Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Steven J. Tepper's "Not Here, Not Now, Not That!"

Steven J. Tepper is associate professor of sociology and associate director at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. He is coeditor of Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Not Here, Not Now, Not That!: Protest over Art and Culture in America, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
At first glance there appears to be strong evidence to support our thesis; demographic changes, in particular the rate of growth of foreign-born residents, are associated with greater frequency of protest over art and culture. The influx of new immigrants is not associated with more protest over immigrant art but rather with a wide range of presentations, most of which have nothing to do with immigrants — violent lyrics on the radio, sexually explicit books, anti-religious music concerts, and R-rated films in schools. To be clear, I am arguing that the rate of immigration is a measure of underlying social unease.
The page 99 quote sums up one of the most important findings in Not Here, Not Now, Not That! Protest Over Art and Culture in America — protest over art and media are rooted in the struggles of citizens to debate the boundaries of permissible expression in the face of disruptive and disorienting social change. When things are up for grabs in a community, people grab onto symbols (like art and culture) as a way to affirm their place in an otherwise dizzying sea of change and social flux. When citizens argue that a certain book doesn’t belong in the library, or a play is inappropriate for the community, or a film should not be shown in the local cinema, they are in effect arguing for their own place and relevance in their communities. By fighting over art, people are affirming their own values and lifestyle; they are saying to neighbors and officials that their voice and opinion matters and that they intend to be part of discussions about the future of their community. Arts protests fundamentally affirm the democratic process and give priority to “voice” rather than “exit.” In other words, it is the process of speaking out and debating our public culture -- “the ritual of protest — that affirms public life.
Learn more about Not Here, Not Now, Not That! at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue