Image credit: Victor GAD 585 Reading Interests of Adults Cultural Theory and Popular Culture Marija Dalbello Rutgers School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies [email protected]

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Transcript Image credit: Victor GAD 585 Reading Interests of Adults Cultural Theory and Popular Culture Marija Dalbello Rutgers School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies [email protected]

Image credit: Victor GAD
585 Reading Interests of Adults
Cultural Theory and
Popular Culture
Marija Dalbello
School of Communication, Information,
and Library Studies
[email protected]
What is Cultural Studies?
• Study of culture (rather than
• Progressive, radical, and
omnipresent in arts, humanities,
social sciences, science &
What is Culture?
• Social behavior; material
culture; cultural texts and
practices; shared fantasies
Tylor (1871): Culture is that
complex whole which includes
knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, customs, and other
capabilities and habits acquired
by man as a member of society.
Kroeber lists 300+ definitions of culture.
What is Culture?
Mead (1960s): Culture is a
learned behavior of a society or
a subgroup.
Williams (1970s): Culture
includes the organization of
production, the structure of the
family, the structure of
institutions which express or
govern social relationships, the
characteristic forms through
which members of the society
Geertz (1980s): Culture is
simply the ensemble of stories
we tell ourselves about
What is the Subject of
Cultural Studies?
• Subject area not clearly
defined; all-inclusive notion of
culture and study of a range of
• Principles, theories and
methods are eclectic
• Distinct history of cultural
What is the Subject of
Cultural Studies?
• Principles, theories and
methods from social sciences
disciplines, the humanities and
the arts adapted to the purposes
of cultural analysis
• Methodologies diverse:
textual analysis, ethnography,
psychoanalysis, survey
research, etc.
Discipline or
• Cultural studies impossible to
define: collective term for
diverse and contentious
intellectual endeavors; many
theoretical and political
• Includes established and
radical disciplines, political
activism and modes of inquiry
(critical theory)
• Anti-discipline; not
Historical background
• Centre for Contemporary
Cultural Studies (CCCS) est.
• Working Papers in Cultural
Studies (1972)
• Richard Hoggart, Raymond
Williams, E.P. Thompson,
Stuart Hall
• Working-class background;
role of popular culture in classbased society in England
R. Hoggart & R. Williams
• Working class intellectuals
• The culture of common people
(working class culture) seen as
more authentic than middle- and
upper-class culture; derives from
• Against canonical élitism (high
• Interest in active appropriation
of cultural forms & class
struggle in the cultural arena
• Mass culture seen as
‘colonizing’ working class
culture; packaged for passive
absorption by the cultural
industry producers
But what to do?
R. Hoggart
• Founder of CCCS
• The Uses of Literacy (1957)
programmatic work; parts of it
written as a manifesto
• Problem: working classes
excluded from participation and
dissemination of their cultural
forms and practices
• Cultural struggle over
legitimacy and cultural status of
forms and practices
• Critical reading of art needs to
reveal the ‘felt quality of life’ of
a society; art captures the
experience of the everyday as
the unique
R. Williams
• Marxist tradition
• Culture is an expression of the coherence of organic communities
resisting determinism in its various forms
• Culture: material, intellectual and spiritual (base and superstructure)
• Centrality of the culture of everyday life (texts that capture “the
structure of feeling” of everyday life, the sense of an époque) - not
only validates such culture and its study but validates its production
and gives it a status of insight into the dynamics of society’s struggle
Goals of Cultural Studies
1. Examine cultural practices in their relationship to power; how
power shapes these practices.
2. Culture is studied in the social and political context in which its
forms manifest themselves.
3. Culture is both object of study and vehicle for changing political
consciousness through this understanding (scholarly & pragmatic).
4. Reconcile division between tacit / universal knowledge;
validation of experience (local knowledge) in addition to generally
shared forms of knowledge.
5. Moral evaluation of modern society and means for radical action.
What is Cultural Studies?
• Study of relations between social relations and meanings (how
social divisions are made meaningful)
• Culture is terrain on which ideological representations of class,
gender, race are enforced, and contested by social groups validating
their experience
• Hegemony
• operates in the realm of representations and consciousness
• implies power inequality in different segments of society
• naturalizes a class ideology and renders it in the form of
common sense
• exercised through ‘authority,’ not physical force
• operates through institutions (educational system, media and
the family)
• Cultural studies focus on analysis of cultural forms and their
meaning in the context of power relations in society
Culture as Site of Class
• Gramsci (1891-1937)
• Hegemony: how society is
bound together without the use
of force under the moral and
intellectual leadership of the
ruling classes
• Hegemony relies on
negotiation & consent
• Intellectuals forge consent in
the interest of the ruling class
• Competing classes achieve a
‘compromise equilibrium’
• Culture as key site of struggle
of competing interests
• Popular culture is an arena of
resistance but also of enforcing
• Paradoxically, the sphere of
culture perceived as nonpolitical although it is a conduit
for hegemonic representations
Theories and Theorists in Cultural Studies
• Culture and civilisation (Matthew Arnold; Leavisism) canon
• Culturalism (Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, Richard Hoggart,
Stuart Hall) authenticity
• Structuralism (Ferdinand de Saussure,Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland
Barthes) signs; unconscious foundations; signification
• Post-Structuralism; Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Michel
Foucault, Edward Said) meaning is process
• Marxism (Classical; the Frankfurt School, Althusserian; neoGramscian; Bakhtin) cultural texts reflect how society is organized
• Feminism (Janice Radway) constructing identity through
• Post-modernism (Jameson, Baudrillard) revolt against modernism