Archive for April 2018

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[ecrea] call for chapters for edited book: Mediated Shame: Disparaging Poverty in Media and Popular Culture

Fri Apr 13 11:10:30 GMT 2018


Book title:
Mediated Shame: Disparaging Poverty in Media and Popular Culture

Book editors:
Irena Reifová (Charles University, Prague)
Martin Hájek (Charles University, Prague)

The aim of the proposed book “Mediated Shame: Disparaging Poverty in Media and Popular Culture” is to explore how media impose shame on and facilitate shaming of economically underperforming people who have poor living standards and belong to the lower class. Media-related shaming practices gained momentum after reality television programs had set out to film ordinary people in their everyday circumstances after 1990 (Redden, 2017), during the process Graeme Turner (2010) dubbed “demotic turn”. Many scholars have observed  coincidence between Reality TV´s hayday after 1990 and consolidation of neoliberal rationality in Western societies (McCarthy, 2007; Ouellette and Hay, 2008; Lyle, 2008; Skeggs and Wood, 2012; Redden, 2017).  It is neoliberal focus on self-managed subjects taking responsibility into their hands, running themselves as micro-corporations and doing without social cushion provided by the state which was identified as homological with Reality TV´s capacity to put those who fail in this game on an imaginary pillory (Hess and Waller, 2014).  Stigmatisation of the attributes which are found to be upsetting, unsettling or threatening - such as being in the financial hardships, using the consumer loans excessively, living on social welfare, raising children in miserable material or hygienic condition - is ever more common in convergent and multiplatform media culture.  Media shaming incentives are easily taken over and elaborated by the online audiences and disseminated via their networked communication channels in a viral way.

With regard to the above indicated focus of the book, we seek the chapters outlining empirical research or theoretical reflections on the manifestations and motivations of media-related shaming discourses and narratives addressing poverty across various media types and genres.

We invite the chapters not limited to but including reflections on the above stated questions and other relevant issues pertinent to the emergence of poverty shaming in and through media.  Who are producers and targets of poverty shaming in the realm of media popular culture? What specific facets of social positions and cultural identities are being subjected to shaming discourses? Does shaming respond to the particular frustrations and anxieties as endured by those who stoop to shaming? How do media industry professionals understand and interpret incorporation of shaming figures in the media outlets they develop and produce? What semiotic means of stigmatizing poverty are used in shaming? Does the shaming differ across societies? What are the historical forerunners of mediatized shaming? Can we trace any strategies of resistance or subversion of shaming?

Please, submit the abstracts of your chapters sticking to the following specifications:
Length of the abstract: 250-350 words
Submission deadline: 15 June, 2018
Submit to the address: (irena.reifova /at/


The concept of mediated shaming

Shame is essentially a reflexive role-taking emotion anchored in anticipating a disgraceful assessment made by the others (Shott, 1979). This is why theoretical toolkit of symbolic interactionism is often used in sociological accounts of shame, drawing especially on Cooley's concept of “the looking glass self” (Cooley, 1902). Symbolic interactionism places identity formation in the centre of reciprocity of social interactions and explains formation of the self as a result of looking at oneself from the perspective of the others (Mead, 1934). Symbolic interactionists refer predominantly to interpersonal communication as a means through which we gain awareness of the regards of the others, but the model can be easily transcended to technologically facilitated media communication (Madianou, 2012). Furthermore, if people become an object of mediation, the way they are socially perceived in not just imagined, sensed or anticipated, but objectively evidenced, which makes mediated shame quite inescapable. Some writers attribute an important role to shame – the toll to be paid for deviating from the social norms or expectations – in preserving conformity and social order (Turner and Stets, 2005) while others underline that shaming can acquire the status of symbolic violence and “policing” the otherness (Scheff, 1995). By the same token, Walker (2014) suggests that shame should be understood also in the context of Goffman´s (1963) concept of stigma.

