Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eva Illouz - Oprah Winfrey - summary

part 1 - 2
Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery: An Essay on Popular Culture
In the chapter titles "The Hypertext of Identity" (in "Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery") Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz contests against the notion that talk shows such as Oprah are a cynical manipulation and exploitation of human misery for the sake of profit. This perception, Illouz holds, is related to the theoretical stance which views the world in absolute terms of power (and resistance to power). For illouz this approach flattens complex situations and spheres of meaning into a single principle which tries to encompass all social phenomenons. This approach is problematic for Illouz for a number of reasons, one of them being the fact that the same analysis under this theory of power is applicable to both a summer camp and a concentration camp.
Illouz is not trying to deny power and its effects, but she does argue for a more complex attitude which does not subscribe to one single principle of hegemony and does allow for some agency.

Illouz offers an analysis of Oprah which attempts to bring into account the moral capacity of all participating agents. Following Boltanski Illouz argues that representations of misery arouse a-priori suspicion, and therefore as the gain some sort of moral credentials which will provide it with acceptability. When relating to Oprah Illouz hold that repetitive display of misery along with the use of central moral values and symbols is what allows Oprah to be beyond suspicion of a cynical exploitation of people's misfortune.

Illouz argues that Oprah has resolved to problem of being under suspicion by constructing misery in a narrative of transformation and personal change. Oprah has crossed the line from entertainment into the realm of active social, through personal, transformation.

Illouz observes how Oprah mixes New Age spirituality and popular psychology in order to introduce themes of personal change, communicative to all viewers. Oprah, for Illuoz, offers not only a specific vision of a healthy life, but also the means of achieving them. Misfortune in Oprah has one end and that is to bring about closure in the form of personal transformation. The victim is made to be a strong person who copes with his troubles and comes out triumphant.

part 1 - 2