Thursday, 30 April 2009

ICAn Work In Progress Seminar: Viv Chadder

In the next ICAn Work in Progress seminar, Viv Chadder will present a paper entitled 'On Irma's Recalcitrance or "The Lure of Lilith" by Rossen and Salamanca'. The seminar series offers an opportunity for members of the Communication, Culture and Media team at NTU to discuss their current research.

This event will be held on Wednesday 6 May from 12.00-1.00 in GEE219, Clifton Campus of NTU.

(Photo credit: PlingPlong. Permissions)

Monday, 27 April 2009


Over Easter Dean Hardman had the pleasure of going on a teaching exchange to the Media and Communication department at Karlstad University in Sweden.

The 'exchange' (I visited Karlstad, nobody came the other way on this occasion) was funded by the Erasmus Lifelong Learning programme, whose mission is to encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas between member institutions across Europe. I instigated the exchange myself, as I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to visit another country and experience a different culture, both academic and otherwise, and agreed to give a paper at the department’s 'Higher Seminar' – a research seminar series open to academic staff and postgraduate students.

The trip started, however, with 24 hours in Stockholm – a city that I hadn’t visited before and which I immediately fell for. Built upon a series of islands, walking around allowed me to fully understand how it earned its nickname of 'the Venice of the North'. Wherever you are in the city, you’re never far from a glorious expanse of water. After visiting a number of museums (including the extremely impressive
Vasa Museum), I boarded a train to Karlstad. After a three hour journey past what seemed like the majority of Sweden’s 100,000 lakes, I arrived in Karlstad, a city on the northern shore of the enormous lake Vänern.

Karlstad is a small city of 100,000 inhabitants, and is known in Sweden for its long hours of sunshine, something I was fortunate enough to experience. With its very wide streets and pleasant main square, the city was a great place to stay for a few days. The university is situated to the north east, a 10 minute bus ride away and is one of Sweden’s newest universities. My seminar seemed to go down with the assembled group of academics about as well as an hour long paper can do when presented at the back end of the Easter break. It had the title 'Political Ideology and Identity in British Newspaper Editorials: Critical Discourse Analysis and Communities of Practice', and I discussed how newspapers construct identities for their political subjects and how this, in turn, can help to construct an identity for the newspaper itself. I also discussed how I see newspapers constructing artificial in-groups that are constructed through synthetic mutual engagement with their readers.

With my seminar delivered, questions answered and meetings concluded, I also had the fortune of meeting Stefan Holm, the 2004 Olympic high Jump champion and now an employee of Karlstad University. As well as talking at great length about his athletics career, we also touched upon the nature of celebrity, as he showed me the morning’s regional newspapers, where he made the front page of one and had a double page spread in another – all because he’s taken part in a small game of football with his cousin’s Sunday league team. Swedish TV also covered the 'event'!
All in all, a very worthwhile trip and one that confirmed my suspicions: I’m very much a Swedophile.
(Photo credit: Ruminatrix. Permissions.)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Actor Network Theory and Cultural Studies

Joost van Loon introduces us to some key issues from Latour to mark the introduction of a new reading group at NTU.

Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social has been given quite considerable attention across the social sciences. It is a provocative and somewhat controversial book that has a tendency to polarize opinions (see for example contrasting book reviews on the Space and Culture blog.) Apart from controversies, the book has also lent itself to considerable misinterpretation, which, sadly, reflects a longer history within social sciences as failing to properly engage with empirical philosophy.

Whereas ANT has at least been subject to debate within social sciences, it is largely left untouched within media and cultural studies. It is for this reason that we must seek to open up debate around what its underlying empirical philosophy might mean for the ways in which media and cultural studies analyze the world. And this should not be taken as another excursion into methodological debates around ethnography. Instead, it goes at the hart of the implicit philosophical grounding of this subject area. Can it afford to abandon the Cartesian split between res extensa and res cogitans? Can it afford to question the Hegelian optimism that knowledge will engender emancipation? Can it afford to abandon Kant’s sacred vowels that still serve as the principles for a critique of reason, ethics and aesthetics?

