For Stuart Hall, the cultural significance of an object lies in the way it is represented. Since representation is the result of processes by which concepts are classified and meaningful relationships are established, the boombox can be said to be not just a dedicated machine, as what Foucault calls a dispositif (“apparatus”): the material manifestation of the invisible network of interactions connecting knowledge to power. An artifact that has contributed to the production of meaning, as well as to the history of costume, it is therefore an identity object in which communities of users recognize themselves in the role of active consumers, since they are able to attribute to it destinations of use not contemplated by industrial production. Unlike the walkman, the boombox is in fact unpractical and potentially divisive, if one considers that its use involves listening at high volumes, in urban places where the boundary between public space of a street or square and the private area of a facing apartment is often impossible to trace. Therefore, it is understandable why the transfiguration of the device into an apparatus is problematic for those who do not recognize it as a cultural object. While leaving to the archaeologist of knowledge the study of the dynamics through which such communities propose themselves as alternatives to a system of power that marginalizes them, the paper discusses a form of symbolic representation aimed primarily at entertainment. It being understood that any narration conditioned by the constraints of the motion picture industry reflects a hegemonic norm, we will examine some of the most significant ways in which, between the end of the 1970s and that of the 1980s, US cinema used the boombox to illustrate both the context in which the protagonists act, and the internal perspective of a social positioning almost invariably antagonistic – be it ethnic, gendered, generational, or even criminal.
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