Ross, Andrew 1956-

views updated

ROSS, Andrew 1956-

PERSONAL: Born 1956; immigrated to United States, 1982. Education: Aberdeen University, Scotland, M.A., 1978; University of Kent, England, Ph.D., 1984.

ADDRESSES: OfficeNew York University, American Studies Program, 285 Mercer St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10003.

CAREER: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor of English, 1985-93; New York University, New York, NY, director of American Studies Program, 1993—, professor of comparative literature.

MEMBER: American Association of University Professors, Modern Language Association, Society for Cinema Studies, Society for Critical Exchange, American Studies Association, Society for Literature and Science, Teachers for a Democratic Culture, Union of Democratic Intellectuals.

AWARDS, HONORS: Unit for Criticism and Theory, University of Illinois, Urbana—Champaign, fellow, 1983-84; Stauffer Bicentennial fellow, Princeton University, 1989-92; Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, fellow, 1989-90; Guggenheim fellow, 2002-03.


The Failure of Modernism: Symptoms of American Poetry, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor) Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.

No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture, Routledge (New York, NY), 1989.

Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits, Verso (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor, with Constance Penley) Technoculture, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1991.

The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature's Debt to Society, Verso (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with Tricia Rose) Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Youth Culture, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) Science Wars, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1996.

(Editor) No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers, Verso (New York, NY), 1997.

Real Love: In Pursuit of Cultural Justice, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney's New Town, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.

No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, Basic Books (New York, NY). 2003.

Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Fight for Fair Labor, New Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including Nation, Village Voice, and Artforum; editor, Social Text.

SIDELIGHTS: Professor and author Andrew Ross focuses on a wide range of social issues in both his teaching and writing. Such subjects include intellectual history, labor and work, sub/urban policies, cultural studies, ecology, and science and technology as they interact with society. Ross has brought his own definition to cultural studies through his writing and teaching. After receiving his Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of Kent, Ross taught literary theory at Princeton University in a deliberate attempt to influence those he called the "children of the ruling classes." Later he taught at New York University, where he redefined American studies to focus not necessarily on literature but on issues of race, gender, and sexuality in American society. Ross's interpretation of American studies met with resistance, and some of his peers felt that his approach was too glib and emphasized facile over traditional aspects of culture. However, Ross's approach appealed to many of his students, who he hoped would use their education in American studies in activist positions or in involvement with social causes.

Ross published The Failure of Modernism: Symptoms of American Poetry in 1986. Reviewer B. Galvin of Choice assessed the work as laced with jargon and language hard to pin down. The critic warned that those unfamiliar with Ross's thought processes might have difficulty with the work. A Virginia Quarterly Review contributor responded favorably to The Failure of Modernism, praising Ross's look at modernism through the filters of language, psychology, and history.

The author continued his examination of the topic of postmodernism as editor of a 1988 collection of twelve essays titled Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism. While reviewer Bruce Robbins of Modern Fiction Studies noted that the book is presented to inspire questions rather than promote answers for readers, this reviewer also remarked on the focus on consumerism and popular culture. Among the cultural phenomena discussed are the movie Crocodile Dundee, the "Banana Republic" clothing line, and the singer Bruce Springsteen. To Robbins the essays are presented in a manner that secures an equal place for the study of popular culture alongside other aspects of postmodern studies. David Leon Higdon of Rocky Mountain Review noted that, jargon aside, the essays in Universal Abandon? are presented in a depth sufficient to challenge the reader.

Ross examined the role of technology in popular U.S. culture in his 1991 book Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits. According to reviewer James T. Fisher of Commonweal, Ross goes beyond an interpretation of technological sprawl as "irrelevant." Instead, the author makes a case that technological trends are closely indicative of popular culture. In a study of the New Age movement, Ross argues against its division between technology and nature, claiming instead that technology merely represents a type of organization forced on people by society. While the author calls for readers to look at technology in a different light, he also acknowledges the chasm that continues to exist between science and the liberal arts. Ross also addresses technological issues in Technoculture, a collection of essays he coedited with Constance Penley in 1991. The collection, according to R. L. Rutsky of Film Quarterly, goes beyond defining the title and looks instead at technology's impact on society.