The Institute for Cultural Analysis at Nottingham Trent University will host a short series of sessions based on a collective reading of Reassembling the Social which hopefully lead to a fruitful debate about the pros and cons of a different, radically empirical, philosophy, that has its roots in a metaphysics that takes a different turn from the one that has dominated modern thought for the last 300 years.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sitcom Trials Revisited

After more success last night, Dean Hardman is now through to the semi finals of The Sitcom Trials with From Riga to Rotherham. His semi-final takes place on the 29th April and he'd encourage anyone with a willingness to laugh to come along. Details of tickets etc can be found here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Sitcom Trials

We’d like to break with our normal (relatively) academic focus to say ‘good luck’ to Dean Hardman, a member of our research group and lecturer in linguistics. It turns out that Dean is ‘a bit of a comedian’ (although this is usually used as an insult hurled at unsuccessful criminals by middle-aged cops on dramas like Ashes to Ashes).

Last summer in an idle moment after completing his PhD, Dean decided to enter a competition called The Sitcom Trials. With an established pedigree and operating as a showcase for new comedy writing talent, The Sitcom Trials invited aspiring comedy writers to submit a treatment for a sitcom. This call produced over 500 entries. Then 32 fifteen-minute scripts were selected to be performed live at the Leicester Square Theatre, London. Dean was one of the 32 writers selected.

Dean’s treatment for his script – From Riga to Rotherham – tells us that it ‘follows the fortunes of immigrants Marian, a Latvian who has moved to Britain to realise his dream of competing at the Olympic games, and Patience, a Nigerian hair stylist who wants to be closer to her family who have already settled in the UK. They find themselves living in shared accommodation with Jay, a British man who makes ends meet by working in the local tourist office. We see the social quirks and oddities of Britain through their eyes. In this first episode, Patience and Marian arrive in Rotherham before Patience discovers that her mother is to visit and that she needs a boyfriend-and fast. Is there anyone who could take on the role?’

To be honest, we were fairly surprised that Dean achieved this much in his first attempt at comedy writing (we are, at heart, a fairly cynical bunch). We knew he was funny but…. We were a little more surprised when he came into work on 5th March saying that his sit-com had been performed the previous night, that he’d won his heat and that his script had been received enthusiastically by professionals from the broadcasting industry.

Tomorrow night, From Riga to Rotherham features in the quarter finals of the competition. We wish him the best of luck from the cultural studies team (although we are increasingly believing that he might not even need luck). We'll keep you updated on his progress but you'll be able to find out more quickly here.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

April in New York

April should be a perfect time for a vacation in New York (writes Liz Morrish) as spring blossoms line the Henry Hudson parkway, and a skyscraper-sized Easter Bunny parades down Fifth Avenue. Alas, winter was not ready to relax its hold just yet, just as conservatism has not entirely been swept away by Obama’s victory last November. For instance, there are the 750 anti-taxation tea parties that took place across the nation on Wednesday – the 15th April being the day all US citizens are required to file a tax return – never mind that no serious tax increases are being proposed. And guns – boy, was Obama right on that one ! Yes, all those back-woods folks still want to cling to their misinterpreted Second Amendment ‘right’ to keep and bear arms. What scares them most is that President Obama might wish to curtail the right of individuals to amass a private arsenal within their own homes. He might even interfere with proposed legislation in Texas to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. Wal-Mart is reporting a nationwide shortage of ammunition as the worried and insecure trawl the shelves for bullets to stockpile under the gun cabinet. Here in the UK, we need to remember that in the US there are more guns than there are people, and that gun ownership is highly symbolic of individualism, ‘freedom’ and apple pie. When I owned a small truck, it came equipped with a gun rack behind the driver’s seat - instantly adorned by my umbrella. However, since September 11th 2001, there have been 120,000 gun fatalities in the US (see Bob Herbert, NY Times April 14th 2009), and right-thinking (usually urban) people are wondering quite why grandma needs to own an AK 47. Think I’m joking ? Driving along listening to a radio phone-in, I was dumbfounded when a 69 year old woman called to complain that she couldn’t get any ammunition for her AK…..and if you let the criminals have guns and take them away from law-abiding folks, then that way lies hell, sodomy and abortion. Well, that was the gist of it.

And now that America finally has a President it can take out in public, who do they all laugh at anymore? Well, fortunately there is still a whole category of people to ridicule – women. Right now, our own Susan Boyle is worth a chortle.The subject of the horribly totalising appellation ‘the Octomom’ (mother of octuplets) takes the flak nightly from John Stewart on Comedy Central. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, seems above criticism, and even Hillary Clinton hasn’t yet been swiftboated all over again. Susan Boyle, though, plays into that familiar American grand narrative of ‘living your dreams’ in its most obnoxious form – the apparent instant transformation from obscurity to celebrity. It’s all the more affirming in this regard that Boyle is unemployed and, if the Guardian is correct (18/04/09), has learning difficulties. Americans do like to believe that we are all beneficiaries of some undiscovered talent, and that success comes quite by chance, by ‘believing in your dreams, not by practice, hard work and slow, incremental progress.

