North of Empire

Essays on the Cultural Technologies of Space

North of Empire

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 33 illustrations Published: October 2009

Author: Jody Berland

Cultural Studies, Geography, Media Studies > Media Technologies

For nearly two decades, Jody Berland has been a leading voice in cultural studies and the field of communications. In North of Empire, she brings together and reflects on ten of her pioneering essays. Demonstrating the importance of space to understanding culture, Berland investigates how media technologies have shaped locality, territory, landscape, boundary, nature, music, and time. Her analysis begins with the media landscape of Canada, a country that offers a unique perspective for apprehending the power of media technologies to shape subjectivities and everyday lives, and to render territorial borders both more and less meaningful. Canada is a settler nation and world power often dwarfed by the U.S. cultural juggernaut. It possesses a voluminous archive of inquiry on culture, politics, and the technologies of space. Berland revisits this tradition in the context of a rich interdisciplinary study of contemporary media culture.

Berland explores how understandings of space and time, empire and margin, embodiment and technology, and nature and culture are shaped by broadly conceived communications technologies including pianos, radio, television, the Web, and satellite imaging. Along the way, she provides a useful overview of the assumptions driving communications research on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, and she highlights the distinctive contributions of the Canadian communication theorists Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan. Berland argues that electronic mediation is central to the construction of social space and therefore to anti-imperialist critique. She illuminates crucial links between how space is traversed, how it is narrated, and how it is used. Making an important contribution to scholarship on globalization, Berland calls for more sophisticated accounts of media and cultural technologies and their complex “geographies of influence.”


“[A] major contribution to the theoretical and methodological innovation of the cultural studies field. . . . North of Empire is a good example of what a renewed interest for the dialogue between theory and practice in cultural analysis may signify –and why it’s a good thing to go back to the basic stance of what cultural studies is standing for.” — Jan Baetens, Leonardo Reviews

“[Berland] convincingly suggests in the postscript that, as conscientious academics and global citizens, ‘[w]e need to learn new ways of thinking and talking just to defend the thinking and spaces for talking we already have’ (307). The chief accomplishment of North of Empire is that it not only fulfills this mandate but also challenges others to do the same.
— Brooke Pratt, English Studies in Canada

“Berland has demonstrated her skill, knowledge and expertise in the field of media and communication technologies in a spatial, cultural and temporal context, providing the reader with an extremely well-researched, informative insight into this field of study.” — Danielle Mulholland, M/C Reviews

“For the digital humanities, Berland’s book opens up ways of talking about technology that do not mistake people for machines but rather understand how people and machines come together in the subjectivities North of Empire. It puts into perspective how deeply so many of our common academic pursuits are connected, even in the most ordinary sights and sounds, and how thrilling their exploration can be.” — Megan Varelmann, E3W Review of Books

“Jody Berland's North of Empire is an astute, compelling retrospective of half a career's thought on media spaces from a distinctly Canadian perspective. It is the best book in a generation to argue for the value of a Canadian approach to cultural studies, not just parochially but as a critical contribution to the contemporary study of culture anywhere.” — Paul S. Moore, Canadian Journal of Communication

“To the historian, North of Empire provides a useful snapshot of the past twenty years in Canadian-American relations, a time characterized by the customary warming and cooling of attitudes endemic to the nations’ relationship since confederation. North of Empire contributes significantly to the historiography of media by reintroducing the work of Innis to the study of contemporary media in Canada and elsewhere.” — Jonathan Trutor, History: Reviews Of New Books

“Since its inception, cultural studies has gained a great deal from Canadian writers, in part because of the particular perch they occupy over the behemoth below them. Jody Berland has been one of those distinguished authors. North of Empire is a grand statement of her theoretical and political positions and a wonderful reservoir drawn from her rich research. It will be a landmark.” — Toby Miller, author of Makeover Nation: The United States of Reinvention

“This is a major work by one of the most original and influential thinkers working on the intersection of communication with cultural studies in the world today. Jody Berland is a writer of intense clarity and beautiful style, with an astonishing capacity to move fluidly between aesthetic, social, political, historical and technical frames of thought. North of Empire shows us how to think profoundly, again, about space and why it matters.” — Meaghan Morris, Lingnan University (Hong Kong) and University of Sydney (Australia)


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jody Berland is Associate Professor of Humanities at York University and the editor of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Mapping North of Empire 1

1. Writing on the Border 29

2. Space at the Margins: Colonial Spatiality and Critical Theory after Innis 65

3. Spatial Narratives in the Canadian Imaginary 98

4. Angels Dancing: Cultural Technologies and the Production of Space 130

5. The Musicking Machine 165

6. Locating Listening 185

7. Weathering the North 210

8. Mapping Space: Imagining Technologies and the Planetary Body 242

9. Cultural Technologies and the "Evolution" of Technological Cultures 273

Postscript 300

Notes 309

Bibliography 341

Index 369
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, G.G. Robinson Book Prize of the Canadian Communication Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4306-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4288-5
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