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Author Archive | calhouns

From The “Anxious Bench” to the Cereal Aisle: Chad E. Seales On How Bono, Revivalists and Neoliberal Capitalists Are One But Not The Same

I enjoyed listening to Chad E. Seales, author of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism (Penn State University Press, 2019), in two recent interviews on the ways Bono is in the tradition of both religious revival preachers, such as early American Presbyterian minister Charles Grandison Finney, and neoliberal capitalists, such as economist Jeffrey Sachs, former U.S. President Barack Obama and current U.S. President Donald Trump.

Seems like an odd cohort to belong to, doesn’t it? And it sounds like maybe Seales has joined the tradition of treating Bono like an easy target for cheap shots. But not so fast. I appreciate Seales’ analysis and constructive criticism and I think he wants to be a part of a conversation worth having. In both interviews, Seales offers helpful context, especially in the second, longer interview, and I thought he fairly credited Bono with intending to do good things in his position of wealth and influence.

Seals describes himself as a U2 fan who grew up in the American Evangelical Christian tradition. He is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and also the author of The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town (Oxford University Press, 2013). His academic work here is, I think, a valuable addition to both U2 studies and studies of U2 fans. I wouldn’t mind talking with Seales myself, and while I might not reach all of the same conclusions he does, I’ve already learned from his explanation of how the processes work in a system channeling celebrity influence, religious appeals and capitalist principles.

I recommend listing to both interviews in full. One was with Western Michigan’s WGVU host Shelly Irwin (May 18, 2020, 8:10) and the other was with KPFK Pacifica’s Rising Up With Sonali” hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar (April 21, 2020, 19:18).

I pulled these quotes from the interviews just because they were the more interesting ones to me.

Seales explains to WGVU’s Shelly Irwin that he sees Bono as similar to early 1800’s American revivalist Charles Finney in his adaptation of Finney’s “anxious bench” technique in U2 concerts. He speaks to this point from the 5:00 – 6:40 mark, during which he says:

[Bono] comes from an Evangelical revival tradition. He takes the message of Evangelicalism into the world through secular means, and this is part of the tradition going back to the Second Great Awakening in American revival history. … And Bono does similar things in his concerts, not in a way to convert you to save your soul but to convert you to his cause, which are moral and social causes in Africa.

During the course of his conversation on “Rising Up With Sonali,” in which host Kolhatkar takes a more critical tone toward Bono than Irwin did, Seales said:

There’s a way in which Bono packages this evangelical spirituality such that it’s both non-offensive in the sense that it’s not being pushed on anybody, in the sense of someone not wanting to hear it, and it’s also sort of an open secret. Bono speaks of it as drawing fish in the sand. The messages are there for those who can see them, hear them, and want to find them, and it’s also kind of not there at all for fans who just wouldn’t catch onto the underlying religious themes. (starting at 3:36)

Bono is an icon of the ability of capitalism to absorb critique and restructure itself in such a way that it continues to maintain its both external status as intervening from the outside in and the ways in which multinational corporations are not in any way forced to revise their policies. (starting at 7:14)

Bono, like Oprah, sees no contradiction in making money, lots of money, but it’s a ‘good’ … if it’s in the service of a higher calling, a transcendent purpose. And in this case Bono’s transcendent purpose [are] the causes he champions in Africa. (starting at 13:58)

There’s a kind of scarcity that plays into these Evangelical models of [entrepreneurship] in that you have to earn it in the sense of economically, in the same way that you’re responsible for your own salvation as an Evangelical. (starting at 15:03)

Bono’s version of evangelicalism is closer to Barack Obama’s, or it’s closer to the Democratic Party’s in the United States, so one of the ironies is liberal progressives who are huge fans of U2 … are also sharing, in economic terms, the evangelicalism that undergirds the Religious Right. (starting at 16:11)

If you look and actually compare the economic practices of Trump versus Bono, they’re quite similar … but on the surface in terms of their progressive politics they are totally different brands. So one of the things to keep in mind in terms of religion is that there’s a kind of religious convergence underneath what appears to be separate economic brands. (starting at 16:33)

And lastly, after making a helpful analogy to how an aisle of cereal at the grocery looks like it has a plurality of difference even though all of the boxes contain mostly the same ingredients, Seales says:

The underlying ingredient that both Bono shares with Trump that shares with former President Obama is this notion of free markets. … The key signals of neoliberal policies are the privatization of public goods and services and a deregulation on a global sense of free markets.” (starting at 16:10)


Bono Bios For Young Readers

Are your young kids now “stuck in a moment” at home, looking for more to read? Why not introduce them to your favorite rock star activist? And if you’re doing the homeschooling, with this mini-library of seven choices you could even create a whole lesson unit on Bono for young readers.

