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WhatisCulturalStudies?

AReader
Editedby
JohnStoreyReaderinCulturalStudiesUniversityofSunderland
~ARNOLD

A member of the Hodder Headline Gmup LONOON NEW YORK SYDNEY AUCKLAND
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9525445CIP
For Kate and Jenny
Contents
PrefaceixAcknowledgementsxiCulturalstudies:anintroduction1
JohnStorey1Theevolutionofculturalstudies...14
ColinSparks2Culturalstudies:twoparadigms31
StuartHall3TheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies49
MichaelGreen4Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies61
JamesW.Carey5Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?75
RichardJohnson6Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision115
JohnFiske7Banalityinculturalstudies147
MeaghanMorris8Thefutureofculturalstudies168
RaymondWilliams9Thecirculationofculturalstudies178
LawrenceGrossberg10TheproblemofAmericanculturalstudies187
AlanO'Connor11Feminismandculturalstudies197
ElizabethLong12Disciplineandvanish:feminism,theresistancetotheory,andthe
politicsofculturalstudies208
EllenRooney13Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies221
DunCilnWebster
viiiContents
14Cultureandcommunication:towardsanethnographiccritique
ofmediaconsumptioninthetransnationalmediasystem237
lenAng15Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures255
SarahFranklin,CeliaLuryandJackieStacey16Alwaysalreadyculturalstudies:academicconferences
anda
manifesto273
CaryNelson17TheAmericanizationofculturalstudies287
JoelPfister18Blackstudies,culturalstudies:performativeacts300
ManthiaDiawara19Puttingpolicyintoculturalstudies307
TonyBennett20'Itworksforme':Britishculturalstudies,Australiancultural
studies,Australianfilm322
GraemeTurner21Race,culture,andcommunications:lookingbackwardand
forwardatculturalstudies336
StuartHall22Australianculturalstudies344
JohnFrowandMaghanMorrisBibliography368
md~~1
Preface
Thisisnota'CulturalStudiesReader'.Thatis,itisnotacollectionofessaysfromandaboutcultural
studies, demonstrating the range, the diversityand the infectious excitment of the field. Instead, the
concernsofthisvolumearefarmoremodest,farmorespecific.Theaimistocollecttogetherforthefirst
time a group of essays from Australia, Britain and the USA, which attempt, sometimes directly,
sometimesindirectly,todefinetheprojectofculturalstudies.Thetitleisintendedtobetakenquite
literally:'whatisculturalstudies?'Definitionsrangefromtheexplicittotheimplicit,fromhistorical
cartographiesofitspasttoclaimsmadeonitsfuture.
Ofcourse,itmightbearguedthatallculturalstudiesreadersaddressthisquestionimplicitly,through
thebringingtogetherofsignificantworkinthefield.Whatmakesthisvolumedifferentisitsselfimposed
concentrationoffocus.Itisanintroductiontoculturalstudiesthroughaseriesofattemptstodefine
culturalstudies.Itdoesnotofferexamplesofworkinthefield,butcollectstogetherworkwhichattempts
todefineit.Theessaysarecollectedinchronologicalordertoallowthereadertomapthedevelopmentof
thefield.Togetherthe22essaysprovideaperspectiveonthepast,presentandpossiblefuture(s)of
culturalstudies.Togethertheymakefascinatingandindispensablereadingforthestudentofcultural
studies.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed, knowingly and
unknowingly,tothewritingofthisbook,especiallyfamily,friends,colleaguesandstudents(pastand
present).I~ouldalsoliketothanktheSchoolofArts,DesignandCommunications,Universityof
Sunderland,forlighteningmyteachingloadduringthecourseofwritingthisbook.Finally,Iwould
especiallyliketothankPaulMarris,LesleyRiddle,JannetteStorey,JennyStorey,KateStoreyandSue
Thomham,fortheirsupportandencouragementthroughout.
Acknowledgements
Theeditorandpublisherswouldliketothankthefollowingforpermissiontousecopyrightmaterialin
thisbook:
Screenstudies:ScreenandEducationtwotheparadigms',author22,1630;forColinMedill,Sage
Sparks,CulturePublications'TheandevolutionSocietyforStuart2,of5772;culturalHall,Methuen
'Culturalstudies',
&Co.reprintedforMichaelfromGreen,PeterWiddowson'TheCentrefor(ed.),ContemporaryRe
ReadingCulturalEnglish(London:Studies',
Methuenresistance&toCo.);culturalSagestudies',PublicationsMassforCommunication
JamesW.Carey,'Overcoming
Ye~~rbook

5(1985);way?'DukeUniversity
SocialTextPress16(198687)
forRichard3~0,
Johnson,Duke'WhatUniversityisculturalPress,studies1990;anytheUniversityofcultural
Discoursestudiesof(UniversityNorthandtelevision',CarolinaofNorthPressreprintedCarolinaand
RoutledgefromPress,Robert1987);forAllenJohnIndiana(ed.),Fiske,UniversityChannels'British
PressDiscourse:andJournaltheauthorforTheoreticalforMeaghanStudiesMorris,inMedill'Banality
andCultureinculturalX.2studies',(springsummer,studies',1988),reprinted329;fromVerso
RaymondforRaymondWilliams,Williams,The'ThePoliticsfutureofModernismofcultural
(London:Verso,1989),15162;SCAPublicationsforLawrenceGrossberg,'Thecirculationofcultural
studies',AlanO'Connor,'Theproblemofstudies',AmericanfromculturalCriticalstudies'Studiesandin
ElizabethMassCommunicationLong,'Feminismandcultural6(1989);PembrokeCenterforTeaching
andResearchonWomenforEllenRooney,'Disciplinestudies',andvanish:Differences:feminism,A
JournaltheresistanceofFeministtotheory,Culturalandstudiesthe2politics(1990);ofculturalthe
authorstudies',forDuncanNewsWebster,From'Pessimism,Nowhereoptimism,pleasure:thefutureof
cultural8(1990);SagePublicationsforlenAng,'Cultureandcommunication:consumptionmunication5
inthetransnational23960,towardsmediaansystem',ethnographicEuropeancritiqueJournalofof
mediaCom1990SagePublicationsLtd;Routledgeandtheauthorsculturalforstudies:Sarahpasts,
Franklin,presents,Celiafutures',LuryandOffCentreJackieStacey,(1991);'FeminismtheMidwestand
xiiAcknowledgements
ModemLanguageAssociationandtheauthorforCaryNelson,'Alwaysalreadyculturalstudies:academic
conferencesandamanifesto',TheJournalof
theMidwestModernlAnguageAssociation24(1991);theJohnsHopkinsUniversityPressforJoel
Pfister,'TheAmericanizationofculturalstudies',YaleJournalofCriticism4(1991);Afterimageandthe
author for Manthia Diawara, 'Black studies, cultural studies: performative acts', Afterimage October
(1992);TonyBennett,'Puttingpolicyintoculturalstudies',reprintedfromCulturalStudies(1992),by
permissionofthepublisher,Routledge,NewYork;GraemeTurner,'"Itworksforme":Britishcultural
studies, Australian cultural studies, Australian film', reprinted from Cul tural Studies (1992), by
permissionofthepublisher,Routledge,NewYork;GuilfordPublicationsforStuartHall,'Race,culture
andcommunications:lookingbackwardandforwardatculturalstudies',RethinkingMarxism5(1992);
Allen&:UnwinforJohnFrowandMeaghanMorris,'Australianculturalstudies',reprintedfromJohn
FrowandMeaghanMorris(eds),AustralianCulturalStudies:AReader(AllenandUnwin,1993).
Everyefforthasbeenmadetotracecopyrightholdersofmaterialproducedinthisbook.Anyrightsnot
acknowledgedherewillbeacknowledgedinsubsequentprintingsifnoticeisgiventothepublisher.
Cultural studies: an introduction
JohnStorey
Preliminary definitions

ColinSparks(Chapter1)highlightsthedifficultiesinvolvedintryingtodefineculturalstudieswithany
degreeofprecision:
Itisnotpossibletodrawasharplineandsaythatononesideofitwecanfindtheproperprovinceofcultural
studies.Neitherisitpossibletopointtoaunifiedtheoryormethodologywhicharecharacteristictoitorofit.A
veritableragbagofideas,methodsandconcernsfromliterarycriticism,sociology,history,mediastudies,etc.,are
lumpedtogetherundertheconvenientlabelofculturalstudies.
AlthoughSparks'sessaydatesfrom1977,problemsofdefinitionstillremainforanauthorwritingalmost
20 years later. Therefore, although it is possible to point to degree programmes, to journals, to
conferencesandtoassociations,thereisnosimpleanswertothequestion,'whatisculturalstudies?'...
Traditionally, an academic discipline is defined by three criteria: first, there is the object of study;
secondly,therearethebasicassumptionswhichunderpinthemethod(s)ofapproachtotheobjectof
study;andthirdly,thereisthehistoryofthedisciplineitself.
JohnFiske(Chapter6),maintainsthat'culture'inculturalstudies'isneitheraestheticnorhumanistin
emphasis,butpolitical'.Whathemeansbythisisthattheobjectofstudyinculturalstudiesisnotculture
definedinthenarrowsense,astheobjectsofaestheticexcellence('highart');norculturedefinedinan
equallynarrowsense,asaprocessofaesthetic,intellectualandspiritualdevelopment;butcultureunder
stood, in Raymond Williams's famous appropriation from anthropology, as 'a particular way of life,
whetherofapeople,aperiodoragroup'(1976,90).Thisisadefinitionofculturewhichcanembracethe
firsttwo~e~iionsbutalso,andcrucially,itcanrangebeyondthesocialexcluSlVlty
andnarrownessofthesetoincludethestudyofpopularculture.Althoughculturalstudiescannot
(orshouldnot)bereducedtothestudyofpopularculture,itiscertainlythecasethatthestudyofpopular
cultureiscentraltotheprojectofculturalstudies.AsCaryNelson
2Whatisculturalstudies?
(Chapter16)pointsout,'peoplewithingrainedcontemptforpopularculturecanneverfullyunderstandthecultural
studiesproject'.Butitisalsothecase,asarguedbyRichardJohnson(Chapter5),that'allsocialpracticescanbe
lookedatfromaculturalpointofview,fortheworktheydo,subjectively'.Johnsondefinesculturalstudiesasthe
studyof'historicalformsofconsciousnessorsubjectivity'.Definedinthisway,itmust
decentre'thetext'asanobjectofstudy.'Thetext'isnolongerstudiedforitsownsake,norevenforthesocialeffects
itmaybethoughttoproduce,butratherforthesubjectiveorculturalformswhichitrealisesandmakesavailable.
Thetextisonlyameansinculturalstudies;strictly,perhaps,itisarawmaterialfromwhichcertainforms(e.g.of
narrative,ideologicalproblematic,modeofaddress,subjectposition,etc.)maybeabstracted....Buttheultimate
objectofculturalstudiesisnot...thetext,butthesociallifeofsubjectiveformsateachmomentoftheircirculation,
includingtheirtextualembodiments.
JohnFrowandMeaghanMorris(Chapter22)takeaslightlydifferentview:
Thereisaprecisesenseinwhichculturalstudiesusestheconceptoftextasitsfundamentalmodel....Ratherthan
designatingaplacewheremeaningsareconstructedinasinglelevelofinscription(writing,speech,film,dress...),
itworksasaninterleavingof'levels'.Ifashoppingmall[forexample]isconceivedonthemodeloftextuality,then
this'text'involvespractices,institutionalstructuresandthecomplexformsofagencytheyentail,legal,political,
and financial conditions of existence, and particular flows of power and knowl edge, as well as a particular
multilayeredsemanticorganisation;itisanontologicallymixedentity,andoneforwhichtherecanbenoprivileged
or'correct'reading.Itisthis,morethananythingelse,thatforcesculturalstudies'attentiontothediversityof
audiencesfororusersofthestructuresoftextualityitanalysesthatis,totheopenendedsociallifeoftextsand
thatforcesit,thereby,toquestiontheauthorityorfinalityofitsownreadings.
Moreover,asFrowandMorrismakeclear,textsexistonlywithinnetworksofintertextualrelations.Tostudya'text'
meanstolocateitacrossarangeofcompetingmomentsofinscription,representationandstruggle.Inotherwords,
culturalstudiesseekstokeepinequilibriumthedifferentmomentsofculturalproductionmaterialproduction,
symbolicproduction,textualproduction,andthe'productioninuse'ofconsumption.Tonarrowone'sfocustoone
momentonly,andthinkthiswilladequatelyaccountfortheothers,istothinkandact(toborrowaphrasefromthe
goodolddaysofcertainty)'ideologically'.
Culturalstudiesalsoregardscultureaspoliticalinaquitespecificsense,onewhichrevealsthedominantpolitical
position within cultural studies. TYPically, Frow and Morris (Chapter 22) conceive of culture 'not as organic
expressionofacommunity,norasanautonomoussphereofaestheticforms,butasacontestedandconflictualsetof
practicesofrepresentationboundupwiththeprocessesofformationandreformationofsocialgroups'.Perhapsthe
bestknownelaborationofthisconceptionofculturecomesfromStuartHall(1981,239).Hedescribespopular
culture,forexample,as'anarenaofconsentandresistance.Itispartlywherehegemonyarises,andwhereitis
secured.Itisnotaspherewheresocialism,a
Anintroduction3
S()Cialistculturealreadyfullyformedmightbesimply"expressed".Butitisoneoftheplaceswhere
socialismmightbeconstituted.Thatiswhy"popularculturematters".'Otherswithinculturalstudies
mightnotexpresstheirattitudetopopularculturequiteintheseterms,buttheywouldcertainlyshare
Hall's concern to think culture politically. Johnson (Chapter 5) explains this in terms of three main
premissesregardingculture:
The first is that cultural processes are intimately connected with social relations, especially with class relations and class
formations, with sexual divisions, with the racial structuring of social relations and with age oppressions as a form of
dependency.Thesecondisthatcultureinvolvespowerandhelpstoproduceasymmetriesintheabilitiesofindividualsandsocial
groupstodefineandrealisetheirneeds.Andthird,whichfollowstheothertwo,isthatcultureisneitheranautonomousnoran
externallydeterminedfield,butasiteofsocialdifferencesandstruggles.

TonyBennett(Chapter19)makesthecaseforculturalstudiestochangeitsunderstandingofculture.
Centraltohisargumentfortheintroductionof'policy'intoculturalstudiesisachangeddefinitionof
culture,fromonewhichdefinesitinsemantictermstoonethatseesitasagovernmentalpracticefor
transformingbothmentalandphysicalbehaviour.
AllthebasicassumptionsofculturalstudiesareMarxist.Thisisnottosaythatallpractitionersof
culturalstudiesareMarxists,butthatculturalstudiesisitselfgroundedinMarxism.Marxisminforms
culturalstudiesintwofundamentalways.First,tounderstandthemeaningsofculturewemustanalyseit
inrelationtothesocialstructureanditshistoricalcontingency.Althoughconstitutedbyaparticular
socialstructurewithaparticularhistory,cultureisnotstudiedasareflectionofthisstructureandhistory.
AsWilliams(Chapter8)makesclear,historyandculturearenotseparateentities.Itisneveraquestionof
reading a text against its historical background or using the text to illustrate an alreadyformulated
accountofahistoricalmomenthistoryandtextareinscribedineachother~d
areembeddedtogetherasapartofthesameprocess.CulturalstudiesInsiststhatculture'simportance
derivesfromthefactthatithelpsconstitutethestructureandshapethehistory.AsHall(Chapter21)
explains,'whatculturalstudieshashelpedmetounderstandisthatthemedia[forexample]playapartin
theformation,intheconstitution,ofthethingsthattheyfreereflect.Itisnotthatthereisaworldoutside,
"outthere",whichexistsofthediscoursesofrepresentation.Whatis"outthere"is,inpart,constitutedby
howitisrepresented'.Second,culturalstudiesassumesthatcapitalistindustrialsocietiesaresocieties
dividedunequallyalongethnic,gender,generationalandclasslines.Itcontendsthatcultureisoneofthe
Principalsiteswherethisdivisionisestablishedandcontested:cultureisaterrainonwhichtakesplacea
continualstruggleovermeaning,inwhichsubordinategroupsattempttoresisttheimpositionof
meaningswhich?earIdeological.
theinterestsofdominantgroups.Itisthiswhichmakesculture
W.IdeologyCarey(Chapteriswithout4)evendoubtsuggeststhecentralthatconcept'Britishincultural
culturalstudiesstudies.couldJamesbe
4Whatisculturalstudies?
describedjustaseasilyandperhapsmoreaccuratelyasideologicalstudies'.Therearemanycompeting
definitionsofideology,butitistheformulationestablishedbyHall(1982)whichisgenerallyacceptedas
the dominant definition within cultural studies. Working within a framework of Antonio Gramsci's
conceptofhegemony,Halldevelopedatheoryof'articulation'toexplaintheprocessesofideological
struggle(Hall'suseof'articulation'playsontheterm'sdoublemeaning:toexpressandtojointogether).
Hearguesthatculturaltextsandpracticesarenotinscribedwithmeaning,guaranteedonceandforallby
theintentionsofproduction;meaningisalwaystheresultofanactof'articulation'(anactiveprocessof
'productioninuse').Theprocessiscalled'articulation'becausemeaninghastobeexpressed,butitis
alwaysexpressedinaspecificcontext,aspecifichistoricalmoment,withinaspecificdiscourse(s).Thus
expressionisalwaysconnected(articulated)toandconditionedbycontext.Hallalsodrawsonthework
oftheRussiantheoristValentinVolosinov.Volosinov(1973)arguesthatmeaningisalwaysdetermined
bycontextofarticulation.Culturaltextsandpracticesare'multiaccentual';thatis,theycanbearticualted
withdifferent'accents'bydifferentpeopleindifferentcontextsfordifferentpolitics.Meaningistherefore
asocialproduction;theworldhastobemadetomean.Atextorpracticeoreventisnottheissuingsource
ofmeaning,butasitewherethearticulationofmeaningvariablemeaning(s)cantakeplace.And
becausedifferentmeaningscanbeascribedtothesametextorpracticeorevent,meaningisalwaysa
potential site of conflict. Thus the field of culture is for cultural studies a major site of ideological
struggle;aterrainof'incorporation'and'resistance';oneofthesiteswherehegemonyistobewonorlost.
AccordingtoHall'sinfluentialaccount(Chapter2)oftheformationanddevelopmentofBritishcultural
studies, the key point to understand is that 'there are no "absolute beginnings" and few unbroken
continuities....Whatisimportantarethesignificantbreakswhereoldlinesofthoughtaredisrupted,
older constellations displaced, and elements, old and new, are regrouped around a different set of
premisesandthemes'.Hallchartsthehistoryofculturalstudiesfromits'founding'inthelate1950s,
throughitsinstitutionalizationattheBirminghamCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies(CCCS)in
1964,andthesubsequenttheoreticalmomentsofculturalism,structuralismandGramscianMarxism.1
Otheressayscollectedhereelaborateandextendthishistorytoincludethemomentsofpoststructur
alism and postmodemism (see, for example, Franklin et al., Chapter 15). Others extend the account
geographically,chartingthemovementofculturalstudiesfromBirminghamtoAustraliaandtheUSA.
Cultural studies: a political project

Johnson(Chapter5)arguesthatculturalstudiesispolitical,'butnotinanimmediatepragmaticsense'.
Nelson(Chapter16)makesasimilarpoint:although'culturalstudiesalliesitselfwithandhelpstheorize
politicalaction...politicalactionandculturalstudiesarenotinterchangeable'.Nevertheless,asAlan
O'Connor(Chapter10)contends,'Thetraditionof
Anintroduction5
culturalstudiesisnotoneofvaluefreescholarshipbutofpoliticalcommitment'.ProwandMorris
(Chapter 22) make a similar point: 'cultural studies ... is partisan in its insistence on the political
dimensionofknowledge....(T]heintellectualprojectofculturalstudiesisalwaysatsomelevelmarked...
byadiscourseofsocialinvolvement'.
IntheearlydaysoftheBirminghamCCCS,culturalstudieswasregarded,atleastbyHall(1990a,12),
as'politicsbyothermeans'.Partof,orperhapscentralto,theprojectofculturalstudies(atleastfromthe
1970s)wastheproductionofwhatGramsci(1971)calls'organicintellectuals'.AccordingtoHall(1992,
281),'thereisnodoubtinmymindthatwe[attheCCCS]weretryingtofindaninstitutionalpracticein
culturalstudiesthatmightproduceanorganicintellectual'.
Bennett(Chapter19)ismorethanalittlescepticalofHall'sreadingofculturalstudiesasapolitical
project to establish organic intellectuals. According to Bennett, 'to attribute such a function to an
intellectualprojectwhichhasandcontinuestobebasedprimarilyintheacademysuggestsadegreeof
misrecognition of its relations to the real conditions of its existence that can only be described as
ideological'.ProwandMorris(Chapter22)suggestthat'InAustralianconditions...Bennett'sjudgment
maybetooharsh'.Nevertheless,thechangeinculturalstudiesfrompostgraduateareaofresearchto
undergraduateteaching(students takeundergraduate degrees incultural studiesaretaught cultural
studies)maymeanthatmanyofthegranderclaimsmadeinthe1970sarenolongerapplicableorrelevant
inthe1990s.Ratherthanask'whatisculturalstudies?'perhapsthemorepressingquestionis'whomis
culturalstudiesfor?'
AccordingtoMichaelGreen(Chapter3),itisaquestionoflocatingthenearestappropriate
constituency:
InsidethetheCentre[forContemporaryCulturalStudies],groupsattemptedtothinkoftheirworkinrelationtothe
problemsofthenearestappropriateconstituency,whichmightnotalwaysbethatofteachersinhigherorsecond
aryeducation.Forexample,therecouldbeaconnectionbetweenmediaresearchandtheinterestsofmediaworkers;
betweenresearchonpopularliteratureandalternativepublishersandbookshops,ortheFederationofWorker
Writers;betweenstudiesoftheculturalformationofteenageworking~ssgirlsandstrategiesoffeminist'youth
work'.In.aresponsetoapaperbyHall(1992,294),bellhooksarguedthat,ultimately,thepoliticsofcultural
studiesaretobefoundinitspedagogy:
ReallyrespondingtostudentswhogoseeDotheRightThingandcomebackandsay'Look,wetookyourclass,we
understandthisfeministstandpoint,butwealsothinkSpikeLeeisadownbrothersohowdowedealwithwhatwe
feelw_esawinthisparticularculturalproduction?'Tome,that'stheexcitingd~~ionofculturalstudies,thatitcan
takeplace,notasmewritingap~va~article,butasaresponsetostudentsaskingwhattypeofcriticalthinking
allowsthemtoengagethisculturalproductioninawaythatinformsourpoliticalpractice.
Williams(Chapter8)contendsthatthefutureofculturalstudies(atleastinBri~)shouldbetointervenein
1618educationtochallenge'adefinitionofmdustrialtrainingwhichwouldhavesoundedcrudeinthe
1860s'.
6 What is cultural studies?

Henry A. Giroux (1994), however, argues that cultural studies needs to rethink the practice of
pedagogy;toengageinwhathecalls'criticalpedagogy'.Giroux'spointisthatculturalstudiesfrequently
failstotakeseriouslyquestionsofpedagogy.Toooften,accordingtoGiroux,thoseworkinginthefield
ofculturalstudiesadhereto'thenotionofpedagogyasatransparentvehiclefortransmittingtruthand
knowledge'(1994,130).Butpedagogydoesnotrepresentaneutralsite,freefromtheoperationsofpower
andpolitics.Farfrombeingthesimpletransmissionofreadymadeinformation,pedagogyisforGirouxa
siteofstruggle,aterrainwherethecomplexrelationsbetweenknowledgeandpowerareworkedover.
As part of his project, Giroux distinguishes between a pedagogy of theory and a pedagogy of
theorizing.Putsimply,thisisthedifferencebetweentheoryasabodyofknowledgetobelearntand
theoryasanactivitytobepractised.Intheformer,theoryistaughtasameansofunderstandingthe
world;inthelatter,theorizingisencouragedasapedagogicalpracticeinwhichstudentsbecomeactual
participantsintheuseoftheory.Althoughbotharecrucialtotheproductionof'criticalpedagogy',too
oftenitisonlytheformerwhichactuallyhappens.
Post-Marxism: a crisis In cultural studies?

'Crisis',asLidiaCurti(1992,134)pointsout,'hasbeenthepasswordofthefieldfromHoggartto...
Hebdige'.AngelaMcRobbie(1992,719)agrees:'Thewordcrisisisonewhichappearswithalarming
regularityinthediscoursesofculturalstudies'.ForMcRobbie(ibid.),thecurrentcrisisisperhapsbetter
understoodasa'panic'engenderedbyanunderminingoftheMarxistparadigm:
Marxism,amajorpointofreferenceforthewholeculturalstudiesprojectintheUK,hasbeenunderminednotjust
fromtheviewpointofthepostmodemcriticswhoattackitsteleologicalpropositions,itsmetanarrativestatus,its
essentialism,economism,Eurocentrism,anditsplacewithinthewholeEnlightenmentproject,butalso,ofcourse,
asaresultoftheeventsinEasternEurope,withthediscreditingofmuchofthesocialistproject.
AsMcRobbiepointsout(ibid.),thedebateaboutMarxisminculturalstudieshasyettotakeplace.The
roleofMarxisminculturalstudiesisstilluncertain,butwhatdoesseemtobethecase
isthatthereturntoapreposbnodemMarxismasmarkedoutbycriticslikeFredricJameson(1984)andDavid
Harvey(1989)isuntenablebecausethetermsofthatreturnarepredicatedonprioritizingeconomicrelationsand
economicdeterminationsoverculturalandpoliticalrelationsbypositioningtheselatterinamechanicaland
reflectionistrole.However,thereisasenseinwhichculturalstudieswasalwaysalreadypostMarxist.AsHall
(1992,279)makesclear,
TherewasneverapriormomentwhenculturalstudiesandMarxismrepresentedaperfecttheoreticalfit.Fromthe
beginning...therewasalwaysalreadythequestionofthegreatinadequacies,theoreticallyandpolitically,
Anintroduction7
theresoundingsilences,thegreatevasionsofMarxismthethingsthatMarxdidnottalkaboutorseem
tounderstandwhichwereourprivilegedobjectofstudy:culture,ideology,language,thesymbolic.These
werealwaysalready,instead,thethingswhichhadimprisonedMarxismasamodeofthought,asan
activityofcriticalpracticeitsorthodoxy,itsdoctrinalcharacter,itsdeterminism,itsreductionism,its
immutablelawofhistory,itsstatusasametanarrative.Thatistosay,theencounterbetweenBritish
culturalstudiesandMarxismhasfirsttobeunderstoodastheengagementwithaproblemnotatheory,
notevenaproblematic.Therefore,althoughspeakingofculturalstudiesasapoliticalprojectisto
articulate,soonerorlater,itsrelationshipwithMarxism,andwhileitisclearthatvirtuallyallitsfounding
assumptionsareMarxist,itisnotthecasethatculturalstudiesis'simply'Marxismindisguisewhat
Green(Chapter3)calls'a"cover"forarevisedandqualifiedmarxism'.Marxismwasoneofthethingsit
struggledagainst.AsGreenpointsout,culturalstudieswasborninadoublerefusal.Ontheonehand,it
'refusedtheelitismofhighcultureandthegreattradition'and,ontheother,'itwasequallyopposedtothe
reductionsofmarxismunderstoodasaharddeterminismoftheeconomic'.
Uses and abuses of cultural studies

JimMcGuigan(1992)claimsthatthereal'crisis'inculturalstudiesisthatithasnarroweditsfocusto
questionsofconsumptionwithoutsituatingsuchquestionswithinthecontextofthematerialrelationsof
production. To reverse the trend, he advocates a dialogue between cultural studies and the political
economyofculture.Hefearsthatforculturalstudiestoremainseparateisforittoremainpolitically
ineffective as a mode of explanation, and to risk becoming complicit with the prevailing forces of
exploitationandoppression?
McGuigan(ibid., 85) identifies Fiske's workas 'indicative of the critical d~line of British cultural
studies'.NowMcGuiganmayberightaboutF1Ske,butthisdoesnotmakehimrightaboutcultural
studies.Putsimply,Fiskeisnotculturalstudies(andnorwouldheclaimtobe).Others,fromwithin
culturalstudies,havemadesimilarcriticismsofFiske'sworkforexample,lenAng(Chapter14),Martin
Barker(1990},MartinBarkerandAnneBeezer(1992},LawrenceGrossberg(1992)andMorris(Chapter
7).Toes!ablishFiskeasculturalstudiesrequirestheirexclusionitrequiresareifi~andreducedfieldof
study.DavidHarris's(1992)critiqueofculturalstudtesoperatesinmuchthesameway.Forexample,in
his discussion of What he regards as the inadequacies of youth studies at the CCCS, he uses th~
contributionsofJennyGarberandMcRobbietohighlightthegenderblindnessofmuchofthisearly
work.Butheconvenientlyfailstoacknowledge,forthetellingmomentofhiscritique,thatbothGarber
and McRobbie make their criticisms not only from within cultural studies but also in one of ~e
BirminghamCentre'sownpublications.Inotherwords,thefactthattheuargument(theirwork)isalso
culturalstudiesisbracketedoutoftheargumentinorderforittofunctionasacritiqueofculturalstudies.
8Whatisculturalstudies?
Whateverelseculturalstudiesis,itiscertainlynotthemonolithicunityconjuredupbybothMcGuigan
andHarris.AsGreen(Chapter3)pointsout,'culturalstudieshasbeenresolutely"impure"'.Frowand
Morris(Chapter22)alsorefertothe'methodologicalimpurity'ofculturalstudies.Hall(1992,278)
makesthisveryclear:
CulturalStudieshasmultiplediscourses;ithasanumberofdifferenthistories.Itisawholesetofformations;ithas
itsowndifferentconjuncturesandmomentsinthepast.Itincludedmanydifferentkindsofwork.Iwanttoinsiston
that! It always was a set of unstable formations. It was 'centred' only in quotation marks. . . . It had many
trajectories;manypeoplehadandhavedifferenttheoreticalpositions,allofthemincontention.Theoreticalworkat
theCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudieswasmoreappropriatelycalledtheoreticalnoise.Itwasaccompanied
byagreatdealofbadfeeling,argument,unstableanxieties,andangrysilences.
Forexample,thecentralityofclassinculturalstudieswasdisruptedfirstbyfeminism'sinsistenceonthe
importanceofgender,andthenbyblackstudentsraisingquestionsabouttheinvisibilityofraceinmuch
culturalstudiesanalysis.WomenTakeIssue(Women'sStudiesGroup,1978,15)isatellingexample:
'Ourinitialreasonforwantingtoproducethebookwasfundamental:thecontinuedabsencefromCCCS
ofavisibleconcernwithfeministissues.'TheEmpireStrikesBack(CentreforContemporaryCultural
Studies,1982,7)announces:
Therearemanyreasonswhytheissuesraisedbythestudyof'races'andracismsshouldbecentraltotheconcernsof
culturalstudies.Yetracistideologiesandracialconflictshavebeenignored,bothinhistoricalwritingandin
accountsofthepresent.Ifnothingelse,thisbookshouldbetakenasasignalthatthismarginalizationcannot
continue.
PaulGilroy(1987,12)makesasimilarpointinThereAin'tNoBlackInTheUnionJack:'Thebook...
relatedtoitsoriginsinculturalstudies...seekstoprovide...acorrectivetothemoreethnocentric
dimensionsofthatdiscipline.'Culturalstudieshasalwaysbeenanunfoldingdiscourse,respondingto
changinghistoricalandpoliticalconditionsandalwaysmarkedbydebate,disagreementandintervention.
Nowthisdoesnotmeanthatculturalstudiesisacompletelyopendisciplinaryfield.Onecannotsimply
renameasculturalstudieswhatonealreadydoesinordertoimpresspublishersortosalvageadeclining
areaofacademicwork.Culturalstudiesdoesmeansomething.
Therecanbenodoubtthatculturalstudieshasbeenexperiencinggreatsuccessrecently.Whilesuccess
istobewelcomed,therearesuspicionsthatitmightnotbeallthatitseems.Nelsonetal.(1992,1011),
forexample,claimthat'Toomanypeoplesimplyrenamewhattheywerealreadydoingtotakeadvantage
of the cultural studies boom'. Grossberg (1992, 404) makes a similar point: 'Many of those now
describingtheirworkasculturalstudieswereattackingculturalstudiesonlyafewyearsagoalthough
theyhavenotchangedtheirprojectintheinterim.Manyofthosewhonowappropriatethetermwantto
readonlyveryselectivelyinthetradition.'
Anintroduction9
Hegemony theory revisited

McRobbie's(1994)responsetothesocalled'crisis'inculturalstudiesistoargueforareturntoneo
Gramscianhegemonytheory.McRobbieacceptsthatculturalstudieshasbeenradicallytransformedas
debatesabout~tmodemism
andpostmodemityhavereplacedthemorefamiliardebatesaboutideologyandhegemony.Cultural
studies,sheclaims,hasrespondedintwoways.Ontheonehand,ithaspromptedareturntoeconomic
reductiveformsofanalysis;andontheother,ithasgivenrisetostoodanuncriticaltooexclusively
celebrationintermsofconsumerism,ofpleasureandinwhichmeaningmaking.consumptionMcRobbie
isunder
arguesforareturntotheconceptof'reproduction'toenableconsumptiontobeseeninitsbroadercontext
ofpoliticalandsocialrelations.Sherejectsareturn'toacrudeandmechanicalbasesuperstructuremodel,
andalsothedangers of pursuingakindofcultural populism toapoint at whichanythingwhichis
consumedandispopularisalsoseenasoppositional'(ibid.,39).1nstead,shecallsfor'anextensionof
Gramscianculturalanalysis'(ibid.)andforareturntoethnographicculturalanalysiswhichtakesasits
objectofstudy'[t}helivedexperiencewhichbreatheslifeinto[the}...inanimateobjects[ofpopular
culture]'(ibid.,27).Suchworkwouldbesituatedinacontextofreproduction.
Ang(Chapter14)alsocallsfor'areturntotheproblematicofhegemony':
Toavoidthe'banality'incultural studiesthat Morris[Chapter7]pointsto...theethnographicperspectiveon
audiencesneedstobeplacedinabroadertheoreticalframework,sothatitceasestobejustasophisticatedempirical
audienceresearch,butbecomespartofamoreencompassingunderstanding,bothstructuralandhistorical,ofour
contemporaryculturalcondition.
NeoGramscianhegemonytheoryatitsbestinsiststhatthereisadialecticbetweentheprocessesof
productionandtheactivitiesofconsumption.Theconsumeralwaysconfrontsatextorpracticeinits
materialexistenceasaresultorpracticeofdeterminateisconfrontedconditionsbyaconsumerof
production.whoButineffectintheproducessameway,intheusetexttherangeofpossiblemeaning(s)
thesecannotjustbereadofffromthematerialityofthetextorpractice,orthemeansorrelationsofits
production.Culturalstudieswouldalsoinsistthatmakingpopularculture('productioninuse')canbe
empoweringtosubordinateandresistanttodominantunderstandingsoftheworld.Butthisisnottosay
thatpopularcultureisalwaysempoweringandresistant.Todenythepassivityofconsumptionisnotto
denythatsometimesconsumptionispassive;todenythattheconsumersofpopularculturearenot
culturaldupesisnottodenythatthecultureindustriesseektomanipulate.Butitistodenythatpopular
cultureislittlemorethanadegradedlandscapeofcommercialandtdealogicalmanipulation,successfully
imposedfromabove,tomakeprofitandsecuresocialcontrol.Thebestofculturalstudiesinsiststhatto
decide~esemattersrequiresvigilanceandattentiontothedetailsoftheproduction,distributionand
consumptionofculture.Thesearenotmattersthatcan.~edecidedonceandforall(outsidethe
contingenciesofhistoryandpolitics)withanelitistglanceandacondescendingsneer.Norcanthey
10Whatisculturalstudies?
be read off from the moment of production (locating meaning, pleasure, ideological effect, etc., in,
variously,theintention,themeansofproductionortheproductionitself):theseareonlyaspectsofthe
contextsfor'productioninuse',anditis,ultimately,in'productioninuse'thatquestionsofmeaning,
pleasure,ideologicaleffect,etc.,canbe(contingently)decided.Moreover,itisimportanttodistinguish
betweenthepowerofthecultureindustriesandthepoweroftheirinfluence.Toooftenthetwoare
conflated,buttheyarenotnecessarilythesame.Thetroublewiththepoliticaleconomyapproachisthat
toooftenitisassumedthattheyarethesame.
Whileitisclearlyimportanttolocatethetextsandpracticesofpopularculturewithinthefieldoftheir
economicdeterminations,itisclearlyinsufficienttodothisandthinkyouhavealsoanalysedimportant
questionsofaudienceappropriationanduse.AsHall(Chapter2)pointsout,theproblemwiththe
politicaleconomyofcultureapproachis that'It tends toconceivethe economiclevelas not onlya
"necessary"buta"sufficient"explanationofculturalandideologicaleffects'.
Therearedifferentwaysofthinking,differentwaysofusingwhatHallcalls'theenormouslyproductive
metaphorofhegemony'(1992,280).Hegemonytheoryinculturalstudiesoperatesnotalwaysquiteas
formulatedbyGramsci.Theconcepthasbeenexpandedandelaboratedtotakeintoaccountotherareas
ofstruggle.WhereasforGramscitheconceptisusedtoexplainandexplorerelationsofpowerarticulated
in terms of class, recent formulations in cultural studies have extended the concept to include, for
example,gender,race,meaningandpleasure.Whathasremainedconstant(orrelativelyconstantunder
the impact of political and theoretical change, from the leftLeavisism of Richard Haggart to the
postmodemismof,forexample,McRobbie,FiskeandGrossberg)isaparticularguidingprincipleof
culturalanalysis.ItisfirstfoundinwhatGreen(Chapter3)quiterightlycalls'Haggart'sremarkably
enduringformulation':'Againstthisbackgroundmaybeseenhowmuchthemoregenerallydiffused
appealsofthemasspublicationsconnectwithcommonlyacceptedattitudes,howtheyarealteringthose
attitudesandhowtheyaremeetingresistance'(myitalics,Haggart,1957,19).Inthe1960sitisgivena
culturalistaccentbyHallandWhannel:'Teenagecultureisacontradictorymixtureoftheauthenticand
the manufactured: it is an area of selfexpression for the young and a lush grazing pasture for the
commercialproviders'(myitalics,1964,276).Inthe1970sitisfoundintheGramsciantonesofJohn
Clarkeetal.:'Menandwomenare...formed,andformthemselvesthroughsociety,cultureandhistory.
So the existing cultural patterns form a sort of historical reservoir a preconstituted "field of
possibilities"whichgroupstakeup,transform,develop.Eachgroupmakessomethingofitsstarting
conditionsandthroughthis"making",throughthispractice,cultureisreproducedandtransmitted'(my
italics,1976,11).Inthe1980swehearitintheFoucauldiananalysisofMicaNava:'Consumerismisfar
more than just economic activity: it is also about dream and consolation, communication and
confrontation,imageandidentity....Consumerismisadiscoursethroughwhichdisciplinarypoweris
bothexercisedandcontested'(myitalics,1987,20910).Inthe1990sitislocatedbyAngelaMcRobbie
inthe'newtimes'ofpostmodemism:'Finally
Anintroduction11
we need a mode of analysis which is connective and integrative and which tracks the social and
ideologicalrelationswhichprevailateverylevelbetweenculturalproductionandconsumption...from
whereitissociallyconstructedtowhereitissociallydeconstructedandcontested,intheinstitutions,
practicesandrelationshipsofeverydaylife'(myitalics,1994,41).Ineverydecadeinthehistoryof
culturalstudies,thepointhasbeenmadeandrepeated.Itisthe'Gramscianinsistence'(before,withand
afterGramsci),learntfromMarx,thatwemakecultureandwearemadebyculture;thereisagencyand
thereisstructure.Itisnotenoughtocelebrateagency;norisitenoughtodetailthestructure(s)ofpower
wemustalwayskeepinmindthedialecticalplaybetweenresistanceandincorporation.Thebestof
culturalstudieshasalwaysbeenmindfulofthis.
Where is cultural studies?

Thingshavecertainlychangedagreatdealsincetheearlydaysofculturalstudies.Hall(Chapter21)
remembers: 'When I first went to the University of Birmingham in 1964 to help Professor Richard
Hoggart found the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, no such thing as cultural studies yet
existed....Todayculturalstudiesprogramsexisteverywhere,especiallyintheUnitedStates.'
Duringthecourseofthelast1520years,thelocationofculturalstudieshasshiftedfromBritainto
Australia,theUSAandbeyond.3Theinternationalizationofculturalstudiescanbeeasilydemonstrated
byanexaminationoftheeditorialboardofthejournal,CulturalStudies.Ofits47members,19arefrom
theUSA,ninefromAustralia,ninefromtheUK,fivefromCanada,twofromItaly,andoneeachfrom
Germany,FinlandandTaiwan.4
Morris(Chapter7)tellsusthat'culturalstudiesinAustraliahasbeenforsometimeinthestatethatthe
Japanesecallaboom'.Whatshemeansbythisisnotjustthatculturalstudiesisdevelopingquicklyin
Australiabut'thatthemarketingofculturalstudiesisbeginningtodefineandrestrictwhatitispossibleto
doandsayinitsname'.GraemeTurner(Chapter20)makesasimilarpoint:
InAustralia...theinfluenceofBritishculturalstudieshasbeenprofound.Mostofusareawarethat,asitestablishes
itselfevermoresecurelywithinthea~~~y,andasitbecomesincreasinglycomfortableinitsrelationswiththe
discip~esitoriginallyinterrogated,Britishculturalstudiesisindangerofbecommgapedagogicratherthana
criticalorpoltiicalenterprise.~(1?92,285)alsospeaksofdanger.ItistheUSAratherthanAustraliaWhich1shis
concern.Hisfocusiswhathecalls
~eenormousexplosionofculturalstudiesintheUS,itsrapidprofessionalizationandinstitutionalization,isnota
momentwhichanyofuswhotriedtosetupamarginalizedCentreinauniversitylikeBirminghamcould,inany
simpleway,regret.AndyetIhavetosay,inthestrongestsense,thatitremindsmeofthewaysinwhich,inBritain,
wearealwaysawareofinstitutionalizationasamomentofprofounddanger.
12Whatisculturalstudies?
WhatconcernsHallisthattheinstitutionalizationofculturalstudiesinAmericawillfollowthesame
patternastheinstitutionalizationofFrenchdeconstruction;itwill'formalizeoutofexistencethecritical
questions of power, history, and politics' by reducing them to 'exclusively matters of language and
textuality'(ibid.,286).ButHalldoesnotadvocatetheculturalstudiesequivalentofa'backtobasics'
policy(inthisinstance,areturntoBritishorigins).Asheexplains,1thasnothingtodowith[American]
culturalstudiesmakingitselfmorelikeBritishculturalstudies,whichisIthink,anentirelyfalseand
emptycausetotrytopropound'(ibid.).
O'Connor's(Chapter10)worryisslightlydifferent.HecontendsthatintheUSAculturalstudiesisin
dangerofbecoming'synonymouswithvarioustypesofpostmodemtheorizing'.Butworsestill,'Cultural
studiesintheUnitedStatesisbeingsponsoredbyscholarswhorarelyhaveanyconnectiontoexisting
politicalandculturalmovementsandaresomewhatsurprisedthatthismightevenbepossible'.Nelson
(Chapter16)isconcernedthat'Ofalltheintellectualmovementsthathavesweptthehumanitiesin
Americasincetheseventies,nonewillbetakenupsoshallowly,soopportunistically,sounreflectively,
andsoahistoricallyasculturalstudies'.InaGramscianmove('pessimismoftheintellect,optimismofthe
will'),Nelson,ontheonehand,wishestoencourageotheracademicstohelp'makeAmericaninstitutions
nervousaboutculturalstudies'while,ontheother,remainingresignedtothefactthat'Thedepoliticizing
ofculturalstudieswillnodoubtpayoff,makingitmorepalatableatoncetograntingagenciesandto
conservativecolleagues,administrators,andpoliticians,butonlyatthecostofblockingculturalstudies
fromhavinganycriticalpurchaseonthisnation'ssociallife'.
ElizabethLong(Chapter11)arguesfortheneedtopreventthemarginalizationofBritishfeminist
culturalstudies(an'exclusion'shealreadydetectstakingplace)asitisthistraditionthathas'thebest
chanceofmaintainingacriticalstanceinitsappropriationbyfeministscholarsinAmerica,bothbecause
oftheirconnectionswithabroadsocialmovementandbecauseofthenatureoftheirpracticeswithinthe
academy'.Forthesereasons'feminismiscentralfordevelopingthecriticalpotentialofculturalstudies'.
EllenRooney(Chapter12)makesmuchthesameargument,pointingtothefactthattheabsenceofa
politicalconstituencyoutsidetheuniversity(unlike,say,women'sstudiesorAfricanAmericanstudies)
makesculturalstudies'peculiarlyvulnerabletopoliticalneutralizationwithintheuniversity'.
ManthiaDiawara(Chapter18)focusesonthewayAfricanAmericanstudiesshouldrespondtothe
import of cultural studies. He distinguishes between two traditions in British cultural studies, the
BirminghamSchool(CCCS)andwhathecallsthe'BlackBritishSchool',consistingofLondonbased
blackartistsandwriters.IntheUSA,AfricanAmericanstudiesmustembracebothschools,notinorder
to replicate what they have already done but to make a cultural studies grounded in the material
conditionsofAmericanlife,toproducewhathecalls'performancestudies','thestudyofwaysinwhich
black people, through communicative action, created and continue to create themselves within the
Americanexperience'.
Finally,itseemsappropriatetoclosewithHall'sdemand(Chapter21)for
Anintroduction13
adeepercommitmentwithinculturalstudies(regardlessofitsgeographiclocation)totheanalysisof
racism:
theworkthatculturalstudieshastodoistomobilizeeverythingthatitcanfindintermsofintellectualresourcesin
ordertounderstandwhatkeepsmakingtheJiveswelive,andthesocietieswelivein,profoundlyanddeeply
antihumaneintheircapacitytolivewithdifference.CulturalStudies'messageisamessageforacademicsand
intellectualsbut,fortunately,formanyotherpeopleaswell.Inthatsense,Ihavetriedtoholdtogetherinmyown
intellectuallife,ontheonehand,theconvictionandpassionandthedevotiontoobjectiveinterpretation,toanalysis,
torigorousanalysisandunderstanding,tothepassiontofindout,andtotheproductionofknowledgethatwedid
notknowbefore.But,ontheother,Iamconvincedthatnointellectualworthhisorhersalt,andnouniversitythat
wantstoholdupitsheadinthefaceofthetwentyfirstcentury,canaffordtoturndispassionateeyesawayfromthe
problemsofraceandethnicitythatbesetourworld.Itisnotpossibletobeinculturalstudiesandtonotagreewith
Hall'sclaimonthefutureofculturalstudies.