The climate for gay marriage appears to be thawing, though plenty of couples in California wonder what their status is now that their licences have been revoked twice. Iowa, a supposed ‘redneck’ state, has just voted to allow same-sex marriage and it joins Massachusetts and Connecticut, while the Vermont legislature has just overturned a gubernatorial veto against gay marriage. Nobody yet knows whether a marriage contracted in one of these states will be legal in, say, Texas or West Virginia. As always in the US, law will be made by the Supreme Court, not Congress.

Massachusetts styles itself as a kind of lesbian nirvana, boasting towns like Northampton with its several women’s colleges nearby. We stayed in Adams, MA close to Williams College (next blog will be about the opulence of private colleges in the US). Adams was home to the Topia Inn, a lesbian eco retreat. One intelligible manifestation of lesbian authenticity, though not my preference particularly, is obedience to ecological Puritanism, so we were in for it here. The website bade guests to leave their shoes at the door, use no fragrances (as if!) or non-organic toiletries. We were shown to a chilly Moroccan style room with attractive clay walls (hypo-allergenic), sustainable wood flooring, organic mattress and an over-active Jacuzzi complete with chromatherapy (a colored light). Breakfast consisted of organic granola and steamed ginger pears (interesting). It was extraordinarily restful, particularly the Jacuzzi, but none of this frugality reduces the price which is aimed at the higher end of the urban blazer-dyke set. So there’s rather an ethical contradiction in the whole set-up. Let’s minimize our pull on the earth’s resources, but we’ll only be available to the squanderous, city-living, SUV driving elite. Oh well, at least we offset our 100 miles of petro-carbon emissions with a bio-diesel powered Jacuzzi and pears baked in a clay oven by a hemp-shoe clad innkeeper.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Cultural Politics of Photojournalism

As part of the on-going ICAn seminar series, Professor Stuart Allan (Bournemouth University) will be delivering a paper entitled 'The Cultural Politics of Photojournalism' on Wednesday 22 April 2009. The talk focuses on the following issues:
News photographs, it is often argued, help to reinforce a news organisation’s larger claim to truth, to effectively provide ‘the stamp of objectivity to a news story.’ This appeal to objectivity can be sustained, of course, only to the extent that the reader or viewer accepts the photograph as an unmediated image of actual events.

Accordingly, in documenting the varied uses of news photographs – and with them the changing role of the photojournalist – this question of objectivity will be centred for critique. Specifically, it will be shown that the visual truth of the news photograph has been frequently challenged by various controversies, thereby inviting increasingly sceptical responses. Singled out for particular attention in this regard will be the ways in which photojournalism is being transformed by digital technologies, where the manipulation or ‘correction’ of news images has engendered an ethical crisis for its truth claims.
Time: 4.00-6.00. Room: EE219, Clifton Campus, NTU. Everyone welcome.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The culture and politics of roller-skating. (Part 2)

Following on from part one on the culture and politics of roller-skating in the 1970s, Gary Needham examines the short-lived roller disco movie.

The Roller-Skating Movie

Like all pop culture fads it was not long before cinema responded to the culture of roller-skating in an effort to quickly cash in and so the roller disco movie was unveiled and three films were quickly produced - Skatetown USA (1979), Roller Boogie (1979), and Xanadu (1980). There had already been films with roller skating sequences such as Shall We Dance (1937) and a few films about roller derby like Kansas City Bomber (1972) starring Raquel Welch but nothing until these three films were about roller-skating as culture. However, the experience of pleasure and speed through roller-skating explored in the first part is really quite difficult for cinema to convey since it’s an embodied feeling rather than something tangible that can be represented in the image like say the thrill of a car chase; in filmic terms we would say that speed is non-indexical. Therefore, the feeling of being liberated through the experience of movement is not something that can be properly signified but the roller-skating films do try to produce for us a feeling of transcendence that equates to the feeling we might imagine the onscreen skaters are experiencing. Cinema thus has to try and create ways in which the speed and pleasure associated with roller-skating can be conveyed to the spectator as transcendent and utopian.

