“Culture is Ordinary” Opening Panel

Jessica Davey-Quantick and Michelle Smith
Ermahgerd!: Internet culture as metadata and intertextual connections

Memes are often seen as a form of low culture that is done reflexively in spaces that are perceived to not matter intellectually—social media as an academic and artistic terra nullius. However, memes live in the spaces between disciplines, as a pure form of interdisciplinary engagement, creating extensions and connections. As Marshall McLuhan wrote, the medium is the message, but for the modern day, the message can actually be the medium. Memes like Philosoraptor or Socially Awkward Penguin can be unpacked in the same way as Deleuze, Guattari or Adorno and Horkheimer. These Internet memes form both the cannon of our current cultural production and also a new form of hieroglyphic intertextual expression. In fact, the way these memes function—the viral way they are shared across demographics—is a form of metadata knowledge tagging. They come packed with information in a similar way to medieval Christian art that is easily accessible outside the ivory tower: it is that very accessibility that has them consigned to ‘low culture’ as opposed to being regularly included in intellectual work. We will demonstrate the multifaceted multilayered coding inherent in Internet memes, gifs, videos, and other expressions of popular culture by presenting Jessica’s current MA thesis Dumpcano Waste Management and Environmental Justice in Iqaluit as a series of memes.

Michelle Smith is a 3 rd year PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies, where she is working on animation and monster culture, as well as a TA in the Film Department. Jessica Davey-Quantick is completing her Masters in Cultural Studies, focusing on Canada’s north. Professionally she’s a journalist, and was previously the editor of Qatar Happening and Time Out Doha.

 

Erin Elizabeth Schuurs and Taylor Alexandra Currie
Deconstructing the Lumbersexual: Rugged Masculinity and Calculated Risk in 20th Century North America Culture

Men in growing numbers are seen sporting long hair, beards, and plaid while drinking craft beer and throwing axes. This lumbersexual may be gaining popularity, but he is merely the most recent manifestation of a traditional North American cultural icon. The lumberjack has long been considered mighty, hardworking and at one with nature, while also, firmly its master. Truly, the gruelling and dangerous work in the timber industry enshrined the lumberjack as a forkloric hero and symbol for rugged masculinity. Our paper will deconstruct why the lumberjack remains an appealing archetype of manhood. To do so, we will place the lumberjack myth within the context of an increasingly urban North America at the turn of the century. Doctors and social reformers feared that masculinity was in a state of crisis due to modernity. Medical professionals, journalist, and the popular media responded by promoting a masculinity that allowed men to “play” at ruggedness with little to no threat of physical harm, as a solution to modern malaise. A distinct lumberjack icon emerged as an example of the “ultimate” man, a model for urban middleclass men to aspire to. We argue that the continued appeal of the lumberjack is its promise of a culturally sanctified “appropriate” version of rugged masculinity.

Erin Elizabeth Schuurs and Taylor Alexandra Currie have both obtained undergraduate degrees in History from Waterloo University and Master’s degrees in History from Queen’s University. Both women are currently in their second year of their PhDs. Schuurs is attending the University of Guelph in the History department where she specializes in agrarian and gender history in preConfederate Canada. Currie is in Queen’s Cultural Studies program where she researches American corporate public relations campaigns as dominate cultural order during the 20 th century. In their spare time, they both enjoy thinking about how the environment, nature and tourism impact individual and national identity.

 

Elena Cecchetto
Grocery Stores: Colonized Spaces Perpetuating Visual Stereotypes

Grocery stores are spaces we attend on a daily basis. At the grocery store we see, touch, smell, and buy food products carefully displayed on shelves to strategically capture our eyes. On the other hand, food products often display an abstract symbol or a specific stereotyped face to represent the brand. Analyzing those symbols and the stereotypes used in the logos is of primary importance to understand the potential negative influence those representations have on our subconscious. Studies in visual rhetoric and semiotics have shown that the marketing has used, and is still using, abstract symbols and stereotyped faces to appeal the customers and influence their choices. Through the use of stereotyped bodies, food logos often perpetuate visually discriminating symbols deeply rooted to old colonial, racist, and sexist discourses. Therefore the grocery store becomes a colonized space in which an unaware audience/customer encounter, almost every day, negative stereotypes which are seen, and brought at home. The purpose of this investigation is to decolonize the grocery store, and to discover which stereotypes are represented on food products. The paper approach this topic by comparing the stories behind three major food brands such as “Quaker Oats,” “Aunt Jemima,” and “Uncle Ben’s.” Furthermore, the paper will discuss the results of the investigation, by showing percentages of visual representation of race, class, and gender on more than sixty brands of food products. The paper concludes that in this colonized space, food products logos are mainly dominated by a positive image of the white Western male.

My name is Elena Cecchetto and I am a first year Ph.D. student in the Cultural Studies Program at Queen’s University. I hold an MA from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Rome, Italy, where I specialize in Linguistics and Language Teaching. I also hold an MA from the program of Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, where I specialized in the study of Semiotics and Unconscious Prejudice. For my MA in Cultural Studies I conducted an investigation on food products’ logos in four local grocery stores in Kingston, Ontario. This research demonstrated that the grocery store is a visually colonized space displaying food products’ logos which perpetuate negative stereotypes of race, class and gender. The paper I am submitting is based upon that investigation, including my PhD research on Semiotics and how everyday life symbols impact our prejudice towards other cultures.