Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age

Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age

Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age

Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age


Censorship' has become a fashionable topic, not only because of newly available archival material from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, but also because the new censorship' (inspired by the works of Foucault and Bourdieu) has widened the very concept of censorhip beyond its conventional boundaries. This volume uses these new materials and perspectives to address the relationship of censorship to cultural selection processes (such as canon formation), economic forces, social exclusion, professional marginalization, silencing through specialized discourses, communicative norms, and other forms of control and regulation.Two articles in this collection investigate these issue theoretically. The remaining eight contributions address the issues by investigating censorial practice across time and space.


The revival of censorship studies over the last two decades is due not only to the implosion of the
Soviet bloc and the ensuing release of official records from East European states for research
purposes, but also to conceptual changes in our understanding of censorship. Proponents of the
so-called 'new censorship' have advocated a view of censorship much broader than the traditional
one by insisting that apart from institutionalized, interventionist ('regulatory') censorship, social
interaction and communication is affected by 'constitutive', or 'structural' censorship: forms of
discourse regulation which influence what can be said by whom, to whom, how, and in which
context. However, widening the concept 'censorship' in this way carries the risk of equating
censorship with any kind of social control, thus endangering its heuristic potential. The analysis
of censorship should adopt Wittgenstein's concept of family resemblance to distinguish between
central and peripheral characteristics of censorship, in addition to using the communication
model as a systematic basis for censorial practices and effects.

In a recent article, Sophia Rosenfeld stated that “in the realm of theory, there seems no longer to be any consensus about what censorship is”. And indeed, literature on censorship published in the last two decades or so is characterized by more diversity than this field of study used to generate. I would not go as far as Robert C. Post who claims that censorship “used to be a very dull subject”, but it is certainly true to say that in the past, censorship did not belong to the intensely disputed topics featuring in debates about, or involving, new and controversial theoretical or methodological approaches to the arts and humanities.

This has changed. Nowadays, we see a proliferation of publications on censorship. Internationally known scholars work in the field, high-profile

Rosenfeld, “Writing the History of Censorship in the Age of Enlightenment”, p. 217. – I should
like to thank Chris Bramall and Alan Menhennet for their comments on this paper.

Post, “Censorship and Silencing”, p. 1.

Jan and Aleida Assmann, Robert Darnton, Michael Holquist, Jonathan Dollimore, Stanley Fish,
Richard Burt, Andrew Ross or Annabel Patterson, to name but a few.

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