Secrets of Success in Postmodern Society

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

In this articleI try to contextualize the relative box office popularity of cinematic images of success. My thesis, in brief, is that a fantasy embedded in the commercially successful success stories in my cycle appeals primarily to the young corporate employees of today and tomorrow. In short, I interpret the films as part of the making of the new middle classes. (Traube, 273)

About the Author

Elizabeth Traube is a Professor of Anthropology at Wesleyan University. 

"I received my B.A in Folklore & Mythology from Radcliffe in 1970 and my PhD in Anthropology from Harvard in 1977. One set of current research interests grows out of my dissertation fieldwork in what was then Portuguese Timor and today, after a 24 year occupation by Indonesia, is Timor Leste, East Timor. I first returned to East Timor in 2000 during the UN transitional administration, established after a 1999 referendum in which the East Timorese had voted overwhelmingly for independence. I went back to the same interior town where I had lived in 1973-74 and revisited the two sacred origin villages which had been the focus of my earlier research. Both villages were in ruins; they had been laid waste in 1999 by Indonesian-sponsored militias, as part of a campaign launched in retaliation for popular support of independence. For the custodians of these villages and for the local community, the underlying question was not what had motivated the militias but rather why two such sacred centers had proved vulnerable to external force. One possibility was that their spiritual status had been weakened by their long involvement with me in the past. Although this was neither the only nor, I think, the dominant interpretation in play, it has nonetheless obliged me to reflect on the afterlife of ethnographic projects in popular memory and cultural practice. I am presently writing about the diverse ways in which Timorese have made outsiders into insiders, with emphasis on the indigenization of nationalist discourses of popular sovereignty. Over the decades when research on Timor was precluded, I became involved in cultural and media studies. In my book Dreaming Identities: Class, Gender and Generation (Westview Press) I analyzed a number of successful Hollywood movies released during the Reagan era as a contradictory terrain where new possibilities and identities mingled with calls for a return to a represented past. My more recent interests in television studies include the television industry's relations to changing forms of domesticity in the US, new modes of television storytelling, and aesthetic ideology among television producers. 

My teaching interests include social and cultural theory, ethnographic writing, the anthropology of ritual and the cultural politics of nationalism. I also teach a number of courses on popular culture in the US, such as ANTH324 (Youth Culture), ANTH244 (Television: The Domestic Medium), and ANTH308 (Television Storytelling). "

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