  • Tell someone three things you learned about Bono from this book.
  • Compare and contrast two biographies of Bono. Which one did you like better and why?
  • What makes Bono want to help people who are hungry, sick, or treated unfairly?
  • Try writing a song about something you can do to help someone else.
  • You get the idea …

If your child reads one of these books and wants to write a super short book report, I’d love to publish it on this site for others to read. Really! Contact me if you are interested.

All of these books are still in print and available for order online. They are listed below with complete bibliographic details. They are also listed on the U2 Studies Bibliography, along with 100+ resources for fans, students, and scholars of U2.

If you are looking for a high school reading level book on Bono or U2, I suggest the two books by David Kootnikoff on the bibliography. (However, there are very few pictures in those books!)

An excellent, well-researched introduction to U2 for an adult reader is Timothy D. Neufeld’s U2: Rock ‘n’ Roll to Change the World.


Seven Bono Biographies for Young Readers

Ditchfield, Christin. Bono. Life Skills Biographies. Ann Arbor, MI: Cherry Lake Publishing, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 43 pages.)

Amazon.com: Bono (Life Skills Biographies) (9781602790667 ...

Helme, Deborah. A Powerful Voice: The Story of Bono from U2. The Faith In Action Series. Norwich, Norfolk: RMEP, 2004. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 24 pages.)

9781851753215: A Powerful Voice (Faith in Action) - AbeBooks ...

Huston, Jennifer L. U2: Changing the World Through Rock ‘n’ Roll. Legends of Rock Series. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2015. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 29 pages.)

Amazon.com: U2: Changing the World Through Rock 'n' Roll (Legends ...

Kamberg, Mary-Lane. Bono: Fighting World Hunger and Poverty. Celebrity Activists Series. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 112 pages.)

Amazon.com: Bono: Fighting World Hunger and Poverty (Celebrity ...

Trachtenberg, Martha. Bono: Rock Star Activist. Berkley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2008. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 110 pages.)

Amazon.com: Bono: Rock Star Activist (People to Know Today ...

Washburn, Kim. Breaking Through by Grace: The Bono Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz/Zondervan, 2010. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 93 pages.)

Winckelmann, Thom, and Lynn Abushanab. Bono: Rock Star & Humanitarian. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2010. (For elementary or middle school readings levels, 94 pages.)

Bono: Rock Star and Humanitarian by Thom Winckelmann, Lynn ...

U2 Studies Alert | New Journal Article: “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.”

Congratulations to Richard S. Briggs, who contacted the U2 Studies Network to let us know a paper he first presented at the 2018 U2 Conference in Belfast was published in the current issue of Glass, the journal of the Christian Literary Studies Group at Oxford University.

His article, “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop,” is available at the moment only to subscribers of Glass. However, when the next issue of Glass is published, selected articles from previous issues become available for free as a PDF here. We hope Briggs’ article will be available later this year for free, and if it is we’ll let you know.

The abstract for Briggs’ article is:

U2’s 1997 Pop album has been compared to aspects of the book of Psalms, with its inclusion of key moments of lament and complaint in the presence of God. It can be read as a series of ‘poems’ that explore the world ‘in the presence of (my) enemies’, as Psalm 23 puts it. One question raised by this reading is: who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest that the album lacks focus on this issue, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil, as per the final song ‘Wake Up Dead Man’), and focusing on the various ways in which evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The result is an album that represents a descent into the problems of the world with no clear path marked out for a corresponding ascent.

The U2 Studies Bibliography has been updated with this entry:

Briggs, Richard S. “‘A Table in the Presence of My Enemies’: ‘Songs of Descent’ from Psalm 23 to U2’s Pop.” Glass 32 (2020), 50-55.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Briggs is Lecturer in Old Testament, Director of Biblical Studies, Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham University, Durham, England.


