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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2003

T C 357 • The Private Life of Public Culture-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
40660 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
EPS 1.128

Course Description

This seminar will focus on "public culture" (popular culture, the media, social and political groups and networks) and its impacts on "private" or intimate identities. We will consider questions such as: Where is the line between things "public" and "private" in the United States today? How is this line delineated as a zone of danger, threat, or promise? What are the meanings of "home" and "the world out there"? How does culture circulate as sensibilities and senses? What is the status of secrets and lies in private and public life? What definitions of the "private" and the "public" are being produced in the newly confessional, spectacular, and therapeutic television genres such as talk shows and reality shows? How are desires for public identity shaped and expressed? Who gets to speak publicly? Whose voices get heard?

About the professor: Professor Stewart is a cultural anthropologist who works on questions of class, gender, desire and the texture of everyday life in the United States. Her book, A Space on the Side of the Road, is an ethnography of Appalachian coal-mining communities in West Virginia. She is currently finishing a second book, The Private Life of Public Culture: Impacts, Affects, Intimacies. This book tracks the circulations and impacts of public culture in the contemporary United States through a close ethnographic attention to the intensities and sensibilities now emergent along the charged border between things "public" and "private." Based on multi-sited fieldwork in Las Vegas, Orange County, California, and Austin, it asks how the political and economic transformations of neo-liberalism, advanced consumer capitalism, and the proliferation of publics and counterpublics are lived as everyday life, excitable senses, and emergent structures of feeling. Her intellectual interests include work on narrative and discourse, popular culture, cultural politics, daydreams and imaginaries, and experimental writing. She has held a Rockefeller postdoctoral fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, and a fellowship at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of California, Irvine. She lives with her daughter, Ariana.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. 25% of the grade is based on active participation in seminar discussion 75% on two papers of 10 pages each.


Readings are interdisciplinary, drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, fiction and new journalism. They include selections from the following: Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality Brian Massumi (ed.), The Politics of Everyday Fear Bruce Robbins, Feeling Global Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City


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