In an environment of networked hostility being facilitated or directly unleashed by the anonymity of online communication, the difference should be made between hate speech and shaming (Brown, 2017). Hate speech aspires to produce fear and feelings of being threatened whereas shame aims at degradation and humiliation. Hate speech therefore may take place in the privacy of interpersonal setting but effective shaming is predicated on the fact that it is enacted in front of the real or envisioned audience. Shaming is more effective if it takes place on stage, in front of the eyes of the others. The idea of the “generalised other”, our mental abstraction of the society´s gaze that matters and a condition of any shaming, is activated more vigorously in the presence of the existing others. Television programs and discussions on internet and social networks augmenting the TV content provide this kind of stage for rituals of humiliation.

The risk of being shamed increases as society turns ever more panoptical (Foucault, 1977; Poster, 2013) with its cross-media technological channels enabling thorough and almost permanent surveillance. Reality TV programs (converging with post-broadcast on-line video outlets and spread of viewers´ comments on the internet) made a significant contribution to the enhancement of the logics of narcissism and voyeurism, located at the other end of the panoptical polarity (Andrejevic, 2004; Hill, 2005). Shame and shaming can be framed as the dark side of the urge to be seen, observed and looked-at. On the other hand, shaming practices should not be disposed of as the deserved punishment for the actors struck by vanity and screen lust. It is also the imperative to constantly evaluate (and disparage) the others deeply embedded in the heart of assessment culture of contemporary neoliberal society that should be considered among the sources of mediated and media-enticed shame today.

The genres of shaming

In the study of mediated shaming of lower classes, attention has been given predominantly to Reality Television programs, with emphasis on makeover shows (Hirdman, 2015). Reality Television programs provide close insights into the backstage of everyday realities, produce and encourage various types of voyeuristic gazes fixed at what is deviating from “normalcy”. This is grounded in more or less tacit responsibilisation of the participants which goes hand in hand with the above described neoliberal rationality.  Within this process responsibility for the miseries of life is assigned to the participants themselves, it is hardly found in the external structural conditions. The participants are classified as problem cases unable to perform up to the expectations of consumer neoliberal society and consequently confronted with the requirements to (re)establish the autonomy of responsible, self-governing, self-disciplined subject. Sometimes they even get guidance, counselling and couching by the TV-hired experts who are supposed to help them to complete the mission of re-building the subject. Along the way, they are denigrated for the destitute life they have or lack of capacities to transform it. Reality TV is therefore viewed as cultural technology of neoliberal society as it amplifies neoliberal governmentality grounded in redirecting responsibilities, decisions and choices from the state to the individual subjects (Foucault, 2008). In neoliberal dictum, genuine neoliberal citizens should be free of all possible governing, except their endless ability to govern themselves  (Heller, 2006; Lyle, 2008; McCarthy, 2007; Ouellette and Hay, 2008; Redden, 2017; Skeggs and Wood, 2012).

Less exposed but equally important intersection between Reality TV and neoliberal policy is in the prominence both give to the assessment practices. Engines developed to evaluate and vote the participants out of the game are applied widely across entire Reality TV format starting from juries composed of celebrities (such as in X Factor, Freemantle Media, UK) and going to the viewers´ texting their preferences via SMS messages (such as in Big Brother, Endemol, NL). With its preoccupation with assessment practices, Reality TV programs “repeat after” neoliberal policies which deliver decisions not in style of direct, authority-based resolutions but use various forms of audit, evaluation and review-process.

We are open to chapters which align with the main stream in the study of mediated shame focusing on Reality Television programs but we also actively seek the chapters dealing with the issue of shaming in less prominent genres such as news programs (Hess and Waller, 2014), talk shows and online communication or digital amateur photography. The chapters looking at shaming practices on internet discussions or social networks may focus on the internet and social networks discussions which follow-up the preceding media programs as well as the stand-alone, autonomous discussions.

