University of Southern California

Festival of Books 2013

Gender, Sex and the Politics of Pop Culture: About the Panelists

Sarah Banet-WeiserSarah Banet-Weiser is a Professor in the School of Communication at USC Annenberg and the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. Her teaching and research interests include feminist theory, race and the media, youth culture, popular and consumer culture, and citizenship and national identity. She had two books published in 2012: Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture and Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times (New York University Press), co-edited with Roopali Muhkerjee.

Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at USC. Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. Halberstam’s book, Female Masculinity (1998), made a groundbreaking argument about non-male masculinity and tracked the impact of female masculinity upon hegemonic genders. Halberstam publishedThe Queer Art of Failure in 2011 and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal in 2012. Halberstam is currently working on a project about queer anarchy tentatively titled The Wild.

Karen TongsonKaren Tongson is a cultural critic, writer and Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at USC. She is the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, co-editor of the book series Postmillennial Pop at NYU Press (with Henry Jenkins) and co-editor-in-chief of The Journal of Popular Music Studies (with Gustavus Stadler). Tongson’s latest book project, Empty Orchestra: Karaoke. Critical. Apparatus. offers a critique of prevailing paradigms of originality and imitation in aesthetics and critical theory, while exploring karaoke cultures, technologies, techniques and desires.

Tara McPherson (Moderator) teaches courses in digital media, television and popular culture in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She is the author of Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South, which received the 2004 John G. Cawelti Award for the outstanding book published on American Culture. She is co-editor of the anthology Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Camera ObscuraThe Velvet Light TrapDiscourseRace in Cyberspace24The New Media HandbookThe Visual Culture Reader 2.0Virtual Publics and Basketball Jones.

Leslie ZemeckisLeslie Zemeckis is an actress, writer and award-winning documentarian. Acting credits on stage, television and in films include work opposite Michael Madsen, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins and Jim Carrey. Zemeckis co-wrote Staar, a one-woman cabaret show that was the origin for the mockumentary she wrote and produced entitled Staar: She’d Rather be a Mistress, starring Carrie Fisher, Jefffrey Tambor and Fabio. She also wrote, produced and directed the acclaimed documentary Behind the Burly Q, the true story of old-time burlesque in America. Her latest film as writer/producer/director is the award-winning documentary Bound by Flesh about Siamese twin superstars Daisy and Violet Hilton. The film played to sold-out audiences at the Palm Springs International, Santa Barbara International and Chicago Film Festivals. Her book, Behind the Burly Q, will be published by Skyhorse in June 2013. It is the definitive oral history of burlesque as told by the original stars themselves. Given unprecedented access to the performers’ diaries, letters, albums and memorabilia, Zemeckis’s book gathers their stories and personal photos for the first time.