One of the key influences on thinking through this aspect of the topic is Richard Dyer’ s ‘Entertainment and Utopia’ from 1977 (in the collection Only Entertainment). For Dyer, forms of entertainment such as musicals help us escape from the everyday, to quote ‘alternatives, hopes, wishes – these are the stuff of utopia, the sense that things could be better, that something other that what is can be imaged and maybe realized’. While Dyer suggests that entertainment does not really present us with models of a utopian world, rather a text’s utopianism is contained in the feelings it creates for us – the function of certain forms of entertainment like the roller skating movie is to present how a utopia on skates might feel rather than how it might be organised and brought about. Furthermore, in Dyer’s argument utopian qualities (also like that of speed) are often beyond the realm of representation in things such as colour, sound, movement, rhythm, and camerawork all of which are integral components of the roller movie.

While Skatetown USA and Roller Boogie attempt to capture a skaters’ paradise they ultimately fail to suggests what one might do with that utopia now that its reached, and so what begins as an experience of social and gender liberation through speed, is ultimately ground to a halt through the conventions of romantic plotting and an attempt to shoehorn the roller skating picture into the then out-dated romantic conventions of the Hollywood musical. Both films begin with a representation of skater’s utopia but end with the formation of a couple and the loss of the utopian community and symbolically the loss of the female skater’s independence. Her freeform skating style that began as unique bodily expression is soon quashed in favour of a traditional romantic pairing in which she follows the man’s lead in what is effectively a ballroom dance version of roller-skating as she no longer harnesses her own speed but has to willingly depend on the momentum and energy generated by her male partner.

Yet, the opening of Skatetown USA comes as close as possible in capturing the look and the feel of a utopian space; it’s one of the most exciting first five minutes of any movie. Importantly, intensity is created through not just what is onscreen but also what is heard (Patrick Hernandez’s amazing disco stomper Born to be Alive) and how that seeing is in effect organised through highly unusual editing patterns. The film’s opening sequence also draws upon the iconography of science fiction and fantasy in order to render roller-skating and Skatetown as literally out of this world. The editing is unconventional involving at first match cuts and jump cuts on the skater’s body (accompanied by a synthesized popping noise) but also another kind of editing eschewed in Hollywood and mostly used in experimental and avant-garde cinema called strobe cutting. Strobe cutting, in which portions of movement are missing, actually make it appear as if the skating is faster than what the camera can actually capture thus expressing through film those non-indexical sensations of speed.

Like Roller Boogie the film draws on oppositions between the earthly and the otherworldly, transcendent speed and grounded immanence, which, when we think about these films as forms of the musical, is the narrative/numbers tension. This other world, not the utopia but not a dystopia either, is that of the narrative defined as the everyday of work, domesticity and family and where young people are confronted by reality, rules and restrictions. The narrative aspects of these films really slow down the energy and speed associated with skating with deadening immanence; the plot literally grinds skating to a halt since skates are never worn indoors. The romantic scenes, key to the narrative and the formation of the couple (what in the musical is called the dual focus structure), are also off-skate sequences with down tempo music; often removing all other skaters from the scene. Romance becomes exclusive and intimate and seems to be oppositional to the all-inclusive skating utopia suggested at the start of the film. The finale to Roller Boogie also reveals how this dilemma plays out in a conventional manner since the narrative/numbers tension is really something the film cannot work out because of the way the skating numbers are difficult to integrate and progress the narrative component. Therefore, the film ends with recourse to conventional structures of dancing (on skates of course) in which the heterosexual pairing produces movement based on a powerful visual and physical difference in gender that’s more strictly come dancing than skater’s paradise.

I’ll finish here with one critique open for debate that goes something like this - when the woman allows the man to lead in dancing (emulated here on skates) this lays the foundations for an eventual and ongoing gender disparity – letting the man lead and depending on the man for physical support during dancing and skating is a way of establishing a first instance of dependency through movement and the body that may pave the way for other forms of support, i.e. economic. Certain forms of dancing (mimicked in the roller skating pair-off finale) can also be used to regulate gender and sexuality in normative ways and when one gender has to assume the lead and the other gender follows we see in its very logic how inequality is fashioned through pleasure. Its no surprise that these film offer the perfect bridge between the 1970s and the 1980s (a tension they perhaps try to work through) as liberation dissipates in pleasures experienced in wholly solipsistic and apolitical terms.

