Generation X: Anthropology in a Media-Saturated World

Essay Excerpt

My problem for the present article concerns the relationship between "public culture" on the one hand, and ethnographic inquiry on the other, in the contemporary United States. By "public culture" I mean all the bodies of images, claims, and representations created to speak to and about the actual people who live in the United States: all of the products of art and entertainment (film, television, books, and so on), as well as all of the texts of information and analysis (all formsof journalism and academic production)."Public culture" includes all the products of what is commonly called the "media,"but much more as well. (Ortner, 414)

About the Author

Sherry B. Ortner is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at UCLA.  She received her A.B. from Bryn Mawr College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  Before coming to UCLA in 2004, she taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Michigan, the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University. She has received numerous grants and fellowships, including awards from the National Science Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  She has done extensive fieldwork with the Sherpas of Nepal, on religion, politics, and the Sherpas’ involvement in Himalayan mountaineering.  Her final book on the Sherpas, Life and Death on Mt. Everest, was awarded the J.I. Staley prize for the best anthropology book of 2004.

In the early ‘90s, Ortner switched her research to the United States.  Her first project was on the meanings and workings of social class in the United States, using the members of her own high school graduating class as her ethnographic subjects. Her second American project looks at the world of independent filmmaking, and the dark view of American society that emerges through the lens of independent film.  She also publishes regularly in the areas of cultural theory and feminist theory.  She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded the Retzius Medal of the Society of Anthropology and Geography of Sweden.

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