Notes
1.Foranotherversionofthishistory,withparticularreferencetopopularculture,
seeStorey(1993)andStorey(1994).2.Foraninformedandpolemicaldebatebetweenculturalstudiesandthe
political
economyofculture,seeCriticalStudiesinMassCommunication12(1995).3.SeeBillSchwarz'sessay,'Where
isculturalstudies?(1994).Theessayhasadoublefocus:ontheonehand,itposesthequestioninthesensethat
culturalstudieshasgonemissingand,ontheother,intermsofthenewgeographiclocationsofculturalstudies.4.
ThereadingscollectedherearedividedamongAustralia(Chapters7,14,19,20and22),Britain(Chapters1,2,3,5,
8,13,15and21)andtheUSA(Chapters4,6,9,10,11,12,16,17and18).
1
The evolution of cultural studies

ColinSparks
Itisextremelydifficulttodefine'CulturalStudies'withanydegreeofprecision.Itisnotpossibletodraw
asharplineandsaythatononesideofitwecanfindtheproperprovinceofculturalstudies.Neitherisit
possibletopointtoaunifiedtheoryormethodologywhicharecharacteristictoitorofit.Averitable
ragbagofideas,methodsandconcernsfromliterarycriticism,sociology,history,mediastudies,etc.,are
lumpedtogetherundertheconvenientlabelofculturalstudies.
Theintellectualproblemiscompoundedbyaninstitutionaldifficulty.Whileitispossibletolocate
literarycriticism,sociology,evenmediastudies,atanumberoflevelsfromthelearnedjournalsthrough
hlghereducationandtheschoolcurriculumdowntothepublishingpolicyofPenguinBooks,itisnot
possible to perform the same operation for cultural studies. There is one institution, the Centre for
ContemporaryCulturalStudiesatUniversityofBirmingham.Therearethespasmodicpublicationsof
itsjournal,WorkingPapersinCulturalStudies.Thereareanumberofemergingundergraduatecourses.
Butatthesametimetherearepeoplebeaveringawayatverysimilarproblems,writingandresearching
andteaching,ofteninconsiderableisolation.
InthispaperIintendtolookataverylimitedpartofthiscomplexwhole:theworkoftheBirmingham
Centre.Therearethreereasonsforthis.Thefirstandsimplestisthesheerbiographicalaccidentofhaving
spenttwoyearsasamemberwhichhasgivenmearathergreaterfamiliaritywithitsconcernsthanIcan
claimforotherareas.Thesecondisexogenoustothecentre:itswork,andinparticularitspublications,
haveawideandgrowinginfluenceinthecircleswhichdiscusstheseissues.1Thethirdisendogenous:as
aresultofitsuniqueinstitutionalpositiontheBirminghamCentrehas,initsowninternaldevelopment,
confrontedthedilemmasoftheprojectofculturalstudieswithaparticularintensity.Ibelievethatthis
selfimposed restriction allows for the understanding of much, but not all, of the advances made in
culturalstudies.
Theoriginsofculturalstudieslieintwobookspublishedinthe1950s:TheUsesofLiteracybyRichard
HoggartandCultureandSocietybyRaymond
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...15
WJ.l]jaJnS.
2

BothofthesewritersemergedoutoftheacademicstudyofEnglishThisisparticularlyLiteratureandtrue
theoftwoCulturebooksandbearSociety.considerableTwentyevidenceyearslater,ofthat.itis
~aments.ossibletoreadthebookasThefirstisaprotractedconsistingoftwoseparateandunequaland
painfulsettlingofaccountswiththeliterarytraditionwhichnotonlymakesupthebulkofthematerialof
thebookbutpervadesitswhole,andverypeculiar,style.Thesecondisconcentratedinthe'Introduction'
and'Conclusion'andbeginstoconsidertheimplicationsofthenowfamousreformulationofthescopeof
culture.3ThissecondmomentisdevelopedinsomeofWilliams'laterwork,in
articularinTheLongRevolution.4pTheadvantagesofthisrestrospectivereadingareevident:inthe
caseofWilliams,inparticular,itispossibletolocatetheoriginsofculturalstudiesinarejectionofa
particulardominantnotionofculture.5Itisoutofthatrejection,withallitshesitationsandevasions,that
culturalstudiesissued.However,thelimitationsofthehistoricalreadingareconsiderable.The
implicationsoftheequallyfamous'shiftfromtheaesthetictotheanthropologicaldefinitionofculture'
wereindeedprofoundbuttherupturewasacomplexprocessandatleastthreefeaturesofculturalstudies
itsomnivorousconcerns,itspopulismanditsrelativeinstitutionalmarginalityaremarkedbythe
continuitiesanddiscontinuitiesoftheruptureitself.
Thecrisisofliterarycriticismwasnot,asissometimessupposed,thatitgaveexclusiveattentionto'great
writers'and'greatworksofart',andthatthisprovidednobasisforthestudyof'popularculture'.Thisis
simplynottrueofArnold,EliotorLeavis,althoughthechargemayhavesomejusticewhendirected
againsttheirepigones.AllofthesewriterswereconcernedpreciselyartobviousofLiterature,example;
withtheandrelationshipsogeneralisNotessocialbetweentowardsorganisation.aculture,Definition
andCultureofinCulture.particularandAnarchyLeavistheishightoo,an
althoughprofessionallyconcernedwithhighart,hadmorefarreachingaimswhichareoftenexpressedin
surprisingterms:
[CecilSharp)discoveredthatthetraditionsofsonganddance...hadpersistedsovigorouslybecausethewhole
contexttowhichfolksongandfolkdancebelongwastheretoo:hediscovered,infact,acivilisationor'wayoflife'
(inourdemocraticparlance)thatwastrulyanartofsocialliving.6
The.~aloriginsofthecrisiswerequitepreciselypolitical?Thedominanttradition~asopenly
unashamedlyandprofoundlyantidemocratic~culturald~ocrao/studies,wasfromchampionedits
inception,wasachampionofdemocracy.Butbyasimplereversalofterms.Theplusand?:er~usnotions
thes1gnsoftotal.projectcultureon'elite'wereofandLiterarysetin'popular'motionCriticismonce
reversed:butagain.definedtheCulturalsameitsseparationfundamentalstudiesfromtook~P~ntby1ts
populism.Itthusconsigneditselftoinstitutionalmargintymawaythatsociologydidnotthe
intellectualspacewhichitProposed.to~wasalreadydominatedbyitshostileparent,whichhadPow~
s~ertamInstitutionalotherfeatuz:esmotivesofculturalforastudieslittlequietrevealinfanticide.9
theextenttowhichthectureofthedommantmodelofthe
culturalwasdirectlyinherited.
16Whatisculturalstudies?
ThisdominantmodelseemstometobeapeculiarlyBritishversionofthedevelopmentofanaffirmative
cultme.10Thismayseematfirstsighttocontradictwhatwasarguedabovebuttheoppositionofthetwo
positionsisinfacttheconditionfortheirunity.Thedominantmodelbeganwitharadicalseparation
between'work'and'cultme'andinplaceofthatmaterialdeterminationintroducedtheemptyandnon
contradictory notion of 'community' or 'whole way of life'. That false resolution, which ignored the
critiquesofRuskinandMorrisnottomentionMarxwasinfacttakenoverwholesalebycultural
studies.UWithinthatfundamentalseparationtheconceptionofculturewasonceagainreifiedtoexclude
anyreferencetosocialantagonism.Thusanonantagonisticcultmecouldbereintroducedasahealing
balmforsocialantagonisms;thattoowastakenoverwholesale.Inthedevelopingmodelofcultural
studiestheoperativenotionofculturewasoneinwhichculturearosefromawholewayoflifeandwasa
meansbywhichthosewithinthatpregivenstructuregavemeaningtotheirexperiences.Thosedeep
lyingcontradictionsgaverisetothesurfaceodditiesofculturalstudies:inparticularitscombinationof
historic nostalgia and radical ahistoricity; its combination of democratic aspirations and fundamental
conservatism;itscombinationofpoliticalintentions,andneglectofpolitics.
However,sincetheworkofthefoundingfathersandtheirimmediatedisciples,therehasbeenafurther
rupturethatoccasionedbytheCentre'sencounterwithMarxism.Intheoryatleastthisshouldhaveledto
aclarificationoftheproblemsandopenedthewaytotheirresolution.Thebodyofthispaperwillargue
thatthissecondencounterhasbeenasproblematicasthefirstandthat,althoughatthesurfacelevelthis
hasledtomarkedchangesintheworkproduced,atthefundamentallevelthetransformationhasbeenas
yetincomplete.Someofthecurrentdevelopmentsindicatethatthisisdevelopingtowardsacrisiswhose
outcomeisunpredictable.
TheencounterwithMarxismclearlycannotbediscussedwithreferencetotheBirminghamCentrealone:
thatdevelopmentispartofthetransformationwhichhasoccurredinBritishintellectuallifeinthelast
tenyears.Theaveragesocialscienceundergraduatetodayisprobablymorefamiliarwiththeworkof
Marxthantheaverageprofessorofsociologywastenyearsago.Wearenot,ofcourse,speakingofa
purelyintellectualmovement.Therootsofthisproblemareundoubtedlysocialandclearlyextendmuch
furtherthanthenarrowlydefined'intellectual'milieuitself.Theimmediatecauseoftheconcernwith
Marxismcanbelocatedin1968anditsaftermaththesimpletemporalfactthatthemembersofthe
RSSFarenow,rathermoresoberly,membersofNATFHE,theNUT,theAUT,ASTMS,orwhatever.
Boththeeventsofthatperiodandthenatureoftheirpersistenteffectrequireexplanationintheirturn.
TheexplanationwhichranalongthelinesofthefailuresoftheWilsonGovernment,theimpactofthe
Vietnam War and the impact of the French events no longer seems adequate. All of those factors
undoubtedlyplayedarolebutnoneofthemcanaccountforthepersistenceoftheissues,andindeedof
thepersonnel.Anyadequateexplanationofthephenomenonhas
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...17
tobelocatedinthestructureofBritishsociety.WehavetodistinguishbetWeentheconjuncturalfactors
underlyingthenewmoodof1968andtoalargeextent"itwaspreciselyamoodandthehistorical
forceswhichhavedeterminedthetrajectoryoftheBritishintelligentsiaforthelast
decade.Thebureaucraticrati'onalisati'onofmtellectua1lifehasbeenapersiStent
tendencyofthebourgeois
epoch12althoughthisprocesshastakenplaceextremelyunevenlybothbetweenandwithinvarious
nationalstates.TorestrictouranalysissimplytoBritishcapitalism,itismycontentionthatthelast30
yearshaveseenaqualitativeaccelerationofthisprocessandthatcertaininternalfeaturesofthe
developmentitselfhaveassumedadecisiverole.Thestatemachinehasbeenexpandedconsiderably
withinthelast30yearsandtherangeofitsinterventionsinsociallifeincreased.Thisisparticularlytrue
ofeducationand,morerecently,ofhighereducation.
Thisextensionofstateorganisationtoarangeofintellectualfunctionshasmeantthatthenotoriouslabel
'petitbourgeoisgreatCounterdealPointofitshasobjectivealmostvaliditydisappeared.theworldThe
ofNewintellectual'GrubStreethasorlostPointa
general tendency of modem capitalism is to reduce the
intellectualnotmerelytotheroleofbureaucraticfunctionarybutincreasinglytothatofwageworker.At
thesametimeboththeconditionsandrewardsof'mentallabour'haveapproximatedmoreandmore
closelytothoseof'manuallabour'.Theprocessofthedivisionoflabour,asageneralfeatureofcapitalist
society,hasextendedevermoresharplyinsidetheworldof'mentallabour'P
Inthissensetheruptureof1968wasnotsimplyaresponsetoaseriesofeventspresentingthemselves
at the political level, nor a mere reflection of the beginning of general crisis of advanced capitalist
societies.Bothofthesefactorswereundoubtedlypresent,buttherewasalsoathirdimportantfeature:the
initialandconfusedsubjectiverecognitionofanobjectivechangeinthepositionoftheintelligentsia.The
subsequentevolutionofthequencesintelligentsiaofthatchange.
is,atleastinpart,anattempttoworkouttheconse
Thatevolutionhasbeenacomplexandcontradictoryone.Ifwetakeabroaddefinitionof'intelligentsia'
wecanseethatthetendencytowards~age~<;>rkproceedsatanunevenpaceforvarioussections.Atthe
sameW<;>rlcingtilne,.1t
IS

class':notsimplyitisalsoa'proletarianisation'atendencytowardsorthethecreationconstructionofa
newofalabour'new
~"!tocra~str:ucturallydependentuponthestatemachine.Butthatchange,both~~subJ~veandobjective
aspects,tookplacewithinageneralevolutionpbj:U~ve00intf~ssal.workingand~un~otence~ly
alternativespresentedclass:persistentinresultinganwhichtoarchaictheseformthefromtaken
institutionsmajorandtheirimpenetrablebypoliticalextremethisremainedsubjectiveandmarginality.
facadeeconomictrappedmovementwhileinstitutionsHencewithintheofselfthean
ane>Qs~itn.tingpoli~?Sationpolitical?rganiSations.co~pl~withItrequiredanapparentlysome
contradictoryyearsofexperience,rejectionandof
berrtanttheoreappropnatetheretheoretical.wasorgansanysubstantialchangesofreformiston
organisationaltheandpartstatistofthesocialism.
influxmajorofpoliticalthenewinstitutions,forcesinto
18Whatisculturalstudies?
Thereremains,however,theimportantproblemofwhythisevolutionshouldbearguedoutinthe
terminologyofMarxism.ThatthisshouldoccurinBritain,ofallplaces,is,onthefaceofit,extremely
unusual.Inthefirstplace,thereisalongtraditionofreformistandstatistsocialismreachingbackatleast
totheFabianswhichisarticulatedinspecificallyantiMarxistterms.Secondly,theMarxisttraditionin
Britain,bothpracticallyandtheoretically,hasalwaysoccupiedanextremelymarginalposition.Thefirst
questionisfairlyeasilyansweredinthatthepoliticalconjunctureinwhichthismovementbeganwas
precisely one in which the Fabian tradi tion had transparently failed to realise its own reforming
pretensions.Thesecondismorecomplexandrequiresattentiontothenarrowdefinitionof'intellectuals'.
Giventhattheproblemwasfirstposedamongstudentsinhighereducationtheinternalcontradictions
ofthoseinstitutionsplayedamajorrole.Attheheartofthemassiveexpansionofhighereducationinthe
sixtiestherewasacontradictionbetweenthehumaneliberalconservativeorthodoxywhichformedboth
thehistoricallegacyofhighereducationanditscurrentinstitutionalpinnacleontheonehand,andthe
narrow'technocratic'protagonistsofexpansionontheother.Neitheroftheseforceswasabletoprovide
anyserious critical perspectiveonBritishsocietyoneseekingitsvalues fromitsowncomfortable
insertionintothemostarchaicfeaturesofBritishcapitalism,theotherseekstodestroythosearchaic
featuresinordertosalvagecapitalismasawhole.ThusBritishintellectuallifewasunabletoreproduce
itselffrominside,butthetwoforcesinconflictbarredcertainoptionsandopenedothers.Thehumane
traditioncouldbeusedtocounterthespecialismandtheruthlessandvaluelesssocialengineeringofthe
modernisers.Thetechnocraticcritiqueoftheoldtraditioncouldbeusedtoblockofftheescaperoute
intothearchaic.Bothtogetherwereunitedintheirmutedinsistencethattherewassomethingwrongwith
Britishsociety.ThusanycriticalperspectivehadtocomefromoutsideBritishintellectuallife.Infacta
wholerangeof alternativesweretakenupandtriedonfor size. Manyof thesehadamuchgreater
immediateattractionthatMarxismbut,unliketheothers,itprovidedanactivistperspectivewhich,over
time,wasboundtowinoutagainstthefundamentaltendenciestowardsquietisticindividualismwhich
layattherootofthecompetitors.
Marxism,therefore,hascometodominatethecriticalareasofBritishintellectuallife.Butwehave
beenusingthetermverylooselyanditisnownecessarytobecriticalofthecritics.Therewas,ofcourse,
afundamentalproblemwhichconfrontednewdiscoverersofMarxismandwhichgavetheearlyphaseof
themovementsomuchofthecharacterofaChildren'sCrusade.ThemostobviousfeatureofMarxismis
thatitgivestheworkingclass,andinparticulartheindustrialproletariat,anabsoluteroleasthebearersof
socialism.UnfortunatelyinBritainin1968thiswaspatentlynotaveryusefulstatement.Ittherefore
provednecessarytomakeanumberofadjustments,nottosayrevisions,totheoriginaltheory.Boththe
originalencounterwithMarxismandthesubsequentevolutioninBritainhavebeenmarkedbyastruggle
toresolvethisproblem.
IfweexaminesomeoftheoriginaltextsthroughwhichMarxismwas
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...19
encountere~,weconfrontthisproblemverysharply.AtitscrudestitwasforJI\ulatedmtheseterms:
...thetraditionalcriticalstructures,thatis,theleftpoliticalpartiesand,abovealltion,thetothworkers'eeXJSting
..movementsoctety.
have...14

stoppedplayingtheirroleofradicalopposi
Therewereother,perhapsmoreinfluentialandcertainlymorehonest,attemptstoconfronttheproblem.
Marcuseprovidesthebestexample,notonlyarguingthatthepracticalproblemwascapableofresolution
because:
...underneaththeconservativepopularbaseisthesubstratumoftheoutcastsandoutsiders,theexploitedand
persecutedofotherracesandothercolours,theunemployedandtheunemplo;able...theiroppositionis
revolutionaryeveniftheirconsciousnessisnot.1butsocialalsoreality:
recognisingandconfrontingthetheoreticalproblemposedbythis
Atitsoriginsinthefirsthalfofthenineteenthcentury,whenitelaboratedthefirstconceptsofthealternatives,the
critiqueofindustrialsocietyattainedconcretenessinahistoricalmediationbetweentheoryandpractice,valuesand
facts,needsandgoals.Thishistoricalmediationoccurredintheconsciousnessandinthepoliticalactionofthetwo
greatclasseswhichfacedeachotherinsociety:thebourgeoisieandtheproletariatInthecapitalistworldtheyare
stillthebasicclasses.However,thecapitalistdevelopmenthasalteredthestructureandfunctionofthesetwoclasses
insuchawaythattheynolongerappeartobeagentsofhistoricaltransformation....Intheabsenceofdemon
strableagentsandagenciesofsocialchange,thecritiqueisthusthrownbacktoahighlevelofabstraction.Thereis
nogroundonwhichtheoryandpractice,thoughtandactionmeet.161beTherefirstwere,wasfundamentally,to
accept,moretwoorless,alternativetheoutlinesresolutionsofMarcuse'stotheseanalysisproblems.andto
construct,amixtureofpracticalactivitywhichlayoutside,oratthe~,orthodoxworkingclasspoliticalactivity,and
atthesametime~tinueanalmostindependentcriticalactivity,atahighlevelofabstrac
ruonably~!The_Thesecondothertermedalternativewastheto'worldrejectwas,giventheofthe
originaltheleftmarginalitysects'.
analysisandofthetogroupsenterwhatandtheis
P~er_fulinstitutionalpressuresofthehierarchicalemploymentstructure,aIninontychoice,particularly
amongintellectuals.Thefirstalternativeap~verymuchmoreattractive.Initially,anattemptwasmadeto
~rovtdeajustificationforthis;themostrevealingsetofdocumentsaretheeonsed~bateanewaround
practice:
'RedBases'.Inparticular,JamesWilcoxattemptedto
~tndivi~ualallrepressiveformsofsocietiesresistancethetomassestheestablishedwilldiscoversystem.theirThe
ownpseudoleftdiscreteonlyand
~gntsesto~erlydemonstrations,thoseformsoftraderesistanceunionism,whichetc.).haveIttheisnotblessing
preparedofthetorulingconsiderorderthe6e&dtimonydles,delinquency,~fotherpopularshoplifting,actsof
'madness',resistance(industrialetc.).Forthesabotage,philistinesabsenteeism,theseare
20Whlltisculturalstudies?
'symptoms' of capitalist decadence not tributes to the healthy instincts of the masses. Of course on a purely
individualplanesuchactivitiesgetnowhere,butthebienpensantbandaidrevolutionariesarenohappierwhensuch
resistanceeruptsonamassscale(blacklootins,studentsonthebarricades,factorymassoccupations,etc.).For
themaBlackuprisingisjustanunderstandableexcesscommittedbytheoppressedBlackpeople:theydonotsee
thatithasmanyverypositiveaspects(e.g.itconstitutesastrainonthestretchedresourcesoftherepressivepower,it
involvesadirectreappropriationofsurplusvalue,etc.).17
Fromthebeginning,thepossibilitiesofpoliticalactionwerelocatedoutside,andtoaconsiderable
extentinoppositionto,theconcernsandorganisationswhichhadlongcharacterisedMarxistpolitics.
Theseformsofpoliticalactivityare,however,notoriouslyunstableand,beingperipheraltocapitalist
production,equallynotoriouslyineffectualontheirown.Therewas,therefore,aninbuilttendencyinthe
visionofMarxismadoptedbythiscurrenttotheoreticism,whichwasonceagainreinforcedbythevery
realpressuresofearningone'sliving.ThegroundwaswellpreparedforaMarxismwhichsystematically
evadedthesqualidconcernsofpoliticalparties,tradeunions,andalltherestofthebaggageofMarxist
ortho doxy, and which elevated debates on culture, epistemology, etc., to the centre of theoretical
concern.18
Thisdevelopmentwasfacilitatedbytheconfusionsofthemainchannelfortheintroductionofthese
ideas,themagazineNewLeftReview.Thisjournalhasalwaysbeencharacterisedbyanextremelackof
theoreticalrigour.19InthisitwasnotexceptionalconfusionovertheelementarycategoriesofMarxism
seemstohavebeenendemiconaworldscalesinceabout1923.Itwasratherthescholarshipthanthe
theoryofNewLeftReviewwhichgaveititsattraction,whileitsoccasionallapsesintomerepolitics,like
theonequotedabove,havebeenuniformlyunfortunate.
GiventhispoliticalandintellectualimpassethepopularityofLouisAlthusserinBritainwas,onemight
say,overdetermined.Awriterwhocouldspeakwithregretofthefactthat:'wespentthebestpartofour
timeinagitationwhenwewouldhavebeenbetteremployedinthedefenceofourrightanddutytoknow,
andinstudyforproductionassuch'andcouldresolvethecentralproblemwiththeneatformulationof
'theoreticalpractice'wasboundtogainabigaudience.20Theproblemisnotsimplythattherewasandis,
asAlthusserwaslatertorecognise,21adangerofthistheoreticistreading,butthatanumberofcentral
formulationsinparticularthenotionofa'structureindominance'andthecritiqueofthe'expressive
totality' appear to have been precisely designed to circwn vent a number of very directly political
problems. These ambiguities persist even in the development of his work uptothe recent piece on
Lysenko.22Infact,togetherwithaninterpretationofGramscidesignedtodenythedecisionsofLivorno,
theyhaveprovidedtheintellectualbridgeoverwhichaportionoftheintellectualshavenowpassedin
theirsearchforanorganisedpoliticalexpression.23
TheBirminghamCentrereflectedthisdevelopment.24TheseriesofWorkingPapersdemonstratesan
increasingconcernwiththeassimilationofthenewlydevelopedvariantsofMarxism.Thisconcernwas
mediatedbywayofaseriesofconfrontationsnotonlywiththenewlyavailabletextsbut
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...21
a)sowithanumberofpreviouslyestablishedtraditionsofanalysisand~entre'sthroughubjectsRituals.workof
research.isThisthework,studyThewhichmostofsubcultures,developedisveryimpressivelybroughtaspectof
togetherrealisedthisphaseinandResistancehasoftheanstudiesobvioUSthan,teachingforexample,use,
focussesthedevelopingmoreoftheworkinternalonconventionalproblemsartofculturalobjects,andisless
readilyfittedtothecategoryof'MediaStudies'thantheworkontelevisionorthepress.25Theformativetextforthe
studyofsubculturesisundoubtedlyPhilCohen'sjustlyfamousarticle'Subculturalconflictandworkingclass
community'.26Theargumentsputforwardtheresettheparametersforagreatdealoftheworkofthenextthree
years.27Althoughthepaperlacksthenormalscholarlyapparatusofreferenceswhichfacilitatethetaskoftracing
theintellectualheritageitispossibletoindicatethegeneralfeaturesofthementaluniverseinwhichitwaswritten.
Cohen'sbasicargumentisthattherelativelystableEastLondonworkingclasscommunityhewaswritingaboutwas
inthethroesofamajorstructuralcrisis.Thiswasbasedonchangesinthepatternsofemploymentandhousing
whichledtothedestructionoftheculturalpatternsofthecommunity,inparticulartheextendedfamilybutalsothe
controlledsocialspaceseverewithinamongwhichadults,thewhocommunityweredenieddefinedboththeitself.
supportiveThesetensionsstructureswereofthepreviouscommunityandfullaccesstotheallegednewworldof
satisfactionthroughconsumption,butfoundtheirexternalexpressionintheactivitiesof(male)youth.Inplaceof
theoldstructuresofthe'democratic'community,newexternallydirectedbureaucraticagenciesthepoliceand
socialworkersattemptedtocontrolandsupportthedisorientedpopulation.Butbecauseoftheirclasscharacter,
theirexternalmotivesquate.Whileandtheirthesocialsymptomaticworkerlabelledconcernsthetheseadults
agenciesas'inadequate'provedinadethepolicedefinedtheyouthas'deviant'.Asanalternativetothisimpasse
Cohenproposedthedevelopmentof'communityaction'.28Withinthisframeworkcular,effective:
theCohendevelopedanumberofveryinfluentialideas.Inpartiformulationofthefunctionofsubculturesproved
singularly

Itseems
tomethatthelatentfunctionofsuiH:ultureisthistoexpressandresolve,albeit'magically',thecontradictions
whichremainhiddenorunresolvedintheparentculture.Thesuccessionofsubcultureswhichthisparentreen
culture...._Puritanism,~lUnpen.generatedtheMods,acanthusallbeconsideredassomanyvariationsona
centralcontradiction,atanideologicallevel,betweentraditionalworkingandthenewhedonismofconsumption;at
aneconomiclevelfutureParkers,aspartskinheads,ofthesociallycrombies,mobileallelite,represent,orasinpart
theirofdifferentthenew
II\~ays,_classtheir&actionsanparentattemptsymbolisingculture,toretrieveandtoonesomecombineorother
ofthetheseofsociallythewithoptionscohesiveelementsconfrontingelementsselectedit.fromdestroyed
29

other
~SubCOncrete'Working'ethnography'outofthestrengthsofResistanceofthatthroughformulationRituals.
providesFurthermore,thebulktheof
llSansequentattemptformulationtorealise,of'thebutoriginalinanimaginarymodliferelationstylecouldthebe
interpretedconditionsof
22Whatisculturalstudies?
existenceofthesociallymobilewhitecollarworkers'(originalemphasis)30bearsadistinctresemblance
toAlthusser'sfamousformulation:'Ideologyrepresentstheimaginaryrelationshipofindividualstotheir
realconditionsofexistence.131
Despite its positive aspects, this tradition suffers from very severe limitations. Cohen, despite his
attempttointegratetheproblemofproduction,undoubtedlyreproducestheoldculturalemphasisonthe
importanceof'community',butthisisarticulatedpreciselyinthetermsofthepoliticaldebateoutlined
above.Thedifficultyistwofold.Inthefirstplace'community'istheclassicsiteofthedefensiveand
'corporate'characteristicsofthecultureofasubordinateclass:itisproductionwhichdefinestheclassas
suchandwhichdeterminesitspossibilityforhistoricalaction.32Secondly,itisobviousthatCohen's
modeldependsonanaccuratereadingoftheparentcultureforitsefficacyinunderstandingtheyouth
culture.However,herethegeneralrejectionofproductionasadeterminateisjoinedbyaveryspecific
rejectionof'orthodox'politicalanalysiswhichplacesCohensquarelyinthefirstphaseofintellectual
revolt.TheconsequenceisthatCohengivesaverycuriousaccountofthehistoryoftheparentculture.He
writesof'political'activitythat:
TheLabourpartyandCPdooccasionallyattempttomobiliselocalpeopleoncommunityissues,butonlyinsofar
interestsoftheirrespectiveorganisations.asthis...Theservesonlythehistoricalnationalexceptionelectoraltothis
rulewas
possibl~the

earlyperiodofGeorgeLansbury'sCllreerintheEastEnd...(myemphasis).
Whatevertruththecontemporarystatementmayhave,oneisstunnedbytheinadequacyofthehistorical
account.Cohenhassimplyomittedthefactthattheveryareaofwhichheiswritingwas,inthe1930sthe
siteofoneofthemostprotractedattemptsatthepoliticalmobilisationofthecommunityandthatMile
EndhasbeenremarkableinformalpoliticaltermsinthatithasreturnedamemberoftheCommunist
PartyasitsMP.34Thisparticularoversightcouldbedismissedasanindividualeccentricity,orCohen
couldhavearguedthatthewholeaffairwastheproductofaparticularconjunctureaccountforwiththe
nopervasivelastingneglectsignificance.oftraditionalNeitherstructuresoftheseexplanationsand
politicalwouldformsindevelopmentofsubculturaltheory,norfortheattempttotheorisethatneglect.
Thisattemptwasnotspecifictoworkonsubcultures,asthefollowingquotation,editorialisedas'oneof
theclearestpublicstatementsofourposition',35shows:
Thecontextofthissketchofculture,isthen,political,notartistic,anditisnecessaryWhereasthetocontinuestress
previouslytoinsist[sic]wasthisonastheweneedmovetoclosercontroltothethepresentactivity,day.the
behaviouroftheworkingclass,thesitehasnowdefinitelyshiftedmoretotheirconsciousnesswhichmaybe
producedbyachangeinthepoliticalandeconomicstructureinwhichthestructureshavebecomevoluntaristformal
politicaldemocracy,andconsumerism,themselvesnegotiatedresponsestochanginggeneralpoliticalandeconomic
changes.Thedominantgroupnowrequirestheassentofthesubordinategroup,anaffirmationespeciallyinthis
continuingdevelopmentofthepoliticalandculturalclassstruggle;notintermsof
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...23
~te

opinionformation,butoflongtermdevelopmentoflifestyles,andideologies.36
We~hichracticearehasherepreciselyrenderedclearlyintermsconfrontedtheolderofsomemodels
withradicalaobsoletepositionchangeandwhichinthewhichstructureseeksthustoprioritisesdefineof
societyits
theconflictsatthelevelofculturesandsubcultures.37toTheappropriationofparticularalterthisearly
formationandreadingsbythetimeofGramsciofResistanceandAlthusserthroughRitualsbegan
thereisanattempttousethecategoriesofthesethinkerstoembedthestudyment.
Inofthesubculturesworkinquestion,inamorehowever,sophisticatedthisaccountaccountremainsof
socialsubstantiallydevelop
underdevelopedandschematicandconstitutestheweakestlinkinthe~
theoreticalstatementwhile,atthesametime,havingonlyaveryshadowyfinishedform,presencevery
muchintheethnographicwork.aproductofatransitionThisworkis,despiteitsfromamodeofthought
whichselectedsubculturesfortheiroppositionalcontenttoonewhichsawthemasincapableof
expressingmorethanaconfusedandmarginalresponsetothefactofdomination.
Ihavealreadyindicatedsomefeaturesofthespecificityofthedevelopmentfewwordswhichas
permittedtoitsconcretethisambivalenceform.Itseemstoarisetomebutthatitistherenecessarywasa
todoublesaya
movement.Inthefirstplacethenotionsof'relativeautonomy','determinationinthelastinstance'and
'structureindominance'weretoprovideasetofdefencesforthereadingofcultureasinitiallyan
effecti7Jelyused
autonomouspracticeinwhichdeterminationwasverymuchadistanttermlabourwhichcontradiction
barelywaspenetratedseenasconcreteanalysis.oneamongseveralFurther,thecapital/contradictions,
othersofwhichwerethenregardedascurrently'dominant'.Thisallowedarelativelywhichwent
unproblematicbacktoHoggart.assumptionHowever,ofonceMarxistinsidevocabularythatmodeinto
ofdiscourseconcerns
~directednotionattentionoftheprecisely'ISA'providedatstructures.athethethatSJ_tesignificance~
of1deologicalclassstruggle'oftheStatevarious,38powerfulattraction,giventhatthisHowever,
ApparatusesmaynotbetogetherwithApparatusestheonlycrucialthestake,formulationbutalsothe
failuretodifferentiatebetweenthemselves,meantthat,whileit'Was~one.notionU\stancethatnecessary
ideologyamongto'intetpellatesmany,admitstructureswithoutindividualsanylikeparticulartradeas
unions,theseweremerelypriority.Indeed,thesubjects'39seemstometo1!\terpellate~_!e:""UQ..:Uy)
~~dered~e
!itutesthetheonsensepossibilityofthethesethecollecti'lJestheironecoreofinstitutionsthishand,
profoundlyofasofpassage,thepartialanythereasonprioritisation.distinctstateandcontradictorybut
institutionswhylimiteditfromseemsthetheItsubjectsthatmayMarxistrole'private'(e.g.tradebein
andthethatatraditionunionsinstitutionscapitalistthatBBC)Ihavethis,oninhasmisunderparticular
society.indeed,the(e.g.alwaysother,theisIt
rv.l.ltica} -.1:

The
~dubiousparty).
distinctdistinctionfromthebetweeninstitutionstateofrevolutionarypowerandstateleadership
apparatus(the
24Whatisculturalstudies?
furtheredthistendency.40AtthesametimeitallowedanapproachtoGramsci,inparticularthefamous
statement
InRussiatheStatewaseverything,civilsocietywasprimordialandgelatinous;intheWest,therewasaproperrelationbetween
Stateandcivilsociety;andwhentheStatetrembledasturdystructureofcivilsocietywasatoncerevealed.TheStatewasonlyan
outerditch,behindwhichtherestoodapowerfulsystemoffortressesandearthworks.41Whichhas,ofcourseunder
contemporaryItalianinfluence,beenreadasarejectionofwhataretermed'Russianmodels'.42

lhis relocation of cultural studies within a framework which recognised the traditional structural
concerns of Marxism with state and class domina tion (hegemony) redirected attention to a more
adequate reading of the historical trajectory of British society and a rediscovery of the productive
definitionoftheworkingclass.Anewproblematicwasbeingborn.
ThenextissueofWorkingPapers(No9)relfectedthiseveninitstitle:'Cultureanddomination'.Italso
containedreportsontheprogressoftwonewareasofworkthestudyofworkandthestudyofhistory.43
However,bothofthesereportsdemonstratetheincompletenessoftheabsorptionofthenewproblematic
together with the internal strains and tensions which this has meant for the Centre as a collective
grouping.Thereportofthe'CultureHistoryGroup'putstheproblemveryclearly:
TheexistenceandimportanceofhistoricalworkinthisCentrewasacknowledgedin197374,withtheformationofa'period'
subgroupfortwomainreasons.First,workonproblemsincontemporaryculturewasincreasinglybeinggroundedinananalysis
ofBritishcapitalismsincethenineteenthcentury;second,andmoreurgently,welackedanadequate
workin~account,

forreference,andrevision,ofbasicthemesinthatdevelopment...Thearticlegoesontooutlinesome
featuresofthedecadefrom1935to1945.ism'basedInparticularlargelythereonideasisansuggested
examinationbyCalder'softheproblembookTheof'warPeople'sradicalWar.Notsurprisingly,given
thissource,recognitionisgrantedtotheimportanceof'theinvolvementoftheunionsinmeeting
productiontargets'~buttheepochalsignificanceofBevin'sfamousstatementthat1shallbeMinisterof
Labourforthenext50years'remainsunappreciated.Infact,theconfusionwithregardtothelimitand
extentofwarradicalismamongtheworkingclass,whichtheauthorsnote,wasnotsimplyaresultofthe
ideologicalambivalencesofCassandraorPriestley.Ratherthespacewithinwhichitwaspossibleforthis
vagueandilldefinedmoodtoobscureclassissueswastheconsequenceofstructuralfactorscollapseof
thetradeunionbureaucracyintoclasscollaborationinparticulartheand,massiveafter1941,thelackof
anyorganisedalternativemodeofaction.
Thepoliticaldifficulttoimputesituationstrikesintheto19391945politicalmotives.warwasmuchTheLabourmoresettled
Partywasanditawasfullcoalitionpartner;atradeunionleader,ErnestBevin,heldaCabinetpostwhichintermsofpowerwas
secondonlytothatofthePrimeMinister;and,afterRussiaenteredthewarin1941,Communistsinindustrywhowouldhave
beenthenaturalleadersofunofficialmovementslentalltheirenergiestosupporting
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...25
thewar.TheGallachersandtheKirkwoodsoftheSecondWorldWarwere

~ter
reventingproduction.strikesandItisweresignificantpressingthatJointtheonlyProductionpoliticalCommitteesstrikeworth
forrecordstill
inggroup.
in46WorldWarIIwas.
attributedtoTrotskyists,aCommunistsplinter

Thereremains,then,intheattempttoconstructanhistoricalperspectiveforculturalstudiesaninadequate
recognitionofthesignificanceoforganisedstrUctures1nthediscussionsindeterminingonwork,the
limitstheproblemofpoliticalisevenaction.
moreacute.PaulWillisrecognisesthattradeunionsare'byfarthemostimportantworkingclass
inStitution'.47Thisstatementmarksanimportantadvanceforaninstitutionwhich,yet,producedwhile
dedicatedanymajortostudy,thestudyeitheroftheoreticalworkingclassorempirical,cultureofhasthe
not,tradeas
unionmovement.48However,heimmediatelygoesontodowngradetheimportanceofthese
institutions:
...tradeunionismhasmanyfailings.Bybeing,initsownright,aformalstructurewithnarrowlydefined
ends,ithasexcluded,toanevergreaterdegree,theactualinformalsturctureandcultureofthework
placefromwhichitgrew.'9Inpart,Willis'sreservationsaregroundedinanembryonictheoryoftrade
unionbureaucracy,whichiscertainlyanimportantfeatureoftheBritishmovementandundoubtedlydoes
play,inpart,theroleofwhathedescribeshowever,anotheras'anotherelementauthorityofha&tility
structuretoformaloverstructurestheworker'.50assuch,Therewhichis,
areseenasinimicabletothe'richdensetexture'ofexperiencedculture.
ReadingbetweenthelinesofthiscontributionandAndrewTolson'sresponsetoapaperorigianting
outsideoftheCentreCharlesWoolfson's'Thesemioticsofworkingclassspeech'onecandetectthe
symptomsofaprofoundcrisisintheCentre'sevolution.51Itwouldseemthatatleastonetendencyinthe
Centrehasmade,orismaking,apassagetothatorganisedexpressionofreformistandstatistsocialism
whichisambivalentonthe9uestionofthestate,locatestheworkingclassasoneforceamongseveralm
thetransformationofsociety,encouragesdiscretepractices(particularlyattheacademiclevel)andis
relativelyuncriticalofcontradictionswithinthetradeunionmovement.Thistendencymovesincreasingly
towards propagandist interpretations of political activity. Against this current, characteristic of the
broadermovementoftheintelligentsia,areanumberuurn~COnfusedthecurrentalternativepositions.
positions,someofwhichrepresentadefiniteretreat
Itisimportantthatthehardwongainsofthelastfewyearsarenot:andoned.However,nofurther
substantialadvancecanbeexpectednature~turethisrnsubordinationaofwhichtendencythemajor
whichworkingrefusesclasstorecogniseinstitutions.theIfsociallyitisweareissomethingstudying
whichisthatcanofabesubordinateended,thenagreedcontradictorythattheclass,itfollowsandthat
that~atlstentsn:atdealformation.of.conte~:poraryIfIt
IS

furtherworkingclassagreedthatthisc~turegapbetweenisanhistoricallypotential
26Whatisculturalstudies?
andactualiscruciallydeterminedbythestructuresofformalorganisationsthenthosestructures,andthe
politicalandculturalpositionswhichaccompanythem,needtoberecognisedascontradictory.
Infact,thestudyofformalstructuresneedstobeextendedratherthanlimited.Owingtothepeculiar
historical formation of the British working class, there has been a tendency to consider the formal
organisations as distinct from other organised forms of cultural activity, due to the generally 1ow
visibility'ofthedeterminations.TheclassicperiodoftheGermanlabourmovementprovidesasalutary
contrast. German Social Democracy developed as the classic 'state within a state' in which the
determinationoftheorganisationofculturebytheaimsofapoliticalorganisationiswellknown.After
1919thereweretwocompetingorganisationswithintheworkingclasseachtryingtoconstructitsown
cultural definitions. The clash between the two was frequently fairly sharp. Clearly, this type of
organisation has never existed in Britain. No organisation or apparatus in the political, cultural or
informationalfieldhaseverhadtheresourcesoftheKPD,letalonetheSPD.Labourhistorianshave
paidsomeattentiontothematerialthereis,butagreatdealneedstobedonebeforewehaveanyreal
pictureoftheextentofthedifferences.Itisnotindisputethatthelinksbetweenculturalactivityandthe
historicstructuresoftheworkingclassaremarginalcomparedwiththoseculturalpracticeswhichare
radicallycorporate.Whatisimportantinthepast,andisclearlycentraltothedevelopmentofany
Marxistversionofculturalstudiesisthemodeofrelationbetweenthe'corporate'and'historic'aspectsof
workingclass culture. As I have shown above, the study of popular culture as developed by the
BirminghamCentrehasproposedamodelofthisrelationshipwhichbeganbyignoringthese'historic'
structures and locating 'corporate' activ ities as the source of a transcendence of corporatism. The
subsequentpartialrecognitionofthehistoricstructureshasnot,asyet,succeededinrethinkingthat
relationship.
The question is, therefore; what lines of development can assist in this change? I must stress the
tentativenatureofwhatfollows,inthatitisnotbasedonanybodyofsubstantialworkandremainsatthe
levelofsuggestedprojects.Paradoxically,thoseareaswhichhaveremainedunintegratedintotheworkon
subculturesthemediaandtheproblemsof'high'culturalanalysisprovidethemostfruitfulsourceof
alternatives.Toconsiderhereonlythestudyofthemedia,anumberofareassuggestthemselves.Since
the last third of the nineteenth century the production of newspapers has been dominated by the
'commodityform'.Thisispredicateduponanatomisedaudienceofdiscreteindividuals.Theformtaken
bythedominantinstitutionsoftheelectronicmediaclearlyreproducesthisonanextendedscale.Itis
fairlywellestablishedthatthishypothesisedaudiencedoesnotexistinapureform,butitisequallyclear
thatboththemodeofsocialorganisationandthespecialfeaturesofthemassmediathemselvesrepresent
aconstanttendencyinthisdirection.Thereis,however,aconstantcontratendencywhichproducesand
utilisesthemediaasanelementinradicalsocialorganisation.Oneofthekeyareasinwhichthisexists,
andthecrucialoneforthestudyofworkingclassculture,ispreciselythelinkbetweenthemediaandthe
historicstructuresoftheworkingclass.Thereareanumberoffairly
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...27
bvioUSexamplesofthis.TheClarion,withitsconcomitantrangeofactivities,~neWSPapersthebest
known,fromthebutDailythesameHeraldprocessandDailycanbeWorkerseenatdownworktoin
moreanumbermodestof
contemporaryexamples.Sectoral,andinparticularlocal,researchwouldundoubtedlyresources
andrevealcanbeaconductedmuchwiderquiterange.easilySuchonstudiesthebasisdoof,notforneed
example,massiveaschoolWithteachingregardtoproject.
theelectronicmedia,thecontrolofairwaves,thescaleoftheandmaterialporaryinvestm.enthighly
developmentsfairlyprofessionalisedsmall.required,Thererepresentandare,bureaucracies,thea
however,breakdominationinthissignsmakedominance.ofthatexpectationsthecertainamountAt
smalltheofbyPolytechhistoricalmassive
contem
nicofCentralLondon,forexample,therehavebeenverytentativeattemptstofindastructuredand
differentiated'audience'forstudentproducedtelevisiondocumentaries.Other,moreambitious,attempts
havebeenmadeelsewhere.Theextentoftheexperienceisperhapstoosmalltoallowanyserious
generalisationsabouttheproblemsinvolvedbutthereareanwnberofhintsastothetheoreticaland
practicalproblemsinvolvedinthissortofproject.Forexample,itseemsthatboththelevelsoftechnical
expertiseandtheformalrhetoricofprofessionaltelevisionproductionforanundifferentiatedand
seralisedaudiencedetermineinsignificantwaysthereceptionofmaterialproducedwithotherpurposes
inmind.Secondly,thetechnicalmodeofpresentationisqualitativelydifferentfromthatofanewspaper
inthatitcannotbeinserted'immediately'into,forexample,aworksituation.Itseemslikely,thwefore,
thatanysuchuseofthismediumasasocialorganiserwillstandinadifferentrelationshiptoformal
organisation.Itwillnecessarilybedependentuponapreexistingorganisationandrequireforits
utilisationahigherthresholdofinvolvement.Giventhetypeofexistingformationswhichcancommand
boththematerialresourcesandthelevelofcommitmentitislikelythatdevelopmentsinthisareawill
rapidlyencountertheinternalcontradictionsofthesestructuresinaparticularlysharpform.Totakethe
tradeunionsituationasanexample,itisUkelycracyandthatthattheittechnicalwillbeutilised
equipmentinvariouswillremainformalintrainingthehandsschools.oftheGivenbureauthe~t
formationofthebureaucracyandthemodeofitsinsertionintocapitalistsocietyitisprobablethat
ideologicalquestionswillfigureveryProminentlyinanysuchdevelopment.Itispreciselyinthisarea,I
have:hich~'~~reticalP!Jpularavo1d~thatculture'comingbeendevelopmentstherefollowedisandtoa
termsmarked'culturalbyare,withculturalweaknessinstudies'mytheseopinion,studiesindifficulties.
havetheupwayimpossiblebeenuntilindeveloped.Futurewhichnowwithouthasthepracticalenabled
notionsTheafairlypathandof
it
'llldamentalquestioningofsomebasicassumptions.

Notes
1.ThethemostobviousexampleofapositiveevaluationofthisOpenUniversityhasreprintedWorkingPapersin
workisthefactthatCulturalStudis7/8
28Whatisculturalstudies?
(hereafterWPCSasHallandJefferson(eds)ResistancethroughRituals(Hutchinson/OU,culture'inUniversities1976).
AttentionQuarterlyofaAutumnlessfavourable(1975).
kindistheF.Inglis''Cantand
2.Hoggart'sworkfirstappearedin1957,Williams'in1958.3.Theimplicationsof'awholewayoflife'weresufficiently
apparentatthetimeforWilliamstoreturntothequestioninanswertocriticsinTheLongRevolution.Mypointisratherthatitis
todaythedisunity,ratherthantheunity,ofthebookwhichstrikesus.Thisis,inmyexperience,particularlytruewhen
attemptingtousethebookinteachingstudentscomingfroma'nonliterary'background.4.StuartHall,whoknowsmuchbetter
thanIdo,arguesthatthefirstsectionofTheLongRevolutionwasthecrucialtextintheevolutionoftheCentreinthelate1960s.
5.WilliamstoPopularpointsCultureto(Arnold,thisinalecture1976),pp.reprinted2738.
inC'W.E.Bigsby(ed.),Approaches
6.TheCommonPursuit(Penguin,1962),t'190.LeavisquoteswithoutcommentSharp'sattributionofthehomogeneityof
Appalachianculturetoits'racialinheritance'.7.Bigsby'sessay'Thepoliticsofpopularculture'inBigsby,op.cit.outlinesthis.8.
Thesocialrootsofthisdevelopmentrequireadetailedanalysis.Ifindthesketchinthe'Introduction'toWPCS6,focusingonthe
positionofsecondaryteachers,attractivebut,withoutamoresubstantialinvestigation,itisimpossibletoreachaconclusion.9.
TheEnglishDepartmentatBirminghamUniversityhasinfactattemptedthis
exercisequitedirectlyatleastonceinthelastfiveyears.10.AlthoughMarcuse'sfamousessayappearstohavebeenwritten
withoutanyknowledgeofBri>:;hdevelopments,itdoesdisplayastrikingfamiliarity.Forexamplethepassage:'Cultureshould
ennoblethegivenbypermeatingit,ratherthanputtingsomethingnewinitsplace.Itthusexaltstheindividualwithoutfreeing
himfromhisfactualdebasement.Culturespeaksofthedignityof"man"withoutconcerningitselfwithaconcretelymore
dignifiedstatusformen.externalandtions,Anarchy,Thetrans.
worldbeautyJ.J.
althoughShapiro,fromofculturewithin.thePenguin,verbalisItsaboverealm1972,similarityallp.isan103)essentiallyinner
mayisabeautyberemarkableanarealmaccidentandcanofparalleltheofonlytranslation.soul'toreachCulture(Negathe
11.Ihavedevelopedthispointin'Theabusesofliteracy'publishedinWPCS6.12.SeeF.L.Neumann,'Theintelligentsiain
exile'inP.Connerton(ed.),Critical
Sociology{Penguin,1976).13.ThisthemehasbeendevelopedatlengthbyH.BravermaninlAborand
MonopolyCapital.NewYork(1975).14.E.Mandel,'Thechangingroleofthebourgeoisuniversity',inT.Pateman(ed.),
CounterCourse(Penguin,1972),p.18.15.OneDimensionalMlzn(Sphere,1968),p.200.16.17.Ibid.,Frompp.'Two11
12.
tactics'inNewLeftReview53OanuaryFebruary1969),p.28.18.AcontradictionstionssimilaronWesternpointofis
Mlzrxismthismadebook,atNLBconsiderablesome(1976).ofwhichItlengthseemsAndersonbytoP.meAndersonthat
himselftheobviousnotes,inhisConsideramakeinternalmypointforme.Thebookcombinesadetailedandsophisticated
knowledgeofarangeofacademicthinkerstogetherwithapatchy,innaccurateandselfcontradictoryaccountoftheEuropean
labourmovementitis,notsurprisingly,asimplereflectionoftheproblemittriestoanalyse.19.Thelefts'earlyprintedhistory
D.Widgeryofthejournal(ed.),TheisoutlinedLeftinBritainbyP.(Penguin,Sedgewick1976).
in'Thetwonew
Theevolutionofculturalstudies...29
20
.TheaboveappliestoaspecificFrenchpenguin,1968)butthecastofsituation(seeForMltrz,trans.B.Brewster,that
'Introduction'undoubtedlyinfluencedformulationsadoptedinBritain.21.Ithadalsobeenrecognisedbyoneofhispupils,Regis
Debray(whosesubsequentevolutionmakesaninterestingcomparison)whowrote:'...allwehadtodotobecomegood
theoreticianswastobelazybastards'(quotedinA.Callinicoss,Althusser'sMltrrism,PlutoPress,1976,p.60).22.'Ifanslatedin
theFebruary1977MltrxismToday.23.ThethatyearspublishingthebeforeunderstandablythehistoryPoliticalofevasive
Writings.
GramsciPrisonisaNotebooksminorconfirmationappearedinofEnglishmyargumentsomesixin
24.BiographicalaccidentplayedsomerolehereinthatRichardHoggart,anavowedopponentofMarxism,lefttheCentreatthis
point,firstforUNESCOandthenGoldsmith'sCollege.HowimportantthechangeinDirectorshipwasisimpossibletosay
exactly.25.Therehas,ofcoursebeenastrongrelationshipbetweenthestudyofsub
culturesandsomeaspectsofmediastudies.26.PublishedinWPCS2.27.Afactwhichisevidentfromthecentralplace
occupiedbyadisucssionofthispaperinthelongtheoreticalpiecebyHall,Oarke,JeffersonandRoberts,'Subcultures,cultures
andclass'whichopensResistancethroughRituals.Thisessaytracesinconsiderabledetailthevariouscontributorystrandsinthe
developmentofthepositionandprovidesagreatdealofthedetailedsourcingwhichisabsentfromP.Cohen'spaper.28.
AccordingtoCohen'sownaccount,thepaperoriginatedasaproposaltofund
justsuchaproject.29.P.Cohen,opcit.,p.23.30.Ibid.,p.24.31.Fromtheessay'Ideologyandideologicalstateapparatuses'in
LeninandPhilosophy(trans.B.Brewster,NLB,1971,p.153).Thepublishinghistorymakesitunlikelythattherelationwas
direct.Theauthorsof'Subcultures,cultures,class'drawthesourcefromtheearlieressay'Marxismandhumanism'inandFor
Marx,tuses,providedpp.23334.theTheframeworklateressay,forwithitsnotionofIdeologicalStateAppara
subsequentdevelopments.32.F.Parkin,ClassInequalityandPoliticalOrder
(Paladin,1972),pp.8990.33.P.Cohenopcit.,p.39.34.PhilPiratinwaselectedMPin1945.Herecordedasomewhatevasive
accountof~proceedingtwentyyearsinOurFlagStaysRed('Thames,1948).Themostsignificantofthese,aboutCablestreet,I
haveexaminedinmyarticle'FightingtheInternationalbeast'(aSocialismtitleforwhichIapologiseandoverwhichIhadno
control)in
94.35.Editorialnote,WPCS6,p.25.~BrynJones,'Thepoliticsofpopularculture'inWPCS6,p.
29.33
:.WP~s9,p.123.Ibid.,~rnp.and160.