(photo credits susan miller: permissions)

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Networked Beings in the Newsroom

Joost van Loon and Emma Hemmingway are presenting a paper entitled 'Networked Beings in the Newsroom: Transactions, Translations and Transformations' at 'The State of Things: towards an economy of artifice and artefacts' conference at the University of Leicester in April. Below they discuss the key ideas informing their paper and their research in this area:

The economic turn within Actor Network Theory asks: What is the matter of associations? What flows constitute networking? These questions are reminiscent of, in particular, Deleuze & Guattari's earlier explorations of the assemblage, which implies a radically non-anthropocentric understanding of the subject.

Tracing some of the lineages further back to Whitehead and Spinoza, we can detect an undercurrent in thinking about ontology that have been dubbed 'philosophy of organism' (Whitehead) as well as 'empirical philosophy' (Dewey). In this paper, we describe a very modest 'event' in a newsroom which involves an accreditation of a particular association which in classical anthropological research would be called 'a rite of initiation'. We focus on the role of the post-broadcast evaluation as the configuration in which membership is affirmed through specific transactions or gifts.

However, we go further and argue that these gifts do more than merely establish a matter of associating, they also imbue significance and bestow this upon the actor-network-in-formation. This is the work of translation and it is the domain of particular mediators. Finally, the 'sign value' of accreditation becomes confirmed in the transformation of the moment in which the news product itself becomes collectivised as a member of the network; as deemed worthy of being affirmed as an actor.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The culture and politics of roller skating.

Roller discos are back! Most of the main UK cities now offer monthly roller disco nights as an alternative to clubbing. Despite tapping into a day-glo nostalgia for the 1980s (mainly for those to young to remember that decade) the roller disco is really a product of the 1970s. Here Gary Needham explores the culture and politics of the original roller disco culture and its relationship to liberation politics.

One of my current research interests is concerned with the cultural politics of speed and how the experience of speed in the 1970s enabled the production a kind of utopian movement for two oppressed groups; women and gays. In particular, I’m thinking about the relationship between roller skating culture and 1970s liberation politics – how the act of skating and the pleasures of skating can be conceived of as an expression or consequence of a political shift that is embodied through the pleasure of speed, here produced in roller skating activities – the freedom of four wheels is also about freedom in political terms; sexual revolution becomes the revolution of the skater’s wheel; freedom to be yourself (as in gay liberation); freedom from oppressive structures (as in women’s liberation) – thus I want to consider the sense in which these two political revolutions, the women’s movement and the gay movements of the 1970s, literally involve physical, pleasurable and sensational experiences of moving and mobility. Therefore, I want to propose the idea that the emergence of a roller skating phenomenon or craze in the mid to late 1970s, especially among women and gay men, can potentially be read as symptomatic of other process of movement in politics; liberation politics are conceived of in terms of the freedom to move and be seen enjoying the pleasures of movement - the speed of the movement, velocity and energy, the outcome of which is pleasure in varying degrees of intensity can be read politically.
This suggestion is also rooted in need to map out the pleasures of speed in relation to feminist and gay politics; speed as something that is also relevant and essential to thinking about (old fashioned) identity politics and representational strategies; speed as something that can be embodied or at least allows one of its affects to be an embodied pleasure that relates to how one feels gendered and sexually orientated (orientation the word itself suggests a movement to get into the right position or place). I am not arguing that roller-skating is a political activity (although it has been used for breast cancer and AIDS fund raising), or that being on skates one somehow feels feminist rather, I’m suggesting that skating is related to a kind of latent political feeling that things were getting better and moving in a forward direction, that is, the politics of liberation has momentum for gender and sexuality and this can be experienced directly in the body’s actual freedom through movement.

In the experience of roller skating speed is harnessed for speed’s sake. Speed is the consequence of going fast. It is not about getting somewhere or someplace quicker and although it can be used as a method of transport it is more often not. A destination is not the outcome of speed in this instance; speed is not goal orientated, the goal is movement in itself. Speed which is often associated with labour and productivity is here allied to pleasure not product. Emphasis would seem to be on ‘being in the process of speed’, pleasure in movement for the sake of itself. Roller skating produces a form of pleasure in speed that is rapturous, transcendent and liberating because that’s all it needs to be.

