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Comment: Chickens and Eggs – an Expanded View

  • Klaus Nathaus and C. Clayton Childress convincingly argue that cultural and symbolic objects are produced before they are consumed and that therefore cultural historians should take a closer look at the social and economic conditions of cultural production. Instead of taking it for granted that mass reception inversely indicates the existence of a demand already ‘being there’, historians should dig into the production processes influenced (among others) by individual taste, material interest, and arbitrary decisions – or, as Nathaus, Childress and the often cited Richard A. Peterson would call it – contingency. While most of Nathaus and Childress’s examples stem from the field of music, I will in my response apply the cultural production concept to a non-musical field, namely documentary photography in the first half of the twentieth century. Further, I will raise some questions that still seem to be unanswered. Given that the causal relation between production and consumption by and large equals the chicken and egg problem, what sense does it make to shift attention from reception to production – especially when dealing with modifications of objects, commodities, or genres rather than inventions in the sense of ‘there was nothing like this before’? I will suggest to extend the concept beyond the study of ‘classical’ cultural objects – like novels or records – and to include commodities like food, clothes, or cars. Finally, I will raise the question of how to apply the production of culture perspective to socialist economies after 1945, which to my knowledge has not been tried yet.

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Author:Annette Vowinckel
Parent Title (English):Zeithistorische Forschungen – Studies in Contemporary History
Publisher:ZZF – Centre for Contemporary History: Zeithistorische Forschungen
Place of publication:Potsdam
Document Type:Journal Article
Date of Publication (online):2013/04/19
Date of first Publication:2013/04/19
Release Date:2019/08/19
Volume Number:10
First Page:107
Last Page:110
ZZF Topic-Classification:Alltag
Materielle Kultur
ZZF Regional-Classification:ohne regionalen Schwerpunkt
ZZF Chronological-Classification:1945-
Portal:Zeithistorische Forschungen
Zeithistorische Forschungen: Originalbeiträge:1 / 2013 Offenes Heft
Licence (German):License LogoZZF - Clio Lizenz