Philosophy,p.140.
40.Althusser'sdistinction(Ibid.,pp.13435)isconsiderablymoreambiguousthanPouiantzas'41

ldeolo~Inp.Prison238).
inSocial(in'TheScienceproblem(Fontana,ofthe1972),capitalistpp.state'printedinR.Blackburn(ed.),
25253.Notebooks(trans.HoareandNowellSmith,Lawrence&:Wishart,1971,
42.ComparisonswithSectionVIofPoliticalWritings191020(trans.Mathews,ed.
30Whatisculturalstudies?
Hoare,Lawrence&tWishart,1977)areessentialforunderstandingthelimitsofthisinterpretation.43.WPCSalsocontainsa
reportontheWomen'sStudiesGroup.TheabsenceofthisareafromculturalstudieshadbeensharplynotedinResistance
throughRituals.Ihaveomittedconsiderationofthisdevelopmentforthreereasons:lackofpersonalknowledge;theembryonic
stateofthematerial;itsrealabsencefromthedevelopmentuntilveryrecently.Iamveryconsciousofparticipatinginoneofthe
majorerrorsofthetraditionIamcriticising.44.WPCS9,p.29.Thisissuealsocontainsaninterestingoverviewofthedevelop
mentofBritishsocietybyRichardJohnson.45.WPCS9,p.35.46.V.L.Allen,TradeUnionsandGovernment,Longman
(1960),p.143.Itshouldbe
addedthatoneoftheleadersofthisstrikewasacertainT.DanSmith.47.WPCS9,p.159.48.WhenIwrotethearticlein
WPCS6,Iwasabletoclaimthatnoattentionhadeverbeenpayedtotradeunions.Thishasclearlychanged,althoughfromthe
textscitedthestudyisstillinitsinitialstages.49.WPCS,p.159.50.Ibid.51.WPCS9,p.202.
2
Cultural studies: two paradigms
StuartHall
Inserious,criticalintellectualwork,thereareno'absolutebeginnings'andfewunbrokencontinuities.
Neithertheendlessunwindingof'tradition',sobelovedoftheHistoryofIdeas,northeabsolutismofthe
'epistemologicalrupture',punctuatingThoughtintoits'false'and'correct'parts,oncefavouredbythe
Althussereans,willdo.Whatwefind,instead,isanuntidybutcharacteristicunevennessofdevelopment.
What is important are the significant breaks where old lines of thought are disrupted, older con
stellationsdisplaced,andelements;oldandnew,areregroupedaroundadifferentsetofpremisesand
themes.Changesinaproblematicdosignificantlytransformthenatureofthequestionsasked,theforms
inwhichtheyareproposed,andthemannerinwhichtheycanbeadequatelyanswered.Suchshiftsin
perspectivereflect,notonlytheresultsofaninternalintellectuallabour,butthemannerinwhichreal
historicaldevelopmentsandtransformationsareappropriatedinthought,andprovideThought,notwith
itsguaranteeof'correctness'butwithitsfundamentalorientations,itsconditionsofexistence.Itis
because of this complex articulation between thinking and historical reality, reflected in the social
categoriesofthought,andthecontinuousdialecticbetween'knowledge'and'power',thatthebreaksare
worthrecording.
CulturalStudies,asadistinctiveproblematic,emergesfromonesuch11\oment,inthemid1950s.Itwas
certainlynotthefirsttimethatitscharacteristicquestionshadbeenputonthetable.Quitethecontrary.
ThetwobookswhichhelpedtostakeoutthenewterrainHoggart'sUsesofLiteracyandWilliams's
CultureandSocietywereboth,indifferent~ays,works(inpart)ofrecovery.Hoggart'sbooktookits
referencefrome'?lituraldebate',longsustainedintheargumentsaround'masssociety'~mthetradition
ofworkidentifiedwithLeavisandScrutiny.Cultureand.oczetyreconstructedalongtraditionwhich
Williamsdefinedasconsisting,tnsum,of'arecordofanumberofimportantandcontinuingreactionsto
~changesinoursocial,economicandpoliticallife'andoffering'aspecialdofmapbymeansofwhich
thenatureofthechangescanbeexplored'(p.16).Thebookslooked,atfirst,simplylikeupdatingofthese
earlierconcerns,withreferencetothepostwarworld.Retrospectively,their
32Whatisculturalstudies?
'breaks'withthetraditionsofthinkinginwhichtheyweresituatedseemasimportant,ifnotmoreso,illan
theircontinuitywiththem.TheUsesofLiteracydidsetoutmuchinthespiritof'practicalcriticism'to
'read'workingclasscultureforthevaluesandmeaningsembodiedinitspatternsandarrangements:asif
theywerecertainkindsof'texts'.Buttheapplicationofthismethodtoalivingculture,andtherejection
ofthetermsofthe'culturaldebate'(polarizedaroundthehigh/lowculturedistinction)wasathorough
goingdeparture.CultureandSocietyinoneandthesamemovementconstitutedatradition(the
'cultureandsociety'tradition),definedits'unity'(notintermsofcommonpositionsbutinitscharacter
isticconcernsandtheidiomofitsinquiry),itselfmadeadistinctivemodemcontributiontoitandwrote
itsepitaph.TheWilliamsbookwhichsucceededitTheLongRevolutianclearlyindicatedthatthe
'cultureandsociety'modeofreflectioncouldonlybecompletedanddevelopedbymovingsomewhere
elsetoasignificantlydifferentkindofanalysis.TheverydifficultyofsomeofthewritinginTheLong
Revolutianwithitsattemptto'theorize'onthebackofatraditionresolutelyempiricalandparticularist
initsidiomofthought,theexperiential'thickness'ofitsconcepts,andthegeneralizingmovementof
argumentinitstems,inpart,fromthisdeterminationtomoveon(Williams'swork,rightthroughtothe
mostrecentPoliticsandLetters,isexemplarypreciselyinitssustaineddevelopmentalism).The'good'
andthe'bad'partsofTheLongRevolutionbotharisefromitsstatusasawork'ofthebreak'.Thesame
couldbesaidofE.P.Thompson'sMakingoftheEnglishWorkingClass,whichbelongsdecisivelyto
this'moment',eventhough,chronologicallyitappearedsomewhatlater.It,too,hadbeen'thought'within
certaindistinctivehistoricaltraditions:Englishmarxisthistoriography,Economicand'Labour'History.
Butinitsforegroundingofthequestionsofculture,consciousnessandexperience,anditsaccenton
agency,italsomadeadecisivebreak:withacertainkindoftechnologicalevolutionism,withareductive
economismandanorganizationaldeterminism.Betweenthem,thesethreebooksconstitutedthe
CJZesuraoutofwhichamongotherthings'CulturalStudies'emerged.Theywere,ofcourse,seminal
andformativetexts.Theywerenot,inanysense,'textbooks'forthefoundingofanewacademicsub
discipline:nothingcouldhavebeenfartherfromtheirintrinsicimpulse.Whetherhistoricalor
contemporaryinfocus,theywere,themselves,focusedby,organizedthroughandconstitutedresponses
to,theimmediatepressuresofthetimeandsocietyinwhichtheywerewritten.Theynotonlytook
'culture'seriouslyasadimensionwithoutwhichhistoricaltransformations,pastandpresent,simply
couldnotadequatelybethought.Theywere,themselves,'cultural'intheCultureandSocietysense.They
forcedontheirreaders'attentionthepropositionthat'concentratedinthewordculturearequestions
directlyraisedbythegreathistoricalchangeswhichthechangesinindustry,democracyandclass,intheir
ownway,represent,andtowhichthechangesinartareacloselyrelatedresponse'(p.16).Thiswasa
questionforthe1960sand70s,aswellasthe1860sand70s.Andthisisperhapsthepointtonotethatthis
lineofthinkingwasroughlycoterminouswithwhathasbeencalledthe'agenda'oftheearlyNewLeft,
towhichthesewriters,inonesenseoranother,belonged,andwhosetextsthese
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms33
were.1hisconnectionplacedthe'politicsofintellectualwork'squarelyatthecentreofCulturalStudies
fromthebeginningaconcernfromwhich,fortunately,'settlingofitaccounts'hasneverinbeen,Culture
andandcanneverSodety,be,thefreed.firstInpartadeepofsense,TheLongthe
Revolution,Haggart'sdenselyparticular,concretestudyofsomeaspectsofworkingclasscultureand
Thompson'shistoricalreconstructionoftheformationofaclasscultureandpopulartraditionsinthe
17901830periodformed,betweenthem,thebreak,anddefinedthespacefromwhichanewareaof
studyandpracticeopened.Intermsofintellectualbearingsandemphases,thiswasifeversuchathing
canbefoundCulturalStudiesII\OJnentof'refounding'.TheinstitutionalizationofCulturalStudies
first,intheCentreatBirmingham,andthenincoursesandpublicationsfromavarietyofsourcesand
placeswithitscharacteristicgainsandlosses,belongstothe1960sandlater.
'Culture'wasthesiteoftheconvergence.Butwhatdefinitionsofthiscoreconceptemergedfromthis
bodyofwork?And,sincethislineofthinkingformativehasindigenousdecisivelyorshaped'native'
Culturaltradition,Studies,aroundandwhatrepresentsspacethewasmostitsconcernsa'ndconcepts
unified?Thefactisthatnosingle,unproblematicdefinitionof'culture'istobefoundhere.Theconcept
remainsacomplexoneasiteofconvergentinterests,ratherthanalogicallyorconceptuallyclarified
idea.1his'richness'isanareaofcontinuingtensionanddifficultyinthefield.Itmightbeuseful,
therefore,brieflytpresumethecharacteristicstressesandemphasesthroughwhichtheconcepthas
arrivedatitspresentstateof(in)determinacy.(Thecharacterizationswhichfolloware,necessarily
crudeandoversimplified,synthesizingratherthancarefullyanalytic.)Twomainproblematicsonlyare
discussed.ofTwothemanyrathersuggestivedifferentwaysformulationsofconceptualizinginRaymond
'culture'Williams'scanbel.DngdrawnRevoluout
Hon.Thefirstrelates'culture'tothesumoftheavailabledescriptionsthroughwhichsocietiesmakesense
ofandreflecttheircommonexperiences.1hisdefinitiontakesuptheearlierstresson'ideas',butsubjects
ittoathoroughreworking.Theconceptionof'culture'isitselfdemocratizedandsocialized.Itnolonger
consistsofthesumofthe'bestthathasbeenthoughtandsaid',regardedasthesummitsofanachieved
civilizationthatidealofperfectiontowhich,inearlierusage,allaspired.Even'art'assignedinthe
earlierframeworkaprivilegedposition,astouchstoneofthehighestvaluesofcivilizationisnow
redefinedasonlyone,special,formofageneralsocialprocess:thegivingandtakingofmeanings,and
thes~wthisspecialdevelopmentsense,of'is'common'ordinary'meanings(toborrowathecommon
titleofculture:oneof'culture',Williams'sin
earliestattemptstomakehisgeneralpositionmorewidelyaccessible).Ifevena_retions,alsothethrough
'parthighest,ofwhichthemostgeneraltherefinedmeaningsprocessofdescriptionswhichthatare
createsvaluedofferedconventionsbyintheworkscommunityofandliteratureinstituareshared
~.toncallivmg,c~lH:
hivedtheandprocess:processmadeofforactive''Sincedistinguishedofcommunication(p.our55),way
thenorofsetthereseeingisapartinisfactfromthingsnothewaytheprocessisinotherliterallywhich
practicesofcommunity:thisourprocesswayoftheof
34Whatisculturalstudies?
thesharingofcommonmeanings,andthencecommonactivitiesandpurposes;theoffering,receptionand
comparisonofnewmeanings,leadingtotensionsandachievementsofgrowthandchange'(p.55).
Accordingly,thereisnowayinwhichthecommunicationofdescriptions,understoodinthisway,can
besetasideandcomparedexternallywithotherthings.'Iftheartispartofsociety,thereisnosolid
whole,outsideit,towhich,bytheformofourquestion,weconcedepriority.Theartisthere,asan
activity, withtheproduction, the trading, the politics, the raisingof families. To studythe relations
adequatelywemuststudythemactively,seeingallactivitiesasparticularandcontemporaryformsof
humanenergy.'
Ifthisfirstemphasistakesupandreworkstheconnotationoftheterm'culture'withthedomainof
'ideas',thesecondemphasisismoredeliberatelyanthropological,andemphasizesthataspectof'culture'
whichreferstosocialpractices.Itisfromthissecondemphasisthatthesomewhatsimplifieddefinition
'cultureisawholewayoflife'hasbeenrathertooneatlyabstracted.Williamsdidrelatethisaspectofthe
concepttothemore'documentary'thatis,descriptive,evenethnographicusageoftheterm.Butthe
earlierdefinitionseemstomethemorecentralone,intowhich'wayoflife'isintegrated.Theimportant
point in the argument rests on the active and indissoluble relationships between elements or social
practicesnormallyseparatedout.Itisinthiscontextthatthe'theoryofculture'isdefinedas'thestudyof
relationshipsbetweenelementsinawholewayoflife'.'Culture'isnotapractice;norisitsimplythe
descriptivesumofthe'moresandfolkways'ofsocietiesasittendedtobecomeincertainkindsof
anthropology.Itisthreadedthroughallsocialpractices,andisthesumoftheirinterrelationship.The
questionofwhat,then,isstudied,andhow,resolvesitself.The'culture'isthosepatternsoforganization,
those characteristic forms of human energy which can be discovered as revealing themselves in
'unexpectedidentitiesandcorrespondences'aswellasin'discontinuitiesofanunexpectedkind'(p.63)
withinorunderlyingallsocialpractices.Theanalysisofcultureis,then,'theattempttodiscoverthe
natureoftheorganizationwhichisthecomplexoftheserelationships'.Itbeginswith'thediscoveryof
patternsofacharacteristickind'.Onewilldiscoverthem,notintheart,production,trading,politics,the
raising of families, treated as separate activities, but through 'studying a general organization in a
particularexample'(p.61).Analytically,onemuststudy'therelationshipsbetweenallthesepatterns'.The
purposeoftheanalysisistograsphowtheinteractionsbetweenthesepracticesandpatternsarelivedand
experiencedasawhole,inanyparticularperiod.Thisisits'structureoffeeling'.
ItiseasiertoseewhatWilliamswasgettingat,andwhyhewaspushedalongthispath,ifwe
understandwhatweretheproblemshe
ad~,andwhatpitfallshewastryingto
avoid. This is particularly necessary because The Long Revolution (like many of Williams's works)
carriesonasubmerged,almost'silent'dialoguewithalternativepositions,whicharenotalwaysasclearly
identifiedasonewouldwish.Thereisaclearengagementwiththe'idealist'and'civilizing'definitionsof
cultureboththeequationof'culture'withideas,intheidealisttradition;andthe
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms35
assimilationofculturetoanideal,prevalentintheelitisttermsofthe'culturaldebate'.Butthereisalsoa
moreextendedengagementwithcertainkindsofMarxism,againstwhichWilliams'sdefinitionsarecon
sciouslypitched.Heisarguingagainsttheliteraloperationsofthebase/superstructuremetaphor,which
inclassicalMarxismascribedtodomainofideasandofmeaningstothe'superstructures',themselves
conceivedasmerelyreflectiveofanddeterminedinsomesimplefashionby'thebase';withoutasocial
effectivityoftheirown.Thatistosay,hisargumentisconstructedagainstavulgarmaterialismandan
economic determinism. He offers, instead, a radical interactionism: in effect, the interaction of all
practicesinandwithoneanother,skirtingtheproblemofdeterminacy.Thedistinctionsbetweenpractices
isovercomebyseeingthemallasvariantformsofpraxisofageneralhumanactivityandenergy.The
underlyingpatternswhichdistinguishthecomplexofpracticesinanyspecificsocietyatanyspecifictime
arethecharacteristic'formsofitsorganization'whichunderliethemall,andwhichcanthereforebetraced
ineach.
Therehavebeenseveral,radicalrevisionsofthisearlyposition:andeachhascontributedmuchtothe
redefinitionofwhatCulturalStudiesisandshouldbe.Wehaveacknowledgedalreadytheexemplary
nature of Wil liams's project, in constantly rethinking and revising older arguments in going on
thinking.Nevertheless,oneisstruckbyamarkedlineofcontinuitythroughtheseseminalrevisions.One
suchmomentistheoccasionofhisrecognitionofLucienGoldmann'swork,andothroughhim,ofthe
arrayofMarxistthinkerswhohadgivenparticularattentiontosuperstructuralformsandwhosework
began,forthefirsttime,toappearinEnglishtranslationinthemid1960s.Thecontrastbetweenthe
alternative Marxist traditions which sustained writers like Goldman and Lukacs, as compared with
Williams's isolated position and the impoverished Marxist tradition he had to draw on, is sharply
delineated.Butthepointsofconvergencebothwhattheyareagainst,andwhattheyareaboutare
identifiedinwayswhicharenotaltogetheroutoflinewithhisearlierarguments.Hereisthenegative,
whichheseesaslinkinghisworktoGoldmann's:'IcametobelievethatIhadtogiveup,oratleastto
leaveaside,whatIknewastheMarxisttradition:toattempttodevelofatheoryofsocialtotality;tosee
thestudyofcultureasthestudyorelationsbetweenelementsinawholewayoflife;tofindwaysof
studyingstructure...whichcouldstayintouchwithandilluminateparticularartWorksandforms,but
alsoformsandrelationsofmoregeneralsociallife;toreplacetheformulaofbaseandsuperstructurewith
themoreactiveideaofafieldofmutuallyifalsounevenlydeterminingforces'(NLR67,MayJune
1971}.Andhereisthepositivethepointwheretheconvergenceismarked~eenWilliams's'structureof
feeling'andGoldmann's'geneticstructuralism':1foundinmyownworkthatIhadtodeveloptheidea
ofastructureoffeeling....ButthenIfoundGoldmannbeginning...fromaconceptofstructurewhich
contained,initself,arelationbetweensocialandliteraryfacts.Thisrelation,heinsisted,wasnotamatter
of content, but of mental structures: "categories which simultaneously organize the etnpirical
consciousness of a particular social group, and the imaginative World created by the writer". By
definition,thesestructuresarenot
36Whlztisculturalstudies?
individually but collectively created.' The stress there on the interactivity of practices and on the
underlying totalities, and the homologies between them, is characteristic and significant. 'A
correspondenceofcontentbetweenawriterandhisworldislesssignificantthanthiscorrespondenceor
organization,ofstructure.'
Asecondsuch'moment'isthepointwhereWilliamsreallytakesonboardE.P.Thompson'scritiqueof
TheLong Revolution (cf. the review in NLR 9 and10) that no 'whole way of life' is without its
dimensionofstruggleandconfrontationbetweenopposedwaysoflifeandattemptstorethinkthekey
issues of determination and domination via Gramsci's concept of 'hegemony'. This essay ('Base and
superstructure',NLR82,1973)isaseminalone,especiallyinitselaborationofdominant,residualand
emergentculturalpractices,anditsreturntotheproblematicofdeterminacyas'limitsandpressures'.
Nonetheless,theearlieremphasesrecur,withforce:'wecannotseparateliteratureandartfromother
kindsofsocialpractice,insuchawayastomakethemsubjecttoquitespecialanddistinctlaws'.And,'no
modeofproduction,andthereforenodominantsocietyororderofsociety,andthereforenodominant
culture,inrealityexhaustshumanpractice,humanenergy,humanintention'.Andthisnoteiscarried
forwardindeed,itisradicallyaccentedinWilliams'smostsustainedandsuccinctrecentstatementof
hisposition:themasterlycondensationsofMarxismandLiterature.Againstthestructuralistemphasis
onthespecifictyand'autonomy'ofpractices,andtheiranalyticseparationofsocietiesintotheirdiscrete
instances,Williams'sstressison'constitutiveactivity'ingeneral,on'sensuoushumanactivity,asprac
tice',fromMarx'sfirst'thesis'onFeuerbach;ondifferentpracticesconceivedasa'wholeindissoluble
practice'; on totality. 'Thus, contrary to one development in Marxism, it is not "the base" and "the
superstructure"thatneedtobestudied,butspecificandindissolublerealprocesses,withinwhichthe
decisive relationship, from a Marxist point of view, is that expressed by the complex idea of
"determination"'(1977,pp.3(}....31,82).
Atonelevel,Williams'sandThompson'sworkcanonlybesaidtoconvergearoundthetermsofthe
sameproblematicthroughtheoperationofaviolentandschematicallydichotomoustheorization.The
organizingterrainofThompson'sworkclassesasrelations,popularstruggle,andhistoricalformsof
consciousness, class cultures in their historical particu larity is foreign to the more reflective and
'generalizing'modeinwhichWilliamstypicallyworks.Andthedialoguebetweenthembeginswitha
verysharpencounter.ThereviewofTheLongRevolution,whichThompsonundertook,tookWilliams
sharplytotaskfortheevolutionarywayinwhichcultureasa'wholewayoflife'hadbeenconceptualized;
forhistendencytoabsorbconflictsbetweenclassculturesintothetermsofanextended'conversation';
forhisimpersonaltoneabovethecontendingclasses,asitwere;andfortheimperializingsweepofhis
conceptof'culture'(which,heterogeneously,swepteverythingintoitsorbitbecauseitwasthestudyof
theinterrelationshipsbetweentheformsofenergyandorganizationunderlyingallpractices.Butwasn't
thisThompsonaskedwhereHistorycamein?).Progressively,wecanseehowWilliamshaspersistently
rethoughtthetermsofhisoriginalparadigmtotakethesecriticismsintoaccount
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms37
thoughthisisaccomplished(asitsofrequentlyisinWilliams)obliquely:viaaparticularappropriationof
Gramsci,ratherthaninamoredirectJI\odification.
Thompsonalsooperateswithamore'classical'distinctionthanWilliams,between'socialbeing'and
'socialconsciousness'(thetermsheinfinitelyprefers,fromMarx,tothemorefashionable'baseand
superstructure').Thus,whereWilliamsinsistsontheabsorptionofallpracticesintothetotalityof'real,
indissolublepractice',Thompsondoesdeployanolderdistinctionbetweenwhatis'culture'andwhatis
'notculture'.'Anytheoryofculturecultureandmustsomethingincludethattheisconceptnotculture.'of
theYetdialecticalthedefinitioninteractionofculturebetweenisnot,afterall,sofarremovedfrom
Williams's:'Wemustsupposetherawmaterialoflifeexperiencetobeatonepole,andalltheinfinitely
complexhumandisciplinesandsystems,articulateandinarticulate,formalisedininstitutionsordispersed
intheleastformalways,which"handle",transmitordistortthisrawmaterialtobeattheother.'Similarly,
withrespecttothecommonalityof'practice'whichunderliesallthedistinctpractices:'Itistheactive
processwhichisatthesametimetheprocessthroughwhichmenmaketheirhistorythatIaminsisting
upon'(NLR9,p.33,1961).Andthetwopositionscomeclosetogetheraroundagaincertaindistinctive
negativesandpositives.Negatively,againstthe'base/superstructure'metaphor,andareductionistor
'economistic'definitionofdeterminacy.Onthefirst:'Thedialecticalintercoursebetweensocialbeingand
socialconsciousnessorbetween"culture"and"notculture"isattheheartofanycomprehensionofthe
historicalprocesswithintheMarxisttradition....Thetraditioninheritsadialecticthatisright,butthe
particularmechanicalmetaphorthroughwhichitisexpressediswrong.Thismetaphorfrom
constructionalengineering...mustinanycasebeinadequatetodescribethefluxofconflict,thedialectic
ofachangingsocialprocess....Allthemetaphorswhicharecommonlyofferedhaveatendencytolead
themindintoschematicmodesandawayfromtheinteractionofbeingconsciousness.'Andon
'reductionism':'Reductionismisalapseinhistoricallogicbywhichpoliticalorculturaleventsare
"explained"intermsoftheclassaffiliationsoftheactors....Butthemediationbetween"interest"and
"belief"wasnotthroughRegister,1965,thepeoplepp.throughthemselves'Nairn's('Peculiarities
"complexofofthesuperstructures"English',Socialistbut
35152).And,morepositivelyasimplestatement~hichIcalwork,mayfrombetakenTheMakingas
definingtoWhigsvirtuallyandHunters,thewholeTheofPovertyThompson'sofTheoryhistorand
beyondaresimultaneously'capitalistsocietyeconomic,wasmoralfoundedanduponcultural.forms
Takeofexploitationuptheessentialwhich
definingproductiverelationship...andturnitround,anditrevealsitselfnowinoneaspect(wagelabour),
nowinanother(anacquisitiveethos),andnowinanother(thealienationofsuchintellectualfacultiesas
arenotrequiredbytheworkerinhisproductiverole)'(ibid.,p.356).81sni;ficant~onunanttive.H~,role
then,assignedparadigm.linedespite?f
tothinking'theItthestandsmanycultural'.inopposedsignificantCulturalIndifferences,itstoStudies
differenttheistheoutlineofoneresidualways,someanditwouldconceptualizesmerelyreflecsay,
the
38Whatisculturalstudies?
cultureasinterwovenwithallsocialpractices;andthosepractices,intum,asacommonformofhuman
activity:sensuoushumanpraxis,theactivitythroughwhichmenandwomenmakehistory.Itisopposed
to the base superstructure way of formulating the relationship between ideal and material forces,
especiallywherethe'base'isdefinedasthedeterminationby'theeconomic'inanysimplesense.Itprefes
thewiderformulationthedialecticbetweensocialbeingandsocialconsciousness:neitherseparableinto
itsdistinctpoles(insomealternativeformulations,thedialecticbetween'culture'and'nonculture').It
defines'culture'asboththemeaningsandvalueswhichariseamongstdistinctivesocialgroupsand
classes,onthebasisoftheirgivenhistoricalconditionsandrelationships,throughwhichthey'handle'and
respondtotheconditionsofexistence;andasthelivedtraditionsandpracticesthroughwhichthose
'understandings' are expressed and in which they are embodied. Williams brings together these two
aspectsdefinitionsandwaysoflifearoundtheconceptof'culture'itself.Thompsonbringsthetwo
elementsconsciousnessandconditionsaroundtheconceptof'experience'.Bothpositionsentailcertain
difficultfluctuationsaroundthesekeyterms.Williamssototallyabsorbs'definitionsofexperience'into
our'waysofliving',andbothintoanindissolublerealmaterialpracticeingeneral,astoobviateany
distinctionbetween'culture'and'notculture'.Thompsonsometimesuses'experience'inthemoreusual
senseof consciousness, as the collective ways in which men'handle, transmit or distort' their given
conditions, the raw materials of life; sometimes as the domain of the 'lived', the midterm between
'conditions'and'culture';andsometimesastheobjectiveconditionsthemselvesagainstwhichparticular
modesofconsciousnessarecounterposed.But,whatevertheterms,bothpositionstendtoreadstructures
ofrelationsintermsofhowtheyare'lived'and'experienced'.Williams's'structureoffeeling'withits
deliberatecondensationofapparentlyincompatibleelementsischaracteristic.Butthesameistrueof
Thompson,despitehisfarfullerhistoricalgraspofthe'givenness'orstructurednessoftherelationsand
conditionsintowhichmenandwomennecessarilyandinvoluntarilyenter,andhisclearerattentiontothe
determinacyofproductiveandexploitativerelationsundercapitalism.Thisisaconsequenceofgiving
cultureconsciousness andexperience so pivotal a place in the analysis. The experiential pull inthis
paradigm,andtheemphasisonthecreativeandonhistoricalagency,constitutesthetwokeyelementsin
thehumanismofthepositionoutlined.Eachconsequentlyaccords'experience'anauthenticatingposition
inanyculturalanalysis.Itis,ultimately,whereandhowpeopleexperiencetheirconditionsoflife,define
them andrespondtothem, which, for Thompsondefines whyeverymode of productionisalsoa
culture,andeverystrugglebetweenclassesisalwaysalsoastrugglebetweenculturalmodalities;and
which,forWilliams,iswhata'culturalanalysis',inthefinalinstance,shoulddeliver.In'experience',all
thedifferentpracticesintersect;within'culture'thedifferentpracticesinteractevenifonanunevenand
mutuallydeterminingbasis.Thissenseofculturaltotalityofthewholehistoricalprocessoverrides
anyefforttokeeptheinstancesandelementsdistinct.Theirrealinterconnection,undergivenhistorical
conditions,mustbematchedbyatotalizingmovement'in
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms39
thought',intheanalysis.Itestablishesforboththestrongestprotocolsagainstanyformofanalytic
abstractionwhichdistinguishespractices,orwhichsetsouttotestthe'actualhistoricalmovement'inall
itsintertwinedcomplexityandparticularitybyanymoresustainedlogicaloranalyticaloperation.
rendering(TheTheseMaking,positions,TheCountryespeciallyandinthetheirCity)morearethe
concreteveryoppositehistoricalofpracticesaHegeliantosearchpraxisandforunderlyingtofind
commonEssences.andhomologousYet,intheirtendency'forms'underlyingtoreduce
themostapparentlydifferentiatedareas,theirmovementis'essentializing'.Theyhaveaparticularwayof
understandingthetotalitythoughitiswithasmall't',concreteandhistoricallydeterminate,uneveninits
correspondences.Theyunderstandit'expressively'.Andsincetheyconstantlyinflectthemore
traditionalanalysistowardstheexperientiallevel,orreadtheotherstructuresandrelationsdownwards
fromthevantagepointofhowtheyare'lived',theyareproperly(evenifnotadequatelyorfully)char
acterizedas'culturalist'intheiremphasis:evenwhenallthecaveatsandqualificationsagainstatoorapid
'dichotomoustheorizing'havebeenentered.(Cf.for'culturalism',RichardJohnson'stwoseminalarticles
ontheogy',CroomoperationIdeologyHelm,ofand1979;theCulturalparadigm:and'ThreeProduction,
inproblematics''HistoriesedsM.ofBarrett,inculture/theoriesWorkingP.CorriganClassofCulture,
ideoletal.,
Clarke,CritcherandJohnson,HutchinsonandCCCS,1979.Forthedangersculturalin'dichotomous
production',totheorizing',Barrett,Corrigancf.theIntroduction,etal..)
'Representationand
The'culturalist'strandinCulturalStudieswasinterruptedbythearrivalontheintellectualsceneofthe
'structuralisms'.These,possiblymorevariedthanthe'culturalisms',neverthelesssharedcertainpositions
andorientationsincommonwhichmakestheirdesignationunderasingletitlenotaltogether
misleading.Ithasbeenremarkedthatwhereasthe'culturalist'paradigmterm'ideology'canbe(the
definedword,withoutofrequiringaconceptualreferencecourse,doesappear:butittotheisnotakey
concept),the'structuralist'interventionshavebeenlargelyarticulatedaroundtheconceptof'ideology':in
keepingwithitsmoreimpeccablybeMarxisttrueoflineage,theMarxist'culture'structuralists,doesnot
figureitissoatprominently.bestlessthanWhilsthalfthethistruthmay
aboutthestructuralistenterpriseassuch.Butitisnowacommonerrortohascondensefollowedthein
latterthewakeexclusivelyofhisaroundinterventionstheimpactwhereofAlthusser'ideology'andhas
allplayedthat
a
~,

