Policing the crisis, or, why we love The Wire

Bramall, Rebecca and Pitcher, Ben (2013) Policing the crisis, or, why we love The Wire International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16 (1). pp. 85-98. ISSN 1367-8779

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The Wire’s figuration of the complexity of the relations between the different social structures, institutions and agents that constitute contemporary urban life has been taken as evidence of its ‘sociological’ status. In this article we argue for a more reflexive consideration of the show’s appeal qua model social text. Rather than regarding The Wire as enhancing our understanding of the social, this article acknowledges, and offers a reading of, the show’s appeal to academics working in the humanities and social sciences. Often cited as evidence of the show’s ‘realism’, we suggest that The Wire’s celebrated, stereotype-challenging representations of sex, race, class and gender are a product of its audience’s yearning for ‘progressive’ representation. The Wire, we go on to contend, offers a seductively intelligible vision of social and cultural complexity similarly in concordance with left-liberal desires. Thinking reflexively about why The Wire focuses these desires, we provide a reading of the show as an animation of our relationship to the tradition of cultural studies. We suggest that the investigative ‘detail’ at the heart of the show – defined by its institutional marginality, interdisciplinarity, methodological innovation, ‘progressive’ staff constituency, and vocational commitment to a complex understanding of the social – can be read as an idealized representation of collaborative knowledge production. We reflect on this analogy as an expression of nostalgia for an earlier moment in the history of cultural studies before the neoliberal onslaught on higher education.

Item Type: Journal article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cultural studies; CCCS; The Wire; neoliberalism; research assessment; desire
Subjects: L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology
L000 Social Sciences > L900 Cultural Studies
P000 Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
P000 Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies > P301 Television Studies
DOI (a stable link to the resource): 10.1177/1367877912441441
Faculties: Faculty of Arts > School of Arts and Media
Depositing User: Converis
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2011 11:35
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2015 11:58
URI: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/id/eprint/9429

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