Bono One Of 50 “Stand-Up Guys” In New Book For Young Readers

In Interview, Authors Say Bono Has Been “Willing To Do What It Takes” To Advance God’s Work

Kate Etue and Caroline Siegrist selected Bono as one of their Stand-Up Guys: 50 Christian Men Who Changed the World. Their new book is out today from the Zonderkidz imprint of Zondervan.

Bono is in the company of a global list of men drawn from the past and present. They are notable for practicing their Christian faith with unique acts of kindness, with some going as far as sacrificing his own life. Each of the 50 men has a one-page description of what makes them a world-changer, followed by a few questions to inspire readers.

For Bono, the authors explained he experienced personal loss as a teenager and later became aware of violence and injustice in Ireland. He turned to music to help him with his grief and anger, instead of turning to others things that wouldn’t have been good for him.

After finding some success with his friends in a band, “Bono’s faith told him that just being a ‘good voice’ wasn’t enough. God wanted him to go out and see what he was doing around the world, so Bono could get involved in God’s work. So Bono and his wife, Ali, traveled to Ethiopia to volunteer at an orphanage.”

I spoke with Kate Etue by email to learn more about why she and her co-author picked Bono as one of their top 50 “Stand-Up” guys. I also learned Etue and Siegrist are already working on their next book, tentatively titled Fierce Faith: 50 Christian Women Who Changed the World.

U2 Studies Network: Bono’s not the only rock-star activist out there, but he’s the only one in your book. Why did you pick him?

Kate Etue: I have followed Bono’s work for years, particularly his focus on eliminating extreme poverty and AIDS in Africa. He’s long been a hero of mine for his passionate response to God’s call to care for the poor, and that’s why we picked him. There are so many people doing great things in the world, but Bono’s long track record in this area made him rise to the top of our list.

Were you or your publisher concerned about any pushback from some Christian readers who might wonder why Bono is on your list?

Not at all! We really wanted to choose people who were interesting, honest, and authentic in their work. We steered away from those who tried to present a squeaky-clean image and focused on those who are willing to do what it takes—sometimes hard, unpopular things—to advance God’s kingdom around the planet. We’ve chosen climate change activists, vegans, disability advocates, and immigrant-rights activists who may rub some people the wrong way, but we believe they’re all doing God’s work by loving others in Jesus’s name.

Are you a U2 fan as well, or more a fan of just Bono?

I grew up in a pretty conservative home when it came to entertainment, so I wasn’t exposed to much U2 other than their huge hits until college. But I became a big fan quickly, especially of their songs about political activism and faith. It was a dream of mine to get to work with them in some way, so when I had the chance to collaborate with DATA (the pre-cursor to the One Campaign) to include Bono’s essay and photos in a book I co-compiled called The aWAKE Project: Uniting Against the African AIDS Crisis, and then later on his original book On the Move, it was a dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of their concerts, and it’s always an amazing experience.

Do you have a favorite U2 song? Maybe one that represents the qualities you are celebrating by including Bono in your book?

The song “Crumbs From Your Table comes to mind, which really calls out those people who talk a good talk but don’t actually do anything to effect change. And “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a classic, where Bono’s lamenting how long mothers, sisters, brothers and children will have to be torn apart. Although he’s specifically talking about the violence in Northern Ireland in that song, I think it applies across generations, countries, and conflicts. His passion always comes through in his performance, and I believe that along with his faith and family is a huge part of what drives his work.

© Calhoun / The U2 Studies Network, 2020


BOOK REVIEW | The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand

Image result for the rosary and the microphone

A Love Letter With Lapses and Limits

Review by Ian Greig
BOOK REVIEW FOR THE U2 STUDIES NETWORK

The Rosary and the Microphone: Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand
Equinox Studies in Popular Music
Nicholas P. Greco
Equinox Publishers, 2019
$100 hardback | $32 paperback and eBook

“ . . . (This) is a love letter to U2. It should be clear that I am a fan-scholar and so I am biased to look at the band positively.” So writes Nicholas Greco in his Preface, whilst still asserting a few pages later in his Introduction that, “U2 are not a rock band. U2 are a corporation. U2 are an institution that makes music and goes on tour . . . Music for U2 is not an afterthought, but it is also not an end” (2).

Interesting opening to a love letter.

