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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies- Stuart Hall

the following write up on Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies is by Rinu Dina John


Stuart Hall is one of the most influential figures in cultural studies. He was part of the time when cultural studies was originated as an academic discourse or discipline. In this essay he questions the seriousness with which this discourse is engaged with a personal version of the history of the cultural studies.

According to Hall cultural studies emerged as a disciple out of the 1950s disintegration of classical Marxism and its thesis that the economic base has a determining effect on the cultural superstructure. He speaks of two interruptions that the trajectories of cultural studies faced namely feminism and racism. But what is stable in cultural studies is the conjunctional knowledge based on the idea of Gramsci. It means knowledge situated in and applicable to, specific and immediate political/historical circumstances. In addition, the awareness that the structure of representations which forms culture’s alphabet and grammar are instruments of social power requiring critical examination. What he does is to trace the history of the development of cultural studies. He does it by referring to some theoretical legacies, namely the New Left and some theoretical moments, namely Racism and Feminism

According to Hall cultural studies has a discursive formation in Foucault’s sense. It means it has no single origin. It is a multiple discourse and has many histories. It is always a set of unstable formation. It has ‘centre’ only in quotation. It has many trajectories. It does not mean it is not a organised or policed disciplinary area. It means cultural studies refuse to be a meta narrative. It is a project that is open to that which it does not know. But at the same time just because there is no fixed centre doesn’t mean that there is no possibility of taking a particular position and arguing for it. He doesn’t believe that knowledge is close but he believes in arbitrary closure. This is what allows for politics. Every practice that intends to make a difference in the world should have some points of difference or distinction. It is the question of positionalities. But we should always keep in mind that positions are never absolute or final.

Cultural studies in the academies of the advanced capitalist countries have transformed the object of studies in the humanities. In particular, in English departments, cultural studies has challenged the predominance of the governing categories of literary studies (the "canon," the homogeneous "period," the formal properties of genre, the literary object as autonomous and self-contained) in the interest of producing "readings" of all texts of culture and inquiring into the reproduction of subjectivities. To this end, pressure has been placed on disciplinary boundaries, the methods which police these boundaries, and modes of interpretation and critique have been developed which bring, for example, "economics" and "politics" to bear on the formal properties of texts. In addition, the lines between "high culture" and "mass culture" have been relativized, making it possible to address texts in terms of their social effectivity rather than their "inherent" literary, philosophical or other values.

He speaks of one of the important theoretical legacies part of the origin of cultural studies namely the emergence of New Left in Britain with the disintegration of classical Marxism. Classical Marxist thesis was that economic base has a determining effect on the cultural superstructure. Classical Marxism was mainly engaged with power, capital, exploitation etc. and did not talk about the objective cultural studies such as culture, ideology, language, the symbolic etc.

He also speaks of certain movements that provoke theoretical movements. There were two such movements in relation to cultural studies. They are racism and feminism. These two movements were considered as interruptions that the cultural studies faced. These interruptions led to new theoretical formulations within cultural studies. These interruptions are good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Portrait Of The 1985 Handsworth Riots, UK- Pogus Caesar - BBC1 TV . Inside Out.

Broadcast 25 Oct 2010.

Birmingham film maker and photographer Pogus Caesar knows Handsworth well. He found himself in the centre of the 1985 riots and spent two days capturing a series of startling images. Caesar kept them hidden for 20 years. Why? And how does he see Handsworth now?.

The stark black and white photographs featured in the film provide a rare, valuable and historical record of the raw emotion, heartbreak and violence that unfolded during those dark and fateful days in September 1985.