Death at the Parasite Cafe: Social Science (Fictions) and the Postmodern

Existential consumption and irrational desire
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Contact us. To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button. Rent from Deepdyve. Share feedback. Join us on our journey Platform update page Visit emeraldpublishing. More concretely, these concerns pertain to a subjectivity, b local truths, c the crisis of representation, d multimedia saturation, e authority and voice. Before continuing, let me emphasize that I do not seek to impose these methods on anybody conducting postmodern ethnography.

Other moves could be added, or an entirely different list could substitute for the one I discuss here.


Given the vague definition of postmodernism, its methodological implications for the conduct of ethnography are multiple and uncertain, but must always remain context-specific. Different ethnographers will necessarily focus on those aspects of postmodernism which seem most relevant to their specific project, and will have to develop methodological moves which best allow them to account for those aspects.

The postmodern turn contains simultaneously more choices and risks for those who are seduced by it; every ethnographer must follow this turn in her and his own way but must also be able to account for her and his methodological choices. As a last note, although I have organized the five moves below into five separate sections, such an organization is of course artificial and is developed solely for communication purposes.

In the field these moves were always intertwined.

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Such an insistence is also informed by various lines of criticism which dethrone the authority of the neutral-objective observer, dismiss the scientific genre, point at the rhetorical construction of truth, question the boundaries which have traditionally been established between the biographical-subjective and the supposedly sociological-objective, and promote the purposeful trespassing of such boundaries.

Such new ways of knowing most often include information- gathering, interpretative, and communication styles which resist the disciplinary limitations of the scientific discourse and challenge its foundational assumptions Denzin and Lincoln ; Denzin b; Lather , ; Richardson ; Tyler But as Tierney , reminds us, We need to be able to judge why we have inserted ourselves in a text in a particular manner.

The point is surely not to avoid experimentation, but to be certain that our experiments are efforts at creating change rather than merely an exercise in intellectual narcissism. As a means rather than an ends, self-reflexivity is a useful and important tool which reminds writers and readers about the essential situatedness and limitations of what one is about to say. Since, as academics, writing is what we mostly do and texts are what we mainly produce, the liberating possibilities provided by self-reflexivity should not be underestimated.

Both tasks are of course complexly interrelated. In some changing ways, I construct and experience the social, the ethnographic, and the self from the multiple positions of a post-Holocaust middle-class Jewish European male heterosexual sociologist associating himself with the postmodern turn. Such memories construct America as a very ambiguous signifier: Beyond this glorification of the excessive, the Strip and its casinos also construct a text exaggerating a number of cultural contradictions which have haunted me for quite a while The scene is in Brussels Belgium , early s.

For all of us. You too, Simon.

Are my aesthetic sensibilities too constricted by middle-class, European-Jewish-modern parameters specifying what good entertainment should look like? Overall, there are no clear formulae specifying how to achieve a self-reflexive poise. It must be developed as part of the ethnographic process itself and will necessarily always unfold differently for different ethnographers or for the same ethnographer in different fields.

Death at the Parasite Cafe: Social Science (Fictions) and the Postmodern

Hopefully, this explanation will point at a second postmodern concern for the conduct of ethnography -- local truths. Now, the reasons justifying my choice of Las Vegas are several. But that in itself is only part of the story. Las Vegas is not only important for biographical and practical reasons but also for theoretical ones. Soon before my arrival in Las Vegas, a small number of sociologists and others interested in postmodernism Baudrillard ; Denzin b; Fontana and Preston ; Venturi et al. Whether exploring its architecture, lifestyle, media representations or other cultural texts, many were suggesting that Las Vegas articulated themes indicative of a postmodern moment or culture.

Simultaneously, authors of popular cultural texts were reaching similar conclusions. Both Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and many other sites worldwide, can be experienced as articulating and constructing different and local aspects of this cultural logic see Friedman ; Van Maanen This remark does not constitute a criticism of these works; my purpose and approach are simply different. More specifically, I seek to produce critical ethnographic tales which evoke the postmodern logic through my subjective experience of Las Vegas.

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Sites impact our senses, promote various insights, orient perceptions, nurture a variety of emotional responses, enable and limit different kinds of interaction, summon diverse subjectivities, and thus should call for different approaches and writing styles. Site affects sight and site affects cite. To my right, they promise money, sex, excitement and food.

Postmodern Desire

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To my left, they appeal to my beliefs in social-economic justice for the working-class Contemplating this quasi-religious devotion [in casinos], this show of faith continuously reaffirmed by individuals coming here from all over the world, the logic of the Strip becomes harder to resist All around the dance floor, suspended TV screens display silent footage of mass destruction caused by hurricanes in various cities In this case, the media representation of real disasters is not even used as an adrenaline-triggering spectacle, but as a sort of postmodern pastime between music sets.

