The Cinematic Society: The Voyeur’s Gaze by Norman K Denzin (1995)

tn22About This Book 

Ranging over a rich variety of material from film and film literature, and encompassing a critical interrogation of traditional realist ethnographic and cinematic texts, this book highlights the extent to which the cinema has contributed to the rise of voyeurism throughout society.The cinema not only turns its audience into voyeurs, eagerly following the lives of its screen characters, but casts its key players as onlookers, spying on other’s lives. The nature of the cinematic voyeur is examined in depth, as are its implications for contemporary society. Norman K Denzin analyzes Hollywood’s manipulations of gender, race and class, and, drawing on the work of Foucault, argues that the cinematic gaze must be understood as part of the machinery of surveillance and power which regulates social behaviour in the late twentieth century.

`If in The Cinematic Society, Norman Denzin successfully turns film criticism into a criticism of the human sciences, it is because The Cinematic Society takes as its frame of reference those movies in which the voyeur is the prominent figure – movies which Denzin suggests constitute a “reflexive cinema”…. Thus while [the book] may seem to some only to be a book of movie reviews, it is a profoundly important piece of sociology precisely in the way it draws on relexive cinema to make a case for a reflexive postmodern sociology. This is not to say that the readings of the various movies are not themselves of interest; indeed they provide the clues for realizing that ours is no longer a cinematic society. The many mechanical devices that appear in these movies and that provide the context in which voyeurism becomes reflexive, point to the coming to dominance of telecommunication that not only poses profound changes in sociology – changes that must bring sociology even beyond the reflexive voyeurism of much postmodern ethnography. Denzin’s singular effort to make sociologists attend to the relationship of sociology and the mass media find their clearest expression in The Cinematic Society, the best of his most recent works. Indeed, this is a book that should be worked with, worked through, because it provides a guide to the future of sociology’ –Symbolic Interaction

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Table of Contents


The Birth of the Cinematic Society
The Voyeur’s Desire
The Comic Voyeur’s Gaze
The Asian Eye
Charlie Chan and Mr Moto Go to the Movies
Flawed Visions
The Obsessive Male Gaze
Women at the Keyhole
Fatal Female Visions
Paranoia and the Erotics of Power
The Voyeur’s Future


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Other Books by the Author 

Other books by this author:

Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (2008)

Strategies of Qualitative Enquiry, Third Edition (2008)

Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, Third Edition (2008)

The Landscape of Qualitiative Research, Third Edition (2008)

The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, Third Edition (2005)

Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture (2003)

The Qualitative Inquiry Reader, (2002)

Interpretive Interactionism, Second Edition (2001)

The American Tradition in Qualitative Research, Four-Volume Set (2001)

Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographiuc Practices for the 21st Century(1997)

Images of Postmodern Society: Social Theory and Contemporary Cinema(1991)

Interprative Biograpahy (1989)

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