For: Research Master Students
Dates: Fridays October 30, November 6, 13, 20, and 27, December 4 and 11.
Place: University of Amsterdam, building and room tba.
Organizer: Murat Aydemir
Registration: firstname.lastname@example.org (before October 15, 2015)
Cultural Studies and Cultural Analysis are no longer quite the young and rebellious upstarts they once were. To some extent, they have become canonized and institutionalized fields, even at a time in which the (critical, hermeneutic, theoretical) Humanities at large are under attack.
At the same time, some of the political promises of the field — e.g. the emancipatory claims associated with identity politics and popular culture — seem no longer quite warranted, or at least demand new forms of confrontation and engagement. Let’s be honest: it is no longer quite feasible to think that identity politics and popular culture are going to emancipate the world.
All this suggests it is now all the more urgent to ask ourselves anew how we want to inhabit or relate to the field. How do we wish to situate ourselves in, or perhaps rather vis-à-vis, Cultural Studies academically, institutionally, intellectually, and politically?
In this course, we will revisit the main genealogies and methodologies of Cultural Studies in relation to present developments. Our engagement with Cultural Studies and Cultural Analysis will revolve around a renewed scrutiny of five of the field’s central values or concerns:
- the relationship to contemporary developments. A key desire or goal of Cultural Studies was to relate intellectually, academically, and politically to the present — the conjuncture. This cannot but mean that the field has to reinvent itself constantly. What worked in the 1990s doesn’t necessarily work, or work in in the same way, today. But has Cultural Studies kept up? To what conjuncture should Cultural Studies now relate? What would a Cultural Studies of today look like?
- the relationship between academic knowledge and politics. Another goal of traditional Cultural Studies was for academic practice to make a political difference. But what does “political” mean? Identity politics, issue politics, class politics? How can and should Cultural Studies be political today?
- the nature of reality. To what cultural reality (constructionism, materialism) should Cultural Studies pertain? What realities does Cultural Studies take for granted and what realities does it overlook? Where is the “reality” of Cultural Studies situated?
- disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Cultural Studies started from the social sciences. Then, it moved to Humanities departments, which meant a drastic reconfiguration of the wield of the interdisciplinarity it has envisaged and promoted since. Meanwhile, interdisciplinarity was coopted as little more than the technocratic pooling of expertise and resources. So what can interdisciplinary today still do, and what is it now for?
- the place and role of (popular) culture. Cultural Studies started out with a consideration of working class culture and subcultures. When Cultural Studies moved to the US, those were largely replaced by popular culture, entertainment culture, in distinction to “high” culture. But high culture today is next to meaningless; the victory of entertainment is nearly total. Does culture still matter? Lawrence Grossberg goes so far as to plead for a “post-cultural Cultural Studies.” What exactly is the “culture” to which Cultural Studies should pertain today?
With key readings by Stuart Hall, Paul Smith, Lawrence Grossberg, and many others.