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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cultural Studies and Cynicism

My course has technically come to the end. All the classes are over, except for one, and now, I have only the dissertation left. Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a slight uneasiness towards the discipline of Cultural Studies. I will try to establish why.

The USP of Cultural Studies is that is under constant critique, that it critiques itself, and the world, constantly, at every moment, instant and oppurtunity. This is a good thing, because a closure means an end; a definite and certain end to critique, analysis and therefore, an end to challenging existing norms of production of knowledge and power. This is also necessary, because himan society can never reach a point of complete and unhindered Utopia where everyone has what they want and are content, and perfectly happy, constituting a perfectly happy planet!

However, there are moments of triumph; moments that deserve celebration. There are moments of achievement, when something theory has been striving for for so long has actually been percieved and given importance in practice. Take the establishment of the field of Cultural Studies itself, for example. It did not suddenly crop up into the world and begin existing in a benign and easy manner. It had to face much struggle, and much opposition from people who thought otherwise (or didn't think at all) and fight for its existence, before it was accepted as a discipline or a field, whatever the technical name one might attribute to it. But the fact that such a discipline is able to sit comfortably within a system, and critique that system from within is hardly acknowledged or celebrated today. Yes, it is another move towards the ideal, and we are getting there, but not yet... It is in persistent unrest. Critique is unrest. Critique is temporary, becuase once the thing that is critiqued changes, the new thing can be critiqued, and so on...

Sometimes, I feel like this unrest can even turn into cynicism. I know it isn't. I know that it is not the intention. But it is critiquing to the point of dissilusionment. At the end, (if there is an end at all), it doesn't allow any lend itself to an absolute answer, because it is so scared of the fact that it can lead to a different domination by a different kind of power, which can be dangerous, and therefore, unhealthy for the system. So, I feel like I'm stuck in this whirlwind of critiques, with no way out, with the structure of the discipline itself restricting it from looking for an end, in this mess and chaos, with no way out, and with no answers. Dissilusioning to the point of cynical. Don't know where to go from here.


3 comments:

Anil Pinto said...

Bill Reading's University in Ruins, suggests is that the newer university structures are not opposed to disciplines that critique, for, they have already found ways of domesticating them in such a way that the existence or the discussion of ideas in that discipline does not affect the system. Hence, now you can do your Foucault, Illich, Marx and have no problem with the systems in your immediate environment.

Agent M said...

@AP - Could you elaborate a bit more on the domesticating process, or perhaps give an example?

@Kana - So have you critiqued your critique of the critique yet?

Kanasu said...

@ Mo- No I haven't critiqued my critique of the critique yet. I was wondering if you would do that actually...

@AP- So how do we undermine this huge totalising force by being within the system? Has Cultural Studies become a trap of it's own embankments?