Whereas domestic and external accounts of French culture have spontaneously identified it with elite culture, this chapter argues that any rigorous analysis of it must integrate and engage with majority cultural practices. Popular culture itself and the discourses that have constructed and fought over it have been vital elements in the process of making and re-making national, as well as social and personal, identities. Popular culture has meant highbrow culture disseminated to the people, or lowbrow culture sold to the people. A third meaning, discernible at particular moments in both state and oppositional discourses, has been that of a culture arising authentically from the people. This chapter concludes that the study of popular culture needs to be central to any understanding of contemporary French society, and thus to French Studies as an ongoing academic project.
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