Showbiz as a Cross-Cultural System: Circus and Song, Garland and Geertz, Rushdie, Mordden,… and More

Excerpt From Essay

"What intellectual "attitude," critical and apologetic, suits situations of showbiz? How might this vast arena of human endeavor be approached ethnographically and comparatively? What, perforce, does "the show business" mean—not just here and now (America since P. T. Barnum) but elsewhere and earlier: across cultures and eras, continually transformed and translated. Should anthropological modes of interpretation, philosophically inclined, address showbiz situations? What would distinguish such studies from, say, the anthropology of tourism? 

Anthropologists of touristic topics, intent on practices our profession long dismissed as degraded, may still trail vestigial standards of cultural authenticity (even when contesting them). One "theoretical" advantage to showbiz is that nothing even heuristically authentic adheres to such experience. Why? Because, for one thing, it's a business and, for another, it's all show. Another advantage is the abundant indication that showbiz is here—alas, everywhere—to stay. Think only of global theme parks, polyHollywoods, "the World of Coca-Cola," and computerized special effects—which industry, its promoters claim, saved California's post-Cold War economy."

"Showbiz as a Cross-Cultural System: Circus and Song, Garland and Geertz, Rushdie, Mordden,… and More," James A. Boon (424).

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