In The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature's Debt to Society, which was published in 1994, Ross proposes that the environmental movement is self-serving and compromises the civil rights of Americans. In line with the book's main premise, Ross claims that resource scarcity is caused by inequality in ownership of resources rather than a lack of natural resources themselves. P. D. Travis of Choice asserted that the arguments in Ross's essays are hard to follow yet acknowledged that the book has an important message. Harold Fromm of the Hudson Review responded less favorably, calling the work "almost unreadable." Fromm faulted the author's example of ecotourism in Hawaii, which Ross presented as a capitalist venture facilitated by interest and sympathies toward the environmental movement. The reviewer maintained that Ross uses a haphazard approach and plucks examples randomly from pop culture to support his thesis.

Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Youth Culture, a 1994 volume that Ross edited with Tricia Rose, covers topics ranging from the disco phenomenon and its connection to the gay community to the relationship between hard rock and feminism. Essays examine the Latino influence on rap music, the presence of women in rock music, and the role of rebellion in modern music. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that the collection would appeal to those outside of academic settings. Ross includes interviews with popular musicians, and to reviewer Timothy D. Taylor in Drama Review, the interview material goes beyond that usually found in fan magazines. "No musicologist of popular music can afford to pass this up," Taylor declared.

Ross published two additional works in the late 1990s. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers, which appeared in 1997, treats the exploitation of human resources in the fashion industry and such issues as the use of sweat shops, dangerous working conditions, and starvation faced by garment industry workers. Ross uses specific examples in the essays, including a close look at the industry in New York City and Los Angeles, and newsworthy cases of human abuse in the industry. Ross's 1998 volume Real Love: In Pursuit of Cultural Justice offers nine formerly published essays by the author on a range of topics, including opposition to DNA testing for court use, cyberspace, gangsta rap, and the O. J. Simpson case. Brooke Allen of the New York Times Book Review argued that the connection between the essays is tenuous, and that Ross's idea of cultural justice is never truly defined. The quality of the collection is compromised, in Allen's opinion, by Ross's attempt to advance a political agenda.

Ross's cultural critique continued in his 1999 book, The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Values in Disney's New Town. In this work, Ross examines the new town created by the Disney Company in Celebration, Florida, an attempt, as David L. Kirp noted in the New York Times Book Review, at the "revival of Norman Rockwell's America." The town of Celebration consciously set out to create such a wholesome atmosphere from whole cloth, and its achievements have been mixed at best: crime, neglected children, and spousal abuse are present in Celebration just as in other towns. Ross details the underside of this supposed idyllic community: the mosquitoes that keep inhabitants off their front porches at night, the vacuuming of the main street each night. He also provides a brief history of such attempts at creating new towns and ideal communities, from Brook Farm to Levittown. Kirp felt that Ross's chronicle of the town was "entertaining and … insightful." The same reviewer further praised Ross as a "raconteur with delicious—and telling—anecdotes." Ross, who spent over a year living in Celebration researching his topic, "is good at striking a balance between observer and participant" in the writing of his book, according to John E. Czarnecki in Architectural Record. However, Sam Staley, writing in Reason, felt that Ross had a tendency to see "power relationships as the almost exclusive source of the new town's conflicts." For Staley, such "quasi-Marxist interpretations" are "incomplete." Peter Whoriskey, reviewing the Celebration Chronicles in the Boston Globe, similarly found Ross's account "impressionistic," an approach that allowed the author to tackle topics including the "nature of American values, the history of city design, and even the moral choices imposed by world trade." A contributor for the Economist, however, commented on Ross's "detached and analytical look." And Peter Mandler, reviewing the same work in the Times Literary Supplement, called it a "reflective, penetrating and personal account." For Mandler, "There can be few books in recent years that have probed so directly and devastatingly at the heart of what (white, middle-class) Americans mean today by 'community.'"

