanities whose research engages with America’s role in global popular culture. Moving beyond the traditional post-war debates about “Americanization” and “cultural imperialism,” the group’s focus lies more specifically on the contradictory role America has taken in an international form of participatory culture. While the continued predominance of the American culture industry continues to raise questions about ideology, identity, and subjectivity in the post-industrial West, American films, TV series, and pop music are also constantly being appropriated and subverted by local cultures in unpredictable ways. The problematic position of a shared American popular vocabulary and iconography in a global context of radically uneven development will form the cornerstone of these debates. A clear distinction is made between the nation-state USA and an imagined “America,” in which the latter is seen as a fluid and dynamic signifier, performatively constituted at the various conjunctions between the appeal and rejection of American popular culture.

Envisaged results

Together with the research group America in the World (Amsterdam School of Historical Studies), the group organizes the bimonthly American Culture Seminar, which has also been attended by scholars from Leiden University, Utrecht University, and the VU (Free University). The group will continue to apply for external funding at both national and European level, aimed at creating 2 to 4 PhD positions. Panels on the topic will be organized at relevant conferences, including the annual conference of the European Network of Cinema and Media Studies (NECS), the biannual conference of the European Association for American Studies (EAAS), and the biannual Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference.

Societal relevance

In the Netherlands, as in most other European nations, American popular culture is a ubiquitous part of daily life, not only in the continued popularity of American film, television, and pop music, but also in the neoliberal restructuring of many aspects of society on the basis of the American model. European cinema and television drama, which previously offered an alternative to more “mainstream” American culture, increasingly adopts the aesthetic conventions as well as the business models of American corporate entertainment, leaving less room for viable alternatives. At the same time, the decentered dissemination of popular culture via new media allows for numerous appropriations of American mass culture that also include resistance and other, often playful forms of critique. It is therefore of vital societal importance to address the many questions, challenges, and opportunities that accompany these cultural transformations. The research project actively seeks to participate in the public debate by organizing public lectures, entering discussions in the media (op-ed articles, publishing findings in non-academic journals), and contributing to public debate forums.

This research group is active in the following constellations:

Globalization and Migration

Identities