Censoring Culture:
Contemporary Threats to Free Expression

Robert Atkins + Svetlana Mintcheva (editors)

The New Press 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009 https://dannyreviews.com/
The pieces in Censoring Culture cover threats to free expression in the broadest sense, not censorship narrowly conceived, and have an emphasis on artists, art galleries and museums. This reflects the background of the editors, one an art historian and the other the director of an arts program opposing censorship. Much of the material is also local or specific to the United States.

The pieces in part one consider commercial pressures, addressing topics such as the power of advertisers, music copyrights, arts funding, and the situation of independent bookshops. Part two is a hodge-podge of material on "The Internet", including pieces on copyright and creativity, "IP guerrillas", and some blathering about "The Metaphysics of Networks".

Looking at the protection of children, part three includes articles on the effects of the media, child pornography laws and their feedback into child sexualization, and the panic over paedophilia; it also includes some stories of prosecuted artists and a round table discussion with teenagers. On hate speech, part four has pieces on the controversies over "nigger", the obsession with avoiding bias in reading test texts, and various controversial museum exhibitions. And part five addresses self-censorship, considering both individual artists and institutions.

The pieces are mixed in form as well as subject, including interviews and dialogues as well as more formal essays. As is inevitable with a collection this varied, I found some of the pieces really interesting and others much less so. Which brings me to an ironic suggestion.

A heterogeneous collection like Censoring Culture no longer makes any sense as a printed book: published online, the individual pieces would find much larger audiences. So the editors could have written about the pressures that impelled this choice of format: the need to bolster their academic publication records, perhaps, or the lack of payment for publication on a web site?

January 2009

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%T Censoring Culture
%S Contemporary Threats to Free Expression
%E Atkins, Robert
%E Mintcheva, Svetlana
%I The New Press
%D 2006
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1595580506
%P 353pp