Throughout the text therefore, I attempt to evoke a postmodern orientation by utilizing several textual practices. As long as you keep p l aying.

Structuralism and post-structuralism

Here, aisles upon aisles of operators activate loud machines by feeding them with money, thereby insuring the constant operation of a cycle where nothing ever gets produced except more money Still others, clutching a plastic bucket full of coins in their hand, wander hypnotized amidst electrifying machines which continuously discharge a maddening cacophony composed of random rings and the aggressive staccato of coins hitting metal trays.

Twenty-four hours a day Considering the tragic events which have struck the Los Angeles area lately, I should tell him that bars with names such as The Earthquake, The Riots, and Flaming Malibu will soon follow, each showing the appropriate theme films. This is not so far-fetched. More real than real Does this make sense?

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These endless cycles are interrupted from time to time by exploding marquees preaching the mantra of the Strip. If Mills suggested that the sociological imagination emerges and grows at the self-reflexive intersection between biography and history, it seems clear -- to me at least -- that at the end of the twentieth century and in a growing number of societies, everyday life, politics, sense of self, hopes, fears, desires, etc.

Of course, the numerous trends of postmodernism proceed in a wide variety of directions, cover an immense territory, and probe a multiplicity of levels, and although one cannot reasonably reduce postmodernism to a simple focus on mass media, part of its attraction -- to me, anyway -- stems from its visible interest in such issues. At the same time, television is but the most prevalent and discussed new technology marking the postmodern moment.

New, more, and increasingly sophisticated technologies of simulation, communication, spectacle and surveillance are constantly being produced, circulated, and used by a growing number of individuals in an expanding number of life-spheres Altheide ; Bogard ; Chayko ; Gottschalk , a, b; Penley and Ross ; Poster , , , ; Rheingold ; Ross ; Turkle While a growing number of social and human scientists recognize the importance of the multimedia saturation of the social, the conscious and the unconscious, explanations about its possible effects on, meanings to, and uses by differently situated groups remain uncertain Fiske and Hartley ; Hartley ; Morley I will not attempt to propose here impossible conclusions about the topics of media effects and audience research, but wish only to emphasize that, although such media texts are in no way deterministic and are subject to different decodings, they still form a large share of the raw material individuals utilize as they go about producing meanings and interpreting their lives.

For Silverstone , 77 : Television, it might be suggested, is everyday life.

Social Science (Fictions) and the Postmodern

You can go to cart and save for later there. Of course, these strategies do not constitute final answers to the five postmodern challenges I started with, but represent temporary attempts to come to grips with them. You can start or join in a discussion here. Post-literature is a rhizomatic literature - art belonging to postmodernity - an epoch of "intensive, telecommunications time" idem. Add to Cart. Yet, it is precisely this integration into the daily lives of those who watch it which has somehow slipped through the net of academic scrutiny.

To study the one is at the same time to study the other. There are television sets in almost every household in the western world. They are to be found constantly flickering in family rooms, bars, cafes and shopping malls.

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Death at the Parasite Cafe: Social Science (FICTIONS AND THE POSTMODERN ) [Stephen Pfohl] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. A performative collage of social-psychoanalytic criticism, deco Death at the Parasite Cafe: Social Science (Fictions) and the Postmodern. Other editions.

Their texts and their images, their stories and their stars provide much of the conversational currency of our daily life. Television has been much studied. Yet, it is precisely this integration into the daily lives of those who watch it which has somehow slipped through the net of academic scrutiny.

More precisely, we continue to segregate a the interpretation of televisual texts b from the study of symbolic interaction between individuals from c attempting to understand how televisual texts mediate symbolic interaction ethnography included between individuals but see Altheide Thus, whereas scholars study various genres of media text, others analyze fields, groups, practices, social psychological dynamics, biographies, etc.

And although all three projects are certainly worthy ones, this division of intellectual labor presupposes that we can meaningfully evoke any contemporary field, group, practice, social psychological dynamics or biography without paying attention to the influence of media texts on these processes. My decision to incorporate televisual interruptions thus attempts to address several problems which I see inherent for the conduct of ethnography in postmodern culture. Accordingly, whereas many audience researchers emphasize the importance of the fabric of everyday life to better understand the practice of TV watching, my televisual interruptions posit that we should also consider the importance of TV watching to better understand the fabric of everyday life see also Hermes I have included multimedia interruptions in my ethnography of Las Vegas simply because the contemporary everyday has become unthinkable without them.

I could at will project into consciousness silent black-and-white images of anonymous skeletons bulldozed into mass graves These pictures are never far away from my consciousness and sociological subjectivity. But I could also mobilize with equal ease Technicolor images of smiling and healthy GIs driving their green jeeps through some scorched European town, handing out peppermint gum and cigarettes, candy bars and promises of a free future through unlimited abundance.

Are those TV images of Bosnia? How sad but ironic! Or was this a re-run?