butmodulatedrole:andtoomitthesignificanceofLeviStrauss.Yet~mstricthistoricalterms,itwas
LeviStrauss,andtheearlysemiotics,Whichmadethefirstbreak.AndthoughtheMarxiststructuralisms
havesupersededthelatter,theyowed,andcontinuetoowe,animmensetheoreticaldebt(oftenfendedoff
ordowngradedintofootnotes,inthe5earchforaretrospectiveorthodoxy)tohiswork.ItwasLevi
Strauss's~cturalismwhich,initsappropriationofthelinguisticparadigm,afterussure,offeredthe
promisetothe'humansciencesofculture'ofaParadigmcapableofrenderingthemscientificandrigorous
inathor
vlarxist~~~ynewthemesway.wereAndrecovered,when,initAlthusser'sremainedwork,thecasethe
thatmoreMarxclassicalwas
40Whatisculturalstudies?
'read'andreconstitutedthroughthetermsofthelinguisticparadigm.InReadingCapital,forexample,
thecaseismadethatthemodeofproductiontocoinaphrasecouldbestbeunderstoodasif'struc
turedlikealanguage'(throughtheselectivecombinationofinvariantelements).Theahistoricaland
synchronicstress,againstthehistoricalemphasesof'culturalism',derivedfromasimilarsource.Sodida
preoccupationwith'thesocial,suigeneris'usednotadjectivallybutsubstantively:ausageLevi
Straussderived,notfromMarx,butfromDurkheim(theDurkheimwhoanalysedthesocialcategoriesof
thoughte.g.inPrimitiveClassificationratherthantheDurkheimofTheDivisionofLabour,who
becamethefoundingfatherofAmericanstructuralfunctionalism).
LeviStraussdid,onoccasion,toywithcertainMarxistformulations.Thus,'Marixism,ifnotMarx
himself,hastoocommonlyreasonedasthoughpracticesfolloweddirectlyfrompraxis.Without
questioningtheundoubtedprimacyofinfrastructures,Ibelievethatthereisalwaysamediatorbetween
praxisandpractices,namely,theconceptualschemebytheoperationofwhichmatterandform,neither
withanyindependentexistence,arerealizedasstructures,thatisasentitieswhicharebothempiricaland
intelligible'.Butthistocoinanotherphrasewaslargely'gestural'.Thisstructuralismsharedwith
culturalismaradicalbreakwiththetermsofthebase/superstructuremetaphor,asderivedfromthe
simplerpartsofTheGermanIdeology.And,though'Itistothistheoryofthesuperstructures,scarcely
touchedonbyMarx'towhichLeviStraussaspiredtocontribute,hiscontributionwassuchastobreakin
aradicalwaywithitswholetermsofreference,asfinallyandirrevocablyasthe'culturalists'did.Here
andwemustincludeAlthusserinthischaracterizationculturalistsandstructuralistsalikeascribedtothe
domainshithertodefinedas'superstructural'aspecificityandeffectivity,aconstitutiveprimacy,which
pushedthembeyondthetermsofreferenceof'base'and'superstructure'.LeviStraussandAlthusser,
too,wereantireductionistandantieconomistintheirverycastofthought,andcriticallyattackedthat
transitivecausalitywhich,forsolong,hadpasseditselfoffas'classicalMarxism'.LeviStraussworked
consistentlywiththeterm'culture'.Heregarded'ideologies'asofmuchlesserimportance:mere
'secondaryrationalizations'.LikeWilliamsandGoldmann,heworked,notatthelevelof
correspondencesbetweenthecontentofapractice,butattheleveloftheirformsandstructures.Butthe
mannerinwhichthesewereconceptualizedwerealtogetheratvariancewitheitherthe'culturalism'of
WilliamsorGoldmann's'geneticstructuralism'.Thisdivergencecanbeidentifiedinthreedistinctways.
First,heconceptualized'culture'asthecategoriesandframeworksinthoughtandlanguagethroughwhich
differentsocietiesclassifiedouttheirconditionsofexistenceaboveall(sinceLeviStraUSSwasan
anthropologist),therelationsbetweenthehumanandthenaturalworlds.Second,hethoughtofthe
mannerandpracticethroughwhichthesecategoriesandmentalframeworkswereproducedandtrans
formed,largelyonananalogywiththewaysinwhichlanguageitselftheprincipalmediumof'culture'
operated.Heidentifiedwhatwasspecifictothemandtheiroperationasthe'productionofmeaning':they
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms41
were,aboveall,signifyingpractices.Third,aftersomeearlyflirtationswithourkheimandMauss'ssocial
categories of thought, he largely gave up the question of the relation between signifying and non
signifying practices })etWeen 'culture' and 'notculture', to use other terms for the sake of
concentratingontheinternalrelationswithinsignifyingpracticesbymeansofwhichthecategoriesof
meaningwereproduced.Thisleftthequestionofdeterminacy,oftotality,largelyinabeyance.Thecausal
logicofdeterminacywasabandonedinfavourofastructuralistcausalityalogicofarrangement,of
internalrelations,ofarticulationofpartswithinastructure.Eachoftheseaspectsisalsopositively
presentinAlthusser'sworkandthatoftheMarxiststructuralists,evenwhenthetermsofreferencehad
beenregroundedinMarx's'immensetheoreticalrevolution'.InoneofAlthusser'sseminalformulations
aboutideologydefinedasthethemes,conceptsandrepresentationsthroughwhichmenandwomen'live',
inanimaginaryrelation,theirrelationtotheirrealconditionsofexistencewecanseetheskeleton
outlineofLeviStrauss's'conceptualschemesbetweenpraxisandpractices'.'Ideologies'areherebeing
conceptualized,notasthecontentsandsurfaceformsofideas,butastheunconsciouscategoriesthrough
which conditions are represented and lived. We have already commented on the active presence in
Althusser'sthinkingofthelinguisticparadigmthesecondelementidentifiedabove.Andthough,inthe
conceptof'overdetermination'oneofhismostseminalandfruitfulcontributionsAlthusserdidreturn
totheproblemsoftherelationsbetweenpracticesandthequestionofdeterminacy(proposing,inciden
tally,athoroughlynovelandhighlysuggestivereformulation,whichhasreceivedfartoolittlesubsequent
attention), he did tend to reinforce the 'relative autonomy' of different practices, and their internal
specificities,conditionsandeffectsattheexpenseofan'expressive'conceptionofthetotality,withits
typicalhomologiesandcorrespondences.
Asidefromthewhollydistinctintellectualandconceptualuniverseswithinwhichthesealternative
paradigmsdeveloped,therewerecertainpointswhere,despitetheirapparentoverlaps,culturalismand
structuralismwerestarklycounterposed.Wecanidentifythiscounterpositionatoneofitssharpest
pointspreciselyaroundtheconceptof'experience',andtherolethetermplayedineachperspective.
Whereas,in'culturalism',experiencewasthegroundtheterrainof'thelived'whereconsciousnessand
conditionsintersected,structuralisminsistedthat'experience'couldnot,bydefinition,bethegroundof
anything, since one could only 'live' and experience one's conditions in and through the categories,
classifications and frameworks of the culture. These categories, however, did not arise from or in
experience:rather,experiencewastheir'effect'.Theculturalistshaddefinedtheformsofconsciousness
andcultureascollective.Buttheyhadstoppedfarshortoftheradicalpropositionthat,incultureandin
language,thesubjectwas'spokenby'thecategoriesofcultureinwhichhe/shethought,ratherthan
'speaking them'. These categories were, however, n~t merely collective rather than individual
productions:theywereuncons~usstructures.Thatiswhy,thoughLeviStraussspokeonlyof'Culture',
hisconceptprovidedthebasisforaneasytranslation,byAlthusser,intotheconceptualframeworkof
ideology:'Ideologyisindeedasystemof
42Whatisculturalstudies?
"representations", but in the majority of cases these representations have nothing to do with
"consciousness"...:itisaboveallasstructuresthattheyimposeonthevastmajorityofmen,notviatheir
"consciousness"...itiswithinthisideologicalunconsciousnessthatmensucceedinalteringthe"lived"
relationbetweenthemandtheworldandacquiringthatnewformofspecificunconsciousnesscalled
"consciousness"'(ForMarx,p.233).Itwas,inthissense,that'experience'wasconceived,notasan
authenticatingsourcebutasaneffect:notasareflectionoftherealbutasan'imaginaryrelation'.Itwas
onlyashortsteptheonewhichseparatesForMarxfromthe'IdeologicalStateApparatuses'essayto
thedevelopmentofanaccountofhowthis'imaginaryrelation'served,notsimplythedominanceofa
rulingclassoveradominatedone,but(throughthereproductionoftherelationsofproduction,andthe
constitutionoflabourpowerinaformfitforcapitalistexploitation)theexpandedreproductionofthe
modeofproductionitself.Manyoftheotherlinesofdivergencebetweenthetwoparadigmsflowfrom
thispoint:theconceptionof'men'asbearersofthestructuresthatspeakandplacethem,ratherthanas
active agents in the making of their own history; the emphasis on a structural rather than a
historical'logic';thepreoccupationwiththeconstitutionin'theory'ofanonideological,scientific
discourse;andhencetheprivilegingofconceptualworkandofTheoryasguaranteed;therecastingof
historyasamarchofthestructures(d.passim,ThePovertyofTheory):thestructuralist'machine'....
Thereisnospaceinwhichtofollowthroughthemanyramificationswhichhavefollowedfromthe
developmentofoneorotherofthese'masterparadigms'inCulturalStudies.Thoughtheybynomeans
acountforall,orevennearlyall,ofthemanystrategiesadopted,itisfairtosaythat,betweenthem,they
havedefinedtheprincipallinesofdevelopmentinthefield.Theseminaldebateshavebeenpolarized
aroundtheirthematics;someofthebestconcreteworkhasflowedfromtheeffortstosetoneorotherof
theseparadigmstoworkonparticularproblemsandmaterials.Characteristicallythesectarianandself
righteousclimateofcriticalintellectualworkinEnglandbeingwhatitis,anditsdependencybeingso
markedtheargumentsanddebateshavemostfrequentlybeenoverpolarizedintotheirextremes.At
theseextremities,theyfrequentlyappearonlyasmirrorreflectionsorinversionsofoneanother.Here,the
broadtypologieswehavebeenworkingwithforthesakeofconvenientexpositionbecometheprison
houseofthought.
Withoutsuggestingthattherecanbeanyeasysynthesisbetweenthem,itmightusefullybesaidatthis
pointthatneither'culturalism'nor'structuralism'is,initspresentmanifestation,adequatetothetaskof
constructingthestudyofcultureasaconceptuallyclarifiedandtheoreticallyinformeddomainofstudy.
Nevertheless,somethingfundamentaltoitemergesfromaroughcomparisonoftheirrespectivestrengths
andlimitations.
Thegreatstrengthofthestructuralismsistheirstresson
'determ.ina~econditions'.Theyremindus
that,unlessthedialecticreallycanbeheld,
1ll any particular analysis,
betweenbothhalvesofthepropositionthat'menmakehistory...onthebasisofconditionswhichare
notoftheirmaking'theresultwillinevitablybeanaivehumanism,withitsnecessaryconse
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms43
quence:avoluntaristandpopulistpoliticalpractice.Thefactthat'men'canbecomeconsciousoftheir
conditions,organizetostruggleagainstthemandinfacttransformthemwithoutwhichnoactivepolitics
canevenbeconceived,letalonepractisedmustnotbeallowedtooverridetheawarenessofthefactthat,
incapitalistrelations,menandwomenareplacedandpositionedinrelationswhichconstitutethemas
agents.'Pessimismoftheintellect,optimismofthewill'isabetterstartingpointthanasimpleheroic
affirmation.StructuralismdoesenableustobegintothinkasMarxinsistedoftherelationsofa
structureonthebasisofsomethingotherthantheirreductiontorelationshipsbetween'people'.Thiswas
Marx'sprivilegedlevelofabstraction:thatwhichenabledhimtobreakwiththeobviousbutincorrect
startingpointof'politicaleconomy'bareindividuals.
Butthisconnectswithasecondstrength:therecognitionbystructuralismnotonlyofthenecessityof
abstractionastheinstrumentofthoughtthroughwhich'realrelations'areappropriated,butalsoofthe
presence,inMarx'swork,ofacontinuousandcomplexmovementbetweendifferentlevelsofabstraction.
Itis,ofcourse,thecaseas'culturalism'arguesthat,inhistoricalreality,practicesdonotappearneatly
distinguishedoutintotheirrespectiveinstances.However,tothinkaboutortoanalysethecomplexityof
thereal,theactofthepracticeofthinkingisrequired;andthisnecessitatestheuseofthepowerof
abstractionandanalysis,theformationofconceptswithwhichtocutintothecomplexityofthereal,in
orderpreciselytorevealandbringtolightrelationshipsandstructureswhichcannotbevisibletothena!
venakedeye,andwhichcanneitherpresentnorauthenticatethemselves:'Intheanalysisofeconomic
forms,neithermicroscopesnorchemicalreagentsareofassistance.Thepowerofabstractionmustreplace
both.'Ofcourse,structuralismhasfrequentlytakenthispropositiontoitsextreme.Becausethoughtis
impossiblewithout'thepowerofabstraction',ithasconfusedthiswithgivinganabsoluteprimacytothe
leveloftheformationofconceptsandatthehighest,mostabstractlevelofabstractiononly:Theory
withacapital'T'thenbecomesjudgeandjury.Butthisispreciselytolosetheinsightjustwonfrom
Marx'sownpractice.Foritisclearin,forexample,Capital,thatthemethodwhilst,ofcourse,taking
place'inthought'(asMarxaskedinthe1857Introduction,whereelse?)rests,notonthesimpleexercise
ofabstractionbutonthemovementandrelationswhichtheargumentisconstantlyestablishingbetween
differentlevelsofabstraction:ateach,thepremisesinplaymustbedistinguishedfromthosewhichfor
thesakeoftheargumenthavetobeheldconstant.Themovementtoanotherlevelofmagnification(to
~eploythemicroscopemetaphor)requiresthespecifyingoffurtherconditionsofexistencenotsupplied
ataprevious,moreabstractlevel:inthisway,bysuccessiveabstractionsofdifferentmagnitudes,tomove
towardstheconstitution,thereproduction,of'theconcreteinthought'asaneffectofacertainkindof
thinking. This methodisadequately represented in neither the absolutism of Theoretical Practice, in
structuralism,norintheanti~bstraction'PovertyofTheory'positionintowhich,inreaction,cultural
lStnappearstohavebeendrivenordrivenitself.Neverthelessitisintrinsicallytheoretical,andmustbe.
Here,structuralism'sinsistencethatthought
44Whatisculturalstudies?
doesnotreflectreality,butisarticulatedonandappropriatesit,isanecessarystartingpoint.Anadequate
workingthroughoftheconsequencesofthisargumentmightbegintoproduceamethodwhichtakesus
outside the permanent oscillations between abstraction/ antiabstraction and the false dichotomies of
Theoreticism vs. Empiricism which have both marked and disfigured the structuralism/ culturalism
encountertodate.
Structuralismhasanotherstrength,initsconceptionof'thewhole'.Thereisasenseinwhich,though
culturalismconstantlyinsistsontheradicalparticularityofitspractices,itsmodeofconceptualizingthe
'totality'hassomethingofthecomplexsimplicityofanexpressivetotalitybehindit.Itscomplexityis
constitutedbythefluiditywithwhichpracticesmoveintoandoutofoneanother:butthiscomplexityis
reducible, conceptually, to the 'simplicity' of praxis human activity, as such in which the same
contradictionsconstantlyappear,homologouslyreflectedineach.Structuralismgoestoofarinerecting
themachineofa'Structure',withitsselfgeneratingpropensities(a'Spinozeaneternity',whosefunction
isonlythesumofitseffects:atrulystructuralistdeviation),equippedwithitsdistinctiveinstances.Yet
itrepresentsanadvanceoverculturalismintheconceptionithasofthenecessarycomplexityoftheunity
ofastructure(overdeterminationbeingamoresuccessfulwayofthinkingthiscomplexitythanthe
combinatoryinvarianceofstructuralistcausality).Moreover,ithastheconceptualabilitytothinkofa
unitywhichisconstructedthroughthedifferencesbetween,ratherthanthehomologyof,practices.Here,
again,ithaswonacriticalinsightaboutMarx'smethod:onethinksofthecomplexpassagesofthe1857
IntroductiontotheGrundrissewhereMarxdemonstrateshowitispossibletothinkofthe'unity'ofa
social formation as constructed, not out of identity but out of difference. Of course, the stress on
differencecanandhasledthestructuralismsintoafundamentalconceptualheterogeneity,inwhichall
senseofstructureandtotalityislost.FoucaultandotherpostAlthussereanshavetakenthisdeviouspath
into the absolute, not the relative, autonomy of practices, via their neces sary heterogeneity and
'necessary noncorrespondence'. But the emphasis on unityindifference, on complex unity Marx's
concreteasthe'unityofmanydeterminations'canbeworkedinanother,andultimatelymorefruitful
direction: towards the problematic of relative autonomy and 'over determination', and the study of
articulation.Again,articulationcontainsthedangerofahighformalism.Butitalsohastheconsiderable
advantageofenablingustothinkofhowspecificpractices(articulatedaroundcontradictionswhichdo
notallariseinthesameway,atthesamepoint,inthesamemoment),canneverthelessbethought
together. Thestructuralist paradigm thus does if properly developed enable us tobeginreally to
conceptualizethespecificityofdifferentpractices(analyticallydistinguished,abstractedout),without
losingitsgripontheensemblewhichtheyconstitute.Culturalismconstantlyaffirmsthespecificityof
differentpractices'culture'mustnotbeabsorbedinto'theeconomic':butitlacksanadequatewayof
establishingthisspecificitytheoretically.
Thethirdstrengthwhichstructuralismexhibitsliesinitsdecentringof'experience'anditsseminal
workinelaboratingtheneglectedcategoryof'ideology'.ItisdifficulttoconceiveofaCulturalStudies
thoughtwithina
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms45
Marxistcourse,
culturalismparadigmwhichconstantlyisinnocentmakereferenceofthetocategorythisconcept:of
'ideology'.butitdoesOf
110powertinfactlieatandreferencethecentreofitsconceptualuniverse.Theauthenticatingof
'experience'imposesabarrierbetweenculturalisman.daproperconceptionof'ideology'.Yet,withoutit,
theeffectivityof'culture'forthereproductionofaparticularmodeofproductioncannotbegrasped.Itis
truethatthereisamarkedtendencyinthemorerecentstrUcturalistconceptualizationsof'ideology'to
giveitafunctionalistreadingasthenecessarycementofthesocialformation.Fromthisposition,itis
indeedimpossibleasculturalismwouldcorrectlyarguetoconceiveeitherofideologieswhicharenot,
bydefinition,'dominant':oroftheconceptofstruggle(thelatter'sappearanceinAlthusser'sfamousISA's
articlebeingtocoinyetanotherphraselargely'gestural').Nevertheless,workisalreadybeingdone
whichsuggestswaysinwhichthefieldofideologymaybeadequatelyconceptualizedasaterrainof
struggle(throughtheworkofGramsci,andmorerecently,ofLaclau),andthesehavestructuralistrather
thanculturalistbearings.
Culturalism'sstrengthscanalmostbederivedfromtheweaknessesofthestructuralistpositionalready
noted,andfromthelatter'sstrategicabsencesandsilences.Ithasinsisted,correctly,ontheaffirmative
momentofthedevelopmentofconsciousstruggleandorganizationasanecessaryelementintheanalysis
ofhistory,ideologyandconsciousness:againstitspersistentdowngradinginthestructuralistparadigm.
Here,again,itislargelyGramsciwhohasprovideduswithasetofmorerefinedtermsthroughwhichto
linkthelargely'unconscious'andgivenculturalcategoriesof'commonsense'withtheformationof
moreactiveandorganicideologies,whichhavethecapacitytointerveneinthegroundofcommonsense
massesandofmenpopularandtraditionswomen.Inand,thisthroughsense,culturalismsuch
interventions,properlyrestorestoorganizethedialecticbetweentheunconsciousnessofcultural
categoriesandthemomentofconsciousorganization:evenif,initscharacteristicmovement,ithas
tendedtomatchstructuralism'soveremphasison'conditions'withanaltogethertooinclusiveemphasis
on'consciousness'.Itthereforenotonlyrecoversasthenecessarymomentofanyanalysistheprocess
bymeansofwhichclassesinthemselves,definedprimarilybythewayinwhicheconomicrelations
position'men'asagentsbecomeactivehistoricalandpoliticalforcesforthemselves:italsoagainstits
owneachantitheoreticalmomentgoodsensemustbeunderstoodrequiresthat,whenproperly
developed,intermsofthelevelofabstractionatWhichtheanalysisisoperating.Again,Gramscihas
beguntopointawaythroughthisfalsepolarizationinhisdiscussionof'thepassagebetweenthe'onns
~ctureandandmoments.
thesphereofthecomplexsuperstructures',anditsdistinct
WehaveconcentratedinthisargumentlargelyonacharacterizationofWha~seemtoustobethetwo
seminalparadigmsatworkinCulturalStudies.Withd~velopmentsreferenceOfcourse,theyarebyno
meanstheonlyactiveones.Newandtothem.linesNevertheless,ofthinkingarethesebyparadigmsno
meanscan,adequatelyinasense,nettedbedeployedtomeasurewhatappeartoustobetheradical
weaknessesor
46Whatisculturalstudies?
inadequaciesofthosewhichofferthemselvesasalternativerallyingpoints.Here,briefly,weidentify
three.
ThefirstisthatwhichfollowsonfromlkviStrauss,earlysemioticsandthetermsofthelinguistic
paradigm, andthecentringon 'signifyingpractices', movingby way of psychoanalytic concepts and
LacantoaradicalrecentringofvirtuallythewholeterrainofCulturalStudiesaroundtheterms'discourse'
and'thesubject'.Onewayofunderstandingthislineofthinkingistoseeitasanattempttofillthatempty
spaceinearlystructuralism(ofboththeMarxistandnonMarxistvarieties)where,inearlierdiscourses,
'thesubject'andsubjectivitymighthavebeenexpectedtoappearbutdidnot.Thisis,ofcourse,precisely
oneofthekeypointswhereculturalismbringsitspointedcriticismstobearonstructuralism's'process
withoutasubject'.Thedifferenceisthat,whereasculturalismwouldcorrectforthehyperstructuralismof
earliermodelsbyrestoringtheunifiedsubject(collectiveorindividual)ofconsciousnessatthecentreof
'theStructure',discoursetheory,bywayoftheFreudianconceptsoftheunconsciousandtheLacanian
conceptsofhowsubjectsareconstitutedinlanguage(throughtheentryintotheSymbolicandtheLawof
Culture),restoresthedecentredsubject,thecontradictorysubject,asasetofpositionsinlanguageand
knowledge,fromwhichculturecanappeartobeenunciated.Thisapproachclearlyidentifiesagap,not
onlyinstructuralismbutinMarxismitself.Theproblemisthatthemannerinwhichthis'subject'of
cultureis conceptualizedis of a transhistorical and'universal' character: it addresses the subjectin
general,nothistoricallydeterminatesocialsubjects,orsociallydeterminateparticularlanguages.Thusit
isincapable,sofar,ofmovingitsingeneralpropositionstothelevelofconcretehistoricalanalysis.The
seconddifficultyisthattheprocessesofcontradictionandstrugglelodgedbyearlystructuralismwholly
atthelevelof'thestructure'arenow,byoneofthosepersistentmirrorinversions,lodgedexclusively
attheleveloftheunconsciousprocessesofthesubject.Itmaybe,asculturalismoftenargues,thatthe
'subjective'isanecessarymomentofanysuchanalysis.Butthisisaverydifferentpropositionfrom
dismantlingthewholeofthesocialprocessesofparticularmodesofproductionandsocialformations,
and reconstituting them exclusively at the level of unconscious psychoanalytic processes. Though
importantworkhasbeendone,bothwithinthisparadigmandtodefineanddevelopit,itsclaimstohave
replacedallthetermsoftheearlierparadigmswithamoreadequatesetofconceptsseemswildlyover
ambitious.ItsclaimstohaveintegratedMarxismintoamoreadequatematerialismis,largely,asemantic
ratherthanaconceptualclaim.
Aseconddevelopmentistheattempttoreturntothetermsofamoreclassical'politicaleconomy'of
culture.Thispositionarguesthattheconcentrationontheculturalandideologicalaspectshasbeen
wildlyoverdone.Itwouldrestoretheoldertermsof'base/superstructure',finding,inthelastinstance
determinationoftheculturalideologicalbytheeconomic,thathierarchyofdeterminationswhichboth
alternativesappeartolack.Thispositioninsiststhattheeconomicprocessesandstructuresofcultural
productionaremoresignificantthantheirculturalideologicalaspect:andthatthesearequiteadequately
caughtinthemoreclassicalterminologyof
Culturalstudies:twoparadigms47
profit,exploitation,surplusvalueandtheanalysisofcultureascommodity.Itretainsanotionofideology
as'falseconsciousness'.
Thereis,ofcourse,somestrengthtotheclaimthatbothstructuralismandcu}turalism,intheirdifferent
ways,haveneglectedtheeconomicanalysisofculturalandideologicalproduction.Allthesame,withthe
returntothis~~tore
'classical'terrain,manyoftheproblemswhichoriginallybesetitalsoreappear.Thespecificityofthe
effectoftheculturalandideologicaldimensiononcemoretendstodisappear.Ittendstoconceivethe
economiclevelasnotonlya'necessary'buta'sufficient'explanationofculturalandideologicaleffects.
Itsfocusontheanalysisofthecommodityform,similarly,practices,blurssinceallittheisthecarefully
mostgenericestablishedaspectsdistinctionsofthecommodityformbetweendifferentwhichattract
attention.Itsdeductionsaretherefore,largely,confinedtoanepochallevelofabstraction:the
generalizationsaboutthecommodityformholdtruethroughoutthecapitalistepochasawhole.Very
littlebywayofconcreteandconjuncturalanalysiscanbederivedatthishighlevel1ogicofcapital'form
ofabstraction.Italsotendstoitsownkindoffunctionalismafunctionalismof'logic'ratherthanof
'structure'orhistory.Thisapproach,too,hasinsightswhicharewellworthfollowingthrough.Butit
sacrificestoomuchofwhathasbeenpainfullysecured,withoutacompensatinggaininexplanatory
power.
Thethirdpositioniscloselyrelatedtothestructuralistenterprise,buthasfollowedthepathof'difference'
throughintoaradicalheterogeneity.Foucault'sworkcurrentlyenjoyinganotherofthoseuncritical
periodsofdiscipleshipthroughwhichBritishintellectualsreproducetodaytheirdependencyon
yesterday'sFrenchideashashadanexceedinglypositiveeffect:aboveallbecauseinsuspendingthe
nearlyinsolubleproblemsofdeterminationFoucaulthasmadepossibleawelcomereturntotheconcrete
analysisofparticularideologicalanddiscursiveformations,andthesitesoftheirthemostelaboration.
productiveFoucaultworkonandconcreteGramscianalysisbetweennowthembeingaccountundertaken
formuchintheof
field:therebyreinforcingandparadoxicallysupportingthesenseoftheconcretehistoricalinstance
whichhasalwaysbeenoneofculturalism'sprincipalstrengths.But,again,Foucault'sexampleispositive
onlyifhisgeneralepistemologicalpositionisnotswallowedwhole.ForinfactFoucaultsoresolutely
suspendsjudgment,andadoptssothoroughgoingascepticismaboutanydeterminacyorrelationship
betweenpractices,otherthanthelargelycontingent,thatweareentitledtoseehim,notasanagnosticon
thesequestions,butasdeeplycommittedtothenecessary!'atherno~correspondence
asocialformation,ofallpracticesnortheState,toonecananother.beadequatelyFromsuchthought.a
positionAnd~deedhimself.
FoucaultForisconstantlyfallingintothepitwhichhehasdugforwhenagainsthiswelldefended
epistemologicalpositionshestumblesacrosscertain'correspondences'(forexample,thesimplefactthat
allthemajormomentsoftransitionhehastracedineachofhisstudiesontheprison,sexuality,
medicine,theasylum,languageandpolitical~onomytrialcapitalismallappeartoconvergearound
exactlythatpointwhereindusandthebourgeoisiemaketheirfateful,historicalrendez
48Whatisculturalstudies?
vous),helapsesintoavulgarreductionism,whichthoroughlybeliesthesophisticatedpositionshehas
elsewhereadvanced.1
Ihavesaidenoughtoindicatethat,inmyview,thelineinCulturalStudieswhichhasattemptedto
thinkforwardsfromthebestelementsinthestructuralistandculturalistenterprises,bywayofsomeof
theconceptselaboratedinGramsci'swork,comesclosesttomeetingtherequirementsofthefieldof
study. And the reason for that should by now also be obvious. Though neither structuralism nor
culturalismwilldo,asselfsufficientparadigmsofstudy,theyhaveacentralitytothefieldwhichallthe
othercontenderslackbecause,betweenthem(intheirdivergencesaswellastheirconvergences)they
address what mustbethecoreproblem of Cultural Studies. Theyconstantlyreturnus tothe terrain
markedoutbythosestronglycoupledbutnotmutuallyexclusiveconceptsculture/ideology.Theypose,
together,theproblemsconsequentontryingtothinkboththespecificityofdifferentpracticesandthe
forms of the articulated unity they constitute. They make a constant, if flawed, return to the
base/superstructuremetaphor.Theyarecorrectininsistingthatthisquestionwhichresumesallthe
problemsofanonreductivedeterminacyistheheartofthematter:andthat,onthesolutionofthis
problemwilltumthecapacityofCulturalStudiestosupersedetheendlessoscillationsbetweenidealism
andreductionism.Theyconfrontevenifinradicallyopposedwaysthedialecticbetweenconditions
andconsciousness.Atanotherlevel,theyposethequestionoftherelationbetweenthelogicofthinking
andthe'logic'ofhistoricalprocess.Theycontinuetoholdoutthepromiseofaproperlymaterialisttheory
ofculture.Intheirsustainedandmutuallyreinforcingantagonismstheyholdoutnopromiseofaneasy
synthesis.But,betweenthem,theydefinewhere,ifatall,isthespace,andwhatarethelimits,within
whichsuchasynthesismightbeconstituted.InCulturalStudies,theirsarethe'namesofthegame'.
Note
1.Heisquitecapableofwheelinginthroughthebackdoortheclassesherecently
expelledfromthefront.
3
The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
MichaelGreen
ThoughculturalstudieswassubstantiallypioneeredattheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudiesin
BirminghamUniversity,thesenotesattemptneitherahistoryofsignificantintellectualdevelopments
there,noraconsiderationofthedistinctiverelationsbetweenculturalstudiesandtheanalysisofliterary
texts.1Theyareconcernedinsteadwithsomeaspects(productiveandalsoproblematic)ofmarginalityin
asetofnewintellectualendeavours:therelationofculturalstudiestotheestablished'disciplines';tosome
receivedworkingpracticesofhighereducation;andtothepurposesandpossibilitiesofintellectualwork
fromsuchalocation.Thishasinvolvedcontinualexcitementsanddifficultieshardlymentionedhere:
difficultiesofinstitutionalcontinuity(particularlyoffunding),andexcitements'teaching'.Theofmain
comradeshipquestionsinconcernthecomplexthebreakingrelationsof&ameEofmearchandbound
and
aries.Inparticular,thebriefhistoryisofnecessitycaughtinthespecific,andrapidlyshiftingconditions
ofthepoliticsofintellectualworkinBritainbetweenalsofromtheMacmillanearly1960stoThatcher.
andtheearly1980s:fromHoggartt.>Gramsci,but
Cultural studies and the disciplines
Whenthemostbasicconcepts...&omwhichwebegin,areseentobenotconceptsbutproblems,notanalytic
problemseitherbuthstoricalmovementsthatarestillunresolved...wehave,ifwecan,torecovtrthesubstance
fromwhichtheirformswerecast.(RaymondWilliams)CulturalstudiesbeganastheoutcropofanEnglsh
Department.Whatbecameknownasitsfoundingtextswereambi!ious,brave,butlonely
li\yentures,'LeftLeavisism'.whosepremisesInthemwereScrutiny'slargelyconcernsgivenbywere
theircosoned,foundationextendedandrethought,evenasthejournalitselfbegantoconsoliate
inwardstoaPessimisticretrenchmentinhighereducation.Leavisancolleagueshadal!emptedWide
rangingtounitesocialacriticism:close,thoughtheprojecteduntheorised,ideaforattentioanglishto
textsSchoolwith(ina
50Whlltisculturalstudies?
EducationandtheUniversity,1943)isstillworthreadingforitsscope.Adissentingstance(alternately
selfconsciousandparanoid)wastakentowardsthefashionableandtheroutinelyacademic,whilenew
formsofeducationalorganisation,journalsandnetworksweresetupinaculturalpoliticswhoselinesof
development,afterthewar,becamebadlyblocked.Theandtolocateafoundingsetandofmoves
understandtextsbeyondinquestionLeavis'sthem.hereWilliams'sdissent,werebothwhileCulturea
ThediagnosisandLongSocietyRevolutionofthose(1958)blocks(1961)tried
put nication) the present. together in an Haggart's many optimistic of Scrutiny's The view Uses of
concernsoftheLiteracyfuture,(art,free(1957)education,ofsoughtScrutiny'spolitics,tocontempt
describecommuthefor
containmentandresistanceofaclassthroughareadingofitstexts:'listeningtothevoices'atalllevels
fromidiomsandcommonsensethroughtomagazinesandnewspapers.Ifthisworkrefusedtheelitismof
highcultureandthegreattradition,itwasequallyopposedtothereductionsofmarxismunderstoodasa
harddeterminismoftheeconomic.Theaimwasnot,asitlaterinpartbecame,toputnewquestionstoa
marxistagenda.
Thesethemestooktheirmeaningandforcefromthepoliticalabyssoftheleftinthe1950s,andfrom
the decade's central (and now ever more powerfully communicated) myths of affluence and
embourgeoisement.Themuchdiscussed,highlyvisiblecrisisoftheinterwareconomywassupersededby
thereconstructionofacapitalistprosperitywithaquitefreshkindof'glossyfuturismagainstthehard,
rationed, sharing world of the war' (Williams, 19767, p. 87). In the 1950s the forms of domestic
consumer production which had been only patchily visible between the wars became more fully
developedintheenormousextensionofthehomemarket.Themassmedia,Enzensberger's'consciousness
industries'(andtelevisioninparticular),constructedconsumers,symbolsandspectatorsaofnewplace
commoditiesfor
womennv
asatoncebornnexttoWomanandWoman'sOwn.Atthesametimetheconfrontationof'thepeople'
withavisiblyrulingclasswasreplacedbythelongerlinesofintermediaryn.anagerialgroupings
necessarytomoreconcentratedproductionandto
~he

enhanced role and protection of a 'welfare' state. The expanded state Education
systemdisplacedclassdifferencesintheapparentmobilityofameritocracy'opentoallthetalents,with
its new rhetoric of intelligence and ability. On top of this, replacing fascism, 'the old gang' and an
orpositiollll popular radicalism, there developed a consensus politics o the centre, the 'Butskellite'
convergence. The domestic pro gramme todeliver full employment andlowinflationraised doubts
whetherLabourwou1.deverreturntooffice.Inforeignpolicy,Britain'sspecialrelationshipwiththe
UnitedStates,EuropeandthenewCommonwealthlockeditsecurelyinallianceagainstthe'godthat
failed'oftheUSSR.Thedisditingofhopein'science'wassurpassedonlybytheattempteddiscrditingof
theleftandthe1930stogether,asananachronisminwhichasswasanarchaicBritishresiduum,a
dwindlingorremovablevarile.
Thetextsinuestionherewereaseriesofcounterstatementstothisformation,arodfourthemes.One,
thedemonstrationofstrong,persis
TheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies51
tentandcomplexculturaldifferences:E.P.Thompson'searlyindustrialworkingclassanditsactiveself
making,Haggart'sresilientnearcontemporarynorthernworkingclassculture,Williams'sworkingclass
achievementsofcollectivismintheinstitutionsofthelabourmovement.Thisemphasiscontinuedinthe
attentiongiventotheinflectionsofclassandcultureinsideeducation(Haggart,Williams,Jacksonand
Marsden(1962),laterWillis(1977)),andtothehighlypublicandstigmatisedsymbolicformsofyouth
subcultures,readasthecondensedexplorationofroutesandpressuresinsidetheclassor'parent'culture.
Two,theaccountofcultureas'ordinary',asthemakingandtakingofmeaningsineverydaylife.Thiswas
put against the strong postwar investment in versions of heritage, tradition and monarchy (Labour's
'people's'FestivalofBritainreplacedbythespectacleoftheCoronation),themselveslinkedwiththe
conservatismofReith'sBBC,theArtsandBritishCouncils,andmuchEnglishpublishinginthe1940s
and1950swithitsrefusalofforeignanddifficultwork.Three,theargumentthatthenewformsof
education and communication were profoundly undemocratic: Williams's 'third revolu tion' or the
'aspirationtoextendactiveprocessesoflearningtoallpeopleratherthantolimitedgroups'(1965,p.xi)
hisstrongly(andmorally)evaluativecritique(asHaggart'sofITV)ofthedeformationsofcontemporary
communicationsandtheconcernwithopportunitiesfordemocraticmodesofrepresentation,securedin
noncapitalistformsofproductionanddistribution.Four,thedebatearoundtheconditionofEnglandand
'decency': the refusal of imperial Englishness, but also of the future as American (and brashly
commercial)orSwedish(andmutedlysocialdemocratic)theattempttoprefigureanothersociety
(variouslythrough'community',throughMorrisandBlake,throughtheblockedformsofreturntothe
countryorregion,toanotherEnglishnessorWelshness).
Whatthenstartedtogivesuchideastheirdistinctive'set'wasnotanagreedprogrammeofwork,even
less'culturalism',butapoliticalcondensationaroundthesesharedandnewthemesastheyconverged
withtheemergentmomentsofa'new'Left.Asthe1950sended,a'moral'causebecamepoliticalinboth
theBritishCNDmarchesandtheAmericanBlackRightscampaigns.Theissuesthemselves,andthe
improvised and original ~orms of spontaneous tactics employed, were outside the agendas (and
unaginations)ofthemainpoliticalpartiesinbothcountries.Itseemednow,also,thatanimportantagency
ofchangecouldbefoundoutside~elabourmovement,inthecollegeeducated,middleclasschildrenof
liberalprofessionalparents:'theideologicaldimensionsoftherevolutionare.likelytocomeinitiallyfrom
withintheideologicallydominantclass',asJulietMitchellputitinWoman'sEstate(1971)withits
symptomaticclaim~tblacks,studentsandwomenweretogethersignificantsourcesofdissentfromthe
managementofproductionandconsumption,productionandreproduction.ThecrisisofStalinismand,to
a lesser extent andwithmanydifferences of perspective, of the postwar Labour Partywas simulta
neouslythepossibilityofanewpoliticalconstituency,withanewpoliticalagenda:~g~on~~tagenda
wouldbetherefusalofacademic'neutrality',exemplifiedmWilliamsandThompson,powerfullybythe
WrightMillsofThePowerElite(1956)andListen,Yankee!(1961)(onCuba),andlater
52Whatisculturalstudies?
amplifiedthroughstudiesofacademicinvolvementinresearchsupportforthe'militaryindustrial
complex'.
Therewerethusverystrongconnectionsbetweentheworkoncultureandsomenewformsofpolitics.
Bothsawthe'mass'circulationofmediaimagesandlanguagesasthetreacherousrepresentationofgroups
andclassestothemselvesbutalsoasasiteofrefusals,ofvaluesnotshared,andasonesiteofapolitics
adequatetoconflictsinthespheresofreproductionandconsumption.InHaggart'sremarkablyenduring
formulation:
Ihavethereforetakenonefairlyhomogeneousgroupofworkingclasspeople,havetriedtoevoketheabnosphere,
thequalityoftheirlivesbydescribingtheirsettingandtheirattitudes.Againstthisbackgroundmaybeseenhow
muchthemoregenerallydiffusedappealsofthemasspublicationsconnectwithcommonlyacceptedattitudes,
howtheyarealteringthoseattitudesandhowtheyaremeetingresistance.(1957,p.19)
Both,too,sawinstrategiesofculturalandcommunitypoliticstheselfmakingofclassesandfractions
the'speaking'ofvaluesinimicaltocapitalism.Bothwereconcernednotsomuchwithclassesorparties
butwithculturesofresistance.Toputitanotherway,anadequatepoliticalunderstanding,forboth
wouldrequireaknowledgeofthevaluesandmotifsandknowledgesgeneratedthroughtheformsof
everyday life. The strategies of a politics of experience, in a full and ambitious sense, needed to
understandandtoarticulatethe'mapsofmeaning'ofsubordinategroups.Thosemapslayatonceinthe
media,inthewaysthemediawerereceived,understood,usedand'handled',andintheinformalunder
standings,thecommonsenses,thelivedexperienceofwork,householdandstreet.
Tospeakof'both'istoaddressthetensionsbetweenkindsandoccasionsofknowledgeofcultures,and
ofthesitesandformsofsuchknowledge'sproduction.Thesetensionsformasetoflinksbetweencultural
studies, the New Left, and the women's movement. The sites of cultural knowledges, or reflexive
understandings,haveinthisperiodincludedthesharedexperienceofcommunityorofsexualpolitics:
orsharedconsciousnessofajob(asintherichrangeofteachers'journals);ortheproblemorientedforms
ofactionresearch(asintheCommunityDevelopmentProjects).Onlybyonerouteandsetofchoicesdid
suchknowledgebecometheoreticalwork,producedwithinanintellectualfieldofhighereducationandat
timesproducinginitstumamirroroppositerevulsionfrom'theory'.Williams'sownaccountoftheNew
Left'sformationdescribesdisagreementbetweentheaimfor'20or30goodsocialistbooks'linkedtoa
publishing and discussion programme and the 'big goal' of 'the germs of a new kind of political
movement'(addingthathewaswrongto'assumethatculturalandeducationalprogrammesalonecould
revitalisetheleftoralterareasofpopularopinionsufficientlytochangethetraditionalinstitutionsofthe
labourmovement'(1979,pp.36364).
Fromthispointonculturalstudiescouldreproduce,insidehighereducation,thesimultaneousconcern
withformsofknowledgeandtheformsoftheirpolitics,orsometimes(withconvictionorregret)allow
theonetostandinfor,standas,theotheratsomemomentswithenergy,at
TheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies53
othersambiguityorantagonism.Thetensionwasstretchedfurtherandrecastbytheappearanceofforms
ofstructuralismdiminishingtheimportanceofexperienceandmeaning;recastagainbyitsgeneration
inthewomen'smovement(andlaterwomen'sstudies).Ithasremained,anditmustremain,atthecentre
oftheenterprise.Meanwhilethe'field'wasestablished,notinthepoliticalaffiliationsconjuredupby
hostile fantasy, but in disciplinary recruitment in the meeting of three routes out from English,
SociologyandHistory.
Thestressliesonroutesout,onabsencesanddissatisfactionsandexasperationsanddissentwithinthe
wellestablishedboundariesofknowledge.TheroutefromEnglishconcernedpopularculturalforms,
along with an interest in texts and textuality outside the 'language and literature' couplet, and/ or a
challengetotheveryconstructionof'theliterary'anditsvariousexclusionsofclassandgender.Theroute
from History included in the broadest sense history 'from below', but also oral histories (a recast
'listeningtothevoices')andpopularmemory(thedaily,informallyexchanged,constructionofapast).
The route from Sociology involved ethnomethodologies, interests in meaningctnstruction, the
examinationofthestructuralreproductionofsubordination.
Therehavefromthestartbeenroughconnectionsbetweenthesedisciplinary'waysout'andthethree
differentlevelswhichanydevelopedversionofculturalstudieshas,fromTheUsesofLiteracyon,
attemptedtothinktogether:thatoflivedexperience,requiringattentiontothemapsofmeaningsinthe
dailylifeofparticularculturesandsubcultures;thatoftexts,requiringacloseattentiontosymbolic
forms;thatoflargerdeterminingsocialstructures,requiringaspecifichistoricalaccountofthe
formationasawhole.Clearlythethreecanbethoughtinverydifferentways(forinstanceinoneviewthe
firsttwoareelided,whileinanotherthespecificdifferencesbetween'commonsense'understandingsand
fullyworkedupandoftensubstantiallyideologicalrepresentationsarestressed).Butthestrandsandthe
connectionsbetweenthemhaverecurrentlybeenextremelyimportantitseemsthatwhenanyoneislost,
orwhenthequestionof'meanings'isnolongercentral,thenwhatwehaveisnolongerdistinctively
'cultural'studies..Inthesetwosenses,theninthedoubleacademic/politicalinsertionandmthemixed
encounterofissuesculturalstudieshasbeenresolutely'impure'.Inconsequenceithasneitherclaimed
norbeenaccorded(anymorethanhaswomen'sstudiesorindeedmarxism)'disciplinary'status.Forthat
reasonithasremainedathornintheside,gritintheharmony.Atallevents,ithasfoundonlyanuneasy
lodgementintheacademy.
Yetinanycase,noneofthesurrounding'subjects'couldbereadilys~owntohavebeeneithercoherent
orstablebodiesofwork.'English'~layednotonlytheriftbetweenlanguageandliterature,butalsothat
betweenscholarshipandmoral/aestheticevaluation.'History'subordinatedits'economic'and'social'
concerns to subdivisions, oftenseparate departments, within the dominant (andunnamed) 'political'.
'Sociology'yokedanEnglishtraditionofsocialpolicy/research/worktotheoreticalWorkwherelarger
tensionsbetween(attheirmostgeneral)conflictandconsensusmodelswentunresolved.Fromthemiddle
ofthe1960sfrom
54Whatisculturalstudies?
themomentoftheacademicdevelopmentofculturalstudiesthe'crisis'inthesesubjectswascontinually
discussedandprotested.(See,forexample,Pateman,1972,Roszak,1968.)
Twopointsmightbemadehere.One,thatineachsubjectareathe'crisis'hasbeencontainedmore
readilythanthenseemedpossible.Despiteveryimportantnewbodiesofworkineachcase,including
newkindsofrelationtointellectualworkitself(feministwritingandcriticism,theNationalDeviancy
Conference,theRuskinhistorians),the1970sinmanywayswitnessedareconsolidationratherthanare
thinking,ordisarray.Theuniversity'apex'ofhighereducationremainedalmostimmunetothechanges
seeninsomeCNAAdegreesatpolytechnicsorinmode3CSEEnglish.Thisalonegavethe'break'of
culturalstudiesahighvisibility.Two,amaterialistexplanationoftheorganisationandcontinualre
organi sationof academicdisciplines wouldneedanaccountrelatedatoncetothechangingclass
compositionofpostwareducation(wheretheuniversityIpolytechnicandgrammarIcomprehensive
contrastswouldbesalient),andtothesocialchangesofwhichdisciplinesarecomplexlyarticulated
mediations.Inbothrespectstheissueistheconstantrecompositionofthelegitimated('academic')
formsofknowledgeinwhich(whetherornotwestillspeakof'bourgeois'disciplines)thedisciplinary
formofknowledgeproductionisitselfasophisticatedideology.
Culturalstudieshasthusnotbecomeanewformof'discipline'.Attemptsto'unify'thefieldasthe
analysis of signifying practices, or as the study of forms of symbolic production, distribution and
consumption ('cultural materialism'), are premature or unsatisfactory beneath a very high level of
abstraction though preferable to the view that cultural studies is merely one way of studying
communications, or just a 'cover' for a revised and qualified marxism. Equally, the notion of
interdisciplinaritynolongerseemsforcefulnotsomuchbecausemarxismitselfhassupersededits
ambitions (though that is substantially true), but because 'specialist skills' do not just lie ready to
collaboratetogether:thepresenceofotherquestionsrequiresthedisciplinaryknowledgestoaddresstheir
objectinquiteunfamiliarways.Therelationofculturalstudiestothedisciplinesisratheroneofcritique:
oftheirhistoricalconstruction,oftheirclaims,oftheiromissions,andparticularlyoftheformsoftheir
separation.Atthesametime,acriticalrelationshiptothedisciplinesisalsoacriticalstancetotheirforms
ofknowledgeproductiontotheprevalentsocialrelationsofresearch,thelabourprocessofhigher
education.
Group work

Itwouldbepossibletolookinsomedetailatacademicmodesofproductionandtonotetheirown
varietyindetail,andofkind.BasilBernstein(1975)hascommentedextensivelyonthetendencyof
primary schools, particularly those with a strong middleclass intake, to replace formal by informal
pedagogy.Inthisprocesstherelationofteachertotaughtwasinsomesubstantialwaysmadelessformal,
whilegroupworkandgroupprojectswereencouraged.Attheotherendoftheeducationsystem,
TheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies55
graduateresearchworkremainsnotoriouslysolitaryalonggrind,formedinasupervisor/student,
guru/apprenticerelationofunequalpower,infinitelycompoundedandfurtherdistortedwhenthe
tenuredacademicisma}e,theresearcherfemale.Itwouldbehardtothinkofaworkingsituationanxiety.
Ironicallyatoncesoitsprivatisedoutcome('theandthesis')sonecessarilytypicallycaughtbearsuplittle
inrelationdefensivetolatermodesofwritingandteaching,andmayitselfbeunpublishableuntil
rewritteninanentirelynewform.Thisrelationhasremainedatthecentreofhumanitiesresearch,and
abnostnochallengetoithasbeenadmitted.Certainlyajointthesisisunheardof.
FromanearlystagetheCentreinBirminghamattemptedtodevelopotherformsofwork,andofnecessity
giventhealreadymentionedlevelsoftheworkinhandtheprimacyoftheunexplored'contemporary',
andtheprojecttodemocratiseacademicknowledgeforms.Itsworkinggroups(usuallyofsixtoten
members)beganasforumsforthediscussionofindividualthesisprojectsinthemainareasofcultural
studies,ofwhichmediastudieshasbeenoflongeststanding,followedbythatofwork/fieldwork/
ethnographiesofwork.Weeklysessonswouldtypicallyalternatebetweenexplorationofacentraltext
andindividualpresentationsofworkinprogress,someofwhichwerelaterputtogetherinthecheap
typescriptformofworkingpaperswithaviewtosharingissuesandproblemsastheywereappearingin
theprojects.Thesegroupswere,andare,theworkingmainstayoftheunit.Formally,theyliebetweena
fullseminaronproblemsoftheoryorstudiesinculturalhistory,towhichtheirworkmaycontribute,and
theindividualthesisprojectbywhichtheirknowledgeisadvanced.Informally,thefriendshipsand
collaborationsmadehavegeneratednewenterprisesandalteredthedirectionofothers.Typically,such
groupshavehadathreeorfouryearlifespan:movingfromapreliminaryreviewofanareatoafull
scale'mapping'ofthefield,thendevelopingadistinctivepurchase(throughcritique)andaparticularset
ofwork,concerns.Papers,andlaterThesehaveinthehaveusuallyseriesbeenofissuedcarriedbooksin
publishedfurthertheCentre'sinbybothHutchinson.selfpublishedgroupandInindividualtumWorking
thisprojectwilloftenhaveledtogroupandindividualpapersatconferences,andlater(often,itmustbe
said,muchlater)tothesesdrawingfurtheronParticularstrands.2
Thisratherformalaccountisbothaccurateandhighlyconcealing.Progressinsuchgroupshasoftenbeen
apainfulseriesofpauses,doubts,changesoftackandirruptions.Theconditionsofgraduateworkremain
abnostuniformlyinsecuresubstantiallyunrecognisedandunsupported,uncertainlytransitional.Tothat
hasbeenaddedtherelentlessprocessionofnewparadigmsandbodiesofworkinsidethefield,oftenlll
conflictinga~~ypoliticalcombativeimperativesandpolemicalanddoubts.mode,Itcrossedhasbeenby
difficultfurtherforandgroupsoften
SO

constitutedtodevelopmodesofseriousintellectualandpoliticaldisa!Jleement,evenmoreofdetailed
sustainedandsupportivemutualcritiCISmsofworkinprogressorofworknotrealised.Toallthese
has been added a further set of challenges from feminism, not to be accommodated Comfortably
(importantasthismovehasbeen)bythemakingofgender
56Whatisculturalstudies?
central to all groups (and no longer ghettoised in a separate 'women's studies'). At the same time
collectiveworksitsinuneasyrelationtoindividualtheses,asdothesocialrelationsofthegrouptothe
traditionalandprivatisedrelationofadviserandadviseewhichhasremainedthemostunexaminedand
impregnablytraditionalareaofpractice.Andiftheworkofgroupshassometimesbeensoorganisedasto
produce the theoreticism endemic to a review of intellectual 'prolematics', so these have sometimes
involvedaninverselyexclusiveattentiontoempiricaldetail.Aboveall,whilsttheexcitementofgroup
workhasbeenintheopeningupofaconnecting,andoftenproliferating,seriesofprojects,ithasalso
invitedandcolludedinoverextensiontoproduceasituationinwhichnopieceofworkorundertaking
canbefullythoughtoutorcompleted.
Theothersideofthatcollusion,anotherwayofunderstandingit,wouldbetoconnectitwiththe
difficultiesofassessingpriorities.Inanotherform,thesearethedifficultiesofa'politicsofpublication'.If
one internal aim for group research has been to make it more complexly engaged with parti cular
concretehistoricalmoments,andlessatheoretical'mapping',theothermoreurgentstrugglehasbeento
findformsofwritingandformsofmakingknowledgewhichdonotendlesslyreproducethemselves
inside the boundaries of higher education. To that extent important distinctions can be made (very
roughly)betweendecadesintheintellectual/politicalrelationsofculturalstudiesandofsimilarventures.
The constituencies of intellectual work

Thereweretwocharacteristicmodesof'critical'researchinthe1960s.Onewastheadvisoryrelationto
politicalpartiesortosemiautonomousstatebodiesorenquiries:forinstancepolicyresearchforthe
LabourParty,ofwhichthemostfamouscasewastheconnection,inthecampaigntoabolishthe'eleven
plus'andlatertoestablishcomprehensiveschools,betweenacademicsociologistsofeducation,reforming
teachersandLabourleaders(seeCCCS,UnpopularEducation...,1981).Therehavealsocontinually
been'researched'argumentssubmittedtogovernmentreviewbodiesorinvestigations.Theotherstrategy
wasthatofthe'nonaligned'groupingofindependentresearchers,looselylinked(asintheNewLeftcase)
topoliticalandculturalgroups,workinggenerallythrougheducationalforms,thoughbynomeansalways
thoseofthestate(PenguinSpecials,WEAdayschools).Inaddition,assuggested,awiderangeofcultural
'inquiry'couldbefoundintheworkingpracticeofpoliticalgroupingsandofteamsdealingwithparticular
situationsandproblems.
Inthe1970stheconsolidationofculturalstudiesassucharoundsomekeythemescoincidedwithand
helpedtoshapetheopeningupofnewsyllabiinpolytechnicsandsecondaryschools.Itrelatesalsotothe
aston ishing proliferation of radical journals and their accompanying left and feminist distribution
network.WhetherornotreinforcedandconsolidatedbyformsofAlthusserianmarxism(orbyafaithin
'science'),thisnewhighereducation'movement'developedanimportantconfidenceinitsowndistinctive
intellectualproduction,supportnetworks,andeveninits
TheCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies57
formsofinsertionintopoliticalgroupsandpartiesthoughthenearabsencefromthispictureofa
radical/critical/marxistEnglishStudies,andthepossiblereasonsforit,willbeofinteresttoreadersofthis
book.Oneleadingversionofintellectualwork,inthisperiod,amountedtoafairlyunspecified'making
available'ofnewwork:notnecessarilyincrudeformsoftranslationorhandingdown,butinwritingof
somedifficultymakingconsiderabledemandsofa(usuallygraduate)reader.Workwasoftena'ground
clearing',bothconceptuallyandinoppositiontodominantintellectualandpoliticalforms.Itstypicalform
was that of critique: the 'interrogation' of dominant practices, and particularly doubts about liberal
humanistandsocialdemocraticorthodoxiesandtheirvariousdisciplinarysupports.
Within cultural studies, at least at the Centre, these forms were already being doubted and found
insufficient,evenbeforethepopulistconservativeonslaught(attheendofthe1970s)ontheleftandon
itsbynowquitedevelopedsitesofintellectualproduction.Ifakey'model'atthebeginninghadbeen
Williams,andlater(withallkindsofdoubtsandmodifications)Althusser,nowGramsci'swork(1971)
wasbothfertileandexemplary.Theproblemhadalreadybecomeoneof'organic'connectionstobemade
in and through intellectual work, particularly as some men discovered their own distance from the
confidenceandsharedpurposesinphasesofthewomen'smovement:theconnectionsmadebetween
analysis and 'experi ence', and made also across the division of labour. Inside the Centre, groups
attemptedtothinkoftheirworkinrelationtotheproblemsofthenearestappropriateconstitutency,which
mightnotalwaysbethatofteachersinhigherorsecondaryeducation.Forexample,therecouldbea
connectionbetweenmediaresearchandtheinterestsofmediaworkers;betweenresearchonpopular
literatureandalternativepublishersandbookshops,ortheFederationofWorkerWriters;betweenstudies
oftheculturalformationofteenageworkingclassgirlsandstrategiesoffeminist'youthwork'.More
generally,theissueturnedfromthe'independentcritic'oftheculture/society'tradition',throughnotions
of'science'andrigour,totheclassicmarxistproblemofintermediateclasslocationsandstrategies.Where
attentionhadfromthebeginningbeengiventoculturalformswhichwerethenshown(oftenwithout
much specificity) to have a classbelonging or classlocation, and later (in no simple 'addition'!) a
belongingtogender,~erehadnow,inreverse,tobequestionsabouttheculturalformsofIntermediate
groupingsindevelopedcapitalism,includingthoseofthe'academic'(orpaid)intellectualswhoseforms
ofproductionarguablyconfirmedtheirownknowledgeandpower,theirown'culturalcapital'.
IntheoreticaltermsthisinvolvedatonceandchieflyGramsciforhisWorkontherelationsof'common
sense'to'goodsense'andontheneedfororganicconnectionswithpopularattitudesandfororganic
intellectualsofpopularclasses.Italsoimpliedaparticularengagementwiththevarious!'eomarxist
theorisationsof'newmiddleclass'or'contradictory'orprofessionalmanagerial'classrelationsofwhoor
indeedwhatthe'popularclasses'inthe1980smightbe.(See,forinstance,Carchedi,1977,Poulantzas,
1978,OlinWright,1979andWalker,1979.)Inpracticaltermsit11\eantattemptstomovethroughand
beyondapoliticsofpublication
58Whatisculturalstudies?
basedinthecrucialsupportnetworksofhighereducation(andtheirdefenceandredefinitionintheearly
1980s),totheformationofworkwithothergroups.Forthefuture,itmustinvolvesimultaneouslythe
protectionofspacesalreadywon(butnowrapidlybeingclawedback);closestudyoftherelationsof
classes(includingpoliticalrelations)where'intermediary'groupsareevermoreprominent(butwhere
classesarenolongerthoughtsolelythroughmasculinerelationstoproduction);andthedevelopmentof
culturalformsina'political'mode(whichisnotnecessarilythesameas'culturalpolitics').
Ifculturalstudieshasbecomeasetofknowledges,oratleastanagendaforknowledges,thatisnotits
sufficientgoal.
Notes
1.Forthefirst,seeStuartHall'slongessayon'Culturalstudiesandthecentre:someproblematicsandproblems'inHall,Hobson,
LoweandWillis(eds),Culture,Media,Language(Hutchinson,1980).OtherversionsofthisaccountwerepublishedinMedia,
CultureandSociety2(1)Oanuary1980)andinAnnaliAnglistica(Naples,1978),no.3.SeealsoRichardJohnson'simportant
'Threeproblematic;:elementsofatheoryofworkingclassculture'inClarke,CritcherandJohnson(eds),WurkingClassCulture
(Hutchinson,1979).Forthesecond,seeworkinCulture,Media,LanguageandintheEssexconferenceproceedings,1936:The
SociologyofLiterature,twovols(Colchester:UniversityofEssexPress,1979)thoughthewholeissuehasscarcelybeen
broachedasyet.Muchdependsontheviewtakenbothofthe'text'andofthe'literary'.2.TheCentrepublishespamphlets,
stencilledpapersintypescript,aseriesofbooksthroughHutchinsonandindividualbooksthroughotherhouses.Pamphletsand
stencilledpaperscanbeboughtthroughtheCentre,whichalsodistributeslistsofallitsCentrepublicationsandanannualreport
ontheCentre'sactivities.(CentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies,UniversityofBirmingham,BirminghamB152TI.)

References
BERNSTEIN,B.(1975)'Classandpedagogies:visibleandinvisible'inClass,Codes
andControl(revised2ndedn),RoutledgeandKeganPaul.CARCHEDI,G.(1977)OntheEconomicIdentificationofSocW
Classes.Routledgeand
KeganPaul.CentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies(1981)UnpopularEducation:Schoolingand
SocilllDemocracyinEnglandsince1944.Hutchinson.GRAMSCI,A.(1971)'Thephilosophyofpraxis'.InThePrison
Notebooks,Lawrence
andWishart.HOGGART,R.(1957)TheUsesofLiteracy.PenguinBooks.JACKSON,B.andMARSDEN,D.(1962)
EducationandtheWorkingClass.Routledge
andKeganPaul.MILLS,C.W.(1956)ThePowerElite.NewYork:OxfordUniversityPress;(1961)
Listen,Yankee!NewYork:OxfordUniversityPress.MITCHELL,J.(1971)Woman'sEstate.PenguinBooks.PATEMAN,T.
(ed.),(1972)CounterCourse.PenguinBooks.POULANTZAS,N.(1978)ClassesinContemporaryCapitalism.NewLeftBooks.
forTheCentre
ContemporaryCulturalStudies59
THOMPSON,ROSZAK,T.(ed.),E.P.(1968)(1963)TheTheDissentingMilkingofAauiemy.theEnglishPenguin
WorkingBooksClass.(1969).
PenguinBooksWALKER,WU.UAMS,
Reoolution.(1968).
Reuiew100P.R.(ed.),Penguin(November(1958)(1979)CultureBooks;Between1976Januaryand'Notes
SocietyLabouron17801950.1977);BritishandCapital.(1979)MarxismPenguinHarvester.
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WRIGHT,Books.

E.O.(1979)Class,CrisisandtheState.NewLeftBooks.

