In a book review concerning the American icon, Barbie, Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh (1995, p. 143) assert that Mattel’s Barbie doll “exists as a perfect cultural site” for interrogation. Their bid, informed by analysis generated in the field of cultural studies, invites us to see how a cultural text can be read to examine (and unsettle) our taken-for-granted assumptions about the complex interplay between culture and power. Such a query may not seem to impinge directly on educational concerns. Critical educators, however, have argued otherwise, demonstrating the importance of interrogating popular cultural forms in understanding the cultural politics of imperialism and in struggling to institute changes of curriculum and teaching (Apple, 1993, 1996). Accordingly, domains conventionally regarded as “outside” the educational field are treated as persuasive sites of influence in the informal instruction and consolidation of the normative contents of curriculum and official knowledge (Apple, 2000). With respect to the present chapter, this development has proven a valuable approach for the study of the operation of colonialist discourse (see Spurr, 1993) and its deployment in the management of neocolonial relationships. At its most concrete, this development has advanced analysis of the ideological workings of discourse, particularly in terms of the historically specific
treatment of the procedures of ideological articulation and rearticulation (Hall, 1988). Above all, it has underscored the significance of making connections, in temporal terms, in spatial/geographical terms, in disciplinary terms, in intertextual terms, and in conceptual terms (Stam, 1995).