Interview-Work: The Genealogy of a Cultural Form


This dissertation provides a critical and materialist account of the history of the media interview. Starting with Henry Mayhew’s use of the interview to investigate and publicize the living and working conditions of London’s poor in the newspaper, The Morning Chronicle, in 1849, this study traces how this form of representation has migrated from newspapers to television, documentary film, and the Internet. Paying close attention to the significance of the form’s adaptation to different media, this dissertation demonstrates how the interview is not just a neutral instrument for various modes of research and media-work, but that the form is centrally implicated in the production of “value,” understood in both economic and semiotic terms. Investigating the relation between specific representations of the interview and more general formal conventions, this thesis treats the development of the commodity form of the interview on American television in the 1970s, the relation of feminist consciousness-raising to the use of group interviews in political documentaries in the 1960s and 1970s, and the contradictory relation between this media form and the production of political critique on the Internet in 2012.<br/> <br/> Looking specifically at the use of the interview as a tool for social analysis and the circulation of personal experience and opinion, this dissertation considers the media interview as a historically determined and ideologically laden form that does not simply instantiate asymmetries of power but rather enacts and represents the fundamental contradictions of social relations that are evident in class and gender divisions as well as the conceptualization of the private and the public. Aligned with the function of the mass media within the liberal bourgeois public sphere, the history of the interview indexes changes in the social function of media over time. In addition, its role in the production of images of the social registers a structuring limitation that animates both the form itself and liberal thought more generally: the category of the individual. <br/>
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2012)

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Sarlin, Paige, "Interview-Work: The Genealogy of a Cultural Form" (2012). Modern Culture and Media Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.