In his 2003 book No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, Ross investigates the new economy of technology workers. To research the topic, he spent more than a year-and-a-half with two such Internet media companies in New York City. Ross began working with in 2000 and stayed on until 2002; at the same time, he also devoted a half-year to This span of time took in the Internet bubble and resulting crash. Such research was intended to provide Ross with insights into aspects of the modern workplace, in particular the notion that the new technologies have a more informal environment, a nonhierarchical "no collar" atmosphere, where input from all levels is valued. However, for Library Journal's Susan Hurst, the resulting book "reads more like a corporate chronology than the broader social work it was intended to be." A critic for Publishers Weekly found more to like in Ross's book, praising the author for his "insights into the upheavals and heartbreak" that came with the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The same reviewer also mentioned Ross's "chilling assessment" of what happens to New Economy workers in hard times. According to Ross, the seemingly egalitarian workplace ethos at such firms convinced the workers to make their work their lives; after the crash, these same "valued" employees later learned of their impending dismissals through Web chat rooms. For Joseph A. McCartin, writing in the Washington Post Book World, Ross's account was a "self-consciously hip, impressionistic examination of the New Economy workplaces." In contrast, William Wolman, writing in the Los Angeles Times, praised Ross's book as a "balanced, richly textured and, in the end, chilling account of work in the high-tech digitized world."



Across the Board, March-April, 2003, Matthew Budman, review of No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, pp. 13-14.

Architectural Record, December, 1999, John E. Czarnecki, review of The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney's New Town, p. 47.

Boston Globe, October 23, 1999, Peter Whoriskey, review of The Celebration Chronicles, p. D5.

Business Week, October 4, 1999, David Rocks, review of The Celebration Chronicles, p. J18.

Choice, March, 1987, B. Galvin, review of The Failure of Modernism: Symptoms of American Poetry, p. 1064; April, 1995, P. D. Travis, review of The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature's Debt to Society, p. 1369.

Commonweal, February 28, 1992, James T. Fisher, review of Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits, pp. 26-27.

Drama Review, summer, 1997, Timothy D. Taylor, review of Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Youth Culture, pp. 163-169.

Economist, June 10, 2000, review of The Celebration Chronicles, pp. 92-93.

Film Quarterly, fall, 1992, R. L. Rutsky, review of Strange Weather, pp. 53-54.

Harvard Business Review, January, 2003, John T. Landry, review of No-Collar, p. 22.

HR Magzine, April, 2003, review of No-Collar, pp. 126-127.

Hudson Review, summer, 1996, Harold Fromm, review of The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life, pp. 323-330.

Journal of American History, September, 1990, p. 731; March, 1993, p. 1695.

Library Journal, March 15, 2003, Susan Hurst, review of No-Collar, p. 92.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 2, 2003, William Wolman, review of No-Collar, p. R5.

Modern Fiction Studies, winter, 1989, Bruce Robbins, review of Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism, pp. 856-858.

New York Times Book Review, July 12, 1998, Brooke Allen, review of Real Love: In Pursuit of Cultural Justice; September 19, 1999, David L. Kirp, review of The Celebration Chronicles, pp. 22-23.

Publishers Weekly, May 16, 1994, review of Microphone Fiends, p. 61; November 18, 2002, review of No-Collar, p. 51.

Reason, February, 2001, Sam Staley, review of The Celebration Chronicles, pp. 48-54.

Rocky Mountain Review, 1992, David Leon Higdon, review of Universal Abandon?, pp. 103-104.

Times Literary Supplement, December 8, 2000, Peter Mandler, review of The Celebration Chronicles, p. 3.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1987, review of The Failure of Modernism, p. 102.

Washington Post Book World, March 9, 2003, Joseph A. McCartin, review of No-Collar, p. WB K13.


New York University, (November 1, 2003), "Andrew Ross."*