The book’s title, The Rosary and the Microphone, refers to Bono’s final stage moments on the 2005 Vertigo Tour in Chicago as he hung his rosary from the mic stand and left the stage while the crowd continues singing “40.” Greco uses this image as a metaphor to examine the crossover between U2 the performing band and U2 the actors of religious faith and activism.

Greco divides U2’s career into four parts roughly akin to each decade of the bands’ existence. He covers a lot of ground in seven well-researched and referenced chapters. There are definitely places where the reader may wish that he would explore and develop an idea with more depth, but there are limitations of space for any book.

The first chapter is a potted history of U2 that ends with a summation of the reviews of Rattle and Hum, relying, for example, on Jon Pareles of the New York Times. Only in the final paragraph of this chapter does Greco establish his own analysis, when he examines the “One Tree Hill” clip in the film in depth. The book is much stronger in moments like this, when Greco directly examines the core source material—that is, the work created by U2—rather than relying on a critic’s opinion of what U2 did or did not achieve.

Greco defines his approach as Barthesian, as he conducts his own semiotic study of U2’s “signs.” (Greco states that the book is also a love letter to Roland Barthes.) He aims to focus on the band (or “brand’s”) performances primarily through the study of films released by the band. This can be a reductive approach given the limitations of film’s two dimensions (it is worth noting he does not include U2-3D in his analysis), but Greco’s decision does allow the reader to directly investigate his primary source material.

The use of Barthes is intriguing, as his ideas are most widely known from his essay “The Death of the Author” and his collection of essays Mythologies. Using Barthes to analyze popular culture has merit and even reflects Barthes early writing where he analyzed professional wrestling as “culture.” However, Greco’s focus is mostly on applying the thinking of the latter-day Barthes, particularly in Mourning Diary, and, a little more oddly, on what is known of Barthes personal life and his relationship with his mother.

Greco claims there are links between U2 and Barthes. At times the links between the two can be tenuous, such as when Greco writes, “Barthes’ project is represented in the . . .  aphorism ‘One writes in order to be loved.’ U2 seemingly respond to the French theorist with ‘Do you feel loved?’ . . . As if the band are in conversation with him.” Granted that is only in the book’s Introduction, but it seems a long way to travel to establish the link and it is unclear whether this imaginary Venn diagram achieves anything of note.

While there is nothing particularly wrong with focusing on Barthes’ writings from later in his life, Greco tries to draw links between Barthes’ actual life and the life of Bono, which is a bit more tenuous and lacks the intellectual rigor he displays elsewhere in his study. The line between Bono and U2, assuming there is one, is problematic for many. Is U2 Bono? Does Bono speak for all in the band? Is this at least true in performance, where Bono’s words seem rehearsed (maybe through repetition in performance) if not scripted? In this book, the dividing line, if it exists, is blurred and Greco seems to rely on what Bono has said the band are doing or what they intend to do, rather than just analyzing and responding to the “brand.”

Greco also tries to drill down into “Bono’s persona,” noting that apparently even Bono’s wife Ali calls him Bono. He contrasts this with what we know of Paul Hewson. This tension was addressed in part by U2 in their 2018 “Experience” concerts in Europe, when Bono delivered a scripted speech in the second part of the concert to mock the way he and the band were put on heroic pedestals in comparison to the people he said were real heroes: “firefighters, nurses, teachers.” Bono would then tell a story of returning to Cedarwood Road and being confronted by a neighbor who called him “Paul.” His response: “Paul! Paul! Who is Paul? I am fucking Bono! This is the Edge!” Bono’s decrying of the band’s status as heroes while still ironically embracing it set up the song “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” It was moment of humility quickly overpowered by the band. It worked, however, as a nod and a wink to the audience. It also recalled Bono’s reflections on the 1987 Joshua Tree tour, in which he acknowledged he had created a “persona to protect [himself] and then [was not] able to live up to the persona.”

As a further observation on Greco’s choice to employ Barthes’ theories, when he uses reviews or interviews with the band and Bono, rather than what is captured in the “primary texts” of U2’s films, it seems to undermine his Barthesian approach. By relying also on comments made directly by the band in “secondary texts” such as interviews, Greco accepts the power of the words of “the author” (whether Bono or U2 themselves) for shaping his response to U2’s work.

