Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

By Leo R. Chavez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Alternative Readings
from America's Future

Cultural products have complex production sites; they often code ambiguity; they are rarely accepted at face value but are read in complicated and often unanticipated ways.

Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins,
Reading National Geographic

Every interpreter is a reader, and there is no such thing as a neutral or value-free reader. Every reader, in other words, is both a private ego and a member of a society, with affiliations of every sort linking him or her to that society.

Edward Said, Covering Islam

California is America, only more so.

Wallace Stegner, in Peter H. King,
A Welcome Wagon

Images on magazine covers are produced with a purpose: to capture the public's interest and increase magazine sales. To accomplish these goals, the images evoke touchstones in American culture. The signs or symbols on magazine covers convey the beliefs, values, and assumptions of the society for which their consumption is explicitly intended. This is not to say that an image has a single meaning; symbols can, and if they are important symbols in a society often do, have multiple referents (Turner 1967). At the same time, images on magazine covers are not opaque or indecipherable. They are there to be read, perhaps many times. In this chapter, I examine how students at the University of California, Irvine, read a sample of magazine covers, which involved a process of reappropriation and negotiation. Negotiation refers to the way the students actively engaged with the magazine covers to produce meanings that are informed by their lived experiences (Traube 1996, 135). This process of

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