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PASSINGS / Ray Browne

Pioneer of study of popular culture

October 26, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ray Browne, 87, a professor at Ohio's Bowling Green University who was widely credited with coining the term "popular culture" and pioneering the study of such things as bumper stickers and cartoons, died Thursday at his home, his family said.

The cause was congestive heart failure.

Browne wrote and edited more than 70 books on popular culture -- including "The Guide to United States Popular Culture," published in 2001.

Although many in the field credit Browne with coming up with the name "popular culture," no one could say for sure whether he originated it.

"He was really going against the grain," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "He seemed to be interested in anything. You could drop a gum wrapper in front of him and he would see a text to be studied."

Dozens of schools now offer classes rooted in popular culture.

Browne was born Jan. 15, 1922, in Millport, Ala. He taught at the University of Maryland and Purdue University before moving to Bowling Green in 1967. He stopped teaching in 1990 but continued to research and write.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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