Defining U2’s “brand” can be problematic. The assumption would be that a book on U2 would focus on the work directly created by the band, but Greco—without explicitly stating it—considers work not made by the band but which has a connection to the band. He devotes an entire chapter to analyzing the Anton Corbijn film Linear, which accompanied No Line On The Horizon. Though the film occasionally features the band and uses an idea of Bono’s, it is essentially the work of Corbijn. Perhaps it is here that the “Death of the Author” theory is most faithfully applied when Greco responds to the work itself. His analysis of the film is thorough and insightful, and he highlights Barthesian concepts he sees in the film.

When Greco directly address the work of the band he produces some insightful analysis and the strongest elements of the book. At one point he investigates the use of the cityscape in U2 through the lens of an early 20th-century music critic, Paul Rosenfeld, and the theories of Fredric Jameson. At another he uses the work of Paul Virilio and the concept of “dromocracy.” Similarly, he offers some analysis of the short films accompanying “Song for Someone” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me.” In both cases, he explores the “religious impulse” in these “mediated brands.” He links Woody Harrelson’s performance in the film for “Songs For Someone” to the concepts of the stops in the Catholic Stations of the Cross. There is limited space in any book, but it would have been interesting to see his analysis of the profound and moving “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” film, which was used during performances in the European legs of the Experience tour.

The book’s subtitle is “The Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand.” This reader felt as though the religious impulse wasn’t consistently explored in the depth the subtitle promised. It felt as though the loaded connotations of “impulse” were largely set aside. Greco links his own Christian faith to his love of U2, but only occasionally seems to dig deeper in exploring the “religious impulse.” He defines Evangelicalism rather narrowly and whilst correctly describing U2’s initial relationship with that aspect of Christianity, he omits discussing the evangelicals who sit on the left of the political spectrum, such as Jim Wallis in the U.S. and the late John Smith in Australia. Bono has a connection with both men and wrote admiring statements for the covers of books written by both men. In 2019, a eulogy from Bono was read at John Smith’s funeral.

Greco also discusses U2’s relationship with nationalism and their “Irishness.” He examines the band’s embrace of America, particularly its use of the U.S. flag in concerts. This opens up other avenues of inquiry in terms of their appropriation of national symbols. The question of embracing national signs arose on the recent Australian Joshua Tree tour where U2 chose to close their concert by displaying the somewhat problematic Australian flag toward the end of “One.”

The final chapter examines Songs of Innocence as “Barthes’ Ideal Novel.” It’s disappointing to see Greco claim the controversy over how U2 released the album in 2014 as a basis for calling it “anathema to Barthes’ notion of a novel being free from power.” This seems a glib response rather than a critique of the album itself. Greco then focuses on the song “Iris” rather than considering the entire album, which allows him to link to Barthes own relationship with his mother. It’s surprising, given the title of the book, that Greco does not explore the religious implications inherent in the title of the album with its echo of William Blake’s volume of poetry. It is unfortunate that he didn’t consider the “religious impulse” apparent across the whole album.

In his Conclusion, Greco offers a few paragraphs of others’ reviews of Songs of Experience but does not make an analysis of his own. Most of the Conclusion discusses a “cosmopolitan Christianity” and U2. When it is clearly focused on the band and their work it is a strength, but when Greco dives into an exploration of “cosmopolitanism” that links to the band but does not have U2 at the center, it is a frustration.

As most studies will generate a few minor quibbles of a more personal type for readers, this reviewer shares just two here. Greco said U2 fans have to pay more for standing room premium tickets at concerts, but except in the relatively small Red Zones, this has never been true on the tours to Australia. Indeed, it should be noted that relative to other concerts, U2 have kept their general admission prices low. By lining up early, this reviewer has always been able to be in a prime position for the show. A second reaction is Greco references Bruce Cockburn’s song “Fascist Architecture” and, to this reader’s understanding, misrepresents what Cockburn is writing about. It’s a minor point, but when two artists who are much admired by many fans—and who share many of the same fans—are brought together in discussion, it detracts from Greco’s point when a fan thinks he’s made an interpretive error.

The Rosary and the Microphone is at turns intelligent and stimulating, offering insight into what, for this reviewer, is a beloved band. There are apparent lapses where the focus veers away from expectations set by the title, though much of the book is an engaging, well-synthesized academic study that was overall enjoyable to read.

