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Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices

Second Edition
Edited by:

May 2013 | 440 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Since 1997 Representation has been the key go-to textbook for students learning the tools to question and critically analyze institutional and media texts and images. This long-awaited Second Edition:

• update and refreshes the approach to theories of representation by signalling key developments in the field

• addresses the emergence of new technologies and formats of representation, from the internet and the digital revolution to reality TV

• includes an entirely new chapter on celebrity culture and personalisation, to debates about representation and democracy, and involve illustrations of an intertextual nature, cutting across various technologies and formats in which 'the real' or the authentic makes an appearance

• offers new exercises, new readings, new images and examples for a new generation of students

This book will once again prove an indispensible resource for students and teachers in cultural and media studies.

Stuart Hall
Representation, Meaning and Language
Making Meaning, Representing Things

Language and Representation

Sharing the Codes

Theories of Representation

The Language of Traffic Lights


Saussure's Legacy
The Social Part of Language

Critique of Saussure's Model


From Language to Culture: Linguistics to Semiotics
Myth Today

Discourse, Power and the Subject
From Language to Discourse

Historicizing Discourse: Discursive Practices

From Discourse to Power/Knowledge

Summary: Foucault and Representation

Charcot and the Performance of Hysteria

Where is the 'Subject'?
How to Make Sense of Velasquez' Las Meninas


The Subject of/in Representation

Conclusion: Representation, Meaning and Language Reconsidered
READING A: Norman Bryson, 'Language, reflection and still life'

READING B: Roland Barthes, 'The world of wrestling'

READING C: Roland Barthes, 'Myth today'

READING D: Roland Barthes, 'Rhetoric of the image'

READING E: Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, New reflections on the revolution of our time

READING F: Elaine Showalter, 'The performance of hysteria'

Frances Bonner
What Do We Mean By 'Documentary'?
Non-fiction Texts

Defining Documentary

Types of Documentary
Categorising Documentary

Alternative Categories

Ethical Documentary Film-making

Dramatisation and the Documentary
Scripting and Re-enactment in the Documentary


Documentary - An Historic Genre?


Reality TV

Natural History Documentaries
Documenting Animal Life

READING A: Nichols Bill, 'The Qualities of Voice'

READING B: John Corner, 'Performing the real: documentary diversions'

READING C: Derek Bousé, 'Historia Fabulosus'

Henrietta Lidchi
Establishing Definitions, Negotiating Meanings, Discerning Objects

What is a 'Museum'?

What is an 'Ethnographic Museum'?

Objects and Meanings

The Uses of Text

Questions of Context


Fashioning Cultures: The Poetics of Exhibiting

Introducing Paradise


Paradise Regained

Structuring Paradise


Paradise: The Exhibit as Artefact

The Myths of Paradise



Captivating Cultures: The Politics of Exhibiting

Knowledge and Power

Displaying Others

Museums and the Construction of Culture

Colonial Spectacles


Devising New Models: Museums and Their Futures

Anthropology and Colonial Knowledge

The Writing of Anthropological Knowledge

Collections as Partial Truths

Museums and Contact Zones

Art, Artefact and Ownership

READING A: John Tradescant the younger, 'Extracts from the Musaeum Tradescantianum'

READING B: Elizabeth A. Lawrence, 'His very silence speaks: the horse who survived Custer's Last Stand'

READING C: Michael O'Hanlon, 'Paradise: portraying the New Guinea Highlands'

READING D: James Clifford, 'Paradise'

READING E: Annie E. Coombes, 'Material culture at the crossroads of knowledge: the case of the Benin "bronzes'"

READING F: John Picton, 'To see or Not To See! That is the Question'

Stuart Hall
Heroes or Villains?

Why Does 'Difference' Matter?

Racializing the 'Other'
Commodity Racism: Empire and the Domestic World

Meanwhile, Down on the Plantation ...

Signifying Racial 'Difference'

Staging Racial 'Difference': 'And the Melody Lingered On...'
Heavenly Bodies

Stereotyping as a Signifying Practice
Representation, Difference and Power

Power and Fantasy

Fetishism and Disavowal

Contesting a Recialized Regime of Representation
Reversing the Stereotypes

Positive and Negative Images

Through the Eye of Representation

READING A: Anne McClintock, 'Soap and commodity spectacle'

READING B: Richard Dyer, 'Africa'

READING C: Sander Gilman, 'The deep structure of stereotypes'

READING D: Kobena Mercer, 'Reading racial fetishism'

Sean Nixon
Conceptualizing Masculinity
Plural Masculinities

Thinking Relationally

Invented Categories


Discourse and Representation
Discourse, Power/Knowledge and the Subject

Visual Codes of Masculinity
'Street Style'


'Conservative Englishness'


Spectatorship and Subjectivization
Psychoanalysis and Subjectivity


The Spectacle of Masculinity

The Problem with Psychoanalysis and Film Theory

Techniques of the Self

Consumption and Spectatorship
Sites of Representation

Just Looking

Spectatorship, Consumption and the 'New Man'

READING A: Steve Neale, 'Masculinity as spectacle'

READING B: Sean Nixon, 'Technologies of looking: retailing and the visual'

Christine Gledhill with Vicky Ball
Representation and Media Fictions
Fiction and Everyday Life

Fiction as Entertainment

But is it Good For You?

