BOOKS

 
 

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Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero

by Marita Sturken

Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (November 1, 2007)

In Tourists of History, the cultural critic Marita Sturken argues that over the past two decades, Americans have responded to national trauma through consumerism, kitsch sentiment, and tourist practices in ways that reveal a tenacious investment in the idea of America’s innocence. Sturken investigates the consumerism that followed from the September 11th attacks; the contentious, ongoing debates about memorials and celebrity-architect designed buildings at Ground Zero; and two outcomes of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City: the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Sturken contends that a consumer culture of comfort objects such as World Trade Center snow globes, FDNY teddy bears, and Oklahoma City Memorial t-shirts and branded water, as well as reenactments of traumatic events in memorial and architectural designs, enables a national tendency to see U.S. culture as distant from both history and world politics. A kitsch comfort culture contributes to a “tourist” relationship to history: Americans can feel good about visiting and buying souvenirs at sites of national mourning without having to engage with the economic, social, and political causes of the violent events. While arguing for the importance of remembering tragic losses of life, Sturken is urging attention to a dangerous confluence—of memory, tourism, consumerism, paranoia, security, and kitsch—that promulgates fear to sell safety, offers prepackaged emotion at the expense of critical thought, contains alternative politics, and facilitates public acquiescence in the federal government’s repressive measures at home and its aggressive political and military policies abroad.

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Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture

by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright

Paperback: 496 pages (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (January 2, 2009)

Visual culture is central to how we communicate. Our lives are dominated by images and by visual technologies that allow for the local and global circulation of ideas, information, and politics. In this increasingly visual world, how can we best decipher and understand the many ways that our everyday lives are organized around looking practices and the many images we encounter each day? Now in a new edition, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture provides a comprehensive and engaging overview of how we understand a wide array of visual media and how we use images to express ourselves, to communicate, to play, and to learn. Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright--two leading scholars in the emergent and dynamic field of visual culture and communication--examine the diverse range of approaches to visual analysis and lead students through key theories and concepts.

Using clear, accessible language, vivid examples, and more than 250 full-color illustrations, the authors both explain and apply theory as they discuss how we see paintings, prints, photographs, film, television, video, advertisements, the news, the Internet, digital media, and visualization techniques in medicine and science. This truly interdisciplinary text bridges art history, film, media, and cultural studies to investigate how images carry meaning within and between different cultural arenas in everyday life, from art and commerce to science and the law. Sturken and Cartwright analyze images in relation to a wide spectrum of cultural and representational issues (desire, power, the gaze, bodies, sexuality, and ethnicity) and methodologies (semiotics, Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and postcolonial theory).

Thoroughly updated to incorporate cutting-edge theoretical research, the second edition examines the following new topics: the surge of new media technologies; the impact of globalization on the flow of information and media form and content; and how nationalism and security concerns have changed our looking practices in the aftermath of 9/11. Challenging yet accessible, Practices of Looking is ideal for courses across a range of disciplines, including media and film studies, communications, art history, and photography.

Beautifully designed and now in a larger format and in full color throughout, Practices of Looking is an invaluable guide to understanding the complexities, contradictions, and pleasures of the visual world.

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Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, The AIDS Epidemic, and The Politics of Remembering

by Marita Sturken

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: University of California Press; First Printing edition (February 28, 1997)

Analyzing the ways U.S. culture has been formed and transformed in the 80s and 90s by its response to the Vietnam War and the AIDS epidemic, Marita Sturken argues that each has disrupted our conventional notions of community, nation, consensus, and "American culture." She examines the relationship of camera images to the production of cultural memory, the mixing of fantasy and reenactment in memory, the role of trauma and survivors in creating cultural comfort, and how discourses of healing can smooth over the tensions of political events.

Sturken's discussion encompasses a brilliant comparison of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS Quilt; her profound reading of the Memorial as a national wailing wall—one whose emphasis on the veterans and war dead has allowed the discourse of heroes, sacrifice, and honor to resurface at the same time that it is an implicit condemnation of war—is particularly compelling. The book also includes discussions of the Kennedy assassination, the Persian Gulf War, the Challenger explosion, and the Rodney King beating. While debunking the image of the United States as a culture of amnesia, Sturken also shows how remembering itself is a form of forgetting, and how exclusion is a vital part of memory formation.

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Thelma and Louise

by Marita Sturken

Paperback: 94 pages
Publisher: British Film Institute (January 22, 2008)

Thelma and Louise sparked a remarkable public discussion about feminism, violence and the representation of women in cinema. Here, Sturken examines the production and reception of the film, and goes on to analyze its rich account of gender politics, landscape, and gun culture.

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Technological Visions: Hopes And Fears That Shape New Technologies

by Marita Sturken

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Temple University Press; 1 edition (May 17, 2004)

For as long as people have developed new technologies, there has been debate over the purposes, shape and potential for their use. In this collection, a range of contributors discuss the visions that have shaped new technologies and the cultural implications of technological adaptation.

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