Ian Greig holds a B.A. Dip Ed. and an M.A. (Performance Studies) from the University of Sydney. He teaches high school drama and English literature classes and lives in rural NSW, Australia.

A Closer Look at The “Nashville Summit” Photos

I wrote this article for @U2 yesterday, and I hope you read it (!). Please visit @U2 to read “Bono’s Support for PEPFAR Helped Save 27 Million Lives. Photos Emerge From 2002 ‘Nashville Summit’ With Contemporary Christian Musicians.”

In the article, I posted eight photographs taken by Ben Pearson, which he kindly shared with me. He still had his undeveloped negatives, which I scanned and transferred to digital images.

If you had trouble expanding the photos in the @U2 site article, I’ve posted the photos here too. You can zoom in on these photos and see more detail, and see the facial expressions better too. One photo is above and the other seven are below.









U2 Studies Alert | Call for Book Reviews: Religion Around Bono & The Rosary And The Microphone

Update: We’re still looking for a reviewer for Religion Around Bono. See below for more information. (Ian Greig reviewed The Rosary and The Microphone and it is posted here.)

If you would like to review either of the two books below, we would like to post your review as part of the U2 Studies Network. We’re looking for a short essay of about 1200 words, written for a general reading audience, which gives a fair, well-supported and professionally-toned review. To get a review copy of either book, please follow the link posted with the book information, and inform the publisher you intend to post your review on this site, U2conference.com.

Please contact Scott Calhoun to let him know you are writing your review and to ask about deadline and submission details. Thank you!


Cover image for Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism By Chad E. Seales

Religion Around Bono
Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism
Chad E. Seales
Penn State University Press, 2019

Book information here and Review copy request here

For many, U2’s Bono is an icon of both evangelical spirituality and secular moral activism. In this book, Chad E. Seales examines the religious and spiritual culture that has built up around the rock star over the course of his career and considers how Bono engages with that religion in his music and in his activism.

Looking at Bono and his work within a wider critique of white American evangelicalism, Seales traces Bono’s career, from his background in religious groups in the 1970s to his rise to stardom in the 1980s and his relationship with political and economic figures, such as Jeffrey Sachs, Bill Clinton, and Jesse Helms. In doing so, Seales shows us a different Bono, one who uses the spiritual meaning of church tradition to advocate for the promise that free markets and for-profits will bring justice and freedom to the world’s poor. Engaging with scholarship in popular culture, music, religious studies, race, and economic development, Seales makes the compelling case that neoliberal capitalism is a religion and that Bono is its best-known celebrity revivalist.

Engagingly written and bitingly critical, Religion Around Bono promises to transform our understanding of the rock star’s career and advocacy. Those interested in the intersection of rock music, religion, and activism will find Seales’s study provocative and enlightening.


The Rosary and the Microphone
Religious Impulse in U2’s Mediated Brand

Nicholas P. Greco
Equinox, 2019

Book information here and Review copy request here

The Rosary and the Microphone explores U2 as a politically engaged band that manifests a particular brand of Christianity through the band’s mediation in a global context and for a global audience.

Through the primarily semiotic study of U2’s various mediations, this book maps the band’s strategies for negotiating its place in the world as a global band — and a mediated brand — and as a proponent of a kind of cosmopolitanism, or global care. U2’s brand is heavily informed by Bono’s own personal religious formation. This religious viewpoint is expressed in a global concern — a Christian cosmopolitanism — that looks outward and urges others to do the same.

The Rosary and the Microphone explores U2 in live performance, through music videos and in unique media offerings, such as the feature-length music video Linear.


U2 Studies Alert | U2: Der er fans og så er der superfans [ There are fans and then there are superfans] / Brent Gringer

U2 fan, academic and journalist Brent Gringer published “U2: Der er fans og så er der superfans,” on December 6, 2019, in the online popular journal POV.

Gringer’s amazing longread essay of over 11,000 words is partly an informal study and partly a personal comment written in Danish on U2 fan behavior, focusing primarily on the motivations and strategies a segment of the U2 fandom have for seeing U2 live. He offers comments on the academic study of U2 and its fans as well.

Please help spread Gringer’s essay to U2 fans and academics reading Danish!