Mass Culture and Gendered Culture
Women's Culture and Men's Culture

Images of Women vs. Real Women

Entertainment as a Capitalist Industry

Dominant Ideology, Hegemony and Cultural Negotiation

The Gendering of Cultural Forms: High Culture vs. Mass Culture

Genre, Representation and Soap Opera
The Genre System

The Genre Product

Genre and Mass-produced Fiction

Genre as Standardization and Differentiation

The Genre Product as Text

Genres and Binary Differences

Genre Boundaries

Signification and Reference

Cultural Verisimilitude, Generic Gerisimilitude and Realism

Media Production and Struggles for Hegemony


Genres for Women: Te Case of Soap Opera
Genre, Soap Opera and Gender

The Invention of Soap Opera

Women's Culture

Soap Opera as Women's Genre

Soap Opera's Binary Oppositions

Serial Form and Gender Representation

Soap Opera's Address to the Female Audience

Talk vs. Action

Soap Opera's Serial World

Textual Address and the Construction of Subjects

The Ideal Spectator

Female Reading Competence

Cultural Competence and the Implied Reader of the Text

The Social Audience

Soap Opera: A Woman's Form No More?

Dissolving Genre Boundaries and Gendered Negotiations

READING A: Tania Modleski, 'The search for tomorrow in today's soap operas'

READING B: Charlotte Brunsdon, 'Crossroads: notes on soap opera'

READING C: Su Holmes and Deborah Jermyn 'Why not Wife Swap?


This is simply a magnificent collection of chapters, laced together under the guiding light of Stuart Hall's outstanding scholarship. The chapters each exemplify the very best modes of cultural studies writing, theoretically informed, lucid, vividly alive and relevant to students and to general readers across the arts, humanities and social sciences. New material by Stuart Hall is particularly welcome, and will be much appreciated given his key role in the development of post-colonial as well as cultural studies. In particular we see Hall lay out the conceptual groundwork for an extensive study of the media from the viewpoint of 'race' and ethnicity.
Angela McRobbie
Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London

The second edition of Representation should enable it to speak to new generations of students and to continue to serve as the authoritative introduction to the theories and politics of meaning and representation in cultural studies. Anyone interested in these matters, whether student, teacher or simply curious intellect, will be glad for the time spent reading this book.
Lawrence Grossberg
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Senior Editor of the journal Cultural Studies

Excellent text that is very accessible to students in both layout and content

Dr Lyvinia Elleschild
Plymouth Business School, Plymouth University
September 7, 2022

A perfect, well written and indispensable introduction to Cultural Studies.

Mr Lionel Dutrieux
Mass Communications, Université Libre de Bruxelles
September 23, 2020

Essential reading for my students. Clear and informative

Ms Denise Mac Giolla Ri
Department of Humanities, Athlone Institute of Technology
July 25, 2019

This book covers a range of critical tourism/representational/social topic areas with great care, sophistication and insight. Fantastic read.

Ms Rukeya Suleman
Accounting , Bedfordshire University
September 6, 2016

The book covers the points I intended to teach in my course. It is clearly and lucidly written with ample examples. I would strongly recommend this book for my students.

Mr Mohammad Khalid Yaseen
Accounting , ADNOC ATI
October 17, 2015

Still a valuable foundational text in cultural studies.

Mr Damian Hughes
Art and Design, Staffordshire University
December 15, 2015

Perfect reader for Political Sociology

Dr Jacek Kornak
Dept of Psychology,Sociology & Soc Wrk, University Campus Suffolk
November 9, 2015

How do cultures meet, and what images of culture do we rely on to inform those differences across distances? These are some of the very real issues student face in addressing living and working across cultures. This text is helpful as a reference guide to understanding popular culture, and therefore media more broadly.

Dr Diepiriye Kuku-Siemons
Northampton Business School, Northampton University
June 29, 2015

Great book but covers only a little of what we look at. It has very relevant chapters for our studies.

Media Studies, Cardonald College
May 19, 2015

Sample Materials & Chapters

Representation: The Work of Representation

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