Don’t stop believing – purity, danger and Glee

Germ-Free Adolescents by Daniel Trilling in the New Statesman, looks at our ideas of purity and ritual in relation to the way the TV series Glee depicts teenagers. He makes use of the anthropologist Mary Douglas’s views on dirt. Adolescents can be seen as ‘matter out of place’, a mixing of kinds (child/adult monster). Moving swiftly to another sanitized and ordered musical number is much safer, it seems, than acknowledging  the ambiguity.

‘If uncleanliness is matter out of place, we must approach it through order. Uncleanliness or dirt is that which must not be included if a pattern is to be maintained. The same principle applies throughout. Furthermore, it involves no special distinction between primitives and moderns: we are all subject to the same rules.’ (Purity and Danger 1966: 53)

‘In the primitive culture the rule of patterning works with greater force and more total comprehensiveness. With the moderns it applies to disjointed, separate areas of existence.’ (Ibid.)

Interview with Mary Douglas.

Levi-Strauss for the masses?

I’ve been enjoying Logicomix, a graphic novel about the quest of Bertrand Russell for the logical foundations of mathematics. So it was with delight that I stumbled upon a Claude Levi-Strauss comic in the Financial Times, produced by the same team of writers and artists – Apostolos Doxiadis, Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna.

I’m also looking forward to reading Prof Marco Verweij’s paper on the links between Levi-Strauss and Cultural Theory, which he’s presenting at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in April. [He’s the co-editor of an excellent book of what I’ll call ‘applied cultural theory‘.]

Hat tip to Culture Matters.

Detroit: a city fit for superheroes?

Spiderman

Chatting with my young son this evening it occured to us that superheroes require certain types of cities, certain kinds of urban form, in order to thrive. Spiderman needs tall buildings closely packed in order to leap between them. The Hulk needs impressive edifices to knock down. Only certain types of urban form are fit for superheroes.

There’s a new documentary about the rise and fall and return of Detroit. The director of Requiem for Detroit? , Julien Temple, was fascinated by the idea that Detroit was at the leading edge of American urban for many years, leading the rest of America into the future. Now Detroit is doing it again, showing us what the first post-American city looks like.

Will it be a city fit for humans?

Image Credits: Daquella manera/Flickr; laughlin/Flickr; walid.hassanein/Flickr

Detroit statue

downtown detroit