Policing the crisis, or, why we love The Wire

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

TitlePolicing the crisis, or, why we love The Wire
AuthorsBramall, R. and Pitcher, B.
Abstract

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 socially liberal audiences. 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 can be indexed to 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 its audience’s desires. Thinking reflexively about why The Wire focuses these desires, we provide a reading of the show as an animation of our own 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, pluralistic 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.

JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Journal citation16 (1), pp. 85-98
ISSN1367-8779
Year13 Jan 2013
PublisherSage
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1177/1367877912441441
Web address (URL)http://ics.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/11/1367877912441441.abstract
Publication dates
Published13 Jan 2013

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