The Practice of Cultural Analysis: Exposing Interdisciplinary Interpretation. Edited by Mieke Bal with the assistance of Bryan Gonzales. Cultural Memory in the Present. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999. Pp. xix + 392, introduction, notes, bibliography, index, illustrations.)
The Practice of Cultural Analysis is an introduction to the discipline of Cultural Analysis, whose focus is "not only on contemporary culture, but also on historical phenomena analyzed and interpreted from a contemporary theoretical viewpoint, in their relevance to the present" (Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), www.hum.uva.nl/asca; accessed December 18, 2002). The book is a volume of essays demonstrating the necessity and the practical applications of a new, interdisciplinary school, in which self-reflection is central to the analysis of cultural objects, informing both academic process and interpretation as well as our understanding and experience of our own present.
Self-reflection and the effect of observation and intervention within studies of culture are not new to many of the contemporary humanities and social sciences, including Folklore and Anthropology. Therefore, for scholars within these disciplines, Cultural Analysis reinforces and creates a forum for current practice, in which interpretation of cultural processes, such as gender formation or heritage and identity building, is attentive not only to the data collected, but also to the historical moment in which scholars perform their analysis, the cultural and academic experience they bring to their studies, their relationships to previous scholars and studies, the objects chosen, and the conclusions drawn. The Practice of Cultural Analysis is "designed to promote dialogue" (325), however, and seeks to demonstrate the relevance of this approach to a variety of disciplines throughout academia. Therefore the book includes essays that discuss, for example, literature, history, art, politics, aesthetics, popular culture, gender, and film. And in turn, the book also seeks to show how different disciplines and their study help to create and strengthen the need for the new interdisciplinary school.
The Practice of Cultural Analysis begins with an introduction by Mieke Bal, Professor of Theory of Literature and a Founding Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. Bal focuses on the cultural object and its significance as a "gesture of showing," a discursive act that is...