McLuhan, Baudrillard, and Cultural Theory

Gary Genosko:

“The analysis of the tropes of primitivist discourse (Torgovnik 1990) finds an extraordinary wealth of material in the writings of McLuhan. Any reader of The Gutenberg Galaxy will have noticed his deployment of a general category called the ‘tribal’, and the enormous amount of work it is made to perform throughout the book. The tribal in McLuhan contains a diversity of cultures, things, experiences, and lack of sensory biases; so many things in fact that it is difficult to describe without lapsing into a simple inventory of its contents. One way to make the category empty itself is to pose some of Torgovnik’s questions to McLuhan. Since McLuhan almost completely eschewed ethnographic detail, however, it is not ethnographic representations of primitives that are at issue but, rather, his representation of a diverse selection of nations and cultures as tribal through his galactic categories. With McLuhan, then, galaxies replace ethnographic categories, and within these galaxies a series of oppositions (cool/hot; implosive/explosive; linear/mosaic, and the rest) serve as signposts. The focus of these galaxies are the psychic and social implications of sensory (re)organization focussed and brought about by fundamental technological change. I want to show that McLuhan’s analysis of globalization is built on a parade of unanalyzed and naively deployed tribal tropes.”

There were a total of eight lectures. They are of interest to me because they engage primitivism, ethnography, and the postmodern.


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