The dynamics of shaming and power

Analysis of mediated shaming significantly benefits from examination of the relationship between shaming discourses and power in society.

Mediated shame focused on disparaging the lower classes - as produced e.g. by Reality TV - is, according to many writers, cultural logic of neoliberal governmentality. As such it represents top-down flow of meanings deriving from the dominant neoliberal hegemony, which has been sketched above. It should be underlined again that mediated shaming embedded in or bolstered by the television gaze repeats the rationality of (neo)liberal governing not through oppression and manipulation but through freedom (Ouellette and Hay, 2008). The neoliberal citizens are positioned as free-floating subjects in the individualistic environment where there are no doctrines to manage and control them – with the exception of the capillary doctrine compelling them to manage and control themselves with their own capabilities, literacies and resources (Foucault, 2008). Mediated shaming repeats the very same neoliberal rationality by focusing on people´s imperfections, confronting them with requests to improve themselves by self-management – and shaming them if the projects of transformation of the selves come out awkward.

In contrast to the above described shaming discourses which victimise the powerless (those who suffer from being socially and/or economically weak or disadvantaged), shaming can be used also as a part of anti-hegemonic dynamics when it is those in power who are shamed. The anti-hegemonic line of shaming can be exemplified by the ways the politicians are captured in slogans and on posters of the political protests or as objects of cultural jamming genres (such as amateur caricatures or visual pranks) on social networks. In these cases, shaming follows a bottom-up strategy, as it is power-holders who are shamed. Bottom-up shaming can be compared to the resistant (even revolutionary) principle of the carnival as outlined by Bakhtin (1984).

We invite chapters on both articulations of shaming and power: the conceptions which see the mediated shaming as hegemony-laden stigmatisation of social misfits as well as those which put emphasis of counter-cultural potential of shaming if aimed at the power-holders.

List of References:

Andrejevic, M., 2004. Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Bakhtin, M.M., 1984. Rabelais and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Brown, A., 2017. What is so special about online (as compared to offline) hate speech? Ethnicities, first published May 19, 2017.
Cooley, C.H., 1902. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner's.
Foucault, M., 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books. Foucault, M., 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Goffman, E., 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall. Heller, D., 2006. The Great American Makeover: Television, History, Nation. Berlin: Springer. Hess, K., Waller, L., 2014. The digital pillory: media shaming of “ordinary” people for minor crimes. Continuum, 28(1): 101–111. Hill, A., 2005. Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television. New York: Routledge. Hirdman, A., 2015. The passion of mediated shame: Affective reactivity and classed otherness in reality TV. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 19(3): 283–296. Lyle, S.A., 2008. (Mis)recognition and the middle-class/bourgeois gaze: A case study of Wife Swap. Critical Discourse Studies, 5(4): 319–330. Madianou, M., 2012. News as a looking-glass: Shame and the symbolic power of mediation. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(1): 3–16. McCarthy, A., 2007. Reality Television: a Neoliberal Theater of Suffering. Social Text, 25(4): 17–42. Mead, G.H., 1934. Mind, Self, and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ouellette, L., Hay, J., 2008. Better Living through Reality TV: Television and Post-Welfare Citizenship. London: Wiley.
Poster, M., 2013. The Second Media Age. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Redden, G., 2017. Is Reality TV Neoliberal? Television & New Media, first published September 12, 2017 . Scheff, T.J., 1995. Editor’s Introduction: Shame and Related Emotions: An Overview. American Behavioral Scientist, 38(8): 1053–1059. Shott, S., 1979. Emotion and Social Life: A Symbolic Interactionist Analysis.  American
Journal of Sociology, 84(6): 1317-1334.
Skeggs, B., Wood, H., 2012. Reacting to Reality Television: Performance, Audience and Value. New York: Routledge. Turner, G., 2010. Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn. London: SAGE. Turner, J.H., Stets, J.E., 2005. The Sociology of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Walker, R., 2014. The Shame of Poverty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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