Postscript (1995)

TheCCCSwhichthisarticledescribedisnowitselfhistoryintwoways.First,asculturalstudies
developedandgainedrecognitionthroughaproliferationofstimulatingpublicationsanddegree
programmes,historieshavebeenwrittenaround'theBirminghamSchool'anditsinfluence.These
accountsTimesBenCriticalAgger'sandTheoryvaryOldambitiousEnemies,greatly,(1992).Second,
ranging1991),andwhoinvigoratingthefromwaspioneeringthehimselfinsightsoverviewgroup
involvedofJohnwhichinCulturalClarkeatBirmingham,had(indevelopedStudieshisNewtoas
outofEnglishatBirminghamwastoosmallaunittosurviveintheharshconditionsofthelater1980s.
InsteaditbecameaDepartmentofCulturalStudies,movingfromArtstoSocialScience,fusinginterests
fromculturalstudiesandfromsociologywithalargerstaffandamorestableposition.TheCentrewas
typicallypostgraduate,manyofitsmembersgoingontopublishwidelyandstartprogrammeselsewhere.
NowthenewDepartmenthasaddedamajorundergraduateprogrammewhichretainssome
collaborativeworkandemphasisesinvestigativeprojectbasedresearchinconnectionwithgroupsand
activitiesoutsideeducation.Throughatechnologynowneedingafootnote,theCentreproducedaseries
of'stencilled'papers,whicharestillsellingthroughtheDepartmentbecausetheyarticulateits
Birmingham.ownearlyjournalandThetentativewithCentrestaffworkinprogress.attemptedand
studentinitscontributors,NowtimethetoconnectDepartmentCulturalitsStudiesworkpublisheswith
from
'somenewformsofpolitics'.Now,politicalandintellectualchangeshaveOCCUrredonahugescale,in
conjunctionwithadrasticrestructuring(~oughalsoenlargement)ofhighereducationitself,suchthatthe
'political'effectsofculturalstudiesworkneedrethinking.Workinthefieldstillattempts,n;search,
somemoreofmodestlywhichmayperhaps,beusefultoprovideoffcampus,insightstoconstructinto
culture,achallentodo
gingsyllabusandtoprovideformsofsupportfordifferentkindsofpeopleenteringhighereducation.
Moregenerally,culturalstudies15yearsonlooksverydifferent.Nolongerdoesitchieflyaddressforms
ofpopular~turewhichotheracademicdisciplinestypicallyexcluded:itsrangeisWider,itsproblematics
stillmorevaried.Nolongerdoesculturalstudiesfightforinstitutionalexistence(atleastinBritain),
howeverunevenandunderresourceditsacademiclodgements.Otherdisciplines,ofwhichsomesuchas
geographywouldneverhavebeenmentionedinpreviousaccounts,
60Whatisculturalstudies?
convergeintheempiricalandtheoreticalstudyofmeaningsandculture.Nordoesculturalstudiesanylongerfeelso
English(soWelsh?),notbecauseitisnowNorthAmerican(despitestrikingdevelopments,seeforinstanceValda
Blundell,JohnShepherdandIanTaylor'scollectionRelOCiltingCulturalStudies,1993),butbecausethereare
culturalstudiesfromandaboutLatinAmerica(seethejournalTravesia),NorthAfricaandSouthKorea.Cultural
studiesismoreabout migrationsoflabour,ofcapital,ofcultural forms,andititselfmigrates.It istrying,in
Birmingham,tobelessWestcentred,tobemoreglobalandalsotobemorelocalandconsciousoflinkswitha
widerworld.
MichaelGreen
4
Overcoming resistance to cultural studies
JamesW.Carey
Theissues,majorhaveissuesbeenthatthesamefacestudentsforthepastofmass15years.
communications,Theyconcernthethemacroentireframeworkwithinwhichourstudiesproceedand,
therefore,thenature,purpose,andpertinenceoftheknowledgeweprofess.Inordertoreorientthis
framework,Ihavebeenmakinganargumentforaparticularanddistinctivepointofviewtowardthe
massmedia,forsomethingIcall,withoutoriginality,culturalstudies.Muchofthatargumenthasbeen
madebyindirection,suggestingthatthestudyofthemassmediawouldbebetterservedifwepretty
muchabandonedourcommitmentstocertainformsofexplanationthathavedominatedtheenterprise
overthelastSOyearsorso.WehavehadourequivalentofthequestfortheHolyGrail:thesearchfora
positivescienceofcommunications,onethatelucidatesthelawsmassofmedia.humanItisbehavior
timetogiveandittheup,universaltorelinquishandhappilyunivocalwhatfunctionsJohnDeweyofthe
calledacoupleofgenerationsbackthe'neuroticquestforcertainty'.Toabandonthetraditional
frameworkwouldnotonlyinvigorateourstudies,itwouldliberateusaswellfromaseriesofbadand
cripplingideas,particularlyfromamodelofsocialorderimplicitinthisframework,atwistedversionof
utilitarianism,andformarhetoricofmotivesthatIhaveelsewherecalledapowerandanxietymodelof
communications.1Iamsuggestingthatweunload,inacommonphrase,the'effectstradition'.Thereis
now,Ibelieve,alargeandcompellingliterature,onewritten~meverypointonthecompassof
knowledge,ethics,andbeauty,attack11\gthebehavioralandfunctionalsciencesonboth
epistemologicalandethicopoliticalgrounds.Idealismandpragmatismhaveunderminedthenotionsof
objectivityandobjectivetruththatgroundtheexplanatoryapparatusofsuchsciences.Marxism,
existentialism,andavarietyofcontinentalphilosophieshaveelucidatedthebalefulconsequencesof
1t~u~lS

notsciencesnecessaryforpoliticstobeandeithermorals,socontentiousforconductorandso
philosophicalpractice.However,abouttheentirebusiness.Theargumentcanbemadeinthesmallrather
thanthethelarge.fieldofContrarymasscommunicationtoBernardBerelson'shasnotdirewithered
predictionaway.ofIn25fact,yearsitago,isa
62Whatisculturalstudies?
successful,growing,highlyinstitutionalizedacademicenterprise.But,despiteitsacademicsuccess,as
measuredbycourses,students,journals,andfaculty,itisintellectuallystagnantandincreasingly
uninteresting.Itisalsocrippledbyawideninggapbetweentheambitionsofthestudentsandthe
intellectualandideologicalposesofthefaculty.Partoftheproblem,althoughonlypart,isthatthecentral
traditionofeffectsresearchhasbeenafailureonitsownterms,andwhereitisnotafailure,itispatent!~
antidemocraticandatoddswiththeprofessedbeliefsofitspractitioners.Inpoliticalterms,itwouldbea
greaterfailureifitweremoreofasuccess.Theeffectstraditionhasnotgeneratedanyagreementonthe
lawsofbehaviororthefunctionsofcommunicationsofsufficientpowerandpertinencetosignaltous
thatsuccesshasbeenachieved.Theentireenterprisehasdegeneratedintomereacademicism:thesolemn
repetitionoftheindubitable.Ourcommitmentsarenolongeradvancingbutimpedinginquiry,
reproducingresultsofsuchstudiedvaguenessandpredictabilitythatwethreatentoboreoneanotherto
death.Thesurestsignofthisstateofaffairsisthelongtermretreatintomethodattheexpenseof
substance,asifdoingitrightguaranteesgettingitright.Thesharpestcriticismofthebehavioraland
functionalsciencesusheringforthfromphilosophicalquartersarenowdealtwithbysilence.Underthese
circumstances,wecancontinuetowaitforourNewtontoarisewithinthetraditionalframework,but
thatincreasinglyfeelslikewaitingforGodot.Or,wecantrytoshifttheframeworkandholdontowhatis
valuableinthetradition,evenaswerecastitinanalternativeconceptualvocabulary.
Letmebeclearononepointthespeedreadersalwaysseemtomiss.Toabandontheeffectstradition
does not entail doingaway withresearch methods including the higher and more arcane forms of
counting that takeupso muchtime in our seminars. Nor does it require turning up the academic
temperatureto451Fahrenheitandindulginginwholesalebookburning.Noone,exceptthecongenitally
outoftouch,suggestswehavetostopcountingorthatwecanaffordtostopreadingthe'classics'inthe
effectsliterature.However,thisliteraturewillhavetobedeconstructedandreinterpretedandthemethods
andtechniquesofthecraftredeployed.Iamtryingtobeecumenicalaboutthisnotsolelyforreasonsof
decency,althoughthatwouldbesufficient,butforaseriousphilosophicalpurpose.Therewillbeno
progressinthisfieldthatdoesnotseriouslyarticulatewith,engage,andbuildupontheeffectstradition
we have inherited. A wholesale evacuation or diremption of the theories, methods, insights, and
techniquessopainfullywroughtinthelasthalfcenturywouldbeasureinvitationtofailure.Thisistrueif
onlybecauseintelligencecontinuallyoverflowstheconstrictionsprovidedbyparadigmsandmethods.
Butmoretothepoint,theeffectstraditionattemptedtodealwithseriousproblemsofAmericanpolitics
andculture,atleastonthepartofitsmajor
practition~rs, and it is now part of that
culture.Anyattempttoavoiditwillonlyconstgnonetoirrelevancy.
However,toreorientthestudyofmasscommunication,wewillhavetochangetheselfimage,self
consciousness,andselfreflectionwehaveoftheenterprise:ourviewofwhatweareupto,thehistorywe
shareincommon,howwearesituatedinthesocietiesinwhichwework,andtheclaimswe
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies63
J!Ulkefortheknowledgeweprofess.Thisisbothalittleeasierandmuchmorepainfulasurrenderthan
changingareadinglistorsubstitutingparticipantobservationorclosereadingforfactoranalysisand
linearregressionequations.UwemaketheshiftIhavebeenrecommending,wewould,toborrowsome
observationsfromRichardRorty(1984a),talkl!\Uchlessaboutparadigmsandmethodsandmuchmore
aboutcertainconcreteachievements.Therewouldbelesstalkaboutrigorandmoreaboutoriginality.We
woulddrawmoreonthevocabularyofpoetryandpoliticsandlessonthevocabularyofmetaphysicsand
determinism.Andwewouldhavemoreofasenseofsolidaritywithboththesocietywestudyandour
fellowstudentsthanwenowhave.Aboveall,wewouldseemoreclearlythereflexiverelationshipof
scholarshiptosocietyandberidofthecurseofintellectualhumanity:thealternatingbeliefthatweare
eitheraneutralclassofdiscoverersofthelawsofsocietyoranewpriesthoodendowedbycredentials
withtherighttorunthesocialmachinery.Wewould,finally,seetruthandknowledgenotassome
objectivemapofthesocialorder,naturespeakingthroughus,but,inthelovelyphraseofWilliamJames,
asthatwhichisgoodbywayofbelief,thatwhichwillgetustowherewewanttogo.
Culturalstudiesisavehiclethatcanalterourselfimageandcarryforwardtheintellectualattitudes
notedabove. At theveryleast, this positionentails recenteringand thinking through the concept of
culturerelativetothemassmediaanddisposingoftheconceptsofeffectandfunction.NowIrealizethat
onlytheexcessivelyadventurous,consistentlyunhappy,orperpetuallyfoolhardyaregoingtoleavethe
cozy(ifnotveryinteresting)villageofeffectsresearchfortheunchartedbutsurprisingsavannahof
culturalstudieswithoutabettermapoftheterritorythanIoranyoneelsehasbeenabletoprovide.Filling
thatgapisamajortaskofthefuture.ThebestIcandoatthemomentistoencouragepeopletocircle
within an alternative conceptual vocabulary and an alternative body of literature that will assist in
marking out this unclaimed territory. To make things familiar, if not exactly precise, this means
connectingmediastudiestothedebateovermasscultureandpopularculture,whichwasamodestbut
importantmomentinthegeneralargumentovertheeffectsofthemassmediainthe1950s.Thedebate
itselfwillhavetobereconstructed,ofcourse.Thebasiclinesofsuchreconstructionweresetoutinthe
earlyworkofRaymondWilliamsandRichardHoggartinEnglandwhentheyattemptedtoapplythe
anthropologicalorprimitivesocietyconceptionofculturetothelifeandpeoplesofindustrialsociety:to
thelanguage,work,communitylife,andmediaofthoselivingthroughwhatWilliamscalled'thelong
revolution'.
TheconnectionofculturalstudiestotheworkofMaxWeberismore~portantyet,forWeberattempted
toprovidebothaphenomenologyofmdustrialsocietiesthatis,adescriptionofthesubjectivelifeor
consciousnessofindustrialpeoples,includingtheendsorpurposesoftheircharacteristicactionsand
ananalysisofthepatternsofdominanceandauthoritytypicalofsuchsocieties.Weberdescribedthis
enterprise as 'cultural science' during the interminable argument over Naturwis senschaft and
Kulturwissenscluzft.Imuchpreferculturalstudiestocultural
64Wlultisculturalstudies?
sciencebecauseIabhorthehonorificsensethathasaccumulatedaroundtheword'science'.AsThomas
Kuhnhasrecentlyremarked,thetenn'science'emergedattheendoftheeighteenthcenturytonameaset
ofstillformingdisciplinesthatweresimplytobecontrastedwithmedicine,law,engineering,philosophy,
theology,andotherareasofstudy(Kuhn,1983).Tothistaxonomicsensewasquicklyaddedthehonorific
one:thedistinctionbetweenscienceandnonsciencewasthesameasthePlatonicdistinctionbetween
knowledge and opinion. This latter distinction, along with the correlative distinctions between the
objectiveandthesubjective,primaryandsecondary,ispreciselythedistinctionculturalstudiesseeks,as
afirstorderofbusiness,todissolve.Morethanthat,Iratherlikethemodest,evenselfdeprecating,
connotationoftheword'studies':Itkeepsusfromconfusingthefishstorywiththefish.Itmighteven
engenderagenuinelyhumbleattitudetowardoursubjectandasenseofsolidaritywithourfellowcitizens
whoareoutsidetheformalstudyofthemassmediawhile,likeus,insidethephenomenontobestudied.
Culturalstudies,onanAmericanterrain,hasbeengivenitsmostpowerfulexpressionbyJohnDewey
andinthetraditionofsymbolicinteractionism,whichdevelopedoutofAmericanpragmatismgenerally.
ItwasDewey'sstudent,RobertPark,whoprovidedthemostpowerfulanalysisofmassculture(although
hedidnotcallitthat)thatwasadaptedtothecircumstancesofthecountry.Dewey,Park,andothersin
theChicagoSchooltransplanted,withoutattemptingtodoso,WeberiansociologytoAmericansoil,
althoughhappilywithinthepragmatistattempttodissolvethedistinctionbetweenthenaturalandcultural
sciences. Not so happily, although understandably, they also lost the sharper edges of Weberian
sociology,particularlyitsemphasisonauthority,conflict,anddomination,andthatwillhavetobe
restoredtothetradition.
Namessolvenothing,Irealize,buttheybegintosuggestattheveryleastaseriesofconceptsand
notionswithinwhichmediastudiesmightfruitfullycircle:experience,subjectivity,interaction,conflict,
authority,domination,class,status,andpower,tostatebutpartofthecatalogue.AsIhaveearlier
argued,itwaspreciselytheseconnectionsandissuesthatformedscholarsstrikingaminorbutenduring
themeofmediastudiesduringthefermentinthe1940sand1950s:DavidRiesman,C.WrightMills,
HaroldInnisandKennethBurke(Carey,1983).Culturalstudies,inanAmericancontext,isanattemptto
reclaimandreconstructthistradition.
Irealizethat,inanageofinternationalism,Ihavesetthisargumentoutethnocentrically.Idosoto
makeaphilosophicalpointandnotanationalistone.Sincetheadventoftheprintingpress,atleast,the
argumentsthatcomprisesocialanalysishavebeenethnocentricallyformulated.Totrytoescapethese
formulations,totrytoimportwholesalefromsomewhereelseananalysisthatdoesnotdeveloprootson
nativegrounds,issimplyapose,anotherwayofbeinganobserver.Thisisnottosaythatothervoices
frornothervalleyscannotmakeamajorcontribution.Weberhasbeenmentioned;Marxcannotforlong
beavoided;andIhavepaidhomagetoWilliamsandHoggart.Onthecontemporarysceneonethinksof
fourforeignvoicesthathavesomethingoftherightspirittothem:Habermas,Foucault,Giddens,and
Bourdieu.Butsuchvoicesmustbeembeddedin,
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies65
deeplyconnectedwith,thelinesofdiscourseandthecanonsofevidenceandargumentthatareonly
decipherablewithinthesocial,political,andintellectualtraditionsofgivennational,socialformations.
Theissuessurroundingculturalstudieshavebeenverymuchcomplicated,aswellasenormously
enriched,bytheincreasingprominenceintheUnitedStatesoftheworkoftheCenterfortheStudyof
Contemporary Culture [sic] at the University of Birmingham, and, in particular, that portion of the
center's activity identified with Stuart Hall. Hall's work is theoretically, historically, and, often,
empiricallyelegantandverymuchdeservestheinfluenceithasacquired.Thecenter'sresearch,while
distinctivelyEnglishinorientationandthereforeinitslimitations,drawsheavilyoncertaintraditionsof
continentaltheoryandpolitics,particularlyMarxismandstructuralism,althoughinterestinglyenough
notoncriticaltheoryoftheFrankfurtSchoolvariety.
Britishculturalstudiescouldbedescribedjustaseasilyandperhapsmoreaccuratelyasideological
studiesinthatitassimilates,inavarietyofcomplexways,culturetoideology.Moreaccurately,itmakes
ideologysynecdochalofcultureasawhole.Ideologicalstudies,inStuartHall'slovelyphrase,represent
'thereturnoftherepressedinmediastudies'.Ideology,onthisreading,wasalwaystheunacknowledged
subtextofeffectsresearch.Differencesofopiniondescribedbypsychologicalscalesmaskedstructural
faultlinesalongwhichranvitalpoliticaldivisions.The'consensus'achievedbythemassmediawasonly
achieved by reading the 'deviants' out of the social formation: political difference reduced to norm
lessness.Thepositivesciencesdidnotprovideananalysisofideology(orofculture)butratherwerepart
oftheactualsocialprocessbywhichideologicalformsmaskedandsustainedthesocialorder.
Thisanalysis,whileradicallyundersketched,hashadarejuvenatingeffectonavarietyofMarxistand
neoMarxistanalysesofcapitalistsocietiesbyNorthAmericanscholars.Unfortunately,thefermentthis
rejuvenationhasprovidedinthefieldisoftendescribedbythestaleandunproductivecontrastbetween
administrativeandcriticalresearch,alegacyleftoverfromtheyearstheFrankfurtSchoolwasinexile
and,intruth,inhiding.Butthedifferencebetweenculturalstudiesandthepositivesciencesisnotinany
simplesenseameredifferencebetweensupportingorcriticizingthestatusquo,althoughIsupposeitis
comfortingforsometothinkso.
TherearegrossandimportantsimilaritiesbetweenBritishandAmericanculturalstudiesthatderive
fromcertaincommonoriginsandinfluences.Bothtracetheirfoundingtotheearly1950sandbothhave
beeninfluenced,toagreaterorlesserdegree,bythedebateovermasscultureandtheworkofWilliams,
Hoggart, and E.P. Thompson. Both have drawn extensively on symbolic interactionism, although in
somewhatdifferentways.IntheBritishcasesymbolicinteractionismhasbeenlimitedtoprovidingan
approachtotheanalysisofsubculturesandthe'problemofdeviance',~hereasithasprovidedamuch
more generalized model of social action m the American case. Similarly, both traditions have been
influencedbyMaxWeber.TheprincipalconceptofWeberthathasworkeditswayintoBritishstudiesis
thatoflegitimation,whiletherestofWeber'sanalysisof
66Whatisculturalstudies?
class,status,andauthorityimportantasthathasbeentoAmericanscholarshaslargelybeenshorn
away.Finally,Britishculturalstudieshascircledwithinavarietyofmeaningsofideology,meanings
providedbythewiderdebatewithinMarxism,particularlybytheencounterofMarxismandFrench
structuralism.Infact,beginningfromtheworkofWilliams,Hoggart,andThompson,Britishcultural
studieshavemadealongdetourthroughFrenchstructuralismand,likeeverythingelsethesedays,have
beendeeplydividedovertheencounter.Structuralism,intum,hasmadelittleheadwayintheUnited
States,whereitmustcontendwiththefarmorepowerfulformalismsprovidedbyinformationtheoryand
transformationallinguistics.
These wideranging andoftencontradictoryinfluences have beenheld inremarkable equipoise by
StuartHall.Hehasshownanexceptionalcapacitytobeopenandgenerousinabsorbingcurrentsof
thoughtwhilefirmlyfixedoncenteringculturalstudiesonideologicalanalysiswithinaneoMarxist
framework.However,despitethepowerandeleganceofthisanalysis,Ithinkitislikelytoincreaserather
thanreduceresistancetoculturalstudiesintheUnitedStates.Thatresistance,howeverunderstandable,
is,Ibelieve,shortsighted.
Thetwodominanttypesofresistancetoculturalstudiestakeapositivistandaphenomenologicalform,
althoughthelabelslikealllabelsarenotquiteadequate.Asformsofresistancetheyoverlapandhave
somethingimportantincommon;however,theyproceedfromdifferentoriginsandthereforeendupin
differentdilemmas.
Thepositivistresistancetoculturalstudies,beyondtheeverpresentdesiretomaintainadistinction
betweenhardscienceandsoftscholarship,betweenknowledgeandopinion,isgroundedinadeep
politicalinstinct.Thepositivesciences,ofwhichphysicsisthemodelandpsychologythepretender,
grewupinadistincthistoricalrelationnotonlytocapitalismbuttoparliamentarydemocracy.These
sciencesarethecrowningachievementofWesterncivilization,farlessambiguousinmanywaysthan
eithercapitalismordemocracy.Indeed,thepositivesciencesepistemologicallygroundeddemocracy,
providedsomeguaranteethatopinioncouldbetranscendedbytruth,and,mostofall,providedamodelof
uncoercedcommunicationintermsofwhichtojudgeandmodifypoliticalpractice.Inshort,thepositive
sciencesarehistoricallylinkedtocertainvaluablepracticesthatnooneparticularlywantstosurrender.
Therefore,culturalstudies,initsattackontheselfunderstandingofthepositivesciences,seemstobuy
intoamoralandpoliticalvocabularythatis,ifnotantidemocratic,atleastinsufficientlysensitivetothe
waysinwhichvaluedpoliticalpracticesintertwinewithcertainintellectualhabits.Morethanthat,few
cancompletelyforgetthatthepositivesciencesshoredupparliamentarydemocracyataparticularly
perilousmomentinitshistoryduringtheDepressionandWorldWarII.Positivescience,anchoredasit
wasinanotionoftruthindependentofpolitics,arrivedatbyopencommunicationandinthedoctrineof
naturalrights,wasonemeansofwithstandingthetotalitariantemptation.
Ithinkitisimportanttobesympathetictothisformofresistancetoculturalstudies,butintheenditis
misplacedandcounterproductive.
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies67
Becausethepositivesciencesshoredupdemocracyatonebadmoment,itisnotnecessarytoconclude
theycanorwilldoitpermanently.Ihavealreadysuggested,infact,thatinthepostWorldWarllphase,
the positive sciences increasingly assumed an antidemocratic character that was implicit in the
commitmentsofthebehavioralandfunctionalsciences.Notionsoflawsofbehaviorandfunctionsof
societyprettymuchobliteratetheentirelegacyofdemocracy;theysubstituteideologicalandcoercive
practicefortheprocessofconsensusformationviauncoercedconversation.3Thesuggestionthatpositive
sciencebesubstitutedforuncoercedcommunicationwasfirstputforward,withinourtradition,byWalter
LippmanninPublicOpinion.JohnDeweyinstantlyrespondedtothebook,describingitasthegreatest
indictmentofdemocracyyetwritten.BythetimeoftheVietnamwar,Deweyprovedprophetic,forthe
behavioralscienceswerecentraltothatintellectual,moral,andpoliticaldisaster.
Democracymaybedamagedbythepositivesciencesbutitdoesnotneedtobebuttressedbythemor
defendedandjustifiedintermsofthem.Thevaluedpracticesandhabitsoftheintellectualandpolitical
enlight enment can be better defended by what Richard Rorty (1984b) has called a 'criterionless
muddlingthrough',bycomparingthosesocietiesthatexhibitqualitiesoftolerance,freeinquiry,anda
questforundistortedcommunicationwiththosethatdonot.Wedonotneedtobuttressthiscomparison
bydesignatingcertainmethodsandtheoriesasguarantorsofthetruth.
Ofcourse,culturalstudiesconsistsofathinlydisguisedmoralandpoliticalvocabulary.Butthatistrue
ofallintellectualvocabularies,includingthevocabularyofthepositivesciences.Ifstudentsinthisfield
havenotlearneditfromKennethBurkeperhapstheyarenolongercapableoflearning,butconceptual
vocabulariesalwayscontainarhetoricofattitudesandarhetoricofmotives.Thereisnowayofdoing
intellectualworkwithoutadoptingalanguagethatsimultaneouslydefines,describes,evaluates,andacts
towardthephenomenainquestion.Therefore,resistancetocenteringthequestionofideologyorof
adoptingculturalstudiesasapointofviewtowardthemassmediaisthatitseemstocommitoneselfin
advancetoamoralevaluationofmodernsocietyAmericaninparticular,theWesterndemocraciesin
general,themassmediaaboveallthatiswhollynegativeandcondemnatory.Itseems,therefore,to
commit one to a revolutionary line of political action or, at the least, a major project of social
reconstruction. The fear is real but it is a little silly, if only for the reason that there aren't any
revolutionariesanywherethesedays.
Ifthebehavioralandfunctionalsciencescontainamoralandpoliticalvocabulary,thentheproblemis
nottoundertakethehaplesstaskof~underingsciencefrommoralsandpoliticsbutrathertorecognizethe
Inevitableinterconnectionoftheseformsofactivityandtomakethemevermoreexplicitanddefensible.
The behavioral and cultural sciences should contain an analysis of ideology beyond the crude and
reductive~>ne~ey.nowhavebuttheyshouldalsomakeexplicittheirownideologicalunplicationsand
persuasionsanddefendthemontheirownground,notbypretendingthat'sciencesays'isanadequate
defense. (A paradoxical fact of our times is that rightwing scholarship, as represented by
neoconservatism,
68Wlultisculturalstudies?
doesnothavemuchofananalysisofideology;itjusthasanideology.TheLefthasadozendifferent
analysesofideology;itjustdoesnothaveanideologyinthesenseofaplanforpoliticalaction.)
Culturalstudieslooksatideologyandtheoryasvaryingformsofexpressionwithinthesameculture.
Theydiffersemantically,stylistically,andintermsoftheirconditionsofexpressionandreception.They
donotdifferbecauseonecontainstruthandoneerror,oneknowledgeandoneopinion,onefactandone
fancy,insomeaprioriway.Thetaskistoseethecharacteristickindsofdifficultiesourideologiesand
our theories (and our culture) get us into and then to try to devise ways of getting out of those
difficulties."However,gettingoutwillnotbeaccomplishedbygettingridofordevaluingideologyand
cultureinthenameofsciencebutbyplungingthelattermoredeeplyintotheformer.Allformsof
practiceandexpression,includingscience,areculturalformsandcanonlybeunderstoodinthatlight.
Aninstructivelessonhere,althoughIamhardlyinthebusinessofextollingorapplaudingpositivists
andneoconservatives,wasprovidedbyDanielBellandIrvingKristolwhentheyfoundedThePublic
Interest.Thejournalwasestablishedin1965atamomentwhentheorthodox(asopposedtotheradical)
LeftwasincontrolofAmericanpolitics.BellandKristolfelttheAmericansocietyhadbeenbadly
damagedbythesocialprogramsaswellastheculturalandforeignpolicyinitiativesofthoseincharge.
ThePublicInterestwasdesignedasaplaceforlikemindedpersonstoworkoutabroadsocialprogramto
changethedirectionofAmericanlife.Theydidnotwastetheirtime,Icanassureyou,ondefendingor
explainingthetheoriesandmethodsofthepositivesciences.Itwasnotforthemtochasemetaphysical
batsaroundintellectualbelfries.Theysimplygatheredupagroupofsocialscientistsandleftthechurch.
Theydisappeareddownthestreet.Theydidn'tevenleaveaforwardingaddressoranoteinthepew
sayingregards.Theywentoffandbuiltadifferentchurchonadifferentintellectualsite,onasitethatwas
not as easily shaken by an antipositivist critique. They systematically went about the task of using
intelligence,irrespectiveofmethodandtheory,toregroundthesocialorder,undertakingwhatStuartHall
would call a hegemonic project but which we might more evenhandedly call a project of social
reconstruction.Theydidnotneedanoutmodedphilosophyofsciencetogroundtheirownimageof
democracy and intellectual work. Despite having written essays on the 'end of ideology', they
unabashedlyadmittedtheinterconnectionbetweenideologyandscienceandmadeacase,aremarkably
successfulcaseasithasturnedout,fortheirownwayofviewingtheworldandproceedingwithinit.The
taskforthosewhobelievethatcurrentversionsofculturalstudiescorruptorcompromisedemocratic
practiceisnotaretreatintovalue&eeobjectivistsciencebuttounearth,makeexplicit,andcritiquethe
moralandpoliticalcommitmentsintheirowncontingentwork.5Inshort,theansweristomovetoward,
notaway&om,aculturalstudiesviewpoint.
The phenomenological resistance to cultural studies is more difficult to characterize because it
otherwisesharessomuchincommonwithculturalstudies.Phenomenologistsarequitewillingtogiveup
theentirepositivist
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies69
frameworkofthescienceofhumancommunicationor,ataminimum,tosettleforabargaininwhichthe
laborisdividedbetweenthesciencesandhumanities.Theyarewillingtofolloworworkoutaparallel
pathtoculturalstudiesuptothepointofusingthemassmediaasacontextwithinwhichtowritea
phenomenologyofmodemexperienceandconsciousness:todescribethesubjectivelifethemodem
'structure of feeling' in Raymond Williams's arch but useful phrase in relation to the media of
communication,oneoftheparamountformsofexperienceinrelationtowhichconsciousnessisformed.
Inpractice,thismeansonlygoingasfarastheearlyworkofWilliamsandHaggartandparticularlynot
intotheintellectual,moral,andpoliticalquicksandoneencounterswhenonestartsromancingFrench
structuralism. Phenomenologists, in the restricted sense I am using the term, are willing to commit
themselvestoareconstructionofconsciousnessthroughmethodsassimpleasverstehenorascomplexas
hermeneutics.Whilerecognizingthatmodemconsciousnessisriddledbyantinomyandcontradictions
formedinrelationtoandexacerbatedbythemassmedia,andwhilestandinginfirmoppositiontomany
formsoflifeinmodemcapitalistsocieties,phenomenologistsresistmovingpower,conflict,domination,
oranygivensetofsociostructuralelementstothecenterofanalysis.
Again,Iamnotatallunsympathetictothisresistance,butIthinkitismisplaced.Itisclear,however,
thatideologicalandculturalanalysiscanbesimplyanotherentryofthePlatonic:Thedistinctionbetween
knowledgeandopinionissimplyreplacedbyadistinctionbetweenknowledgeandideology.Theonly
gainhereisthemoreexplicitpoliticalreferenceoftheword'ideology'.Butwhat,then,isonebuyinginto
bycenteringtheideologicalandpolitical?When'ideology'becomesatermtodescribeanentirewayof
lifeor just another namefor what is goingon, thenthe rich phenomenological diversityof modem
societies is reduced to a flattened analysis of conflict between classes and factions. Cultural or
ideologicalstudiesreplaceseconomicsasthedismalscience.6
Phenomenologistsofallstripesarecommittedtothevarietiesofhumanexperienceasprovidingthe
deepestpleasure,thewastingresource,andthemostcomplexexplanatoryproblemsinmodemsociety.To
stripawaythisdiversity,evenifitisdescribedasrelativelyautonomousdiversity,inordertoreveala
deepandunivocalstructureofideologyandpolitics,istosteamrollersubjectiveconsciousnessjustas
effectivelyasthebehavioristsandfunctionalistsdid.Onedoesnot,onthisreading,wishtotradethewell
knownevilsoftheSkinnerboxforthelesswellknown,butjustasreal,evilsoftheAlthusserianbox.
Anymovement,therefore,towardencompassingelementsofsocialstructureclass,power,authority
whichexplainawaythediversityofconsciousnessistoheadonedownaroadjustasselfenclosingasthe
behavioristterrainphenomenologistshavebeentryinginonewayoranothertoevacuateformostofthis
century.Toputthematterdifferently,phenomenologistsjustcannottakeseriouslytheclaimtheysensein
ideologicalstudiesthat,inOttoNeurath's(1935)familiaranalogy,wecannotmakeasailableboatoutof
theplanksoftheshiponwhichwearecurrentlysailingbutratherwemustabandonshipaltogetherand
startanew.Whyabandonsomethingofrichdiversityin
70WhAtisculturalstudies?
ordertobuildsomethingofselfenclosingmonotony?Itispreciselythephenomenologicaldiversityof
modemsocietyandtheextraordinarytensionsofconsciousnessthisproduces,particularlyinrelationto
themassmedia,thatisthemostcompellingproblem,howevercriticalorskepticalphenomenologistsmay
beabouttheactualexperienceinmodemWesternsocieties.
Ibelievethatbothoftheseformsofresistancetoculturalstudiesareofrealsignificanceandgenuine
importanceneithercanbeeasilyorsummarilydismissed.Idisagreewiththem,however.Ihave
alreadysaidthatIdonotbelievethatsocialdemocracyneedstobeproppedupwiththeobjectivist
groundingofthepositivesciences,thatthelatterareaweaknessoftheformer.Wecangetalongquite
nicelybylookingatintellectualwork,includingscience,asamuddlingthroughofthedilemmasthat
history, tradition, andcontemporarylife have placedbefore us. NeitherdoIthinkitisnecessaryto
abandonthenotionofideologyortocloseoureyestotheformsofpower,authority,anddomination
characteristicofthemodernworldinordertodojusticetoitsphenomenologicaldiversity.Conflictsand
contradictionsareastypicalandoftenirremovableapartofoursocietyasanyother?Ideologydoes,after
all, play a larger role in modem life because coercion plays a much smaller role. Ideological state
apparatuseshavesignificantlydisplacedrepressivestateapparatuses,ifthatiswhatwewishtocallthem,
andthatisnotnecessarilyabadthing.Noonehas,asyet,dopedoutanadequateanalysisofpower,
conflict,contradiction,andauthority.Thattaskremains.Theproblemwasabsolutelycentraltotherich,
diverse,andmelancholyworkofMaxWeber.Infact,partofthephenomenologicalresistancetocultural
studiesstemsfromthesimplefactthatnotionsofpowerandauthoritythatwerefirmlyattachedinWeber
tomattersofactionandsubjectivityarenowmoreoftenderivedfromDurkheim,thesocialintegrationist,
inwhoseworkpowerandauthoritywereinvisibleandunnoted.Asaresult,theanalysisisconstantly
slippingintoafunctionalism,despitethemostheroicattemptstopreventitfromdoingso.Itisnot
absolutelygiventhattheformsofinequalityanddominationtypicalofmodemsocietyaresoodiousthat
theycanonlybemaintainedbythesilentandinvisibleagei}CYofculturalreproduction,behindthe
backs,asitwere,ofits'subjects'.8
Inshort,itispossible,Ibelieve,topressforwardwithaformofculturalstudiesthatdoesnotperforce
reduceculturetoideology,socialconflicttoclassconflict,consenttocompliance,actiontoreproduction,
orcommunicationtocoercion.Morethanthat,despitethedangersandreservationsacknowledgedherein,
cultural studies, in whatever form it survives, offers the real advantage of abandoning an outmoded
philosophyofscience(maybeevengettingridofthephilosophyofsciencealtogether)andcenteringthe
massmediaasasite(notasubjectoradiscipline)onwhichtoengagethegeneralquestionofsocial
theory: How is it, through all sorts of change and diversity, through all sorts of conflicts and
contradictions,thatthemiracleofsociallifeispulledoff,thatsocietiesmanagetoproduceandreproduce
themselves?Putinaslightlydifferentway,howisitthroughcommunication,throughthe
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies71
integradedrelationsofsymbolsandsocialstructure,thatsocietiesarecreated,maintained,and
transformed?
Notes
1.UtilitarianismhashistoricallyprovidedthebasicmodelandexplanationofsocialorderinWesterndemocraciesandutility
theory;therefore,itisthemostinfluentialformofsocialtheory.Utilitarianismstartsfromtheassumptionthatthedesiresthat
motivatehumanactionareindividualandsubjectiveandare,therefore,eitherunknowabletotheobserverorpurelyexogenous.
Thesesubjectivedesires,thesegivenandindividualpreferences,areexpressedinhumanactionasanattempttomaximizeutility
orthepleasureorhappinessthatthesatisfactionofdesirebrings.Economictheoryandcapitalisteconomiesarebuiltuponthis
principleofthemaximizationofutility.Therestofthesocialsciences,generallyunhappybecauseutilitytheorytendstoskirtor
assumeawaytheproblemofsocialorder,desubjectivizeutility,driveitoutsideoftheheadandintotheobjectiveworld.But,the
socialsciencesthenrelocateutilityinourgenesorinourenvironmentorinoursociety.SocialDarwinismanditslatterday
embodiment,sociobiology,areexamplesofthefirststrategywhereasbehaviorismandsociologicalfunctionalismareexamples
ofthesecondandthird.Itistheselaterpositions,bothparticularlybehaviorismandfunctionalism,thatprovidetheunderpinning
formasscommunicationresearch.Indeed,communicationsresearchhasbeenlittletouchedbyutilitytheoryineitherits
economicorbiologicalformexcept,anditisabigexception,thatcertainassumptionsaboutlanguageandcommunication(the
theoryofrepresentation,theselfrightingprocessinthefreemarketofideas)haveundergirdedeconomists'notionsoftheways
inwhichthequestforutilitycanalsoproduceaprogressivesocialorder.Theutilitarianconceptionofhumanconductand
society,then,istheimplicitsubtextofcommunicationresearch,butithasbeentwistedoutofitsoriginallysubjectiveframework
andresituatedintheobjectiveworldofenvironmentandsocialstructure.Itisaformofutilitarianismnonetheless:theobjective
utilitiesofnaturalecology,theutilitiesthatpromotethesurvivalofthehumanpopulationorthegivensocialorder.Now,it
wouldbecomfortingtothinkthatoursmallscaleempiricalinvestigationsaredetachedfromtheseoverarchingsolutionstothe
problemofsocialorderbuttheyarenot.Ourstudiesinevitablyarticulate'into'and'outof'thesewidertheories.Theyarticulate
outbecausetheyinevitablyborrowlanguage,concepts,andassumptionsfromthemoreencompassingintellectualenvironment;
theyarticulateintothewidertheoriesinthattheyprovideevidenceortheyareusedasevidenceforandagainstthesoundnessof
thesesocialtheories.Conceptssuchasattitude,effect,uses,andgratificationsareborrowedfromutilitytheory;evidencefrom
effectsstudiesareusedtosupportoneoranothertheoryofmasssociety,usuallytheliberal,utilitarian,orpluralisttheory.Indeed,
thestudyofcommunicationeffectsmakessenseandhaspertinenceonlyinsofarasitactivelyarticulateswiththeselarger
positions.Unfortunately,therearenoneutralpositionsonthequestionsthatvexsociety.2.Utilitytheory,aspracticedby
economists,producestheclassicdilemmafordemocracy.Ifhumanagentsaredrivenbysubjectivedesiredisconnectedfromthe
feelingsofothers,howdotheymanagetocreateandsustaintheassociated,cooperativeformofsociallifewecalldemocracy?
Whydon'tpeoplealwaysgougeoneanothertothelimit,astheyoftendoeveninthebestoftimes?Noonehasproducedan
adequateanswertothatproblemanditisusuallydismissed
72Wlultisculturalstudies?
withoneoranothermetaphysicalconcept,suchastheinvisiblehandofthemarket.Theobjectiveutilitytheorists
giveusananswer:Ourgenes,orourenvironment,orthenormsofsociety,makeusdemocrats,althoughIamhere
engaginginabitofburlesque.Besidesbeingalittletoooptimistic,objectiveutilitytheoristsachieveanimageof
democracyatanenormousprice:thesurrenderofanynotionofaselfactivating.autonomous,selfgoverningsub
ject.The'new'subjectisonecontrolledorconstrainedbythelawsofbiology,ornature,orsocietylawstowhichhe
orshesubmitsbecauseheorshecanhardlydootherwise.Thisistheimageofhumanityandthedilemmaof
democracywithwhichtheentiretraditionofmasscommunicationresearchstruggles.Itisattheheartofour
foundingbook,Lippman'sPublicOpinion.ItisthereasonwhyPaulLazarsfeld'sworkwassoimportant.The
People'sChoiceturnsoutnottobethepeople'schoicebutthechoiceofanindexofsocioeconomicstatus.Suchlaws
ofbehaviorareantidemocraticeitherbecausetheyrevealasubjectwhoisnotfitfordemocracyortheycanbeused
tocontrolthesubjectsofamerepresumptivedemocracy.Assooftenhappensinintellectualwork,theanswerswe
givebecomedisconnectedfromthequestionsweareasking.or,better,theybecomeactivelysuppressed.3.If
behindoursubjectivenotionsofwhatweareuptotherelieinwaitourgenes,ourconditioninghistory,orthe
functionsofsocietyexactingtheirdue,thenoursubjectivelife,ourintentionsandpurposes,arejustsomany
illusions,mereepiphenomena.Theonlypeoplewhograspthedistinctionbetweenrealityandappearance,whograsp
thelawsofconductandsociety,aretherulinggroupsandthosethatdotheirbidding:scientific,technicaleliteswho
elucidatethelawsofbehaviorandthefunctionsofsocietysothatpeoplemightbemoreeffectively,albeit
unconsciously,governed.4.Ihavealreadysuggestedhowitisthatutilitytheory,thesocialsciences,andliberal
ideologygetusintoaseriesofdifficulties.Howdowereconciletheindividualdesiresunleasedbycapitalismwith
thedemandsofassociatedlife,withthejustice,equality,andmutualconcernnecessaryfordemocracy?That
dilemmaisbadenoughbutassoonasweresolveitbytherouteopenthroughtheobjectivesciences(don'tworry,
justiceisinourgenesorinourinstitutions),weendupinaworsedilemma,adilemmatheLefthascritiquedwith
precision.Wehave,then,arulingclassofsocialscientistsdisinterested,ofcoursemanagingthesocialorderon
thebasisofuncontaminatedtruth.Weareentitledtobeskepticalaboutsuchapriesthood.Oncesocialscientists
adopttheroleofseers,weshouldentertainthenotionthattheirpositionisnotbasedontheirknowledgebutontheir
abilitytomonopolizepositionsofpowerandinfluenceinthesocialstructure.Again,itwasMaxWeber,wholooked
atintellectualcredentialsasadeviceofclassclosure,whowasmosttrenchantonthispoint.Thesupplyofvalued
thingsinasociety,includingvaluedoccupations,isstrictlylimited.Workinindustrialsocietiesishierarchically
organizedsothatvaluedoccupationscanbeidentifiedandshoweredwithincome,amenities,andprestige.
Preferredjobsarepositionalgoods,asopposedtomaterialgoods,inthewellknowndistinctionofthelateBritish
economistFredHirsch,andtheyarevaluedbecausetheyareinshortsupply.Theyarevaluedalsobecausepower
attachestothem,thepowertomonopolizevaluedculturalresourcestomonopolizeobjectiveknowledge,
uncontaminatedbyideology,knowledgeonlythesocialscientistcangrasp.Thisisnotahealthyclimatefor
democracy.ForgivemeifIdon'tannouncehowtogetoutofthisfix,butwedon'thaveachanceuntilwerecognize
thefixwearein.5.Intellectualwork,then,iscontingentupontheentireframeworkofarticulatedsocialorderand
theideologiesthatarticulateitanddoesnotusherforthfrom
Overcomingresistancetoculturalstudies73
someArchimedeanpointintheuniversefromsomeobserver'outthere',where,asGertrudeSteinsaidofOakland,California,
'thereisnotherethere'.Ifoneobjectstocurrentversionsofculturalstudies,thentheonlyansweristoanalyzethearticulations
betweentheory,practice,andideologypresentwithintheeffectstraditions:togiveup,inshort,theposeoftheobserverandto
undertake,explicitly,thetaskofusingintelligencetochange,modify,orreconstructthesocialorder.6.Economicsbecamethe
'dismalscience'fortwointerrelatedreasons.First,utilitytheoryreducedsociallifetotheflywheelofacquisitivenessand
accumulation.Economicmanbecamethewholeman,theonlyman.However,therepetitivedullnessofacquisitionwasnotthe
onlydismalprospecteconomicsheldout.Societybecamea'worldwithoutend,amen!'wheretheacquisitiveitchcouldneverbe
adequatelyscratchedbecauseoftheMalthusianspectre.Everygainwasbalancedoffbyariseinpopulation,andthechildrenthat
welovebecamemerelythetyrantswhoturnthewheelofgain.Culturalstudiescanalsotumintoadismalscienceifthe
phenomenologicaldiversityofsocietyisreducedtothesinglequestforpoweranddomination.WeareagainlacedtoAxion's
wheel.Byevacuatingdiversityintheprerevolutionaryera,weareleftwithonlyonemotivewithwhichtorunthe
postrevolutionarysociety.Butthepursuitofpowerwillproveasexhaustingandinexhaustibleasthepursuitofwealth.The
pursuitofpower,andtheoriesthatrationalizeit,nonethelesscatchessomethingofthepredicamentwearein.Power,andthe
prestigethatgoeswithit,isasarchetypalofabureaucraticageaswealthwasoftheeraofpennycapitalism.Thereisnoreason,
however,exceptapositivistone,whyaphenomenologyofcommunicationsmustavoidthephenomenaofpowerand
domination,lestallhumanrelationsandallsymbolsbereducedtothetermsofpowerandpoliticsalone.Isupportthe
phenomenologicalenterprisebecauseIbelieveanyhealthysocietywillpossessthatpartofitsspiritthatadmitstotheinevitable
anddesirablepluralizingofthevarietiesofexperience.Justbecauseyouadmitpowertothehouseholdofconsciousnessand
conduct,youdonothavetoletitoccupyeveryroom,althoughIadmitthat,likemanyanunwantedguest,youwillhaveto
struggletopreventitfromtakingovertheentiredomicile.7.Weliveinthelapofavastseriesofcontradictions.Thereis,for
example,thecontradictionoftheemploymentmarketreferredtoearlier,acontradictionrelevanttoourexperienceineducation.
Weobserveintheswingsofstudentinterestamongcollegemajorsawholesalecompetitionforpositionsintheoccupational
structureand,increasingly,attemptsbyparentstopurchasewiththetuitionpaidtoprestigeuniversitiesaplacefortheirchildren
intheoccupationalstructure.Thisisanoldstorythatfederalaidandloanprogramshavemoreorless(largelyless)
democratized.Thattheseoccupationalnichesarethoughttobeentitlements,rewardsforeducationvirtue,disconnectedfrom
conductorselfworth,presentsonekindofcontradiction.Thatsuchcompetitionforjobsinanageinwhichautomationwidens
thegulfbetweenmechanicalandimmiseratingworkandthepresumedglamouroftheprofessionspresentsanotherkindof
contradiction.Bothofthemexistinourclassroomseveryday,andwehavenoanswertothem.Ifweremovethose
contradictions,wewillhaveothers,equallydifficultandpunishing,withwhichtoreplacethem.Thisisnotacallforresignation
butjustanadmissionthatlifegoeson.8.Isupposeitwouldbeniceifthesocialorderworkedbythesilentreproductionof
culturesandstructures.Itwouldspareusfromallthemiserythatconflictandantagonismbrings.Unfortunately,theydonot
workinthisway.Welivethisreproductioninallitsturmoilandambiguity.IncontrasttotheMarxisttradition,Durkheim,the
theoristofsocialintegration,deliberatelydownplayedelements
74Whatisculturalstudies?
ofpowerandconflict.Inspiredbythecomplexityofanthropologicalstudiesofsocialreproduction,heinventednotionsof
'collectiverepresentation'and'collectiveconscience'toexplainhowsocietieswereheldintactinthemidstofconflictandstrain.
Althoughmychronologyisoffhere,whenheappliedthisanalysistomodemsocietieshetriedtoshowhowcapitalistsocieties
dependedfortheirveryexistenceandstabilityonaninheritedprecapitalistsocietythesocalledprecontractualelementsof
contract.Gesellscluzftsociety,thesocietyregulatedbyutilityandcontract,couldnotworkwithouttheintegrativemechanisms
ofGemeinschaftsociety:nonutilitarianvalues,beliefs,traditions,andthelike.TotheoldsloganthatmoneyistotheWestwhat
kinship is to the rest, he added that kinship performs a continuing integrative function in advanced societies. In a sense,
Durkheiminvertstherelationsofbaseandsuperstructure:Thecapitalisteconomythrivesontherootsystemoftraditional
society.ThisaspectofDurkheimhasbeenofsignalimportanceandusefulness.Butjustbecausecultureprovidesthesupportive
backgroundtocontract,itisnotnecessarytoarguethatcultureisunconscious,irrational,coercive,orautomatic.Tomakethis
argumentistobecomeeitheranobjectiveutilitytheoristoramechanicalMarxistThisleaptocultureasunconsciousorpartof
thedeepstructuremakesitdifficulttodistinguishMarxismfromfunctionalism,exceptanditisanimportantexceptionthat
theymakequitedifferentevaluationsofthesocialorderthatisbeingsilently,automaticallyintegrated.

