According to the Washington Post, no one who cares about contemporary African-American cultures can ignore bell hooks' electrifying feminist explorations. Targeting cultural icons as diverse as Madonna and Spike Lee, Outlaw Culture presents a collection of essays that pulls no punches. As hooks herself notes, interrogations of popular culture can be a ‘powerful site for intervention, challenge and change’. And intervene, challenge and change is what hooks does best.
Turning from teaching to topical subjects like gangsta rap, censorship, date rape and Hollywood cinema, these 21 essays will enhance City College professor and political activist hooks's (Black Looks) reputation as an astute, vigorous and freewheeling critic on matters of race, class and gender. The underlying focus in many of these short, occasional pieces (many are reprinted from magazines like Spin and Art in America) is on how some groups, particularly women of color, are marginalized both in daily life and in the cultural wars over media representations and the academic curriculum. Memorable essays touch on questions of censorship inside and outside the academy, the dearth of feminist perspectives on Malcolm X, the impact of commodity culture on political debate and the shortcomings of mainstream gender theorists Camille Paglia, Naomi Wolf and Kate Roiphe. Though formulaic at times, hooks's critical style is refreshingly brash and accessible and often inflected by personal experience. Readers may contest her politics, yet few will be unmoved by the spirit that animates these essays: a desire to rethink cultural institutions that sustain racism, sexism and other systems of political oppression. (Dec.)