Popular Culture

Latina/o popular culture is not a thing or a discrete object of analysis but in Raymond Williams’s (1958) famous formulation, “a whole way of life.” Williams’s work resonates with scholars of Latina/o popular culture because his definition foregrounded culture as everyday material relations in opposition to an imperial Anglo culture. Latina/o popular culture includes bottom-up cultural productions and practices as well as popular appropriations of top-down forms of mass culture. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto’s famous claim in “Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibility” (1989) that Chicana/o popular culture inverts hierarchies of power and brings the high low is true of Latina/o popular culture more broadly. At the same time, however, popular culture can encourage and express Latina/o incorporation into dominant state and capitalist formations. Like black popular culture as analyzed by Stuart Hall (1998), Latina/o popular culture is at one and the same time responsive to the everyday needs and desires of working-class brown people and vulnerable to appropriation, commodification, and co-optation. The field of Latina/o popular culture studies has thus been partly defined by critical attention to these contradictory dynamics, focusing alternatively or simultaneously on Latina/o popular culture as opposition and as incorporation. Additionally, Latina/o popular culture studies brings a critical perspective to...

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