References
CAREY,J.W.(1983)'Theoriginsofradicaldiscourseoncommunicationsinthe
UnitedStates',JountlllofCommunication33,31113.KUHN,T.(1983)'Rationalityandtheorychoice',JountlllofPhilosophy
80,567.LIPPMANN,W.(1922)PublicOpinion.NewYork:HarcourtBrace.NEURATH,0.(1935)'Pseudorationalismusder
Falsifikation',Erlcenntnis,5,35365.RORTY,R.(1984a)'Scienceassolidarity.'Paperpresentedtothesymposiumonthe
RhetoricoftheHumanSciences,UniversityofIowa,March.RORTY,R.(1984b)'Solidarityorobjectivity.'Paperpresentedto
thesymposiumon
theRhetoricoftheHumanSciences,UniversityofIowa,March.
5
What is cultural studies anyway?
RichardJohnson
Cultural studies is now a movement or a network. It has its own degrees in several colleges and
universitiesanditsownjournalsandmeetings.Itexercisesalargeinfluenceonacademicdisciplines,
especiallyonEnglishstudies,sociology,mediaandcommunicationstudies,linguisticsandhistory.In
thefirstpartofthearticle,1Iwanttoconsidersomeoftheargumentsforandagainsttheacademic
codificationofculturalstudies.Toputthequestionmostsharply:shouldculturalstudiesaspiretobean
academicdiscipline?Inthesecondpart,I'lllookatsomestrategiesofdefinitionshortofcodification,
becausealothangs,Ithink,onthekindofunityorcoherenceweseek.Finally,Iwanttotryoutsomeof
myownpreferreddefinitionsandarguments.
The importance of critique

Acodificationofmethodsorknowledges(institutingthem,forexample,informalcurriculaorincourses
on'methodology')runsagainstsomemainfeaturesofculturalstudiesasatradition:itsopennessand
theoreticalversatility,itsreflexiveevenselfconsciousmood,and,especially,theimportanceofcritique.
Imeancritiqueinthefullestsense:notcriticismmerely,norevenpolemic,butproceduresbywhichother
traditions areapproached both for what they may yieldand for what they inhibit. Critique involves
stealingawaythemoreusefulelementsandrejectingtherest.Fromthispointofviewculturalstudiesisa
process,akindofalchemyforproducingusefulknowledge;codifyitandyoumighthaltitsreactions.
In the history of cultural studies, the earliest encounters were with literary Criticism. Raymond
WilliamsandRichardHaggart,intheirdifferentways,developedtheLeavisitestressonliterarysocial
evaluation,butturnedtheassessmentsfromliteraturetoeverydaylife.2Similarappropriationshavebeen
madefromhistory.Thefirstimportantmomentherewasthedevelopll\entofthepostwartraditionsof
socialhistorywiththeirfocusonpopularculture,orthecultureof'thepeople'especiallyinitspolitical
forms.TheCommunistPartyHistorians'Groupwascentralhere,withits1940sand
76Whatisculturalstudies?
early1950sprojectofanglicisingandhistoricisingoldmarxism.Inawaythisinfluencewasparadoxical;
forthehistorianswerelessconcernedwithcontemporarycultureorevenwiththetwentiethcentury,
puttingenergiesinsteadintounderstandingthelongBritishtransitionfromfeudalismtocapitalismand
thepopularstrugglesandtraditionsofdissentassociatedwithit.Itwasthisworkwhichbecameasecond
matrixforculturalstudies.Centralinbothliteraryandhistoricalstrandswasthecritiqueofoldmarxism.
Therecoveryof'values'againstStalinismwasaleadingimpulseofthefirstnewleft,butthecritiqueof
economismhasbeenthecontinuousthreadthroughthewhole'crisisofmarxism'whichhasfollowed.
Certainlyculturalstudieshasbeenformedonthissideofwhatwecancall,paradoxically,amodern
marxistrevival,andinthecrossnationalborrowingsthatweresomarkedafeatureofthe1970s.Itis
importanttonotewhatdifferentplacesthesamefigureshaveoccupiedindifferentnationalroutes.The
takeupofAlthusserianismisincomprehensibleoutsidethebackgroundofthedominantempiricismof
Britishintellectualtraditions.Thisfeaturehelpstoexplaintheappealofphilosophy,notasatechnical
pursuit,butasageneralisedrationalismandexcitementwithabstractideas?Similarly,itisimfortantto
notehowGramsci,aversionofwhoseworkoccupiesaplaceoorthodoxyinItaly,wasappropriatedbyus
asacritical,heterodoxfigure.Heprovidedmightyreinforcementstoanalreadypartlyformedcultural
studiesproject,aslateasthe1970s.4
Some students of culture remain 'marxist' in name (despite the 'crisis' and all that). It is more
interesting,however,tonotewhereculturalstudieshasbeenMarxinfluenced.Everyonewillhavetheir
ownchecklist.Myown,whichisnotintendedtosketchanorthodoxy,includesthreemainpremises.The
firstisthatculturalprocessesareintimatelyconnectedwithsocialrelations,especiallywithclassrelations
andclassformations,withsexualdivisions,withtheracialstructuringofsocialrelationsandwithage
oppressionsasaformofdependency.Thesecondisthatcultureinvolvespowerandhelpstoproduce
asymmetriesintheabilitiesofindividualsandsocialgroupstodefineandrealisetheirneeds.Andthe
third,whichfollowstheothertwo,isthatcultureisneitheranautonomousnoranexternallydetermined
field,butasiteofsocialdifferencesandstruggles.Thisbynomeansexhauststheelementsofmarxism
thatremainactiveandaliveandresourcefulintheexistingcircumstances,providedonlythey,too,are
critiqued,anddevelopedindetailedstudies.
Othercritiqueshavebeendistinctlyphilosophical.Culturalstudieshasbeenmarkedout,intheBritish
context,foritsconcernwith'theory',butth~intimacyoftheconnectionwithphilosophyhasnotbeen
obvious ~til recently. Yet there is a very close cousinhood between epistemologtcal problems and
positions (e.g. empiricism, realism and idealism) and the key questions of 'cultural theory' (e.g.
economism,materialism,ortheproblemofculture'sspecificeffects).Again,forme,alotofroadslead
backtoMarx,buttheappropriationsneedtobewiderones.Latelytherehavebeenattemptstogobeyond
therathersterileoppositionofrationali~mandempiricisminsearchofamoreproductiveformulationof
the
rela~onbetweentheory(or
'abstraction'asInowprefer)and'concretestudie~'.
Moreimportantinourrecenthistoryhavebeenthecritiquesdenvmgfromthewomen'smovementand
from the struggles against racism.6 These have deepened and extended the democratic and socialist
commitments
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?77
thatweretheleadingprinciplesofthefirstnewleft.Ifthepersonalwasalreadypoliticalinthefirstphaseofthe
CampaignforNuclearDisarmament(CND),itwasoddlyungendered.Thedemocraticfoundationsoftheearly
movementswerethereforeinsecurelybasedasanewformofpolitics.Similarlytherewere(andare)deepproblems
abouttheethnoandanglocentricityofkeytextsandthemesinourtradition?ThecontemporarysalienceinBritain
ofaconservativenationalistandracistpoliticsmeanstheseflawsareallthemoreserious.Itisincorrectthereforeto
see feminism or antiracism as some kind of interruption or diversion from an original class politics and its
associatedresearchprogramme.Onthecontrary,itisthesemovementsthathavekeptthenewleftnew.
Thespecificresultsforculturalstudieshavebeennolessimportant.8Muchmorehasbeeninvolvedthanthe
originalquestion:'whataboutwomen?'Feminismhasinfluencedeverydaywaysofworkingandbroughtagreater
recognition of the way that productive results depend upon supportive relationships. It has uncovered some
unacknowledgedpremisesof'left'intellectual workandthemasculineintereststhat heldtheminplace.Ithas
producednewobjectsofstudyandforcedarethinkingofoldones.Inmediastudies,forexample,ithasshifted
attentionfromthe'masculine'genreofnewsandcurrentaffairstotheimportanceof'lightentertainment'.Ithas
aidedamoregeneralturnfromolderkindsofideologycritique(whichcentredonmapsofmeaningorversionsof
reality)toapproachesthatcentreonsocialidentities,subjectivities,popularityandpleasure.Feministsalsoseemto
havemadeaparticularcontributiontobridgingthehumanities/socialsciencedividebybringingliterarycategories
and'aesthetic'concernstobearonsocialissues.
Ihopethesecasesshowhowcentralcritiquehasbeenandhowconnecteditiswithpoliticalcausesinthe
broader sense. A number of questions follow. If we have progressed by critique, are there not dangers that
codifications will involve systematic closure? If the momentum is to strive for really useful knowledge, will
academiccodificationhelpthis?Isnottheprioritytobecomemore'popular'ratherthanmoreacademic?These
questionsgainfurtherforcefromimmediatecontexts.Culturalstudiesisnowawidelytaughtsubject,thus,unless
weareverycareful,studentswillencounteritasanorthodoxy.Inanycase,studentsnowhavelectures,coursesand
examinationsinthestudyofculture.Inthesecircumstances,howcantheyoccupyacriticaltraditionculturally?
Thisisreinforcedbywhat weknoworarelearningabout academicandotherdisciplinarydispositionsof
knowledge.Recognitionoftheformsofpowerassociatedwithknowledgemayturnouttobeoneoftheleading
insightsofthe1970.Itisaverygeneraltheme:intheworkofPierreBourdieuandMichelFoucault,intheradical
philosophers' and radical scientists' critiques of science or scientism, in radical educational philoso phy and
sociologyandinfeministcritiquesofthedominantacademicforms.Therehasbeenamarkedchangefromthe
singularaffirmationofs~ienceintheearly1970s(withAlthusserasonemainfigure)tothediSsolutionofsuch
certainties(withFoucaultasonepointofreference)inourowntimes.Academicknowledgeforms(orsomeaspects
ofthem)nowlooklikepartoftheproblem,ratherthatpartofthesolution.Infact,the
78Whatisculturalstudies?
problemremainsmuchasithasalwaysbeenwhatcanbewonfromtheacademicconcernsandskillsto
provideelementsofusefulknowledge.
Pressures to define

Yetthereareimportantpressurestodefine.Thereisthelittledailypoliticsofthecollegeortheschool
notsolittlesincejobs,resourcesandopportunitiesforusefulworkareinvolved.Culturalstudieshaswon
realspaceshereandtheyhavetobemaintainedandextended.Thecontextof('big')politicsmakesthis
still moreimportant.WealsohaveaConservative CounterReformationinBritainandthe US.One
manifestationisavigorousassaultonpubliceducationalinstitutions,bothbycuttingfinanceandby
defining usefulness in strictly capitalist terms. We need definitions of cultural studies to struggle
effectivelyinthesecontexts,tomakeclaimsforresources,toclarifyourmindsintherushandmuddleof
everydaywork,andtodecideprioritiesforteachingandresearch.
Mostdecisively,perhaps,weneedwaysofviewingavigorousbutfragmentedfieldofstudy,ifnotasa
unityatleastasawhole.Ifwedonotdiscusscentraldirectionsofourown,wewillbepulledhitherand
thitherbythedemandsofacademicselfproductionandbytheacademicdisciplinesfromwhichour
subject,inpart,grows.Academictendencies,then,tendtobereproducedonthenewground:thereare
distinctivelyliteraryanddistinctivelysociologicalorhistoricalversionsofculturalstudies,justasthere
areapproachesdistinguishedbytheoreticalpartisanship.Thiswouldnotmatterifanyonedisciplineor
problematiccouldgrasptheobjectsofcultureasawhole,butthisisnot,inmyopinion,thecase.Each
approachtellsusaboutatinyaspect.Ifthisisright,weneedaparticularkindofdefiningactivity:one
whichreviewsexistingapproaches,identifiestheircharacteristicobjectsandtheirgoodsense,butalsothe
limitsoftheircompetence.Actuallyitisnotdefinitionorcodificationthatweneed,butpointerstofurther
transformations.Thisisnotaquestionofaggregatingexistingapproaches(abitofsociologyhere,aspot
oflinguisticsthere)butofreformingtheelementsofdifferentapproachesintheirrelationstoeachother.
Strategies of definition

Thereareseveraldifferentstartingpoints.Culturalstudiescanbedefinedasanintellectualandpolitical
tradition, in its relations to the academic disciplines, in terms of theoretical paradigms, or by its
characteristicobjectsofstudy.Thelaststartingpointnowinterestsmemost;butfirstawordaboutthe
others.
Weneedhistoriesofculturalstudiestotracetherecurrentdilemmasandtogiveperspectivetoour
currentprojects.Buttheinformedsenseo~a'tradition'alsoworksinamore'mythical'modetoproducea
collectiveidentityandasharedsenseofpurpose.Tome,alotofpowerfulcontinuitiesarewrappedupin
thesingleterm'culture',whichremainsusefulnotasa
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?79
rigorouscategory,butasakindofsurrAIDationofahistory.Itreferencesinparticulartheefforttoheave
thestu~Yofculturefromitsinegalitariananchoragesinhighartisticconnoisseur~hipandindiscourses,
ofenormouscondescension,redefinitionthereonistheasomewhatnotculturelessofc~nsistentthe
masses.politicalBehindpattern,thisintellectualacontinuitythatrunsfromthefirstnewleftandthe
firstCampaignforNuclearDisarmamenttothepost1968currentsOfcoursetherehavebeenmarked
politicalantagonismswithinthenewleftandbetweennewleftpoliticsandtheintellectualtendenciesit
hasprod,uced.Theintellectualdetourshaveoftenseemedpoliticallyselfindulgent.Yetwhatunitesthis
sequenceisthestruggletoreform'oldleft'politics.Thisinc_ludesthecritiqueofoldmarxismbutalso
ofoldsocialdemocracytc'o.ItmvolvesaconstructivequarrelwithdominantstyleswithintheLabor
Movement,especiallytheneglectofculturalconditionsofpolitics,andamichanicalnarrowingofpolitics
itself.ThissenseofanintellectualpoliticaJconnectionhasbeenimportantforculturalstudies.Ithas
meantthattheresearchandthewritinghasbeenpolitical,butnotinanyimmediatepraptnaticsense.
Cultural.studiesisnotaresearchprogrammeforaparticularpartyo~tendency.Stilllessdoesitsub?
rdinateintellectualenergiestoa~Yestablishe~~oc~es.Thisl?oliticalmtellectualstanceispossible
beduseth.e.po.liticswhichwearmtocreateisnotyetfullyformed.Justas;thepoliticsmvolvesalong
haul,sotheresearchmustbeaswiderangingandaprofound,butalsoaspoliticallydirected,aswecan
makeit.Al:'oveall,perhaps,wehavetofightagainstthedisconnectionthatoccurs~henculturalstudies
isinhabitedformerelyacademicpurposesorwhenertthusiasmfor(say)popularculturalformsis
divorcedfromtheanalysisofpower~~.ofsocialpossibilities.
Ihaves~idalotalreadyaboutthesecondde~~or~.al.strategychartingournegative/positiverelation
to the acadermc d1sc1plines. Cultural pro cesses do not correspond to the contotrs of academic
knowledges,astheyare.Nooneacademicdisciplinegrasp!~efull~o~~lexity(orseriousness)ofthe
study.CulturalstudiesmustbemterdlSclplinary(andsometimesantidisciplinary)initstendency.Ifirtd
ithil!d,~orexample,tothinkof~yselfasanhistoriannow,thoughperhapshistonanofthecontemporary
1saroughapproximationinsomecontexts.Yetsomehistorian'svirtuesseemusefulforculturalstudies_
conc~rnsformovement,particularity,complexityandcontext,forinstance.Istilllovethatcombination
ofdensedes~ription,complexexplanationands.u~jective.ev~romanticevocation,whichIfindinthe
best historical wnting. I still find most sociological ~e~cription~Cl~l~ Onthe thinother and hand,
obvioustherootedandmucitempmclSm
~~e~ary?f
dis~our~ehistoncalcleverpracticebutissuperarealhabilityoftenblockingaproperlycultt1ralreading.
Iamsureitisthesameforofthemotherserviceabledisciplinesworkshopstoo.Ofcourse,forcultural
therearestudy,lotsofbuthalfwaythedirectionhouses,ofmovemany
ment,tomymind,hastobeout,andavoray,andintomoredangerousplaces!.Ourthirddefinitional
strategytheanalysisandcomparisonoftheoreticalp~oblematicswas,untilrecently,thefavori~e
one.9Istillseethisasanessentialcomponentinallculturalstu~y,but1tsmaindifficultyisthatabstract
formsofdiscoursedisconnect1deasfromthesocialcomplexitiesthatfirstproducedthem,ortowhich
fheyoriginallyreferred.Unlessthese
80Whatisculturalstudies?
arecontinuouslyreconstructedandheldinthemindasareferencepoint,theoreticalclarificationacquires
anindependentmomentum.Inteachingsituationsorsimilarinterchanges,theoreticaldiscoursemay
seem,tothehearer,aformofintellectualgymnastics.Thepointappearstobelolearnanewlanguage,
whichtakestimeandmucheffort,inorder,merely,tofeelateasewithit.Inthemeantimethereis
somethingverysilencingandperhapsoppressiveaboutnewformsofdiscourse.Ithinkthatthishasbeen
afairlycommonexperience,forstudents,evenwhere,eventually,'theory'hasconferrednewpowersof
understandingandarticulation.Thisisonesetofreasonswhymanyofusnowfinditusefultostartfrom
concretecases,eithertoteachtheoryhistorically,asacontinuing,contextualiseddebateaboutcultural
issues,ortohookuptheoreticalpointsandcontemporaryexperiences.studiesare:Thiswhatleadsabout?
isthemecharacteristictomypreferredobjectdefinitionalofculturalstrategy.studies?TheWhatkeyis
questionscultural
Simple abstractions: consciousness, subjectivity

Ihavesuggestedalreadythat'culture'hasvalueasareminderbutnotasaprecise
cate~ory;

RaymondWilliamshasexcavateditsimmensehistoricalrepertoire.0Thereisno
solutiontothispolysemy:itisarationalistillusiontothinkwecansay'henceforththistermwillmean...'
andexpect awhole historyof connotations (not tosay a whole future) tofall smartlyintoline. So
although I fly culture's flag anyway, and continue to use the word where imprecision matters,
definitionallyIseekotherterms.
Mykeytermsinsteadare'consciousness'and'subjectivity'withthekeyproblemsnowlyingsomewhere
intherelationbetweenthetwo.Formeculturalstudiesisaboutthehistoricalformsofconsciousnessor
subjectivity,orthesubjectiveformsweliveby,or,inaratherperilouscompression,perhapsa
reduction,thesubjectivesideofsocialrelations.ThesedefinitionsadoptandglosssomeofMarx'ssimple
abstractions,butvaluethemalsoforsensetheirinwhichcontemporaryitappearsresonance.inThe
GermanIthinkIdeology.ofconsciousness,Asa(fifth)first,premiseintheforunderstandinghuman
history,MarxandEngelsaddthathumanbeingsimplies'alsopossessitwhenconsciousness'.inCapital,
volumeThisusageI,heisdistinguishesechoedinlatertheworksworsttoo.architectMarx
fromthebestbeebythefactthatthearchitect'sproducthas'alreadyexistedideally'beforeitisproduced.
Ithasexistedintheconsciousness,theimagination.Inotherwords,humanbeingsarecharacterisedbyan
idealorimaginarylife,wherewilliscultivated,dreamsdreamt,andcategoriesof'speciesdeveloped.
being',laterInhishe1844wouldManuscriptshavecalledM~1taca~edgeneralhistoncalthis~fea~~
category,trueofallhistory,asimpleoruniversalabstraction'.AlthoughtheusageislessclearMarxalso
habitually refers to the 'subjective side' or 'subjective In marxist aspect' discourse of social (I am
processes.U
lesssureofMarx)consciousnesshasoverwhelminglycognitive
connotations:ithastodowithknowledge(especiallycorrect
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?81
knowledge?)ofthesocialandthenaturalworlds.IthinkMarx'sconsciousnesswaswiderthanthis!It
embracedthenotionofaconsciousnessofselfandanactivementalandmoralselfproduction.Thereis
nodoubt,however,thathewasespeciallyinterestedinconceptuallyorganisedknowledge,especiallyin
hisdiscussionsofparticularideologicalforms(e.g.politicaleconomy,Hegelianidealism,etc.)Inhis
mostinterestingtextonthecharacterofthinking(the1857IntroductiontotheGrundrisse)othermodesof
consciousness,theaesthetic,thereligious,etc.,werebracketedout.
'Subjectivity' is especially important here, challenging the absences in consciousness. Subjectivity
includesthepossibility,forexample,thatsomeelementsorimpulsesaresubjectivelyactivetheymove
uswithoutbeingconsciouslyknown.Ithighlightselementsascribed(inthemisleadingconventional
distinction)toaestheticoremotionallifeandtoconventionally'feminine'codes.Itfocusesonthe'whoI
am'or,asimportant,the'whoweare'ofculture,onindividualandcollectiveidentities.Itconnectswith
themostimportantstructuralistinsight:thatsubjectivitiesareproduced,notgiven,andarethereforethe
objectsofinquiry,notthepremisesorstartingpoint.
InallmythinkingaboutculturalstudiesIfindthenotionof'forms'alsorepeatedlyrecurs.Lyingbehind
the usage are two major influences. Marx continuously uses the terms 'forms' or 'social forms' or
'historicalforms'whenheisexamininginCapital(butespeciallyintheGrundrisse)thevariousmoments
ofeconomiccirculation:heanalysesthemoneyform,thecommodityform,theformofabstractlabour,
etc.Lessoftenheusedthesamelanguageinwritingofconsciousnessorsubjectivity.Themostfamous
instanceisfromthe1859Preface:
adistinctionshouldalwaysbemadebetweenthematerialtransformationoftheeconomicconditionsofproduction,
which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or
philosophicinshort,ideologicalformsinwhichmenbecomeconsciousofthisconflictandfightitout(emphasis
added).
WhatinterestsmeaboutthispassageistheimplicationofadifferentparallelprojecttoMarx'sown.His
preoccupationwaswiththosesocialformsthroughwhichhumanbeingsproduceandreproducetheir
material life. He abstracted, analysed and sometimes reconstituted in more concrete accounts the
economicformsandtendenciesofsociallife.Itseemstomethatculturalstudiestooisconcernedwith
wholesocieties(orbroadersocialformations)andhowtheymove.Butitlooksatsocialprocessesfrom
anothercomplimentarypointofview.Ourprojectistoabstract,describeandreconstituteinconcrete
studiesformsthroughwhichhumanbeings'live',becomeconscious,sustainthemselvessubjectively.
The stress on forms is reinforced by some broad structuralist insights. These have drawn out the
structuredcharacteroftheformsweinhabitsu~jectively:language,signs,ideologies,discourses,myths.
Theyhavepomtedtoregularitiesandprinciplesoforganisationofformfulnessifyoulike.Though
oftenpitchedattoohighalevelofabstraction(e.g.languageingeneralratherthanlanguageinparticular)
theyhavestrengthenedoursenseofthehardness,determinancyand,indeed,actualexistenceofsocial
formswhichexercisetheirpressuresthroughthesubjectivesideof
82Whatisculturalstudies?
sociallife.Thisisnottosaythatthedescriptionofform,inthissense,isenough.Itisimportanttoseethe
historicalnatureofsubjectiveformstoo.Historicalinthiscontextmeanstworatherdifferentthings.First,
weneedtolookatformsofsubjectivityfromthepointofviewoftheirpressuresortendencies,especially
theircontradictorysides.Eveninabstract analysis,inother words, weshouldlookforprinciplesof
movementaswellascombination.Second,weneedhistoriesoftheformsofsubjectivitywherewecan
seehowtendenciesaremodifiedbytheothersocialdeterminations,includingthoseatworkthrough
materialneeds.
Assoonasweposethisasaproject,wecanseehowthesimpleabstractionswhichwehavethusfar
used,donottakeusveryfar.Wherearealltheintermediatecategoriesthatwouldallowustostartto
specifythesubjectivesocialformsandthedifferentmomentsoftheirexistence?Givenourdefinitionof
culture,wecannotlimitthefieldtospecialisedpractices,particulargenres,orpopularleisurepursuits.All
socialpracticescanbelookedatfromaculturalpointofview,fortheworktheydo,subjectively.This
goes,forinstance,forfactorywork,fortradeunionorganisation,forlifeinandaroundthesupermarket,
aswellasforobvioustargetslike'themedia'(misleadingunity!)andits(mainlydomestic)modesof
consumption.
Circuits of capital - circuits of culture?

Soweneed,first,amuchmorecomplexmodel,withrichintermediatecategories,morelayeredthanthe
existinggeneraltheories.ItisherethatIfindithelpfultoposeakindofrealisthypothesisaboutthe
existingstateoftheories.Whatifexistingtheoriesandthemodesofresearchassociatedwiththem
actuallyexpressdifferentsidesofthesamecomplexprocess?Whatiftheyarealltrue,butonlyasfaras
theygo,trueforthosepartsoftheprocesswhichtheyhavemostclearlyinview?Whatiftheyareall
falseorincomplete,liabletomislead,inthattheyareonlypartial,andthereforecannotgrasptheprocess
asawhole?Whatifattemptsto'stretch'thiscompetence(withoutmodifyingthetheory)leadtoreally
grossanddangerous(ideological?)conclusions?
Icertainlydonotexpectimmediateassenttotheepistemologicalpremisesofthisargument.Ihopeit
willbejudgedinthelightofitsresults.Butitsimmediatemeritisthatithelpstoexplainonekeyfeature:
thetheoreticalanddisciplinaryfragmentationswehavealreadynoted.Ofcoursethesecouldbeexplained
bythepoliticalsocialanddiscursivedifferenceswehavealsoconsidered:especiallytheintellectualand
academicdivisionsoflabourandthesocialreproductionofspecialistformsofculturalcapital.YetIfind
itmoresatisfactorytorelatethesemanifestdifferencestotheveryprocessestheyseektodescribe.Maybe
academic divisions also correspond to rather different social positions and viewpoints from which
differentaspectsofculturalcircuitsacquirethegreatestsalience.Thiswouldexplainnotmerelythefact
ofdifferenttheories,buttherecurrenceandpersistenceofdifferences,especiallybetweenlargeclustersof
approacheswithcertainaffinities.
Thebestwaytotakesuchanargumentfurtherwouldbetohazardsomeprovisionaldescriptionofthe
differentaspectsormomentsofculturalpro
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?83
cessestowhichwecouldthenrelatethedifferenttheoreticalproblematics.Suchamodelcouldnotbeafinished
abstractionortheory,ifsuchcanexist.Itsvaluewouldhavetobeheuristicorillustrative.Itmighthelptoexplain
whytheoriesdiffer,butwouldnot,initself,sketchtheidealapproach.Atmostitmightserveasaguidetothe
desirable directions of future approaches, or to the way in which they might be modified or combined. It is
importanttobearthesecaveatsinmindinwhatfollows.Ifinditeasiest(inalongCCCStradition)topresenta
modeldiagrammatically(seep.84).Thediagramisintendedtorepresentacircuitoftheproduction,circulationand
consumptionofculturalproducts.Eachboxrepresentsamomentinthiscircuit.Eachmomentoraspectdepends
upontheothersandisindispensabletothewhole.Each,however,isdistinctandinvolvescharacteristicchangesof
form.Itfollowsthatifweareplacedatonepointofthecircuit,wedonotnecessarilyseewhatishappeningat
others.Theformsthathavemostsignificanceforusatonepointmaybeverydifferentfromthoseatanother.
Processesdisappearinresults.12Allculturalproducts,forexample,requiretobeproduced,buttheconditionsof
theirproductioncannotbeinferredbyscrutinisingthemas'texts'.Similarlyallculturalproductsare'read'bypersons
otherthanprofessionalanalysts(iftheyweren'ttherewouldbelittleprofitintheirproduction),butwecannot
predicttheseusesfromourownanalysis,or,indeed,fromtheconditionsofproduction.Asanyoneknows,allour
communications are liable to return to us in unrecognisable or at least transformed terms. We often call this
misunderstandingor,ifwearebeingveryacademic,misreadings.Butthese'misses'aresocommon(acrossthe
rangeofawholesociety)thatwemightwellcallthemnormal.Tounderstandthetransformations,then,wehaveto
understandspecificconditionsof consumptionor reading. These includeasymmetries ofresources andpower,
materialandcultural.Theyalsoincludetheexistingensemblesofculturalelementsalreadyactivewithinparticular
socialmilieux('livedcultures'inthediagram)andthesocialrelationsonwhichthesecombinationsdepend.These
reservoirsofdiscoursesandmeaningsareinturnrawmaterialforfreshculturalproduction.Theyareindeedamong
thespecificallyculturalconditionsofproduction.
Inoursocieties,manyformsofculturalproductionalsotaketheformofcapitalistcommodities.Inthiscasewe
havetosupplyspecificallycapitalistconditionsofproduction(seethearrowpointingtomoment1)andspeci
ficallycapitalistconditionsofconsumption(seethearrowpointingtomoment3).Ofcoursethisdoesnottellusall
thereistoknowaboutthesemoments,whichmaybestructuredonotherprinciplesaswell,butinthesecasesthe
circuitis,atoneandthesametime,acircuitofcapitalanditssubjectiveexpandedforms.
reproductionandacircuitoftheproductionandcirculationof
Someimplicationsofthecircuitmaybeclearerifwetakeaparticularcase.Wecan,forexample,whizaMini
Metro car around it. I choose the MiniMetro because it is a pretty standard late twentiethcentury capitalist
commoditythathappenedtocarryaparticularlyrichaccumulationof~eanings.
TheMetrowasthecarthatwasgoingtosavetheBritishcarmdustry,bybeatingrivalsfromthemarket
andbysolvingBritishLeyland'sacuteproblemsofindustrialdiscipline.Itcametosignifysolutionsto
84Whatisculturalstudies?
PUBLIC REPRESENTATIONS

Conditions

PRIVATE LIVES

ABSTRACT i

UNIVERSAL

CONCRETE PARTICU-LA-R

internalandexternalnationalthreats.Theadvertisingcampaignsarounditslaunchingwereremarkable.
Inonetelevisionad,abandofMiniMetrospursuedagangofforeignimportsupto(andapparentlyover)
theWhiteCliffsofDover,whencetheyfledinwhatlookedremarkablylikelandingcraft.Thiswasa
DunkirkinreversewiththeMetroasnationalisthero.Certainlythesearesomeoftheformsnationalist
epic,popularmemoryofWorldWarII,internal/externalthreatthatIwouldwanttoabstractforfurther
formalscrutiny.Butthisraisesinterestingquestionstooaboutwhatconstitutesthe'text'(orrawmaterial
forsuchabstractions)inthesecases.WoulditbeenoughtoanalysethedesignoftheMetroitselfas
BarthesonceanalysedthelinesofaCitreon?Howcouldweexcludeadsandgarageshowroomdisplays?
Shouldn'tweinclude,indeed,theMetro'splaceindiscoursesuponnationaleconomicrecoveryandmoral
renaissance?
Supposingthatweansweredthesequestionsaffirmatively(andgaveourselvesalotmorework)there
wouldstillbesomeunposedquestions.WhatwasmadeoftheMetrophenomenon,moreprivately,by
particular groups of consumers and readers? We would expect great diversity of response. Leyland
workers,forexample,werelikelytoviewthecardifferentlyfromthosewhoonlyboughtit.Beyondthis,
theMetro(anditstransformedmeanings)becameawayofgettingtoworkorpickingthe
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?85
kidsupfromschool.Itmayalsohavehelpedtoproduce,forexample,orientationstowardsworkinglife,
connectingindustrial'peace'withnationalprosperity.Then,ofcourse,theproductsofthiswholecircuit
returnedoncemoretothemomentofproductionasprofitsforfreshinvestment,butalsoasmarket
researcher'sfindingson'popularity'(capital'sown'culturalstudies').Thesubsequentuse,byBritish
Leylandmanagement,ofsimilarstrategiesforsellingcarsandweakeningworkerssuggestsconsiderable
accumulations(ofbothkinds)fromthisepisode.IndeedtheMetrobecamealittleparadigm,thoughnot
thefirst,foramuchmorediffusedideologicalform,whichwemightterm,withsomecompression,'the
nationalistsell'.
Publication and abstraction

SofarIhavetalkedrathergenerallyaboutthetransformationsthatoccuraroundthecircuitwithout
specifyingany.Insobriefadiscussion,Iwillspecifytworelatedchangesofformindicatedontheleft
andrighthandsidesofthecircuit.Thecircuitinvolvesmovementsbetweenthepublicandtheprivatebut
alsomovementsbetweenmoreabstractandmoreconcreteforms.Thesetwopolesarequiteclosely
related:privateformsaremoreconcrete,andmoreparticularintheirscopeofreference;publicformsare
moreabstractbutalsoapplyoveramoregeneralrange.ThismaybeclearerifwereturntotheMetroand,
thencetodifferenttraditionsofculturalstudy.Asadesigner'sidea,asamanager's'concept',theMetro
remainedprivate.13Itmayevenhavebeenconceivedinsecret.Itwasknowntoachosenfew.Atthis
stage,indeed,itwouldhavebeenhardtoseparateitoutfromthesocialoccasionsatwhichitwas
discussed:boardroommeetings,chatsatthebar,Saturday'sgameofgolf?Butasideaswere'puton
paper'itstartedtotakeamoreobjectiveandmorepublicform.Thecrunchcamewhendecisionswere
madetogoaheadwith'theconcept'and,thenagain,to'gopublic'.Finally,theMetroidea,shortly
followedbytheMetrocar,movedinto'thefullglareofpublicity'.Itacquiredamoregeneralsignifi
cance,gatheringaroundit,infact,someprettyportentiousnotions.Itbecame,infact,agreatpublicissue,
orasymbolforsuch.Italsotookshapeasanactualproductandsetoftexts.Inoneobvioussenseitwas
made'concrete':notonlycouldyoukickit,youcoulddriveit.Butinanothersense,thisMetrowasrather
abstract.Thereitstood,intheshowroom,surroundedbyitstextsofBritishness,ashiny,zippything.
Yetwhowouldknow,fromthisdisplay,whoconceivedit,howitwasmade,whosufferedforit,or
indeedwhatpossibleuseitwasgoingtohaveforthe~arassedlookingwomanwithtwochildrenintow,
whohasjustwalked~tomthetheprocessshowroom.ofpublication.TodrawoutFirst,morethegeneral
car(andpoints,itstexts)threebecamethingsoccurredpublicintheobvioussense:itacquiredifnota
universalatleastamoregeneralsignificance.~crossmvolvedtheabstractzon.social.Itsmessages
surface.ThecarSecond,tooandwereitsatmessagesgeneralised,thelevelcouldofrangingmeaning,
nowberatherpublicationviewedfreelyinrelativeisolationfromthesocialconditionsthatformedit.
Thirdly,itwas
86Whatisculturalstudies?
subjectedtoaprocessofpublicevaluation(greatpublicissue)onmanydifferentscales:asatechnical
socialinstrument,asanationalsymbol,asastakeinclasswar,inrelationtocompetingmodels,etc.It
becameasiteofformidablestrugglesovermeaning.Inthisprocessitwasmadeto'speak',evaluatively,
for'us(British)all'.Note,however,inthemomentofconsumptionorreading,representedherebythe
womanandherchildren(whohavedecidedviewsaboutcars),weareforcedbackagaintotheprivate,the
particularandconcrete,howeverpubliclydisplayedtherawmaterialsfortheirreadingsmaybe.
Iwanttosuggestthattheseprocessesareintrinsictoculturalcircuitsundermodemsocialconditions,
andthattheyareproducedby,andareproductiveof,relationsofpower.Butthemostgermaneevidence
forthisliesinsomerepeateddifferencesintheformsofculturalstudy.
Forms of culture - forms of study

Onemajordivision,theoreticalandmethodological,runsrightthroughculturalstudies.Ontheoneside
therearethosewhoinsistthat'cultures'mustbestudiedasawhole,andinsitu,located,intheirmaterial
context.Suspiciousofabstractionsandof'theory',theirpracticaltheoryisinfact'culturalist'.Theyare
oftenattractedtothoseformulationsinWilliamsorE.P.Thompsonthatspeakofculturesaswholeways
oflifeorwholewaysofstruggle.Methodologically,theystresstheimportanceofcomplex,concrete
descriptions,whichgrasps,particularly,theunityorhomologyofculturalformsandmateriallife.Their
preferences are therefore for socialhistorical recreations of cultures or cultural movements, or for
ethnographicculturaldescription,orforthosekindsofwriting(e.g.autobiography,oralhistory,orrealist
formsoffiction)whichrecreatesociallylocated'experience'.
On the other side, there are those who stress the relative independence or effective autonomy of
subjectiveformsandmeansofsignification.Thepracticaltheoryhereisusuallystructuralist,butina
formwhichprivilegesthediscursiveconstructionofsituationsandsubjects.Thepreferredmethodisto
treattheformsabstractly,sometimesquiteformalistically,uncoveringthemechanismsbywhichmeaning
isproducedinlanguage,narrativeorotherkindsofsignsystem.Ifthefirstsetofmethodsareusually
derivedfromsociological,anthropologicalorsocialhistoricalroots,thesecondsetowemosttoliterary
criticism,andespeciallythetraditionsofliterarymodernismandlinguisticformalism.14
Inthelongrun,thisdivisionis,inmyopinion,asureimpedimenttothedevelopmentofcultural
studies.Butitisimportantfirsttonotethelogicofsuchadivisioninrelationtooursketchofcultural
processesasawhole.Ifwecompare,inmoredetail,whatwehavecalledthepublicandprivateformsof
culture,therelationmaybeclearer.15
Privateformsarenotnecessarilyprivateintheusualsenseofpersonalorindividual,thoughtheymay
beboth.Theymayalsobeshared,communalandsocialinwaysthatpublicformsarenot.Itistheir
particularityorconcretenessthatmarksthemasprivate.Theyrelatetothecharacteristiclifeexperiences
andhistoricallyconstructedneedsofparticularsocial
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?87
categories.Theydonotpretendtodefinetheworldforthoseinothersocialgroups.Theyarelimited,
local,modest.Theydonotaspiretouniversality.Theyarealsodeeplyembeddedineverydaysocial
intercourse.Inthecourseoftheirdailylives,womengoshoppingandmeetanddiscussthevarious
doingsofthemselves,theirfamiliesandtheirneighbours.Gossipisaprivateformdeeplyconnectedwith
theoccasionsandrelationsofbeingawomaninoursociety.Ofcourse,itispossibletodescribethe
discursiveformsofgossipabstractly,stressingforinstancetheformsofreciprocityinspeech,butthis
doesseemtodoaparticularviolencetothematerial,rippingitfromtheimmediateandvisiblecontextin
whichthesetextsoftalkarose.
Anevenmorestrikingcaseistheworking.:Classcultureoftheshopfloor.AsPaulWillishasshown
thereisaparticularlycloserelationshipherebetweenthephysicalactionoflabourandthepracticaljokes
and common sense of the workplace.16 The whole discursive mode of the culture is to refuse the
separation of manual practice and mental theory characteristic of public and especially academic
knowledgeforms.Inneithercasegossipandshopfloorcultureisthereamarkeddivisionoflabourin
culturalproduction.Noraretheretechnicalinstrumentsofproductionofanygreatcomplexity,though
formsofspeechandthesymbolicusesofthehumanbodyarecomplexenough.Noraretheconsumersof
culturalformsformallyorregularlydistinguishedfromtheirproducers,orfarremovedfromthem,in
timeorspace.
Iwouldarguethatparticularformsofinquiryandofrepresentationhavebeendevelopedtohandle
thesefeaturesof privateforms.Researchers, writers andallkindsofrapporteurs haveadjustedtheir
methodstowhathaveseemedthemostevidentfeaturesofcultureinthismoment.Theyhavesoughtto
holdtogetherthesubjectiveandmoreobjectivemoments,oftennotdistinguishingthemtheoretically,or,
inpractice,refusingthedistinctionaltogether.Itisthisstressof'experience'(thetermthatperfectly
captures this conflation or identity) that has united the practical procedures of social historians,
ethnographersandthoseinterested,say,in'workingclasswriting'.
Comparedwiththethick,conjoinedtissueoffacetofaceencounters,thetelevisionprogramme'going
outontheair'seemsaveryabstracted,evenetherealproduct.Foronethingitissomuchmoreplainlya
representationof'reallife'(atbest)thanthe(equallyconstructed)narrativesofeverydaylife.Ittakesa
separated,abstractedorobjectiveform,intheshapeoftheprogramme/text.Itcomesatusfromaspecial,
fixed place, a box of standardised shape and size in the comer of our sitting room. Of course, we
apprehend it socially, culturally, communally, but it still has this separated moment, much more
obviouslythantheprivatetextofspeech.Thisseparatedexistenceiscertainlyassociatedwithanintricate
divisionofl~bourinproductionanddistributionandwiththephysicalandtemporaldlStancebetweenthe
moment of production and that of consumption, c~racteristic of public knowledge forms in general.
Publicmediaofthiskind,indeed,permitquiteextraordinarymanipulationsofspaceandtimeas,for
example,inthetelevisionrevivalofoldmovies.
Iwouldarguethatthisapparentabstractionintheactualformsofpublic
88Whatisculturalstudies?
communicationunderliesthewholerangeofmethodsthatfocusontheconstructionofrealitythroughsymbolic
formsthemselveswithlanguageasthefirstmodel,butthekeymomentastheobjectificationoflanguageintext.It
wouldbefascinatingtopursueanhistoricalinquirylinkedtothishypothesiswhichwouldattempttounravelthe
relationshipbetweentherealabstractionsofcommunicativeformsandthementalabstractionsofculturaltheorists.I
donotsupposethatthetwoprocessesgoeasilyhandinhandorthatchangesoccursynchronously.ButIamsure
thatthenotionoftextassomethingwecanisolate,fix,pindownandscrutinisedependsupontheextensive
circulationofculturalproductswhichhavebeendivorcedfromtheimmediateconditionsoftheirproductionand
haveamomentofsuspension,sotospeak,beforetheyareconsumed.

Publication and power


Thepublicandprivateformsofculturearenotsealedagainsteachother.Thereisarealcirculationofforms.
Culturalproductionofteninvolvespublication,themakingpublicofprivateforms.Ontheotherside,publictexts
areconsumedorreadinprivate.Agirls'magazine,likeJackieforinstance,picksupandrepresentssomeelements
oftheprivateculturesoffeminitybywhichyounggirlslivetheirlives.Itinstantaneouslyrenderstheseelements
opentopublicevaluationasforexample,'girlsstuff','silly'or'trivial'.Italsogeneralisestheseelementswithinthe
scopeoftheparticularreadership,creatingalittlepublicofitsown.Themagazineisthenarawmaterialfor
thousandsofgirlreaderswhomaketheirownreappropriationsoftheelementsfirstborrowedfromtheirlived
cultureandformsofsubjectivity.
Itisimportantnottoassumethatpublicationonlyandalwaysworksindominatingorindemeaningways.We
needcarefulanalysesofwhereandhowpublicrepresentationsworktosealsocialgroupsintotheexistingrelations
ofdependenceandwhereandhowtheyhavesomeemancipatorytendency.Shortofthisdetail,wecannonetheless
insistontheimportanceofpowerasanelementinananalysis,bysuggestingthemainwaysitisactiveinthe
publicprivaterelationship.
Ofcoursethereareprofounddifferencesintermsofaccesstothepublicsphere.Manysocialconcernsmaynot
acquirepublicityatall.Itisnotmerelythattheyremainprivate,butthattheyareactivelyprivatised,heldatthelevel
oftheprivate.Here,sofarasformalpoliticsandstateactionsareconcerned,theyareinvisible,withoutpublic
remedy.Thismeansnotonlythattheyhavetobeborne,butthataconsciousnessofthem,asevils,isheldatalevel
ofimplicitorcommunalmeanings.Withinthegroupaknowledgeofsuchsufferingsmaybeprofound,butnotof
suchakindthatexpectsrelief,orfindsthesufferingsstrange.
Asoften,perhaps,suchprivateconcernsdoappearpublicly,butonlyoncertainterms,andthereforetransformed
andframedinparticularways.Theconcernsofgossip,forexample,doappearpubliclyinawidevarietyofforms,
butusuallyintheguiseof'entertainment'.Theyappear,forinstance,insoapopera,orare'dignified'onlybytheir
connectionwiththeprivatelivesofroyalty,starsorpoliticians.Simi
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?89
larly,elementsofshopfloorculturemaybestagedascomedyorvarietyacts.Suchframingsintermsof
codeorgenremaynot,assometheoristsbelieve,altogethervitiatetheseelementsasthebasisofasocial
alterna tive, but they certainly work to contain them within the dominant public definitions of
significance.
Publicrepresentationsmayalsoactinmoreopenlypunitiveorstigmatisingways.Intheseformsthe
elements of private culture are robbed of authenticity or rationality, and constructed as dangerous,
deviant,ordottyPSimilarlytheexperiencesofsubordinatedsocialgroupsarepresentedaspathological,
problemsforinterventionnotintheorganisationofsocietyasawhole,butintheattitudesorbehaviourof
the suffering group itself. This is representation with a vengeance: representation not as sub jects
demandingredress,butatobjectsofexternalintervention.
Ifspacealloweditwouldbeimportanttocomparethedifferentwaysinwhichtheseprocessesmay
occur across the major relationships of class, gender, race and agedependence. One further general
mechanismistheconstruction,inthepublicsphere,ofdefinitionsofthepublic/privatedivisionitself.Of
course,thesesoundquiteneutraldefinitions:'everyone'agreesthatthemostimportantpublicissuesare
theeconomy,defence,lawandorderand,perhaps,welfarequestions,andthatotherissuesfamilylife,
sexualityforexampleareessentiallyprivate.Thesnag.isthatthedominantdefinitionsofsignificance
arequitesociallyspecificand,inparticular,tendtocorrespondtomasculineandmiddleclassstructures
of'interest'(inboththemeaningsofthisterm).Itispartlybecausetheystartfundamentallytochallenge
thesedispositionsthatsomefeminisms,thepeacemovementsandtheGreenpartiesareamongstthemost
subversiveofmodemdevelopments.
Ihavestressedtheseelementsofpower,attheriskofsomediversionfromthemainargument,because
culturalstudiespracticesmustbeviewedwithinthiscontext.Whetherittakesasitsmainobjectthemore
abstractedpublicknowledgesandtheirunderlyinglogicsanddefinitions,oritsearchesouttheprivate
domainsofculture,culturalstudiesisnecessarilyanddeeplyimplicatedinrelationsofpower.Itformsa
part of the very circuits which it seeks to describe. It may, like the academic and the professional
knowledges,policethepublicprivaterelation,oritmaycritiqueit.Itmaybeinvolvedinthesurveillance
of the subjectivities of subordinated groups, or in struggles to represent them more adequately than
before.Itmaybecomepartoftheproblem,orapartofthesolution.Thatiswhyaswetumtothe
particularformsofculturalstudy,weneedtoasknotonlyaboutobjects,theoriesandmethods,butalso
aboutthepoliticallimitsandpotentialsofdifferentstandpointsaroundthecircuit.
From the perspective of production

Thisisaparticularlywideandheterogeneoussetofapproaches.ForIincludeunderthishead,approaches
withverydifferentpoliticaltendencies,fromthetheoreticalknowledgesofadvertisers,personsinvolved
inpublicrelationsforlargeorganisations,manyliberalpluralisttheoristsofpubliccommunication
90Whatisculturalstudies?
andthelargerpartofwritingsonculturewithinthemarxistandothercriticaltraditions.Asbetween
disciplines,itissociologistsorsocialhistoriansorpoliticaleconomists,orthoseconcernedwiththe
politicalorganisationofculture,whohavemostcommonlytakenthisviewpoint.
Amoresystematicapproachtoculturalproductionhasbeenarelativelyrecentfeatureofthesociology
ofliterature,artorpopularculturalforms.Theseconcernsparalleldebatesaboutthemassmediaandwere
originallydeeplyinfluencedbytheearlyexperiencesofstatepropagandaundertheconditionsofthe
modernmedia,especiallyinNaziGermany.Crossingthemoreaestheticandpoliticaldebateshasbeen
thepervasiveconcernwiththeinfluenceofcapitalistconditionsofproductionandthemassmarketin
culturalcommoditiesonthe'authenticity'ofculture,includingthepopulararts.Studiesofproduction
withinthesetraditionshavebeenequallyvaried:fromgrandiosecritiquesofthepoliticaleconomyand
cultural pathology of mass communications (e.g. the early Frankfurt School) to close empirical
inspectionsoftheproductionofnewsorparticulardocumentaryseriesorsoapoperasontelevision.18In
averydifferentwaystill,muchmodernhistoryhasbeenconcernedwith'culturalproduction',thoughthis
timetheculturalproductionofsocialmovementsorevenwholesocialclasses.Itisimportanttoaccept
E.P.Thompson'sinvitationtoreadTheMakingoftheEnglishWorkingClassfromthisculturalstand
point; Paul Willis's work, especially Learning to Labour, represents in many ways the sociological
equivalentofthishistoriographicaltradition.
What unites these diverse works, however, is that they all take, if not the viewpoint of cultural
producers,atleastthetheoreticalstandpointofproduction.Theyareinterested,firstandforemost,inthe
productionandthesocialorganisationofculturalforms.Ofcourse,itisherethatmarxistparadigmshave
occupiedaverycentralplace,evenwhencontinuouslyarguedagainst.Earlymarxistaccountsassertedthe
primacyofproductionconditionsandoftenreducedthesetosomenarrowlyconceivedversionof'the
forcesandtherelationsofproduction'.Evensuchreductiveanalysishadacertainvalue:culturewas
understoodasasocialproduct,notamatterofindividualcreativityonly.Itwasthereforesubjectto
politicalorganisation,whetherbythecapitaliststateorbypartiesofsocialopposition.19Inlatermarxist
accounts,thehistoricalformsoftheproductionandorganisationofculture'thesuperstructures'have
beguntobeelaborated.
InGramsci'swritingthestudyofculturefromtheviewpointofproductionbecomesamoregeneral
interestwiththeculturaldimensionsofstrugglesandstrategiesasawhole.Thelongstandingandbaneful
influenceof'highcultural'orspecialistdefinitionsof'Culture'withinmarxismwasalsodefinitively
challenged.20Gramsciwas,perhaps,thefirstmajormarxisttheoristandcommunistleadertotakethe
culturesofthepopularclassesasaseriousobjectofstudyandofpoliticalpractice.Allthemoremodern
featuresofcultureorganisationalsostarttoappearinhiswork:hewritesofculturalorganisers/producers
notjustaslittleknotsof'intell~ctuals'ontheoldrevolutionaryorBolshevikmodelbutaswholesoctal
strata concentrated around particular institutions schools, colleges, the law, the press, the state
bureaucraciesandthepoliticalparties.Gramsci'sworkisthemostsophisticatedandfertiledevelopment
ofatraditional
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?91
marxistapproachviaculturalproduction.YetIthinkthatGramsciremainsmuchmorethe'Leninist'than
is sometimes appreciated in new left or academic debates in Britain.21 From the work available in
English,itseemstobehewaslessinterestedinhowculturalformswork,subjectively,thaninhowto
'organise'them,externally.
Umits of the viewpoint of production

