Cultural Studies | Introduction to Cultural Studies
C601 | 6993 | Striphas

This course introduces you to cultural studies, a diverse intellectual
formation committed broadly to producing theoretically informed and
politically engaged scholarship.  Because cultural studies tends to
shift in relation to specific geo-historical conditions, intellectual
problems, and political concerns, many who are new to the field (and
even some veterans, for that matter) find it difficult to pin down.
Indeed, the question “What is cultural studies?” has been posed
countless times, yet rarely has it yielded satisfying or enduring
answers.  There’s something about cultural studies that seems to
resist definitional closure, which makes the task of introducing the
field, as J. Macgregor Wise observes, “daunting” for all involved.

Rather than trying to settle once and for all what cultural studies
is, this course embraces the field’s open-endedness by stressing its
ongoing reconstitution in practice. Thus, “What does cultural studies
do?” will be our organizing motif.  What’s so important about this
question is that it enjoins us to take stock of specific formations of
cultural studies while remaining sensitive to its larger project.  It
also encourages us to widen our frame of reference to encompass the
signifying systems, material coordinates, and historical conjunctures
out of which particular cultural studies practices have emerged.

This is a course not only about cultural studies (its theories,
methods, key figures, debates, etc.), therefore, but also about the
field’s conditions of possibility.  It proceeds primarily through a
close reading and detailed discussion of primary works by scholars
who’ve been at the forefront of inventing and reinventing cultural
studies, with an eye towards situating their writings in determinate
contexts.  The reading list likely will include selections from
Giorgio Agamben, Louis Althusser, Ien Ang, Tony Bennett, Homi Bhabha,
Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, James Carey, Kuan-Hsing Chen, Michel
de Certeau, Michel Foucault, Paul Gilroy, Antonio Gramsci, Lawrence
Grossberg, Stuart Hall, Richard Hoggart, Henry Jenkins, Doreen Massey,
Toby Miller, Meaghan Morris, Angela McRobbie, Henri Lefebvre, Edward
Said, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jennifer Daryl Slack, Gayatri Chakravorty
Spivak, Carolyn Steedman, E.P. Thompson, and Raymond Williams, among
possible others.  There will be only one required text: Lawrence
Grossberg, Cultural Studies in the Future Tense (Durham and London:
Duke University Press, 2011; ISBN-13: 978-0822348306).

Although this class ostensibly is about cultural studies, it is, in
the end, really about the urgency of developing rigorous intellectual
work that can help us to respond more effectively to the numerous
political challenges—neoliberalism, neo-conservatism, and
globalization, to name only a few—of our time.  Otherwise, to tell you
the truth, we shouldn’t really care about cultural studies, what it
is, and what it does or doesn’t do.