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Cultural Studies

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An Essay on Playboy's Architecture and Biopolitics

Published for the first time in 1953, Playboy became not only the first pornographic popular magazine in America, but also came to embody an entirely new lifestyle that took place in a series of utopian multimedia spaces, from the fictional Playboy’s Penthouse of 1956 to the Playboy Mansion of 1959 and the Playboy Clubs of the 1960s. At the same time, the invention of the contraceptive pill offered access to a biochemical technique able to separate (hetero)sexuality and reproduction, troubling the traditional relationships between gender, sexuality, power, and space.

If Marx’s opus Capital provided the foundational account of the forces of production in all of their objective, machine formats, what happens when the concepts of political economy are applied not to dead labor, but to its living counterpart, the human subject? The result is Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt’s History and Obstinacy, a groundbreaking archaeology of the labor power that has been cultivated in the human body over the last two thousand years.

Mobile apps promise to deliver (h)appiness to our devices at the touch of a finger or two. Apps offer gratifyingly immediate access to connection and entertainment. The array of apps downloadable from the app store may come from the cloud, but they attach themselves firmly to our individual movement from location to location on earth. In The Imaginary App, writers, theorists, and artists--including Stephen Wolfram (in conversation with Paul Miller) and Lev Manovich--explore the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app.

Design and the Culture of Board Riding

Surfboards were once made of wood and shaped by hand, objects of both cultural and recreational significance. Today most surfboards are mass-produced with fiberglass and a stew of petrochemicals, moving (or floating) billboards for athletes and their brands, emphasizing the commercial rather than the cultural. Surf Craft maps this evolution, examining surfboard design and craft with 150 color images and an insightful text.

A Chronicle of the Years 1977–1984

First published in French in 1985, The Divine Left is Jean Baudrillard’s chronicle of French political life from 1977 to 1984. It offers the closest thing to political analysis to be found from a thinker who has too often been regarded as apolitical. Gathering texts that originally appeared as newspaper commentary on François Mitterand’s rise to power as France’s first Socialist president and the Socialist Party’s fraught alliance with the French Communist Party, The Divine Left in essence presents Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacrum as it operates in the political sphere.

It was the lies he told that reminded me of that past of mine that I hadn't encountered in a while. He was telling me the kinds of lies where the teller implies that things that have only happened to him once are long-running habits. Things about too much whiskey, Céline and De Sade, eating alone in expensive Japanese restaurants, knowing nobody (this last fact he would continue to repeat in later meetings, it seeming more barbarously unreal each time). 
—from Nicola, Milan

Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles

The Culture of the Copy is a novel attempt to make sense of the Western fascination with replicas, duplicates, and twins. In a work that is breathtaking in its synthetic and critical achievements, Hillel Schwartz charts the repercussions of our entanglement with copies of all kinds, whose presence alternately sustains and overwhelms us. This updated edition takes notice of recent shifts in thought with regard to such issues as biological cloning, conjoined twins, copyright, digital reproduction, and multiple personality disorder.

Countryside, Traditions, and Cultural Spaces

Just a few kilometers from the glittering skylines of Shanghai and Beijing, we encounter a vast countryside, an often forgotten and seemingly limitless landscape stretching far beyond the outskirts of the cities. Following traces of old trade routes, once-flourishing marketplaces, abandoned country estates, decrepit model villages, and the sites of mystic rituals, the authors of this book spent seven years exploring, photographing, and observing the vast interior of China, where the majority of Chinese people live in ways virtually unchanged for centuries.

Art and Politics

Contemporary art is increasingly part of a wider network of cultural practices, related through a common set of references in cultural theory. Within Europe, relations between national theoretical traditions have become more fluid and dynamic, creating an increasingly transnational—or postnational—space for European cultural and art theory. This book offers a snapshot of recent influential work in contemporary art and political theory in France, Italy, and Germany, in the form of original writings by major representatives of each of the three overlapping national traditions.

“The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.”
--from The Ecstasy of Communication

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