In her work, Professor Banet-Weiser studies gender identities and politics, non-white communities, and youth culture, with the intention of broadening and redefining the parameters of scholarship in these areas. Her research interests have focused on places that have not typically been examined in terms of citizenship, such as women’s beauty pageants, children’s television, and brand culture, to consider how such cultural products and practices help us to understand the concept of consumer citizenship more broadly, particularly in terms of race, gender, sexuality, and difference. She takes a multi-methodological approach, and has expertise in ethnography, interviews, participant-observation, textual and discourse analysis, and cultural critique.
Her current research examines public practices, discourses and media productions on popular feminism and popular misogyny. She has recently completed a study of the contemporary context for spectacular popular feminism, exploring the ways in which empowerment and rights for women and girls are celebrated in media and mainstream society. Against this backdrop, misogyny seems to have gained more power than ever, from the highest ranks of government to the lowest depths of internet culture. Her book, Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke University Press, 2018) makes sense of this moment, theorizing popular feminism and popular misogyny as a deeply entwined relationship, in which the highly visible feminism of advertising, online platforms, and nonprofits is met with the misogynistic violence of mass harassment, assault, and institutional neglect. Through case studies, Professor Banet-Weiser documents the circulation of feminism in an economy of visibility, where representation in the commercial sphere has supplanted recognition in the political sphere as the goal of many feminist practices and some men have learned to see the advancements of women and people of color as a disadvantage to themselves.
Professor Banet-Weiser has a forthcoming co-edited anthology (with Roopali Muhkerjee and Herman Gray), Racism Post-Race (Duke University Press, 2019), which explores the cultural power of post-race but also the vulnerabilities of this moment. The essays in the collection trace expressions of post-race over and through a wide cultural terrain – in public policy debates, academic disputes, popular cultural performances, media expressions both in the US and overseas, sports cultures, technology industries, music, and fashion spectacles.
Her other research interests focus on intellectual and activist discourses that explore how global media politics are exercised, expressed, and perpetuated in different cultural contexts. She investigates this in her award-winning 2012 book Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (New York University Press), where she explores brand culture and political possibility through an investigation of self-branding, creativity, politics and religion. She also co-edited (with Roopali Muhkerjee) an anthology, Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times (New York University Press, 2012).
Professor Banet-Weiser also has research interests in youth and media. In 2007, she published Kids Rule! Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship with Duke University Press. In that work, she investigates one of the most commercially successful cable networks in history, Nickelodeon, in order to rethink the relationship between children, media, citizenship, and consumerism. In this book, she draws on interviews with nearly fifty children as well as with network professionals; coverage of Nickelodeon in both trade and mass media publications; and analysis of the network’s programs. She provides an overview of the media industry within which Nickelodeon emerged in the early 1980s as well as a detailed investigation of its brand-development strategies. She also explores Nickelodeon’s commitment to “girl power,” its ambivalent stance on multiculturalism and diversity, and its oft-remarked appeal to adult viewers. She also published a co-edited anthology (with Cynthia Chris and Anthony Freitas) on the history and cultural politics of cable television, Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting (New York University Press, 2007).
Her first book, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity (University of California Press, 1999), explores a popular cultural ritual, the beauty pageant, as a space in which national identities, desires, and anxieties about race and gender are played out.
She has published articles in the academic journals International Journal of Communication, Continuum, Critical Studies and Media Communication, Feminist Theory, Communication Review, and Television and New Media, among others.