Part of this research is also response to the way in which speed is often aligned with masculinity, modernity and certain ways of theorising speed that are implicitly masculine in their undertaking, discursively speaking. Even as a generalisation, in popular culture the car-chase is often constructed as a specifically male pleasure of the cinema and speed is often experienced in ways that have a tendency to favour masculinity; in general things that go fast are often thought to fascinate boys. This implicit gendered division can often be seen in the way female students often guffaw at their male peers extolling of the pleasures of Top Gear. Technologies of speed are often coded as masculine or made readily available to men and the harnessing of speed (in the film of the same name) becomes another macho narrative of mastery and control. In addition to this there is a long history of anxieties around women’s mobility that dates back to the suffragettes on their bicycles and women’s unprecedented visibility in moving through public space (the underlying subject on an early silent film called Traffic in Souls uses the theme of white slavery to keep girls indoors). In The Wizard of Oz we should know Miss Gulch is the wicked witch because during the tornado her bicycle transforms in to a broom as she transforms from spinster to witch; a symbolic precursor for the dykes on bikes movement. Despite being an oversimplification one of the consequences of patriarchy is to restrict and control the movement and mobility of women in order to maintain distinctly gendered division between the private and the public, home and work, masculine and feminine, productivity and leisure. In short, speed and movement have political implications that are intimately tied to gendered and sexual identities. The emergence of roller skating as a phenomenon in the 1970s seems to be a particular liberatory response to a long history of anxieties and pleasures around movement, speed, the body and identity.

In Part 2 Gary Needham examines the roller disco movie.

(Photo credit Hilly Blue: permissions)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

'The King Stays the King'

While the keen-eyed observer may have noticed the links to upcoming conferences and calls for papers down the right-hand side of our blog, this is one conference that I couldn’t let pass by without a further mention. This is mainly because it offers me the opportunity I’ve been waiting for since we began the blog – the opportunity for a not too gratuitous mention of HBO’s The Wire.

While there have already been at least one conference on The Wire in the US, the UK is now set to have its own (although sadly minus cast members Sonja Sohn and Clark Johnson). Entitled ‘The Wire as Social Science Fiction?’, the conference will take place on 26-27 November 2009 at Leeds Town Hall. At this point, I’ll hand over to the blurb from the conference organizers:
The HBO TV series The Wire premiered in the USA on June 2, 2002 and ended on March 9, 2008, with 60 episodes airing over the course of its 5 seasons. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA it has a huge cast of over 300 characters. The 'star' of the show is the city - a simulated post-industrial every town - within which the interactions between the drugs economy, race, the criminal justice system, the polity, globalisation processes, the changing class structure, the education system and the (new and old) media are examined in minute detail. It has never been screened on terrestrial TV in the UK*** but it has received widespread media attention, especially from The Guardian newspaper. It has sold well on DVD and has developed a cult status, especially amongst media literate audiences with aspirations towards more critical social and cultural sensibilities. It has been critically acclaimed not just as a complex piece of 'entertainment' but also as a profoundly 'sociological' piece of TV, invoking a renewed sense of the 'sociological imagination' amongst many. The eminent Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson recently said of the series: 'The Wire's exploration of sociological themes is truly exceptional. Indeed I do not hesitate to say that it has done more to enhance our understandings of the challenges of urban life and urban inequality than any other media event or scholarly publication including studies by social scientists'. The University of Columbia (rogue) sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, has produced a widely read (freakonomics) blog reporting on how the series was received and interpreted by New York drugs gangs. The Savage Minds anthropology blog has extensively debated the question: 'Is The Wire our best ethnographic text on the'

Plenary Speaker: Prof. Peter Moskos (CUNY), author of
Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District (Princeton University Press, 2008).

We are also seeking papers that utilise The Wire either as a topic or as a resource for the social sciences and the humanities. We welcome papers from any disciplinary context and on any subject. We hope to generate a programme that will appeal to those with an interest in, inter alia: area regeneration; celebrity; criminology; drugs; class analysis; education; gender and sexualities; film and TV studies; globalisation; journalism; language and interaction; media studies; organisational studies; policing; policy studies; politics; 'race' and ethnicities; social and political philosophy; simulation and simulacra; surveillance studies; urban studies; and violence. We are also interested in papers that examine the role of literature, fiction and other cultural phenomena more generally that are generative of a contemporary sociological imagination.

The conference fee is likely to be in the order of £125 (Full) or £60 (concessions) for the two days inclusive of lunch.

Please submit a 250 word abstract for individual papers (30 minutes long) by the 31 July 2009. Proposal Forms are attached or available online at and should be sent to: Wire Conference Administration, 178 Waterloo Place, Oxford Road, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, Tel: +44(0)161 275 8985 / Fax: +44(0)161 275 8985
*** Since this blurb was put together, BBC2 have just started screening all five series of The Wire.
(Photo credit: Pierro Sierra: permissions)