Impure Play

Impure Play : Sacredness, Transgression, and the Tragic in Popular Culture

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Impure Play is a cultural sociology of some controversial aspects of contemporary popular culture. Alexander Riley harnesses a range of cultural theories on transgression, the sacred, and tragedy in order to make sense of the emergence of realms of popular culture where violence and death have a prominent role. The range of popular cultural spheres explored is wide. Topics described in various chapters include gangsta rap and death metal music, popular fiction called racist and pornographic by some critics, violent video games, sports scandals involving sex and violence, and online sites specializing in images of violence and death. Instead of moralizing about these cultural products as much media commentary and even the work of many scholars does, Riley frames this cultural transgression as a structural response to shifts in the broader American culture and especially in American religious culture. An effort is made to read these cultural practices as texts that tie in to broader cultural narratives of tragedy and impurity and that therefore have an essential meaning-making function to play in contemporary American society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 196 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 476.27g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739129317
  • 9780739129319

Table of contents

Chapter 1. Serious Play Chapter 2. "Too Many Discos and Too Many Lovers" Chapter 3. The Rebirth of Tragedy Chapter 4. Scandal and Impurity in Sports Heroism Chapter 5. God Games Chapter 6. "A New Kind of Fear" Chapter 7. On Cultural Sociology as a Way of Life
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Review quote

Imagine a conversation between Emile Durkheim, Tupac Shakur, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Alexander Riley is both an interlocutor and amanuensis, articulating and documenting the cognitive pyrotechnics that might have occurred. Riley's essays on the banality of transgression and the adulteration of moral culture reminds us that there is no longer synonymy between the profane and the impure. -- Ellis Cashmore, author of Tyson: Nurture of the Beast An incisive, timely and engaging contribution to the sociology of culture. Riley's argument and vision are so compelling that they are sure to put the cultural turn into a much needed spin of reassessment. -- Chris Rojek, Brunel University, West London Play is serious business, whether in sports, death metal, gangsta rap, or video games. Riley's fearless inventory eloquently and passionately underscores the notion that 'meaning makers make it,' and that sociology itself can be a spiritual practice. -- Donna Gaines, author of Teenage Wasteland and A Misfit's Manifesto Alexander Riley provides us with a strong case for an analysis of culture in terms of meaning. The variety of the cases he has chosen (from rap to video games) makes it possible to envision the usefulness of such an approach. This book not only takes culture seriously, it also takes play seriously. I can only applaud such a position, which is original even in its very return to earlier theories. A good sociology of play has long been overdue; this book is a beautiful example of the kind of work that can be done. -- Sarah Daynes, University of North Carolina at Greensboro An incisive, timely and engaging contribution to the sociology of culture. Riley's argument and vision are so compelling that they are sure to put the cultural turn into a much needed spin of reassessment -- Chris Rojek, Brunel University, West London
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About Alexander Riley

Alexander Riley is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bucknell University.
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