Ifindtworecurrentlimitstolookingatculturefromthisviewpoint.Thefirstdifficultyisthefamiliarone
of'economism',thoughitisuseful,Ihope,torestatetheprobleminadifferentway.Thereisatendency
toneglectwhatisspecifictoculturalproductioninthismodel.Culturalproductionisassimilatedtothe
modelofcapitalist(usually)productioningeneral,withoutsufficientattentiontothedualnatureofthe
circuitofculturalcommodities.Theconditionsofproductionincludenotmerelythematerialmeansof
productionandthecapitalistorganisationoflabour,butastockofalreadyexistingculturalelements
drawn from the reservoirs of lived culture or from the already public fields of discourse. This raw
materialisstructurednotonlybycapitalistproductionimperatives(i.e.commodified)butalsobythe
indirectresultsofcapitalistandothersocialrelationsontheexistingrulesoflanguageanddiscourse,
especially,classandgenderbasedstrugglesintheireffectsondifferentsocialsymbolsandsigns.As
against this, marxist political economy still goes for the more brutallyobvious 'determinations'
especiallymechanismslikecompetition,monopolisticcontrol,andimperialexpansion.22Thisiswhy
theclaimofsomesemiologiestoprovideanalternativematerialistanalysisdoeshavesomeforce.23
Manyapproachestoproduction,inotherwords,canbefaultedontheirchosengrounds:asaccountsof
culturalproduction,oftheproductionofsubjectiveforms,theytellusatmostaboutsome'objective'
conditionsandtheworkofsomesocialsitestypicallytheideologicalworkofcapitalistbusiness(e.g.
advertising, the work of commercial media) rather than that of political parties, schools, or the
apparatusesof'highculture'.
Theseconddifficultyisnoteconomismbutwhatwemightcall'productivism'.Thetwoareoften
combinedbutareanalyticallydistinct.Gramsci'smarxism,forinstance,iscertainlynoteconomistic,but
itis,arguably,productivist.Theproblemhereisthetendencytoinferthecharacterofaculturalproduct
and its social use from the conditions of its production, as though, in cultural matters, production
determinesall.Thecommonsenseformsofthisinferencearefamiliar:weneedonlytraceanideatoits
source to declare it 'bourgeois' or 'ideological' hence 'the bourgeois novel', 'bour geois science',
'bourgeoiseideology'and,ofcourse,allthe'proletarian'e.quivalents.Mostcriticsofthisreductionattack
itbyden]!ngtheconnecti~nbetweenconditionsoforiginandpoliticaltendency.2IdonotmyselfWlSh
todenythatconditionsoforigin(includingtheclassorgenderpositionofproducers)exerciseaprofound
influenceonthenatureoftheproduct.Ifinditmoreusefultoquestionsuchidentificationsnotas'wrong'
butaspremature.Theymaybetrueasfarastheygo,accordingtothelogicsofthatmoment,butthey
neglecttherangeofpossibilitiesinculturalforms
92Whatisculturalstudies?
especiallyasthesearerealisedinconsumptionor'readership'.Idonotseehowanyculturalformcanbe
dubbed'ideological'(intheusualmarxistcriticalsense)untilwehaveexaminednotonlyitsorigininthe
primaryproductionprocess,butalsocarefullyanalyseditstextualformsandthemodesofitsreception.
'Ideological',unlessdeployedasaneutralterm,isthelasttermtouseinsuchanalysis,certainlynotthe
first.25
Istill findthedebatebetweenWalter BenjaminandTheodorAdornoabout the tendencyof mass
cultureaveryinstructiveexample.26Adornoswept oninhismajecticpolemicidentifyingcapitalist
productionconditions,tracingeffectsinthe'fetishised'formoftheculturalcommodityandfindingits
perfectcomplimentinthe'regressivelistening'offansforpopularmusic.Thereisahighlydeductiveor
inferentialelementinhisreasoning,oftenrestingonsomegiantthtoreticalstrides,plottedfirstbyLukacs.
TheconflationsandreductitulSthatresultarewellillustratedinoneofhis(few)concreteexamples:his
analysisoftheBritishbrewer'sslogan'WhatWeWantisWatneys'.
Thebrandofthebeerwaspresentedlikeapoliticalslogan.Notonlydoesthisbillboardgiveaninsightintothe
natureoftheuptodatepropaganda,whichsellsitsslogansaswellasitswares...thetypeofrelationshipwhichis
suggestedbythebillboard,bywhichthemassesmakeacommodityrecommendedtothemtheobjectoftheirown
action,isinfactfoundagaininthepatternofreceptionoflightmusic.Theyneedanddemandwhathasbeenpalmed
offonthem.27
Thefirstfourlinesofthisarefine.Iliketheinsightabouttheparallelcoursesofpoliticalpropagandaand
commercialadvertising,forcedonasitwasbytheGermansituation.Thereadingofthesloganisalso
quiteinteresting,showinghowadvertisingworkstoproduceanactiveidentification.Buttheanalysis
goesawryassoonaswegetto'themasses'.TheactualdifferentiateddrinkersofWatneysandreadersof
the slogan are assumed to act also as the brewer's ventriloquists' dummy, without any other
determinationsintervening.Everythingspecifictotheenjoymentofslogansorthedrinkingofbeeris
abstractedaway.Adornoisuninterested,forexample,inthemeaningofWatneys(oranyothertipple)in
thecontextofpubsociability,indexedbythe'we'.Thepossibilitythatdrinkersmayhavetheirown
reasonsforconsumingagivenproductandthatdrinkinghasasocialusevalueisoverlooked.28
Thisisquiteanextremecaseofproductivismbutthepressuretoinfereffectsorreadingsfroman
analysisofproductionisaconstantone.Itisafeature,forexample,ofarichveinofworkincultural
studieswhichhasmainlybeenconcernedtoanalyseparticularfieldsofpublicdiscourse.AmongCCCS
publications,PolicingtheCrisisandUnpapularEducation29bothwereanalysesofourfirsttwomoments
oftexts,inthiscasethefieldsofdiscourseaboutlawandorderandaboutpubliceducationandoftheir
conditionsandhistories of productionlawandorder campaigns, mediacausecelebre, the workof
'primarydefiners'likejudgesandthepolice,theroleofanewpoliticaltendency,'Thatcherism',etc.Both
studiesprovedtohaveconsiderablepredictivevalue,showingthestrengthsandthepopularityofnew
rightpoliticsbefore,inthecaseofPolicing,Mrs
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?93
Thatcher'sfirstelectoralvictoryin1979.30Similarly,IbelievethatUnpopularEducationcontainedwhathas
turnedouttobeapercipientanalysisofthefundamentalcontradictionsofsocialdemocraticpoliticsinBritainand
thereforeofsomeoftheagoniesoftheLabourParty.Yet,aspoliticalguidesbothstudiesareincomplete:theylack
anaccountofthecrisisof'1945ism'inthelivedcultureof,especially,workingclassgroups,orareallyconcrete
renderingofthepopularpurchaseofnewrightideologies.Theyarelimited,inotherwords,byrelianceupon,forthe
most part,the 'public' knowledges of the media and offormal politics. Something more isrequired than this,
especiallyifwearetogobeyondcritiquetohelpinproducingnewpoliticalprogrammesandmovements.
ThisargumentmaybecappedifwetumtoWalterBenjamin.Benjamincertainlytookamoreopenviewofthe
potentialitiesofmassculturalformsthanAdorno.Hewasexcitedbytheirtechnicalandeducationalpossibilities.
Heurgedculturalproducerstotransformnotonlytheirworks,butalsotheirwaysofworking.Hedescribedthe
techniquesofanewformofculturalproduction:Brecht's'epictheatre'.Yetwecanseethatalloftheseinsightsare
primarilythecommentsofacriticuponthetheoriesofproducers,ortakethestandpointofproduction.Itishere,
stillwiththecreator,thatthereallyrevolutionarymovesaretobemade.ItistruethatBenjaminalsohadinteresting
ideasaboutthepotentialityofmodernformstoproduceanewandmoredetachedrelationshipbetweenreaderand
text,butthisinsightremainedabstract,asoptimistic,inthesameratheraprioriway,asAdorno'spessimism.Itwas
notrootedinanyextendedanalysisofthelargerexperienceofparticulargroupsofreaders.
Ourfirstcase(production)turnsouttobeaninterestinginstanceofanargumentthegeneralformofwhichwill
recur.Ofcourse,wemustlookatculturalformsfromtheviewpointoftheirproduction.Thismustincludethe
conditionsandthemeansofproduction,especiallyintheirculturalorsubjectiveaspects.Inmyopinionitmust
includeaccountsandunderstandingstoooftheactualmomentofproductionitselfthelabour,anditssubjective
andobjectiveaspects.Wecannotbeperpetuallydiscussing'conditions'andneverdiscussingacts!Atthesametime,
wemustavoidthetemptation,signalledinmarxistdiscussionsofdetermination,tosubsumeallotheraspectsof
cultureunderthecategoriesofproductionstudies.Thissuggeststwostagesinamoresensibleapproach.Thefirstis
tograntindependenceandparticularitytoadistinctproductionmomentandtodothesameforothermoments.This
isanecessary,negative,holdingofthelineagainstreductionismsofallkinds.Butoncethelineisheldinour
analysis,anotherstagebecomesquiteevident.Thedifferentmomentsoraspectsarenotinfactdistinct.Thereis,for
instance,asenseinwhich(rathercarefully)wecanspeakoftextsas'productive'andamuchstrongercasefor
viewingreadingorculturalconsumptionasaproductionprocessinwhichthefirstproductbecomesamaterialfor
freshlabour.Thetextasproducedisadifferentobjectfromthetextasread.TheproblemwithAdorno'sanalysis
~nd
perhapswithproductivistapproachesingeneralisnotonlythattheyinferthetextasreadfromthetextas
produced,butthatalso,indoingthis,theyignoretheelementsofproductioninothermoments,concentrating
'creativity'inproducerorcritic.Perhapsthisisthedeepestprejudiceofall
94Whatisculturalstudies?
amongthewriters,theartists,theteachers,theeducators,thecommunicatorsandtheagitatorswithinthe
intellectualdivisionsoflabour!
Text-based studies

Asecondwholeclusterofapproachesareprimarilyconcernedwithculturalproducts.Mostcommonly
theseproductsaretreatedas'texts';thepointistoprovidemoreorlessdefinitive'readings'ofthem.Two
developmentsseemespeciallyimportant:theseparationbetweenspecialistcriticsandordinaryreaders,
andthedivisionbetweenculturalpractitionersandthosewhopractise,primarily,bycommentingonthe
worksofothers.Bothdevelopmentshavemuchtodowiththegrowthandelaborationofeducationaland
especially academic institutions, but it is interesting that the 'modernisms' which have so deeply
influenced cultural studies, had their origins as producer's theories, but are now discussed most
intensivelyinacademicandeducationalcontexts.Iamthinkingparticularlyofthetheoriesassociated
with Cubism and Constructivism, Russian formalism and filmmaking, and, of course, Brecht on
theatre.31
Muchofwhatisknownaboutthetextualorganisationofculturalformsisnowcarriedintheacademic
disciplines conventionally grouped together as the humanities or the arts. The major humanities
disciplines,butespeciallylinguisticandliterarystudies,havedevelopedmeansofformaldescription
whichareindispensableforculturalanalysis.Iamthinking,forexample,oftheliteraryanalysisofforms
ofnarrative,theidentificationofdifferent,genre,butalsoofwholefamiliesofgenrecategories,the
analysisofsyntacticalforms,possibilitiesandtransformationsinlinguistics,theformalanalysisofacts
andexchangesinspeech,theanalysisofsomeelementaryformsofculturaltheorybyphilosophers,and
thecommonborrowings,bycriticismandculturalstudies,fromsemiologyandotherstructuralisms.
Lookingatitfromoutside,thesituationinthehumanitiesandespeciallyinliteratureseemstomevery
paradoxical:ontheonehand,thedevelopmentofimmenselypowerfultoolsofanalysisanddescription,
ontheotherhand,rathermeagreambitionsintermsofapplicationsandobjectsofanalysis.Thereisa
tendencyforthetoolstoremainobstinatelytechnicalorformal.TheexampleIfindmoststrikingatthe
moment is linguistics, which seems a positive treasurechest for cultural analysis but is buried in a
heightenedtechnicalmystiqueandacademicprofessionalism,fromwhich,fortunately,itisbeginningto
emerge.32Otherpossibilitiesseemperpetuallycoopedupinthe'need'tosaysomethingnewaboutsome
wellthumbedtext or muchdisputedauthor. This sometimes encompasses a freeranging amateurism
whosegeneralculturalcredentialsapparentlysanctiontheliberalapplicationofsomeprettycommon
sensejudgmentstoalmosteverything.Yettheparadoxisthathumanitiesdisciplines,whicharepre
eminentlyconcernedwithidentifyingthesubjectiveformsoflife,arealreadyculturalstudiesinembryo!
Forms,regularitiesandconventionsfirstidentifiedinliterature(orcertainkindsofmusicorvisualart)
oftentumouttohaveamuchwidersocialcurrency.Feministsworkingonromance,forexample,have
traced
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?95
the correspondences between the narrative forms of popular romantic fiction, the public rituals of
marriage(e.g.theRoyalWedding)and,ifonlythroughtheirownexperience,thesubjectivetugofthe
symbolic resolutions of romantic love.33 Provoked by this stilldeveloping model, a similar set of
argumentsandresearchersaredevelopingaroundconventionalmasculinity,thefightingfantasiesof
boyculture,andthenarrativeformsofepic.34Asifonaprompter'scue,theFalklands/Malvinasconflict
crystallisedbothoftheseforms(andconjoinedthem)inaparticularlydramaticandrealpublicspectacle.
Thereisnobetterinstance,perhaps,ofthelimitsoftreatingformslikeromanceorepicasmerelyliterary
constructions.Onthecontrary,theyareamongthemostpowerfulandubiquitousofsocialcategoriesor
subjectiveforms,especiallyintheirconstructionsofconventionalfeminityandmasculinity.Human
beingslive,love,sufferbereavementandgooffandfightanddiebythem.
Asusual,then,theproblemistoappropriatemethodsthatareoftenlockedintonarrowdisciplinary
channelsandusetheirrealinsightsmorewidely,freely.Whatkindsoftextbasedmethods,then,aremost
useful?Andwhatproblemsshouldwelookforandtrytoovercome?
The importance of being formal

Especiallyimportantareallthemodernistandpostmodernistinfluences,particularlythoseassocaited
withstructuralismandpostSaussureanlinguistics.Iincludethedevelopmentsinsemiologyhere,but
wouldalsowanttoinclude,asakindofcousinhood,onceremoved,somestrandsin'AngloAmerican'
linguistics?5Culturalstudieshasoftenapproachedthesestrandsquitegingerly,withheatedbattles,in
particular,withthosekindsoftextanalysisinformedbypsychoanalysis,36butthefreshmodernistinfu
sionscontinuetobeasourceofdevelopments.Assomeonecomingfromtheotherhistorical/sociological
side,Iamoftensurprisedanduncriticallyentrancedbythepossibilitieshere.
Modernformalanalysispromisesareallycarefulandsystematicdescriptionofsubjectiveforms,and
oftheirtendenciesandpressures.Ithasenabledustoidentify,forexample,narrativityasabasicformof
organisationofsubjectivities.37Italsogivesusleadsormoreontherepertoireofnarrativeforms
existingcontemporaneously,theactualstoryformscharacteristicofdifferentwaysoflife.Ifwetreat
thesenotasarchetypesbutashistoricallyproducedconstructions,thepossibilitiesforfruitfulconcrete
studyonawiderangeofmaterialsisimmense.Forstoriesobviouslycomenotmerelyintheformof
bookishorfilmicfictionsbutalsoineverydayconversation,ineveryone'simaginedfuturesanddaily
projections, and in the construction of identities, individual and collective, through memories and
histories. What are the recurrent patterns here? What forms can we abstract from these texts most
commonly?Itseemstomethatinthestudyofsubjectiveforms,weareatthestageinpoliticaleconomy
whichMarx,intheGrundrisse,sawasnecessarybutprimitive:'whentheformshadstilltobelaboriously
peeledoutfromthematerial'.
96Whatisculturalstudies?
Thereareanumberofinhibitionshere.Onepowerfuloneisanoppositiontoabstractcategoriesar.Ja
terrorofformalism.Ithinkthatthisisoftenquitemisplaced.Weneedtoabstractformsinorderto
describethemcarefully,clearly,notingthevariationsandcombinations.IamsurethatRolandBarthes
wasrightwhenhearguedagainstthequixoticrejectionof'theartificeofanalysis':
Less terrorised by the spectre of 'formalism', historical criticism might have been less sterile; it would have
understoodthatthespecificstudyofformsdoesnotinanywaycontradictthenecessaryprinciplesoftotalityand
History.Onthecontrary: themoreasystem isspecificallydefinedinitsforms,themoreamenableit isto
historicalcriticism.Toparodyawellknownsaying,IshallsaythatalittleformalismturnsoneawayfromHistory,
butthatalotbringsonebacktoit?8
Admittedly Barthes' 'History' is suspiciously capitalised and emptied of content: unlike marxism,
semiologydoesnotpresentuswithapractice(unlessitbeBarthes'littleessays)forreconstitutinga
complexwholefromthedifferentforms.ButIamsurewedoendupwithbetter,moreexplanatory,
histories,ifwehavecomprehended,moreabstractedly,someoftheformsandrelationswhichconstitute
them.Insomeways,indeed,IfindBarthes'worknotformalenough.Thelevelofelaborationinhislater
work sometimes seems gratuitous: too complex for clarity, insufficiently concrete as a substantive
account.Intheseandothersemiologicalendeavoursdowemainlyhearthebusywhirofselfgenerating
intellectualsystemsrapidlyslippingoutofcontrol?Ifso,thisisadifferentnoisefromthesatisfyingbuzz
ofareally'historical'abstraction!
Radicalstructuralismsexcitemeforanotherreason.39Theyarethefurthestreachofthecriticismof
empiricism which, as I suggested earlier, founds cultural studies philosophically. This radical
constructivismnothinginculturetakenasgiven,everythingproducedisaleadinginsightwecannot
fallbehind.Ofcourse,thesetwoexcitementsarecloselyrelated,thesecondasapremiseofthefirst.Itis
becauseweknowwearenotincontrolofourownsubjectivities,thatweneedsobadlytoidentifytheir
formsandtracetheirhistoriesandfuturepossibilities.
What is a text anyway?

Butiftextanalysisisindispensable,whatisatext?RemembertheMiniMetroasanexampleofthe
tendencyof'texts'toapolymorphousgrowth:TonyBennett'sexampleoftheJamesBondgenresisan
evenbettercase.40Theproliferationofalliedrepresentationsinthefieldofpublicdiscoursesposeslarge
problemsforanypractitionerofcontemporaryculturalstudies.Thereare,however,betterandworse
waysofcopingwiththem.Often,Ithink,itisatraditionalliterarysolutionthatisreachedfor:weplump
foran'author'(sofarasthisispossible),asingleworkorseries,perhapsadistinctivegenre.Ourchoices
maynowbepopulartextsandperhapsafilmicorelectronicmedium,yettherearestilllimitsinsuch
quasiliterarycriteria.
If,forexample,wearereallyinterestedinhowconventionsandthe
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?97
technicalmeansavailablewithinaparticularmediumstructurerepresentations,weneedtoworkacross
genreandmedia,comparatively.Weneedtotracethedifferencesaswellasthesimilarities,forexample,
betweenliteraryromance,romanticloveaspublicspectacleandloveasaprivateformornarrative.Itis
onlyinthiswaythatwecanresolvesomeofthemostimportantevaluativequestionshere:howfar,for
instance,romanceactsmerelytosealwomenintooppressivesocialconditions,andhowfarideologies
oflovemaynonethelessexpressutopianconceptionsofpersonalrelations.Wecertainlydonothaveto
boundourresearchbyliterarycriteria;otherchoicesareavailable.Itispossibleforinstancetotake
'issues'orperiodsasthemaincriterion.Thoughrestrictedbytheirchoiceofrather'masculine'genreand
media, Policing the Crisis and Unpopular Education are studies of this kind. They hinge around a
basicallyhistoricaldefinition,examiningaspectsoftheriseofthenewrightmainlyfromtheearly1970s.
ThelogicofthisapproachhasbeenextendedinrecentCCCSmediabasedstudies:astudyofawide
rangeofmediarepresentationsoftheCampaignforNuclearDisarmamentinOctober198141andastudy
ofthemediainapostFalklands'holidayperiod,fromChristmas1982toNewYear1983.42Thislast
approachisespeciallyfruitfulsinceitallowsustoexaminetheconstructionofaholiday(andespecially
theplayaroundthepublic/privatedivision)accordingtothepossibilitiesofdifferentmediaandgenre,
for example, television soap opera and the popular daily press. By capturing something of the
contemporaneityandcombined'effects'ofdifferentsystemsofrepresentations,wealsohopetogetnearer
to the commoner experience of listening, reading and viewing. This form of study, based upon a
conjuncturewhichinthiscaseisbothhistorical(thepostFalklandsmomentofDecember1982)and
seasonal(theChristmasholiday),ispremisedonthebeliefthatcontextiscrucialintheproductionof
meaning.
Moregenerally,theaimistodecentre'thetext'asanobjectofstudy.'Thetext'isnolongerstudiedfor
itsownsake,norevenforthesocialeffectsitmaybethoughttoproduce,butratherforthesubjectiveor
culturalformswhichitrealisesandmakesavailable.Thetextisonlyameansinculturalstudy;strictly,
perhaps,itisarawmaterialfromwhichcertainforms(e.g.ofnarrative,ideologicalproblematic,modeof
address,subjectposition,etc.)maybeabstracted.Itmayalsoformpartofalargerdiscursivefieldor
combinationofformsoccurringinothersocialspaceswithsomeregularity.Buttheultimateobjectof
culturalstudiesisnot,inmyview,thetext,butthesociallifeofsubjectiveformsateachmomentoftheir
circulation,includingtheirtextualembodiments.Thisisalongwayfromaliteraryvaluingoftextsfor
themselves,though,ofcourse,themodesinwhichsometextualembodimentsofsubjectiveformscome
tobevaluedoverothers,especiallybycriticsoreducatorstheproblemespeciallyof'high'and'low'in
cultureisacentralquestion,especiallyintheoriesofcultureandclass.Butthisisaproblemwhich
subsumes'literary'concerns,ratherthanreproducingthem.Akeyissueishowcriteriaof'literariness'
themselvescometobeformulatedandinstalledinacademic,educationalandotherregulativepractices.
98Whatisculturalstudies?
Structuralist foreshortenings

Howtoconstitutethetextisoneproblem;anotheristhetendencyofothermoments,especiallyofcultural
productionandreading,butmoregenerallyofthemoreconcrete,privateaspectsofculture,todisappear
into a reading of the text. Around this tendency, we might write a whole compli cated history of
formalisms,usingthetermnowinitsmorefamiliarcriticalsense.Iunderstandformalismnegatively,not
asabstractionofformsfromtexts,butastheabstractionoftextsfromtheothermoments.Formethis
distinction is critical, marking the legitimate and excessive concerns with form. I would explain
formalisminthenegativesenseintermsoftwomainsetsofdeterminations:thosethatderivefromthe
sociallocationof'critic'andthelimitsofaparticularpractice,andthosethatderivefromparticular
theoretical problematics, the tools of different critical schools. Although there is a clear historical
association,especiallyinthetwentiethcentury,between'criticism'andformalism,thereisnonecessary
connection.
The particular formalisms that interest me most because there is the most to rescue are those
associated with the various structuralist and poststructuralist discussions of text, narrative, subject
positions,discoursesandsoon.Iincludehere,inanecessarilycompressedway,thewholesequence
that runs from Saussure's linguistics and LeviStrauss' anthropology to early Barthes and what is
sometimescalled'semiologymark1'43tothedevelopmentssetintrainbyMay1968infilmcriticism,
semiologyandnarrativetheory,includingthecomplicatedintersectionofAlthusserianmarxism,later
semiologiesandpsychoanalysis.Despitetheirvariations,theseapproachesto'signifyingpractices'share
certainparadigmaticlimitswhichItermthe'structuralistforeshortening'.
Theyarelimited,inaveryfundamentalway,bystayingwithinthetermsoftextualanalysis.Insofaras
theygobeyondit,theysubordinateothermomentstotextualanalysis.Inparticulartheytendtoneglect
questionsoftheproductionofculturalformsortheirlargersocialorganisation,orreducequestionsof
productiontothe'productivity'(Iwouldsay'capacitytoproduce')ofthealreadyexistingsystemsof
signification,thatistheformallanguagesorcodes.Theyalsotendtoneglectquestionsofreadership,or
subordinatethemtothecompetenciesofatextualformofanalysis.Theytendtoderivean'account'of
readership,infact,fromthecritic'sowntextualreadings.Iwanttosuggestthatthecommonelementin
boththeselimitsisamajortheoreticallacktheabsenceofanadequatepoststructuralist(orshouldIsay
postpoststructuralist)theoryofsubjectivity.Thisabsenceisonethatisstressedwithintheseapproaches
themselves;infact,itisamajorchargeagainstoldmarxismsthattheylacked'atheoryofthesubject'.But
the absence is supplied most unsatisfactorily by twinning textual analysis and psychoanalysis in an
accountofsubjectivitywhichremainsveryabstract,'thin'andunhistoricalandalso,inmyopinion,
overly'objective'.Tosumupthelimitations,thereisnotreallyanaccountoraccountshere,ofthe
genesisofsubjectiveformsandthedifferentwaysinwhichhumanbeingsinhibitthem.
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?99
The neglect of production

Thisistheeasierpointtoillustrate.Itisthedifference,forexample,betweenculturalstudiesintheCCCS
tradition,andespeciallytheCCCSappropriationofGramsci'saccountsofhegemonyand,say,themain
theoreticaltendencyinthemagazineoffilmcriticismassociatedwiththeBritishFilmInstitute,Screen.In
theItaliancontextthecomparisonmightbebetweenthe'pure'semiologicalandculturalstudiestraditions.
While cultural studies at Birmingham has tended to become more historical, more concerned with
particularconjuncturesandinstitutionallocations,thetendencyoffilmcriticisminBritainhasbeen,
rather,theotherway.Initially,anoldermarxistconcernwithculturalproduction,and,inparticularwith
cinemaasindustryandwithconjuncturesincinematicproductionwascommonbothinBritainand
France.ButliketheFrenchfilmmagazines,Screenbecameinthe1970s,increasinglypreoccupiedless
withproductionasasocialandhistoricalprocess,andmorewiththe'productivity'ofsignifyingsystems
themselves,inparticular,withthemeansofrepresentationofthecinematographicmedium.Thismove
wasveryexplicitlyarguedfor,notonlyinthecritiquesofrealisttheoriesofthecinemaandoftherealist
structuresofconventionalfilmitself,butalsointhecritiqueofthe'superrealism'of(honoured)marxist
practitionerslikeEisensteinandBrecht.44Itformedpartofalargermovementwhichplacedincreasing
emphasisonthemeansofrepresentationingeneralandarguedthatwehadtochoosebetweenthevirtual
autonomyandabsolutedeterminancyof'signification'orreturntotheconsistencyoforthodoxmarxism.
Astheelegantonesidedexaggerationputit,itisthemythsthatspeakthemythmaker,thelanguage
whichspeaksthespeaker,thetextswhichreadthereader,thetheoreticalproblematicwhichproduces
'science',andideologyordiscoursethatproduces'thesubject'.
Therewasanaccountofproductioninthiswork,butaveryattenuatedone.Ifwethinkofproductionas
involvingrawmaterials,toolsormeansofproduction,andsociallyorganisedformsofhumanlabour,
Screen's accounts of film, for instance, focussed narrowly on some of the tools or means of
production/representation.Isay'some'becausesemiologicallyinfluencedtheorieshavetendedtoinvert
theprioritiesofoldermarxistapproachestoproduction,focussingonlyonsomeoftheculturalmeans,
those,infact,whichpoliticaleconomyneglects.Filmtheoryinthe1970sacknowledgedthe'dual'nature
ofthecinematiccircuit,butwasmainlyconcernedtoelaboratecinemaas'mentalmachinery'.45Thiswas
anunderstandablechoiceofpriorities,butoftenpursuedinahypercriticalandnonaccumulativeway.
Moreseriouswastheneglectoflabour,oftheactualhumanactivityofproducing.Againthismayitself
havebeenanexaggeratedreactionagainstolderfashions,especially,inthiscaseauteurtheory,itselfan
attenuatedconceptionoflabour!Theneglectof(structured)humanactivityandespeciallyofconflicts
overallkindsofproductionseemsinretrospectthemostglaringabsence.Thus,althoughtheconception
of'practice'wasmuchinvoked(e.g.'signifyingpractice')itwaspracticequitewithout'praxis'intheolder
marxistsense.Theeffectsofthiswere
100Whatisculturalstudies?
especiallyimportantinthedebates,whichweshallcometo,abouttextsandsubjects.
Thiscriticismcanbepushed,however,onestagefurther:averylimitedconceptionof'means'.In
Screen'stheorytherewasatendencytolookonlyatthespecificallycinematographic'means'thecodes
of cinema. The relations between these means and other cultural resources or conditions were not
examined:forexample,therelationbetweencodesofrealismandtheprofessionalismoffilmmakersor
therelationbetweenmediamoregenerallyandthestateandformalpoliticalsystem.Iftheseelements
mightbecountedasmeans(theymightalsobethoughtofassocialrelationsofproduction),theraw
materialsofproductionwerealsolargelyabsent,especiallyintheirculturalforms.Forcinema,likeother
publicmedia,takesitsrawmaterialsfromthepreexistingfieldofpublicdiscoursesthewholefieldthat
is,notjustfromthebitcalled'cinema'and,underthekindofconditionswehaveexamined,fromprivate
knowledgestoo.Acritiqueoftheverynotionofrepresentation(seenasindispensabletothecritiqueof
realism)madeithardforthesetheoriststopullintotheiraccountsoffilmanyveryelaboraterecognition
ofwhatanolder,fullertheorymighthavecalled'content'.Cinema(andthentelevision)weretreatedas
thoughtheywere,sotospeak,only'about'cinemaortelevision,onlyreproducingortransformingthe
cinematographic or televisual forms, not pulling in and transforming discourses first produced else
where.Inthiswaythecinematictextwasabstractedfromthewholeensembleofdiscoursesandsocial
relationswhichsurroundedandformedit.
Onefurthermajorlimitationinmuchofthisworkwasatendencytorefuseanyexplanatorymovethat
wentbehindtheexistingmeansofrepresentation,whetherthiswasthelanguagesystem,aparticular
'signifyingpractice'or,indeed,thepoliticalsystem.Theaccountwasforeshortenedtotextualmeansand
Qust) textual'effects'. The means were not conceived historically, as having their own moment of
production.Thiswasnotalocaldifficultyinparticularanalyses,butageneraltheoreticalabsence,tobe
foundintheearliestinfluentialmodelsofthetheory.ThesamedifficultyhauntsSaussureanlinguistics.
Althoughtherulesoflanguagesystemsdeterminespeechacts,theeverydaydeploymentoflinguistic
formsappearsnottotouchthelanguagesystemitself.Thisispartlybecauseitsprinciplesareconceived
soabstractlythathistoricalchangeorsocialvariationescapesdetection,butitisalsobecausethereisno
trueproductionmomentofthelanguagesystemitself.Crucialinsightsintolanguageandothersystemsof
signification are therefore foreclosed: namely, that lan guages are produced (or differentiated),
reproducedandmodifiedbysociallyorganisedhumanpractice,thattherecanbenolanguage(excepta
dead one) without speakers, and that language is continually fought over in its words, syntax and
discursive deployments. In order to recover these insights, students of culture who are interested in
languagehavehadtogooutsidethepredominantlyFrenchsemiologicaltraditions,backtothemarxist
philosopher of language Voloshinov or across to particular researches influenced by the work of
BernsteinorHalliday.
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?101
Readers in texts; readers in society
Themostcharacteristicfeatureoflatersemiologieshasbeentheclaimtoadvanceatheoryoftheproductionof
subjects.Initially,theclaimwasbasedonageneralphilosophicaloppositiontohumanistconceptionsofasimple,
unified'I'orsubject,standingunproblematicallyatthecentreofthoughtormoraloraestheticevaluation.This
featureofstructuralismhadaffinitieswithsimilarargumentsinMarxaboutthesubjectsofbourgeoisideologies,
especiallyaboutthepremisesofpoliticaleconomy,andwithFreud'sanatomisationofthecontradictionofhuman
personality.
'Advancedsemiology'presentsseverallayersoftheorisationofsubjectivitywhicharedifficulttounravel.46
Thiscomplicatedset of fusionsandtanglescombined fine leadinginsightswiththeoretical disasters.The key
insight,forme,isthatnarrativesorimagesalwaysimplyorconstructapositionorpositionsfromwhichtheyareto
bereadorviewed.Although'position'remainsproblematic(isitasetofculturalcompetencesor,astheterm
implies,somenecessary'subjection'tothetext?),theinsightisdazzling,especiallywhenappliedtovisualimages
andtofilm.Wecannotperceivetheworkwhichcamerasdofromanewaspect,notmerelypresentinganobject,but
puttingusinplacebeforeit.Ifweaddtothistheargumentthatcertainkindsoftexts('realism')naturalisethemeans
by. which positioning is achieved, we have a dual insight of great force. The particular promise is to render
processeshithertounconsciouslysuffered(andenjoyed)opentoexplicitanalysis.
Withinthecontextofmyownargument,theimportanceoftheseinsightsisthattheyprovideawayofconnecting
theaccountoftextualformswithanexplorationofintersectionswithreaders'subjectivities.Acareful,elaborated
andhierarchisedaccountofthereadingpositionsofferedinatext(innarrativestructureormodesofaddressfor
instance)seemstomethemostdevelopedmethodwehavesofarwithinthelimitsoftextanalysis.Ofcourse,such
readingsshouldnotbetakentonegateothermethods:thereconstructionofthemanifestandlatentthemesofatext,
itsdenotativeandconnotativemoments,itsideologicalproblematicorlimitingassumptions,itsmetaphoricalor
linguisticstrategies.Thelegitimatesubjectiveobjectforms,ofanidentificationthedirectionsofin'positions'
whichtheyismovethepressuresus,theirorforcetendenciesinhabited.tendenciesareThehelddifficultiestobe
realisedariseinandthesubjectivitiestheyareveryofreaders,numerouswithout

- if
addioncesuchof
tionalanddifferentformsofinquiry.
Theintoxicationsofthetheorymakesuchamoveverytempting.Buttoslipfrom'readerinthetext'to'readerin
society'istoslidefromthemostabstractmoment(theanalysisofforms)tothemostconcreteobject(actualreaders,
astheyareconstituted,socially,historically,culturally).Thisisconvenientlytomissbutnotexplicitlyasarational
abstraction the huge number of fresh determinations or pressures of which we must now take account. In
disciplinarytermswemovefromagroundusuallycoveredbyliteraryapproachestoonemorefamiliartohistorical
orsociological competences,butthecommonnewelement hereistheabilitytohandleamassofcoexisting
determinations,operatingatmanydifferentlevels.
102Whatisculturalstudies?
Itwouldtakeusintoalongandcomplicatedexplorationof'reading'totryandgaugethefullenormity
oftheleap.47Thereisonlyroomtostressafewdifficultiesintreatingreading,notasreceptionor
assimilation, but as itself an act of production. If the text is the raw material of this practice, we
encounter, once again, all the problems of textual boundaries. The isolation of a text for academic
scrutinyisaveryspecificformofreading.Morecommonlytextsareencounteredpromiscuously;they
pourinonusfromalldirectionsindiverse,coexistingmedia,anddifferentlypacedflows.Ineveryday
life,textualmaterialsarecomplex,multiple,overlapping,coexistent,juxtaposed,inaword,'inter
textual'.Ifweuseamoreagilecategorylikediscourse,indicatingelementsthatcutacrossdifferenttexts,
wecansaythatallreadingsarealso'interdiscursive'.Nosubjectiveformeveractsonitsown.Norcan
thecombinationsbepredictedbyformalorlogicalmeans,norevenfromempiricalanalysisofthefieldof
publicdiscourse,thoughofcoursethismaysuggesthypotheses.Thecombinationsstem,rather,from
moreparticularlogicsthestructuredlifeactivityinitsobjectiveandsubjectivesides,ofreadersor
groupsofreaders:theirsociallocations,theirhistories,theirsubjectiveinterests,theirprivateworlds.
The sameproblem arises if we consider the tools of this practice, or the codes, competences and
orientationsalreadypresentwithinaparticularsocialmilieu.Againthesearenotpredictablefrompublic
texts.Theybelongtoprivatecultures,inthewaythattermhasusuallybeenusedinculturalstudies.They
aregroupedaccordingto'waysoflife'.Theyexistinthechaoticandhistoricallysedimentedensembles
whichGramscireferredtoascommonsense.Yetthesemustdeterminethelongerandshorterrange
resultsofparticularinterpellativemoments,or,asIprefer,theformsofculturaltransformationswhich
alwaysoccurinreadings.
Allthispointstothecentralityofwhatisusuallycalled'context'.Contextdeterminesthemeaning,
transformationsorsalienceofaparticularsubjectiveformasmuchastheformitself.Contextincludes
theculturalfeaturesdescribedabove,butalsothecontextsofimmediatesituations(e.g.thedomestic
contextofthehousehold)andthelargerhistoricalcontextorconjuncture.
Yetanaccountwouldremainincompletewithoutsomeattentiontotheactofreadingitselfandan
attempttotheoriseitsproducts.Theabsenceofactionbythereaderischaracteristicofformalistaccounts.
Even those theorists (e.g. Brecht, Tel Quel, Barthes in S/Z) who are concerned with productive,
deconstructiveorcriticalreadingascribethiscapacitytotypesoftext(e.g.'writable'ratherthan'readable'
inBarthes'sterminology)andnotatalltoahistoryofrealreaders.Thisabsenceofproductioninreading
parallels the ascription of productivity to signifying systems which we have already noted. At best
particularactsofreadingareunderstoodasareplayingofprimaryhumanexperiences.Justasanolder
literary criticism sought universal values and human emotions in the text, so the new formalisms
understandreadingastherelivingofpsychoanalyticallydefinedmechanisms.Analysisofthespectator's
gaze,basedonLacanianaccountsofthemirrorphase,identifysomeofthemotionsofthewaymenuse
images of womenandrelate toheroes.48 Such analyses dobridge text andreader. There isa huge
potentiality,forculturalstudies,inthecritical
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?103
useofFreudiancategories,ascriticalthatis,astheuseofmarxistcategorieshasbecomeorisbecoming.
Yetpresentusesoftenbridgetextandreaderatacost:theradicalsimplificationofthesocialsubject,
reducinghimorhertotheoriginal,naked,infantneeds.Itisdifficultonthisbasistospecifyalltherealms
ofdifferencewhichonewishestograsp,even,surprisingly,gender.Atworsttheimputationsaboutreal
subjectscomedowntoafewuniversals,justasitisnowonlyafewbasicfeaturesofthetextwhich
interestus.Therearedistinctlimitstoaprocedurewhichdiscovers,inotherwisevariedphenomena,the
sameoldmechanismsproducingthesameoldeffects.
Onelackintheseaccountsisanattempttodescribemoreelaboratelythesurfaceformstheflowsof
innerspeechandnarrativewhicharethemostempiricallyobviousaspectofsubjectivity.Perhapsitis
thoughthumanisttopayattentiontoconsciousnessinthisway?Butweallare(aren'twe?)continuous,
resourcefulandabsolutelyfreneticusersofnarrativeandimage?Andtheseusesoccur,inpart,inside
thehead,intheimaginativeoridealworldwhichaccompaniesusineveryaction.Wearenotmerely
positionedbystoriesaboutourselves, storiesaboutothers.Weuserealist storiesaboutthefutureto
prepareorplan,actingoutscenariosofdangerousorpleasurableevents.Weusefictionalorfantastical
formstoescapeordivert.Wetellstoriesaboutthepastintheformofmemorywhichconstructversions
ofwhowepresentlyare.Perhapsallthisissimplypresupposedinformalistanalysis,yettodrawitinto
theforegroundseemstohaveimportantimplications.49Itmakesitpossibletorecovertheelementsof
selfproductionintheoriesofsubjectivity.Itsuggeststhatbeforewecangaugetheproductivityofnew
interpellations,oranticipatetheirpopularity,weneedtoknowwhatstoriesarealreadyinplace.
Allthisinvolvesamovebeyondwhatseemstobeanunderlyingformalistassumption:thatrealreaders
are'wipedclean'ateachtextualencountertobepositioned(orliberated)anewbythenextinterpellation.
Poststructuralistrevisions,stressingthecontinuousproductivityoflanguageordiscourseasprocess,
donotnecessarilyhelphere,becauseitisnotatallclearwhatallthisproductivityactuallyproduces.
Thereisnorealtheoryofsubjectivityhere,partlybecausetheexplanandum,the'object'ofsuchatheory,
remainstobespecified.Inparticularthereisnoaccountofthecarryoverorcontinuityofselfidentities
fromonediscursivemomenttothenext,suchasaretheorisationofmemoryindiscursivetermsmight
permit.Sincethereisnoaccountofcontinuitiesorofwhatremainsconstantoraccumulative,thereisno
accountofstructuralshiftsormajorrearrangementsofasenseofself,especiallyinadultlife.Such
transformationsarealways,implicitly,referredto'external'textforms,forexamplerevolutionaryor
poetictexts,usuallyformsofliterature.Thereisnoaccountofwhatpredisposesthereadertousesuch
textsproductivelyorwhatconditions,otherthanthetextformsthemselves,contributetorevolutionary
conjunc tures intheir subjective dimensions. Similarly, with such a weight onthe text, there is no
accountofhowsomereaders(including,presumably,theanalysts)canuseconventionalorrealisttexts
critically.Aboveall,thereisnoaccountof what Iwouldcall the subjectiveaspectsof struggle,no
account of how there is a moment in subjective flux when social subjects (individual or collective)
produceaccountsofwhotheyare,asconsciouspoliticalagents,
104Whatisculturalstudies?
thatdenyis,theconstitutemajorstructuralistthemselves,orpolitically.poststructuralistToaskfor
insights:suchasubjectstheoryisarenotconto
tradictory,'inprocess',fragmented,produced.Buthumanbeingsandsocialmovementsalsostriveto
producesomecoherenceandcontinuity,andthroughthis,exercisesomecontroloverfeelings,conditions
anddestinies.
ThisiswhatImeanbya'postpoststructuralist'accountofsubjectivity.Itinvolvesreturningtosome
olderbutreformulatedquestionsaboutstruggle,'unity',andtheproductionofapoliticalwill.Itinvolves
accepting structuralist insights as a statement of the problem, whether we are speaking of our own
fragmentedselvesortheobjectiveandsubjectivefragmentationofpossiblepoliticalconstituencies.Butit
alsoinvolvestakingseriouslywhatseemstomethemostinterestingtheoreticallead:thenotionofa
discursiveselfproductionofsubjects,especiallyintheformofhistoriesandmemories.50
Social inquiries - logic and history

Ihopethatthelogicofourthirdclusterofapproaches,whichfocusonthe'livedmoreculture',concreteis
alreadyandmoreclear.privateTorecapitulate,momentstheofculturalproblemcirculation.ishowto
graspThissetsuptwokindsofpressures.Thefirstistowardsmethodswhichcandetail,recomposeand
representcomplexensemblesofdiscursiveandnondiscursivefeaturesastheyappearinthelifeof
particularsocialgroups.Thesecondistowards'socialinquiry'oranactiveseekingoutofcultural
elementswhichdonotappearinthepublicsphere,oronlyappearabstractedandtransformed.Ofcourse,
studentsofculturehaveaccesstoprivateformsthroughtheirownexperiencesandsocialworlds.Thisisa
continuousresource,themoresoifitisconsciouslyspecifiedandifitsrelativityisrecognised.Indeed,a
culturalselfcriticismofthiskindistheindispensableculturalstudy.
condition51Buttheforfirstavoidinglessonheretheismorethegrosslyrecognitionideologicalof
majorformsculturalof
differences,especiallyacrossthosesocialrelationshipswherepower,dependenceandinequalityare
mostatstake.Thereareperils,then,intheuseofa(limited)individualorcollectiveselfknowledge
where the limits of its representativeness are uncharted and its other sides usually the sides of
powerlessnessaresimplyunknown.Thisremainsajustificationforformsofculturalstudywhichtake
theculturalworldsofothers(oftenreversesidesofone'sown)asthemainobject.
Wehavetokeepadiscomfortedeyeonthehistoricalpedigreesandcurrentorthodoxiesofwhatis
sometimescalled'ethnography',apracticeofrepresentingtheculturesofothers.Thepractice,likethe
word,alreadyextendssocialdistanceandconstructsrelationsofknowledgeaspower.To'study'culture
formsisalreadytodifferfromamoreimplicitinhabitationofculturewhichsocialgroupsisthemain
'intellectuals''commonsense'maybemodegreatinatalldescribingsocialgroups.otherpeople's(AndI
meanimplicitall
assumptions,butareas'implicit'asanyonewhenitcomestotheirown.)
Theearlyyearsofnewleftresearchinparticularthe1940s,50sandearly60sinvolvedanewsetof
relationsbetweenthesubjectsandobjects
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?105
ofresearch,especiallyacrossclassrelations.52Intellectualmovementsassociatedwithfeminismandthe
work of some black intellectuals have transformed (but not abolished) these social divisions too.
Experimentsincommunitybasedauthorshiphavealso,withinlimits,achievednewsocialrelationsof
culturalproductionandpublication.
5

3Evensoitseemswisetobeaccountssuspicious,ofthemnotthatnecessarilytrytominimiseofthese
thepracticespoliticalthemselves,risksandresponsibilbutofall
itiesinvolved,ortoresolvemagicallytheremainingsocialdivisions.Sincefundamentalsocialrelations
havenotbeentransformed,socialinquirytendsconstantlytoreturntoitsoldanchorages,pathologising
subordinatedcultures,normalisingthedominantmodes,helpingatbesttobuildacademicreputations
withoutproportionatereturnstothosewhoarerepresented.Apartfromthebasicpoliticalstandpoint
whosesidetheresearchersareonmuchdependsonthespecifictheoreticalformsofthework,thekind
ofethnography.
Limits of 'experience'