For an unofficial translation of Gringer’s essay in English, here is a PDF. If you know of someone who can supply a better translation, please contact us, as we’d like to offer the best translation possible in English of Gringer’s work.

U2 Studies Alert | Two CFPs With Room to Study U2 @ 2020 Popular Culture Conferences in Canada and Europe


Call for Papers: Pop and Politics: State of the Field / State of the World

Annual Conference of the Popular Culture Association of Canada
Concordia University
Montreal, QC
May 7-9, 2020

After a one-year hiatus, the annual conference of the Popular Culture Association of Canada is back and looking forward—as well as up, left, right, down, and back. For our 9th annual conference, which will take place at Concordia University in Montreal, QC from May 7th-9th, 2020, we’re reflecting on the state of our field by inviting discussion on the relationship between popular culture and politics, broadly conceived.

Precisely because it’s popular, popular culture is often derided as politically conservative; for the same reason, it’s also critiqued as socially liberal. These disagreements are not, of course, surprising; popularity necessitates the inclusion and complex negotiation of myriad political beliefs, themes, and contexts. The rise of populist political movements around the world—and the reinvigoration of activism and progressive politics in response to these movements—has made the relationship between pop and politics especially obvious; now, more than ever, the state of popular culture is inseparable from the state of the world.

Our conference is global, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary; we welcome any and all perspectives on popular texts, industries, and reading practices. In addition, presentations can be historical or contemporary; we encourage reflections on the past that has shaped our present and the present that shapes our future.

Possible topics may include:

  • The depiction of political movements and controversies within popular texts (film, television, literature, fashion, comics, architecture, social media, sports, games, music, advertising, etc.)  
  • Intersections of popular culture and populism
  • The politics of fandom
  • Campaigns for diversity and the backlashes against them
  • The effects of political movements and policy on media industries
  • The politics of teaching and studying popular culture

Proposals for 15 to 20-minute papers should be submitted by January 15th, 2020. Pre-constituted panels and roundtables are welcome; these should be submitted as a single package. Proposals should be a maximum of 300 words and must include a 50-word biography of the presenter(s). Panels should include individual proposals for each paper; roundtables only require a single proposal, in addition to biographies of the presenters. Proposals, and any questions about the conference, should be sent to: conference@canpop.ca.

All presenters will need to become members of the association in order to be featured in the program. Conference registration fees will automatically include 2020 membership. Each presenter may only present a single paper, but can participate in a roundtable in addition to presenting a paper.

Membership information and the conference program will be available on our website.


Call for Papers: EUPOP 2020

Jagiellonian University
Kraków, Poland
July 22nd – 24th, 2020
Deadline: 29th February, 2019

Individual paper and panel contributions are welcomed for the ninth annual international conference of the European Popular Culture Association (EPCA), to be held at Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland, July 22nd – 24th, 2020.

EUPOP 2020 will explore European popular culture in all its various forms. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the following topics: Climate Change in Popular Culture, European Film (past and present), Television, Music, Costume and Performance, Celebrity, The Body, Fashion, New Media, Popular Literature and Graphic Novels, Queer Studies, Sport, Curation, and Digital Culture. We also welcome abstracts which reflect the various ways of how the idea of relationship between Europe and popular culture could be formed and how the current tur-moil in European identity (e.g. the legacy of totalitarianism and fascism), union, its borders and divisions are portrayed in popular cultural themes and contents.

Papers and complete panels for all strands will be subject to peer review. Proposals for individ-ual presentations must not exceed 20 minutes in length, and those for panels limited to 90 minutes. In the latter case, please provide a short description of the panel along with individual abstracts. Poster presentations and video projections are also warmly welcomed.

Proposals comprising a 300-word abstract, your full name, affiliation, and contact details (as a Word-file attachment, not a PDF) should be submitted to Kari Kallioniemi (kakallio@utu.fi) by 29.02.2020. Receipt of proposals will be acknowledged via e-mail, and the decision of acceptance will be notified within two weeks of submission.

The conference draft program will be announced in May 2020, along with the conference regis-tration and accommodation details. The likely conference fee will be 150 euros (student), and 200 euros (other). The fee includes coffees, lunches, evening reception & dinner, and EPCA Membership (includes subscription to the European Journal of Popular Culture, Intellect Press).

More information at EUPOP 2020


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