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Television, Text and Identity

On Race, Representation, Resonance

Television studies has productively theorized and richly detailed the shift from a politics of representation to a politics of subjection and subjectivity. This line of research draws from the literature on neoliberalism and subjection and involves studying television texts—most notably the genre of reality television--that celebrate and reward enterprise, mobility, and achievement especially on the part of diverse communities like women, gays and lesbians, and racial and ethnic groups. Where these concerns with television as a mode of subjection and representation as a form of cultural politics have reached a kind of common place in academic discourse, I want to propose a conception of television, and media more generally, that shifts our angle of vision from signification and representation to resonance and experience. This shift involves thinking with post-representational approaches to cultural life, notably but not limited to affect studies. The paper seeks to understand the cultural politics of media visibility in the post-racial, post-network era not merely as the quest for greater representation or more accurate media depictions as a bid on social and cultural justice, but as forms and expressions of public feeling, modes of engaging with the traces and ineffable but collective dimensions of social power. This line of research requires reading television texts differently, not as struggles to be seen, even what it means, but as expressions of what it feels like to live under neoliberal forms of rule and subjectivity. I explore these issues through a series of television and Internet texts that will serve as the basis of this theorization and analysis.

 

Herman Gray
University of California - Santa Cruz
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