There seems to be a close association between ethnographies (or histories) based on sympathetic
identificationandempiricistor'expressive'modelsofculture.Thepressureistorepresentlivedcultures
asauthenticwaysoflifeandtoupholdthemagainstridiculeorcondescension.Researchofthiskindhas
often been used to criticise the dominant representations, especially those influencing state policies.
Researchershaveoftenmediatedaprivateworkingclassworld(oftentheworldoftheirownchildhood)
and the definitions of the public sphere with its middleclass weighting. A very common way of
upholdingsubordinatedcultureshasbeentostressthebondsbetweenthesubjectiveandobjectivesidesof
popular practices. Workingclass culture has been seen as the authentic expression of proletar ian
conditions,perhapstheonlyexpressionpossible.Thisrelationoridentityhassometimesbeencemented
by'oldmarxist'assumptionsabouttheproperstateofconsciousnessoftheworkingclass.Asimilarsetof
assumptionscanbetracedinsomefeministwritingsaboutculturewhichportrayandcelebrateadistinct
feminineculturalworldreflectiveofwoman'scondition.Thetermwhichmostcommonlyindexesthis
theoreticalframeworkis'experience',withitscharacteristicfusingofobjectiveandsubjectiveaspects.
Suchframeworksproducemajordifficulties,notleastforresearchersthemselves.Secondaryanalysis
andrepresentationmustalwaysbeproblematicorintrusiveif'spontaneous'culturalformsareseenasa
completedornecessaryformofsocialknowledge.Theonlylegitimatepractice,inthisframework,isto
representanunmediatedchunkofauthenticlifeexperienceitself,insomethinglikeitsownterms.This
formofculturalempiricismisadeadhandonthemostimportantofculturalstudiespractices,andisone
ofthereasonswhyitisalsothemostdifficulttodeliveratall.
There is also a systematic pressure towards presenting lived cultures primarily in terms of their
homogeneity and distinctiveness. This theoretical pressure, in conceptions like 'whole way of life',
becomesstartinglyclearwhenissuesofnationalismandracismaretakenintoaccount.Thereisa
106Whatisculturalstudies?
discomfortingconvergencebetween'radical'butromanticversionsof'workingclassculture'andnotions
ofasharedEnglishnessorwhiteethnicity.Heretooonefindstheterm'wayoflife'usedasthough
'cultures'wereslabsofsignificancealwayshumpedaroundbythesamesetofpeople.Inleftethnography
the term has often been associated with an underrepresenta tion of nonclass relations and of
fragmentationswithinsocialclasses.
54Themainlackwithinexpressive
theoriesisattentiontothemeansofsignificationasaspecificculturaldetermination.Thereisnobetter
instanceofthedivorcebetweenformalanalysisand'concretestudies'thantherarityoflinguisticanalysis
inhistoricalorethnographicwork.Likemuchstructuralistanalysis,then,ethnographiesoftenworkwitha
foreshortenedversionofourcircuit,onlyhereitisthewholearcof'public'formswhichisoftenmissing.
Thusthecreativityofprivateformsisstressed,thecontinuousculturalproductivityofeverydaylife,but
notitsdependenceonthematerialsandmodesofpublicproduction.Methodologically,thevirtuesof
abstractionareeschewedsothattheseparate(orseparable)elementsoflivedculturesarenotunravelled,
andtheirrealcomplexity(ratherthantheiressentialunity)isnotrecognised.
Best ethnography

Idonotwishtoimplythatthisformofculturalstudyisintrinsicallycompromised.Onthecontrary,Itend
toseeitastheprivilegedformofanalysis,bothintellectuallyandpolitically.PerhapsthiswillbeclearifI
brieflyreviewsomeaspectsofthebestethnographicstudiesatBirmingham.55Thesestudieshaveused
abstractionandformaldescriptiontoidentifykeyelementsinalivedculturalensemble.Culturesareread
'textually'.Buttheyhavealsobeenviewedalongsideareconstructionofthesocialpositionoftheusers.
Thereisalargedifferenceherebetweena'structuralethnography'andamoreethnomethodological
approachconcernedexclusivelywiththelevelofmeaningandusuallywithinanindividualistic
framework.Thisisonereason,forinstance,whyfeministworkintheCentrehasbeenasmuch
preoccupiedwiththeorisingthepositionofwomenaswith'talkingtogirls'.Wehavetriedtoallycultural
analysiswitha(sometimestoogeneralised)structuralsociology,centringupongender,classandrace.
Perhapsthemostdistinctivefeaturehasbeentheconnectionsmadebetweenlivedculturalensemblesand
publicforms.Typically,studieshaveconcernedtheappropriationofelementsofmasscultureandtheir
transformationaccordingtotheneedsandculturallogicsofsocialgroups.Studiesofthecontributionof
massculturalforms(popularmusic,fashion,drugsormotorbikes)tosubculturalstyles,ofgirls'useof
popularculturalforms,andofthelads'resistancetotheknowledgeandauthorityofschoolarecasesin
point.Inotherwordsthebeststudiesoflivedculturearealso,necessarily,studiesof'reading'.Itisfrom
thispointofviewtheintersectionofpublicandprivateformsthatwehavethebestchanceof
answeringthetwokeysetsofquestionstowhichculturalstudiesrightlycontinuallyreturns.
Thefirstsetconcerns'popularity'pleasureandtheusevalueofculturalforms.Whydosomesubjective
formsacquireapopularforce,become
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?107
principlesofliving?Whatarethedifferentwaysinwhichsubjectiveformsareinhabitedplayfullyorin
deepseriousness,infantasyorbyrationalagreement,becauseitisthethingtodoorthethingnottodo?
Thesecondsetofquestionsconcernstheoutcomesofculturalforms.Dotheseformstendtoreproduce
existingformsofsubordinationoroppression?Dotheyholddownorcontainsocialambitions,defining
wantstoomodestly?Oraretheyformswhichpermitaquestioningofexistingrelationsorarunning
beyondthemintermsofdesire?Dotheypointtoalternativesocialarrangements?Judgmentslikethese
cannotbemadeonthebasisoftheanalysisofproductionconditionsortextsalone;theycanbestbe
answeredoncewehavetracedasocialformrightthroughthecircuitofitstransformationsandmade
someattempttoplaceitwithinthewholecontextofrelationsofhegemonywithinthesociety.
Future shapes of cultural studies: directions

Myargumenthasbeenthattherearethreemainmodelsofculturalstudiesresearch:productionbased
studies,textbasedstudies,andstudiesoflivedcultures.Thisdivisionconformstothemainappearances
ofculturalcircuits,butinhibitsthedevelopmentofourunderstandingsinimportantways.Eachapproach
hasarationalityinrelationtothatmomentithasmostcloselyinview,butisquiteevidentlyinadequate,
even'ideological',asanaccountofthewhole.Yeteachapproachalsoimpliesadifferentviewofthe
politicsofculture.Productionrelatedstudiesimplyastruggletocontrolortransformthemostpowerful
meansofculturalproduction,ortothrowupalternativemeansbywhichacounterhegemonicstrategy
maybepursued.Suchdiscoursesareusuallyaddressedtoinstitutionalreformersortoradicalpolitical
parties. Textbased studies, focussing on the forms of cultural products, have usually concerned the
possibilitiesofatransformativeculturalpractice.Theyhavebeenaddressedmostoftentoavantgarde
practitioners,criticsandteachers.Theseapproacheshaveappealedespeciallytoprofessionaleducators,
incollegesorschools,becauseknowledgesappropriatetoradicalpracticehavebeenadapted(notwithout
problems)toaknowledgeappropriatetocriticalreaders.Finally,researchintolivedcultureshasbeen
closelyassociatedwithapoliticsof'representation'upholdingthewaysoflifeofsubordinatedsocial
groupsandcriticisingthedominantpublicformsinthelightofhiddenwisdoms.Suchworkmayeven
aspiretohelptogivehegemonicornoncorporateturnstoculturesthatareusuallyprivatised,stigmatised
orsilenced.
It is important tostress that thecircuit has not been presentedas an adequate account of cultural
processesorevenofelementaryforms.Itisnotacompletedsetofabstractionsagainstwhichevery
partialapproachcanbejudged.Itisnotthereforeanadequatestrategyforthefuturejusttoaddtogether
the three sets of approaches, using each for its appropriate moment. This would not work without
transformationsofeachapproachand,perhaps,ourthinkingabout'moments'.Foronethingthereare
somerealtheoreticalincompatibilitiesbetweenapproaches;foranother,theambitionsofmanyprojects
arealreadylargeenough!Itisimportanttorecognisethat
108Whatisculturalstudies?
eachaspecthasalifeofitsowninordertoavoidreductions,but,afterthat,itmaybemoretransformativetorethink
eachmomentinthelightoftheothers,importingobjectsandmethodsofstudyusuallydevelopedinrelationtoone
momentintothenext.Themoments,thoughseparable,arenotinfactdiscrete,thereforeweneedtotracewhatMarx
wouldhavecalled'theinnerconnections'and'realidentities'betweenthem.
Thoseconcernedwithproductionstudiesneedtolookmoreclosely,forexample,atthespecificallycultural
conditionsofproduction.Thiswouldincludethemoreformalsemiologicalquestionsaboutthecodesandconven
tionsonwhichatelevisionprogramme,say,draws,andthewaysinwhichitreworksthem.Itwouldalsohaveto
includeawiderrangeofdiscursivematerialsideologicalthemesandproblematicsthatbelongtoawidersocialand
politicalconjuncture.Butalready,intheproductionmoment,wewouldexpecttofindmoreorlessintimaterelations
withthelivedcultureofparticularsocialgroups,ifonlythatoftheproducers.Discursiveandideologicalelements
wouldbeusedandtransformedfromtheretoo.'Already'then,inthestudyoftheproductionmoment,wecan
anticipatetheotheraspectsofthelargerprocessandpreparethegroundforamoreadequateaccount.Similarlywe
needtodevelop,further,formsoftextbasedstudywhichhookupwiththeproductionandreadershipperspectives.
Itmaywellbe,intheItaliancontext,wheresemiologicalandliterarytraditionsaresostrong,thatthosearethemost
importanttransformations.Itispossibletolookforthesignsoftheproductionprocessinatext:thisisoneuseful
wayoftransformingtheveryunproductiveconcernwith'bias'thatstilldominateddiscussionof'factual'media.It
isalsopossibletoreadtextsasformsofrepresentation,provideditisrealisedthatwearealwaysanalysinga
representationofarepresentation.Thefirstobject,thatwhichisrepresentedinthetext,isnotanobjectiveeventor
fact,buthasalreadybeengivenmeaningsinsomeothersocialpractice.Inthiswayitispossibletoconsiderthe
relationship,ifany,betweenthecharacteristiccodesandconventionsofasocialgroupandtheformsinwhichthey
arerepresentedinasoapoperaorcomedy.Thisisnotmerelyanacademicexercise,sinceitisessentialtohavesuch
anaccounttohelpestablishthetext'ssalienceforthisgrouporothers.Thereisnoquestionofabandoningexisting
formsoftextanalysis,butthesehavetobeadaptedto,ratherthansuperseding,thestudyofactualreaderships.
Thereseemtobetwomainrequirementshere.First,theformalreadingofatexthastobeasopenorasmulti
layeredaspossible,identifyingpreferredpositionsorframeworkscertainly,butalsoalternativereadingsand
subordinatedframeworks,evenifthesecanonlybediscernedasfragments,orascontradictionsinthedominant
forms.Second,analystsneedtoabandononceandforall,bothofthetwomainmodelsofthecriticalreader:the
primarilyevaluativereading(isthisagood/badtext?)andtheaspirationtotextanalysisasan'objectivescience'.
The problem with both models is that by derelativising our acts of reading they remove from selfconscious
consideration(butnotasanactivepresence)ourcommonsenseknowledgeofthelargerculturalcontextsand
possiblereadings.Ihavealreadynotedthedifficultieshere,butwantalsotostresstheindispensabilityofthis
resource.Thedifficultiesaremetbest,butnotwhollyovercome,when'theanalyst'isagroup.Manyofmymost
educative
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?109
momentsinculturalstudieshavecomefromtheseinternalgroupdialoguesaboutthereadingsoftexts
across,forexample,genderedexperiences.Thisisnottodenytherealdisciplinesof'close'reading,inthe
senseofcareful,butnotinthesenseofconfined.
Finally,thoseconcernedwith'concrete'culturaldescriptioncannotaffordtoignorethepresenceoftext
likestructuresandparticularformsofdiscursiveorganisation.Inparticularweneedtoknowwhatdistin
guishesprivateculturalforms,intheirbasicmodesoforganisation,fromthepublicforms.Inthiswaywe
mightbeabletospecify,linguisticallyforexample,thedifferentialrelationofsocialgroupstodifferent
mediaforms,andtherealprocessesofreadingthatareinvolved.
Ofcourse,thetransformationofparticularapproacheswillhaveeffectsonothers.Iflinguisticanalysis
takes account of historical determinations, for example, or provides us with ways of analysing the
operationsofpower,thedivisionbetweenlanguagestudiesandconcreteaccountswillbreakdown.This
goesfortheassociatedpoliticstoo.Atthemomenttherearefewareassoblockedbydisagreementand
incomprehensionastherelationshipbetweenavantgardetheoristsandpractitionersoftheartsandthose
interestedinamoregrassrootsentrythroughcommunityarts,workingclasswriting,women'swriting
andsoon.Similarly,itishardtoconvey,justhowmechanical,howunawareofculturaldimensions,the.
politicsofmostleftfractionsremain.IfIamrightthattheoriesarerelatedtoviewpoints,wearetalking
notjustoftheoreticaldevelopments,butaboutsomeoftheconditionsforeffectivepoliticalalliancesas
well.
Notes
1.1bispaperisarevisedandexpandedversionoftalksgivenattheDepartmentofEnglishatIstitutoUniversitario
OrientaleinNaplesandattheUniversityofPalermoinApril1983.IamgratefultocolleaguesatNaples,Palermo,
PescaraandfromBariforfruitfuldiscussionsaroundthethemesraisedhere.Inrevisingthispaper,Ihavetriedto
respondtosomecomments,especiallythoseconcerningquestionsaboutconsciousnessandunconsciousness.Iam
gratefultoIidiaCurti,LauradiMicheleandMarinaVitaleforencouragingtheproductionofthispaperandadvising
onitsform,totheBritishCouncilforfundingmyvisit,andtofriendsandstudents(notmutuallyexclusive
categories)atBirminghamforbearingwithverymanydifferentversionsof'thecircuit'.2.ThekeytextsareRichard
Hoggart,TheUsesofLiteracy(PenguinBooks,1958);RaymondWilliams,CultureandSociety(PenguinBooks,
1958);RaymondWilliams,TheLongRevolution(PenguinBooks,1961).3.ForastillusefulsummaryofCCCS
responsestoAlthusser,seeMcLennan,MolinaandPeters,'Althusser'stheoryofideology'inCCCS,OnIdeology
(Hutchinson,1978).4.See,forexample,Hall,LumleyandMcLennan,'Politicsandideology:Gramsci'inOn
Ideology.ButGramsci'stheorisationsareamainpresenceinmuchoftheempiricalworkfromtheCentrefromthe
mid1970s.5.SeeMcLennan,MethodologiesandRichardJohnson,'ReadingforthebestMarx:historywritingand
historicalabstraction'inCCCS,MakingHistories:StudiesinHistoryWritingandPolitics(Hutchinson,1982).6.
Thesearedifficulttorepresentbibliographically,butkeypointsaremarkedby
110Whatisculturalstudies?
CCCSWomen'sStudyGroup,WomenTakeIssue(Hutchinson,1978);CCCS,TheEmpireStrikesBack
(Hutchinson,1982).SeealsotheseriesonwomenandonraceinCCCSstencilledpapers.7.Thisisnotanew
criticismbutgivenfreshforcebythe1970ssalienceofrace.See
PaulGilroy,'Policeandthieves'inEmpireStrikesBack,esp.pp.14751.8.Someofthese,atanearlystage,are
discussedinWomenTakeIssue,butthereisneedforareallyfullandconsolidatedaccountofthetransformationsin
culturalstudiesstemmingfromfeministworkandcriticism.SeealsoAngelaMcRobbie,'Settlingaccountswithsub
cultures',ScreenEducation34(Spring,1980)andthearticlesbyHazelCarbyandPratibhaParmarinEmpireStrikes
Back.9.See,forexample,StuartHall,'Someparadigmsinculturalstudies',Anglistica(1978);StuartHall,'Cultural
studies:twoparadigms',Media,CultureandSociety2{1980)(reprintedhereasChapter2andreprintedinpartin
TonyBennettetal.(eds),Culture,IdeologyandSocialProcess[OpenUniversityandBatsford,1981]),andthe
introductoryessaysinHall,Hobson,LoweandWillis(eds),Culture,MediaandLanguage(Hutchinson,1980).
TheseessaysarehighlycompressedversionsoftheMATheoryCourseatCCCSwhichStuartHalltaughtand
whichcomprisedacomprehensivetheoreticalmappingofthefield.Seealsomyownattemptsattheoretical
clarification,muchinfluencedbyStuart's,especiallyinClark,CritcherandJohnson(eds),WorkingClassCulture
(Hutchinson,1979).10.RaymondWilliams,CultureandSocietyandtheentryinKeywords(Fontana,
1976).11.Foradiscussionof'generalhistorical'abstractioninMarx,seeJohnson,'Best
Marx',p.172.12.Thediagramisbased,initsgeneralforms,onareadingofMarx'saccountofthecircuitof
capitalanditsmetamorphoses.Foranimportantandoriginalaccountofthis,andofrelatedquestions(e.g.
fetishism)seeVictorMolina,'Marx'sargumentsaboutideology',MLittThesis(UniversityofBirmingham,1982).
ThisthesisiscurrentlybeingrevisedforsubmissionasaPhD.AlsoimportantisStuartHall,'Encoding/decoding'in
Culture,Media,Language.13.IamafraidthisillustrativecaseislargelyhypotheticalsinceIhavenocontactsinside
BritishLeylandmanagement.Anyresemblancetopersonslivingordeadisentirelyfortuitousandapureinstanceof
thepoweroftheory!14.Thisisthedivisionbetween'structuralist'and'culturalist'approachesStuartHallandI,
amongothers,havealreadydiscussed,butnowintheformof'objects'andmethods,ratherthan'paradigms'.See
sourceslistedinnote9aboveandaddRichardJohnson,'Historiesofculture/theoriesofideology:notesonan
impasse',inBarrettetal.(eds),IdeologyandCulturalProduction(CroomHelm,1979).15.Mythinkingon'the
publicandtheprivate'ismuchinfluencedbycertainGermantraditions,especiallydiscussionsaroundJiirgen
Habermas'workon'thepublicsphere'.Thisisnowbeinginterestinglypickedup_andusedinsomeAmericanwork.
SeeJiirgenHabermas,Strukturwandel
~er

Offentlichkeit(Neuweid,Berlin,1962);OskarNegt
andAlexanderKluge,Offentlichkei!.undErfahrung:ZurOrganisationsanalysevonBurgerlicherund
proletarischerOffentlichkeit(FrankfurstamMain,1972).ForanextractofNegtandKluge'swork,seeA.Matterlart
andS.Siegelaub(eds),CommunicationandClassStruggle,Vol.2.16.PaulWillis,'Shopfloorculture,masculinity
andthewageform'inClarke,
CritcherandJohnson(eds),WorkingClassCulture.17.Thereisaverylargesociologicalliteratureontheseforms
ofstigmatisation,StuartespeciallyHallofettheal.,deviantPolicingyoung.theCrisis:Fora'Mugging',cultural
developmenttheStateandofLawthisandwork,Ordersee
(Macmillan,1978).Formoresubtleformsofmarginalisation,seeCCCSMedia
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?111
Group,'Fightingoverpeace:representationsoftheCampaignforNuclearDisarmamentinthemedia',CCCS
SteniclledPaper72.ForcurrenttreatmentoftheleftandthetradeunionsintheBritishmedia,seethesequenceof
studiesbytheGlasgowMediaGroup,startingwithGlasgowUniversityMediaGroup,BadNews(Routledge&
KeganPaul,1976).StanleyCohenandJockYoung(eds),TheManufactureofNews(Constable,1973)wasa
pioneercollection.18.AmongthebestclosestudiesofthiskindarePhilipElliott,TheMakingofaTelevision
Series:ACaseStudyintheSociologyofCulture(Constable/Sage,1972);PhilipSchlesinger,Putting'Reality'
Together:BBCNews(Constable/Sage,1978);JeremyTunstall,JournalistsatWork(Constable,1971);Dorothy
Hobson,CrossroadsMethuen,1982).19.Theformsof'politicalorganisation'wereoftennotspecifiedinMarxor
inthetheoristswhofollowedhim,uptoandincluding,inmyview,Lenin.ForLenin,itseemstome,cultural
politicsremainedamatteroforganisationand'propaganda'inquitenarrowsenses.20.Althusser'sexceptionsof
'art'fromideologyareaninstanceofthepersistanceofthisviewwithinmarxism.Itisinterestingtocompare
Althusser'sandGramsci'sviewsof'philosophy'heretoo,Althussertendingtothespecialistacademicor'high
cultural'definition,Gramscitothepopular.21.IthinkthepredominantreceptionofGramsciinBritainis'anti
Leninist',especiallyamongthoseinterestedindiscoursetheory.ButitmaybethatCCCSappropriation
underestimatesGramsci'sLeninismtoo.IamgratefultoVictorMolinafordiscussionsonthisissue.22.See,for
instance,theworkofGrahamMurdockandPeterGoldingonthepoliticaleconomyofthemassmedia:e.g.
'Capitalism,communicationandclassrelations'inCurranetal.(eds},MassCommunicationandSociety(Arnold,
1977};GrahamMurdock,'Largecorporationsandthecontrolofthecommunicationsindustries'inGurevitchetal.
(eds),Culture,SocietyandtheMedia(Methuen,1982};foramoreexplicitlypolemicalengagementwithCCCS
work,seeGoldingandMurdock,'Ideologyandthemassmedia:thequestionofdetermination'inBarrattetal.(eds},
IdeologyandCulturalProduction.Forareply,seeI.Connell,'Monopolycapitalismandthemedia:definitionsand
struggles'inS.Hibbin(ed.},Politics,IdeologyandtheState(Lawrence&WIShart,1978).23.Theseclaimshave
theirproximateorigininAlthusser'sstatementthatideologieshaveamaterialexistence.ForaclassicEnglish
statementofthiskindof'materialism',seeRosalindCowardandJohnEllis,LanguageandMaterialism:
DevelopmentsinSemiologyandtheTheoryoftheSubject(RoutledgeandKeganPaul,1977).Thisisrather
differentfromMarx'sargumentthatunderparticularconditionsideologiesacquirea'materialforce'orGramsci's
elaborationofthisintermsoftheconditionsofpopularity.24.Thisappliestoawiderangeofstructuralistandpost
structuralisttheoriesfromPoulantzas'sargumentsagainstclassreductionistnotionsofideologytothemoreradical
positionsofBarryHindessandPaulHirstandothertheoristsof'discourse'.25.InthisrespectIfindmyselfatodds
withmanystrandsinculturalstudies,includingsomeinfluentialones,whichoptforanexpandeduseofideology
ratherintheBolsheviksenseorinthemoreLeninistofAlthusser's(several)uses.Ideologyisapplied,inOxford's
importantpopularculturecourse,forinstance,totheformationofsubjectivitiesassuch.Ifstretchedthus,Iwould
arguethatthetermlosesitsusefulness'discourse','culturalform',etc.,woulddoquiteaswell.Onthewhole,Iwish
toretainthe'negative'or'critical'connotationsoftheterm'ideology'inclassicmarxistdiscourse,thoughnot,
112Whatisculturalstudies?
asithappens,theusualaccompaniment,a'hard'notionofmarxismasscience.Itmaywellbethatallourknowledgeoftheworld
andallourconceptionsoftheselfare'ideological',ormoreorlessideological,inthattheyarerenderedpartialbytheoperation
ofinterestsandofpower.Butthisseemstomeapropositionthathastobeplausiblyarguedinparticularcasesratherthan
assumedatthebeginningofeveryanalysis.Theexpanded,'neutral'senseofthetermcannotaltogetherlaytoresttheolder
negativeconnotations.TheissuesareinterestinglystatedintheworkofJorgeLarrain.SeeMarxismandIdeology(Macmillan,
1983)andTheConceptofIdeology(Hutchinson,1979).26.SeeespeciallyTheodoreAdorno,'Onthefetishcharacterofmusic
andtheregressionoflistening'inAAratoandE.Gebhardt(eds),FrankfurtSchoolReader(Blackwell,1978);T.W.Adornoand
M.Horkheimer,DialectsofEnlightenment(AllenLane,1973);WaltGBenjamin,'Theworkofartinanageofmechanical
reproduction'inIlluminations(Fontana,1973).27.'Fetishcharacterofmusic',pp.28788.Laterhegivesslightlymorerounded
picturesoftypesofconsumptionofpopularmusic,butevenhisfans'dancingresembles'thereflexesofmutilatedanimals'(p.
292).28.Formoredevelopedcritiques,seeDickBradley,'Introductiontotheculturalstudyofmusic',CCCSStencilledPaper
61;RichardMiddleton,'Readingpopularmusic',OxfordPopularCultureCourseUnit,Unit16,Block4(OpenUniversityPress,
1981).29.CCCSEducationGroup,UnpopularEducation:SchoolingandSocialDemocracyin
Englandsince1944(Hutchinson,1981).30.TheanalysisofThatcherismhascontinuedtobeoneofStuartHall'smajor
concerns.SeetheveryimportantessaysrepublishedinStuartHallandMartinJacques(eds),ThePoliticsofThatcherism
(Lawrence&Wishart/MarxismToday,1983).'TheGreatMovingRightShow',writtenbeforethe1979election,provedtobe
especiallyperceptive.31.ParticularlyusefulintroductionsinEnglishtothesecombinedimpactsareSylviaHarvey,May1968
andFilmCulture(BFI,1980);TonyBennett,FormalismandMarxism(NewAccents,Methuen,1979).32.See,forinstance,the
workofagroupof'criticallinguists'initiallybasedontheUniversityofEastAnglia,especially:R.Fowleretal.,Languageand
Control(RoutledgeandKeganPaul,1979}.IamespeciallygratefultoGuntherKress,whospentsomemonthsattheCentre,and
toUtzMaasofOsnabrockUniversityforveryfruitfuldiscussionsontherelationshipoflanguagestudiesandculturalstudies.
SeealsoUtzMaas,'Languagestudiesandculturalanalysis',paperforaConferenceonLanguageandCulturalStudiesatCCCS,
December1982.33.Muchofthisworkremainsunpublished.IverymuchhopethatoneofthenextCCCSbookswillbea
collectiononromance.Inthemeantime,seeEnglishStudiesGroup,'Recentdevelopments'inCulture,Media,Language',Rachel
Harrison,'Shirley:romanceandrelationsofdependence'inCCCSWomen'sStudiesGroup,WomenTakeIssue;Angela
McRobbie,'Workingclassgirlsandfeminity'.ibid.;MyraConnell,'Readingandromance',unpublishedMAdissertation
(UniversityofBirmingham,1981);ChristineGriffin,'Culturesoffeminity:romancerevisited',CCCSStencilledPaper69;Janice
Winship,'Womanbecomesanindividual:feminityandconsumptioninwomen'smagazines',CCCSStencilledPaper65;Laura
diMichele,'TheRoyalWedding',CCCSStencilledPaper,forthcoming.34.Muchofthisworkisinconnectionwiththeworkof
thePopularMemoryGroupinCCCStowardsabookonthepopularityofConservativenationalism.Iamespeciallygratefulto
LauradiMicheleforhercontributioninopeningupthese
Whatisculturalstudiesanyway?113
questionsinrelationto'epic',andtoGrahamDawsonfordiscussionsonmasculinity,war,andboyculture.35.
EspeciallythosedevelopingoutoftheworkofM.A.K.Hallidaywhichincludesthe'criticallinguistics'group.For
Halliday,seeGuntherKress(ed.),Halliday:SystemandFunctioninLanguage(OxfordUniversityPress,1976).36.
Seeespeciallythelong,largelyunpublishedcritiqueofScreenbytheCCCSMediaGroup,197778.Partsofthis
appearinStuartHalletal.(eds),Culture,Media,Language,15773.37.Itakethistobethecommonmessageofa
greatrangeofwork,someofitquitecriticalofstructuralistformalism,onthesubjectofnarrativeinliterature,film,
television,folktale,myth,historyandpoliticaltheory.Iaminthemiddleofmyownreadinglist,delvingintothis
materialfromaquiteunliterarybackground.MystartingpointsaretheoriesofnarrativeingeneralcompareRoland
Barthes,'Introductiontothestructuralanalysisofnarratives'inStephenHeath(ed.),BarthesonImage,Music,Text
(Fontana,1977)andFredricJameson,ThePoliticalUnconscious:NarrativeasaSociallySymbolicAct(Methuen,
1981),butIammostinterestedinwork,atalesserlevelofgenerality,thatspecifiesthetypesofgenresofnarrative.
HereIhavefoundmuchstimulusinworkonfilmicortelevisualnarratives,seeespeciallythetextscollectedin
TonyBennettetal.(eds),PopularTelevisionandFilm(BFI/OpenUniversity,1981),butalsoon'archetypal'genre
formsepic,romance,tragedy,etc.asinNorthropFrye,AnatomyofCriticism(PrincetonUniversityPress,1957).
Myparticularconcerniswiththestorieswetellourselvesindividuallyandcollectively.Inthisrespecttheexisting
literatureis,sofar,disappointing.38.RolandBarthes,Mythologies(Paladin,1973),p.112.39.BywhichImean
'poststructuralism'intheusualdesignation.Thisseemstobearathermisleadingtagsinceitishardtoconceiveof
latesemiologywithoutearly,orevenFoucaultwithoutAlthusser.40.TonyBennett,'JamesBondaspopularHero',
OxfordPopularCultureCourseUnit,Unit21,Block5;'Textandsocialprocess:thecaseofJamesBond',Screen
Education41(Winter/Spring,1982).41.'Fightingoverpeace:representationsofCNDinthemedia',CCCS
Stencilled
Paper72.42.Thisprojectisnotyetcompleted;provisionaltitle:'JingoBells:thepublicand
theprivateinChristmasmedia1982'.43.Thistermhasbeenusedtodistinguish'structuralist'and'post
structuralist'semiologies,withtheincorporationofemphasesfromLacanianpsychoanalysisasanimportant
watershed.44.TherelationofScreen'stheorytoBrechtandEisensteinisratherodd.Characteristically,quotations
fromBrechtweretakenasstartingpointsforadventureswhichledtoquiteotherdestinationsthanBrecht'sown
thinking.See,forexample,ColinMacCabe,'Realismandthecinema:notesonsomeBrechtiantheses'inBennettet
al.(eds),PopularTelevisionandFilm.45.'Thecinematicinstitutionisnotjustthecinemaindustry(whichworksto
fillcinemas,nottoemptythem),itisalsothementalmachineryanotherindustrywhichspectators"accustomedto
thecinema"haveinternalisedhistoricallyandwhichhasadaptedthemtotheconsumptionoffilms.'C.Metz,'The
imaginarysignifier',Screen16(2)(Summer,1975),p.18.46.WhatfollowsowesmuchtotheCCCSScreencritique
citedabove(note36).47.Thereseemtobetworatherdistinctapproachestoreadingor'audiences',theonean
extensionofliteraryconcerns,theothermoresociologicalinapproachandoftengrowingoutofmediastudies.I
findDavidMorley'sworkinthisareaconsistentlyinterestingasanattempttocombinesomeelementsfromboth
sets
114Whatisculturalstudies?
ofpreoccupations,thoughIagreewithhisownassessmentthattheCentre'searlystartingpoints,especiallythe
notionsof'hegemonic','negotiated'and'alternative'readingswereexceedinglycrude.SeeDavidMorley,The
NationwideAudience(BFI,1980);'TheNationwideaudience:apostcript',ScreenEducation39(Summer,1981).
48.Seethefamousanalysisintermsof'scopophilia'inLauraMulvey,'Visual
pleasureandnarrativecinema',Screen16(3)(Autumn,1975).49.Isitsignificant,forinstance,thatBarthes
doesnotmention'internal'narrativeinhisviewoftheomnipresenceofthenarrativeform,ImageMusicText(Rou
tledge,1977),p.79.Doesthisabsencesuggestalargerstructuralistdifficultywithinnerspeech?50.Theideasof
thelastfewparagraphsarestillintheprocessofbeingworkedoutintheCCCSPopularMemoryGroup.Forsome
preliminaryconsiderationsaboutthecharacteroforalhistoricaltexts,seePopularMemoryGroup,'Popular
memory:theory,politics,method'inCCCS,MakingHistories.IhavefoundsomeoftheessaysinDanielBertaux,
BiographyandSociety:TheLifeHistoryApproachintheSocialSciences(Sage,1981)usefultoarguewith,
especiallyAgnesHankiss,'Ontologiesoftheself:onthemythologicalrearrangingofone'slifehistory'.51.Someof
thebestandmostinfluentialworkinculturalstudieshasbeenbasedonpersonalexperienceandprivatememory.
RichardHoggart'sTheUsesofLiteracyisthemostcelebratedexample,but,ingeneral,studentsofcultureshould
havethecouragetousetheirpersonalexperiencemore,moreexplicitlyandmoresystematically.Inthissense
culturalstudiesisaheightened,differentiatedformofeverydayactivitiesandliving.Collectiveactivitiesofthis
kind,attemptingtounderstandnotjust'common'experiencesbutrealdiversitiesandantagonisms,areespecially
important,iftheyi:anbemanaged,andsubjecttothecaveatswhichfollow.52.ThisisforcefullyarguedbyPaul
Jonesin"'Organic"Intellectualsandthe
GenerationofEnglishCulturalStudies',ThesisEleven5/6,1982,85124.53.SeeDaveMorleyandKen
Worpole(eds),TheRepublicofLetters:WorkingClassWritingandLocalPublishing(Comedia,1982).Foramore
externalandcriticalview,see'Popularmemory'inMakingHistories.AlsoinstructiveisthedebatebetweenKen
Worpole,StephenYeoandGerryWhiteinRaphaelSamuel(ed.),People'sHistoryandSocialistTheory(Routledge
andKeganPaul,1981).54.SomeCCCSworkisnotexemptfromthisdifficulty.Someofthesecriticismsapply,for
instance,toResistancethroughRituals,especiallypartsofthetheoreticaloveniiews.55.Whatfollowsisbased,in
rathertoocompositeawayperhaps,ontheworkofPaulWillis,AngelaMcRobbie,DickHebdige,ChristineGriffin,
andDorothyHobsonandondiscussionswithotherethnographicresearchersintheCentre.SeeespeciallyPaul
Willis,LearningtoLabour,PaulWillis,ProfaneCulture(RoutledgeandKeganPaul,1978);AngelaMcRobbie,
'Workingclassgirlsandfemininity'andDorothyHobson,'Housewives:isolationasoppression',inWomenTake
Issue:DickHebdige,SubcultureRoutledge,1979);ChristineGriffin,CCCSStencilledPapers69and70.Foranall
toorarediscussionofmethodinthisarea,seePaulWillis,'Notesonmethod'inHalletal.,Culture,Media,
Language.
6
British cultural studies and television
JohnFiske
Thetermculture,asusedinthephrase'culturalstudies',isneitheraestheticnorhumanistinemphasis,but
political.Cultureisnotconceivedofastheaestheticidealsofformandbeautyfoundingreatart,orin
morehumanisttermsasthevoiceofthe'humanspirit'thattranscendsboundariesoftimeandnationto
speaktoahypotheticaluniversalman(thegenderisdeliberatewomenplaylittleornoroleinthis
conceptionofculture).Cultureisnot,then,theaestheticproductsofthehumanspiritactingasabulwark
against thetideof grubby industrial materialism andvulgarity, but rather a wayof living withinan
industrialsocietythatencompassesallthemeaningsofthatsocialexperience.
Culturalstudiesisconcernedwiththegenerationandcirculationofmeaningsinindustrialsocieties.(The
studyofcultureinnonindustrialsocietiesmaywellrequireadifferenttheoreticalbase,thoughClaude
LeviStrauss'sworkhasprovedofvalueinstudyingthecultureofbothtypesofsociety).Butthetradition
developedinBritaininthe1970snecessarilyfocusedoncultureinindustrialsocieties.InthischapterI
shalldrawlargelyupontheworkdoneattheUniversityofBirmingham'sCentreforContemporary
CulturalStudies(CCCS)underStuartHall,withsomeJOurnal~ferencesScreen.totheTheworks
culturalofRaymondstudiesdevelopedWilliamsandatthethoseCCCSappearingisessentiallyinthe
Marxist inthe traditions of Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci, though this Marxism is inflected
sometimeswithastructuralistaccent,sometimeswithanethnographicone.
SomebasicMarxistassumptionsunderlieallBritishworksincultural~tudies.AsMimiWhite(1992)
notes,theystartwiththebeliefthatmean~
andthemakingofthem(whichtogetherconstituteculture)areindivisiblylinkedtosocialstructureand
canonlybeexplainedintermsofthatstructureanditshistory.Correlatively,thesocialstructureisheldin
placeHansays,by,among'Asetotherofforces,socialthemeaningsthatcultureproduces;asStuart
relationsobviouslyrequiresmeaningsand~orksmgs.arenotonlywhichmeaningsunderpinofthem
socialandexperience,holdthembutinalsoplace'.1meaningsTheseofm.eanself,that
IS,

constructionsofsocialidentitythatenablepeoplelivinginindustrial
116Whatisculturalstudies?
capitalistsocietiestomakesenseofthemselvesandtheirsocialrelations.Meaningsofexperienceand
meaningsofthesubject(orself)whohasthatexperiencearefinallypartofthesameculturalprocess.
Alsounderlyingthisworkistheassumptionthatcapitalistsocietiesaredividedsocieties.Theprimary
axisofdivisionwasoriginallythoughttobeclass,thoughgenderandracehavenowjoineditasequally
significant producers of social difference. Other axes of division are nation, age group, religion,
occupation, education, political allegiance, and so on. Society, then, is not an organic whole but a
complexnetworkofgroups,eachwithdifferentinterestsandrelatedtoeachotherintermsoftheirpower
relationshipwiththedominantclasses.Socialrelationsareunderstoodintermsofsocialpower,interms
ofastructureofdominationandsubordinationthatisneverstaticbutisalwaysthesiteofcontestation
andstruggle.Socialpoweristhepowertogetone'sclassorgroupinterestservedbythesocialstructure
asawhole,andsocialstruggleor,intraditionalMarxistterms,theclassstruggleisthecontestationof
thispowerbythesubordinategroups.Inthedomainofculture,thiscontestationtakestheformofthe
struggleformeaning,inwhichthedominantclassesattemptto'naturalize'themeaningsthatservetheir
interestsintothe'commonsense'ofsocietyasawhole,whereassubordinateclassesresistthisprocessin
variouswaysandtovaryingdegreesandtrytomakemeaningsthatservetheirowninterests.Some
feministworkprovidesaclearexampleofthisculturalstruggleandcontestation.AngelaMcRobbieand
LisaLewis,forinstance,bothshowhowyounggirlsareabletocontestthepatriarchalideologystructured
intosuchfilmsasFlashdanceorthepopstarsMadonnaandCindyLauperandproducefemininereadings
ofthem.2
The attempt of the dominant classes to naturalize their meanings rarely, if ever, results from the
consciousintentionofindividualmembersofthoseclasses(thoughresistancetoitisoften,thoughnot
always, both conscious and intentional). Rather, it must be understood as the work of an ideology
inscribedintheculturalandsocialpracticesofaclassandthereforeofthemembersofthatclass.Andthis
bringsustoanotherbasicassumption:cultureisideological.
The cultural studies tradition does not view ideology in its vulgar Marx ist sense of 'false
consciousness',forthathasbuiltintoittheassumptionthatatrueconsciousnessisnotonlypossiblebut
will actually occur when history brings about a proletarian society. This sort of idealism seems
inappropriatetothelatetwentiethcentury,whichappearstohavedemonstratednottheinevitableself
destructionofcapitalismbutitsunpredicted(byMarx)abilitytoreproduceitselfandtoincorporateinto
itselftheforcesofresistanceandopposition.Historycastsdoubtsonthepossibilityofasocietywithout
ideology,inwhichpeoplehaveatrueconsciousnessoftheirsocialrelations.
Structuralism,anotherimportantinfluenceonBritishculturalstudies,alsodeniesthepossibilityofa
trueconsciousness,foritarguesthatrealitycanonlybecomprehendedthroughlanguageorothercultural
meaning systems. Thus the idea of an objective, empirical'truth' is untenable. Truth must always be
understoodintermsofhowitismade,forwhom,andat
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision117
whattimeitis'true'.Consciousnessisnevertheproductoftruthorrealitybutratherofculture,society,
andhistory.
AlthusserandGramsciwerethetheoristswhoofferedawayofaccommodatingbothstructuralism
(and,incidentally,Freudianism)andthehistoryofcapitalisminthetwentiethcenturywithMarxism.For
Althusser,ideologyisnotastaticsetofideasimposeduponthesubordinatebythedominantclassesbut
ratheradynamicprocessconstantlyreproducedandreconstitutedinpracticethatis,inthewaysthat
peoplethink,act,andunderstandthemselvesandtheirrelationshiptosociety.3Herejectstheoldideathat
the economic base of society determines the entire cultural superstructure. He replaces this
base/superstructuremodelwithhistheoryofoverdetermination,whichnotonlyallowsthesuperstructure
toinfluencethebasebutalsoproducesamodeloftherelationshipbetweenideologyandculturethatis
notdeterminedsolelybyeconomicrelations.Attheheartofthistheoryisthenotionofideologicalstate
apparatuses(ISAs),bywhichhemeanssocialinstitutionssuchasthefamily,theeducationalsystem,
language,themedia,thepoliticalsystem,andsoon.Theseinstitutionsproduceinpeoplethetendency
tobehaveandthinkinsociallyacceptableways(asopposedtorepressivestateapparatusessuchasthe
policeforceorthelaw,whichcoercepeopleintobehavingaccordingtothesocialnorms).Thesocial
norms, or that which is socially acceptable, are of course neither neutral nor objective; they have
developedintheinterestsofthosewithsocialpower,andtheyworktomaintaintheirsitesofpowerby
naturalizing them into the commonsense the only social positions for power. Social norms are
ideologicallyslantedinfavorofaparticularclassorgroupofclassesbutareacceptedasnaturalbyother
classes,evenwhentheinterestsofthoseotherclassesaredirectlyopposedbytheideologyreproducedby
livinglifeaccordingtothosenorms.
Socialnormsarerealizedinthedaytodayworkingsoftheideologicalstateapparatuses.Eachoneof
theseinstitutionsis'relativelyautonomous',accordingtoAlthusser,andtherearenoovertconnections
betweenitandanyoftheothersthelegalsystemisnotexplicitlyconnectedtotheschoolsystemnorto
themedia,forexampleyettheyallperformsimilarideologicalwork.Theyareallpatriarchal;theyare
all concerned with the getting and keeping of wealth and possessions; and they all endorse the
individualismandcompetitionbetweenindividuals.ButthemostsignificantfeatureofISAsisthatthey
all present themselves as socially neutral, as not favoring one particular class over any other. Each
presentsitselfasa~rincipledinstitutionalizationofequality:thelaw,themedia,andeducationallclaim,
loudlyandoften,totreatallindividualsequallyandfairly.Th~factthatthenormsusedtodefineequality
and fairness are those denved from the interests of the white, male, middle classes is more or less
adequatelydisguisedbytheseclaimsofprinciple,thoughfeminists~dthoseworkingforracialandclass
harmonymayclaimthatthisdisguisecanbetornoffwithrelativeease.
Althusser'stheoryofoverdeterminationexplainsthiscongruencebetweenthe'relativelyautonomous'
institutions by looking not to their roots in a common, determining economic base but to an
overdeterminingnetworkofideologicalinterrelationshipsamongallofthem.Theinstitutions
118Wlultisculturalstudies?
appearautonomousonlyattheofficiallevelofstatedpolicy,thoughthebeliefinthis'autonomy'is
essentialfortheirideologicalwork.Attheunstatedlevelofideology,however,eachinstitutionisrelated
toalltheothersbyanunspokenwebofideologicalinterconnections,sothattheoperationofanyoneof
themis'overdetermined'byitscomplex,invisiblenetworkofinterrelationshipswithalltheothers.Thus
theeducationalsystem,forexample,cannottellastoryaboutthenatureoftheindividualdifferentfrom
thosetoldbythelegalsystem,thepoliticalsystem,thefamily,andsoon.
Ideologyisnot,then,astaticsetofideasthroughwhichweviewtheworldbutadynamicsocial
practice, constantly in process, constantly reproducing itself in the ordinary workings of these
apparatuses.Italsoworksatthemicroleveloftheindividual.Tounderstandthisweneedtoreplacethe
ideaoftheindividualwiththatofthesubject.Theindividualisproducedbynature,thesubjectbyculture.
Theoriesoftheindividualconcentrateondifferencesbetweenpeopleandexplainthesedifferencesas
natural.Theoriesofthesubject,ontheotherhand,concentrateonpeople'scommonexperiencesina
societyasbeingthemostproductivewayofexplainingwho(wethink)weare.Althusserbelievesthatwe
areallconstitutedassubjectsinideologybytheISAs,thattheideologicalnormsnaturalizedintheir
practicesconstitutenotonlythesenseoftheworldforus,butalsooursenseofourselves,oursenseof
identity,andoursenseofourrelationstootherpeopleandtosocietyingeneral.Thusweareeachofus
constitutedasasubjectin,andsubjectto,ideology.Thesubject,therefore,isasocialconstruction,nota
naturalone.Abiologicalfemalecanhaveamasculinesubjectivity(thatis,shecanmakesenseofthe
worldandofherselfandherplaceinthatworldthroughpatriarchalideology).Similarly,ablackperson
canhaveawhitesubjectivityandamemberoftheworkingclassesamiddleclassone.
Theideologytheoryofthesubjectdiffersinemphasis,thoughnotfundamentally,fromthatdeveloped
inpsychoanalysisbyplacinggreateremphasisonsocialandhistoricalconditions,particularlythoseof
class.AlthusserdrewuponFreudiantheorytodevelophisideaofthesubject:AsAnnKaplannotes,
feminists too have used psychoanalytic theory, though much more sophisticatedly, to theorize the
genderedsubject.Thisgenderedsubjectismorerootedinpsychologicalprocesses,theideologicalsubject
ofAlthusserinhistoricalandsocialones.
Butboththeoriesstresstheroleplayedbythemediaandlanguageinthisconstantconstructionofthe
subject,bywhichwemeantheconstantreproductionofideologyinpeople.Althusserusesthewords
interpellationandhailingtodescribethisworkofthemedia.Thesetermsderivefromtheideathatany
language, whether it be verbal, visual, tactile, or whatever, is part of social relations and that in
communicatingwithsomeonewearereproducingsocialrelationships..
Incommunicatingwithpeople,ourfirstjobisto'hail'them,almostasifhailingacab.Toanswer,they
havetorecognizethatitistothem,andnottosomeoneelse,thatwearetalking.Thisrecognitionderives
fromsigns,carriedinourlanguage,ofwhomwethinktheyare.Wewillhailachilddifferentlyfroman
adult,amaledifferentlyfromafemale,someonewhose
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision119
statuSislowerthanoursdifferentlyfromsomeoneinahighersocialposition.Inrespondingtoourhail,
theaddresseesrecognizethesocialositionourlanguagehasconstructed,andiftheirresponseiscoopera
&ve,theyadoptthissameposition.Hailingistheprocessbywhichlanguageidentifiesandconstructsa
socialpositionfortheaddressee.Interpellationisthelargerprocesswherebylanguageconstructssocial
relationsforbothpartiesinanactofcommunicationandthuslocatestheJl\inthebroadermapofsocial
relationsingeneral.
Hailing is obviously crucial at the start of a 'conversation', though its ideological work continues
throughout.Look,forinstance,attheopeningstatementsoftheanchorandreporteronaUSnetwork
newsreportinApril1991:
Anchor:Thereisgrowingconcerntonightaboutthepossibleeconomicimpactthatanationwiderailroad
strikesetformidnighttonightposes.Theunionsandtherailroadsremaindeadlocked.WyattAndrews
bringsusuptodateonwhatPresidentBushandCongressmaydoaboutit.Reporter.Bymorning230000
railworkersmightnotbeworkingontherailroadandthestrikethreatensmillionsofAmericans.Justas
thousandsofcommutersmayfindnotrainleavingthestationbeginningtonightatmidnight.Theword
strikehailsusanantiunion,for'striking'isconstructedasanegativeactionbylaborunionsthat'threatens'
thenation.Byascribingresponsibilitytotheunions,thewordhidesthefactthatmanagementplayssome
role,possiblyevenagreaterone,inthedispute.Thereportopposestheunionsnottomanagementbutto
'therailroads'andthusexcludestheunionsfromthem.Thisexclusionoftheunionsfromtherailroads
allowstheunspokenmanagementtobecomesynonymouswiththem,andideologycontinuesitswork
byconstructingtherailroadsnotasanindustrybutasanationalresourceandsousesthemasametonym
forthenationand,byextension,of'us'.Recognizingourselvesinthenational'us'interpellatedhere,we
participateintheworkofideologybyadoptingtheantiunionsubjectpositionproposedforus.
developedastheitemprogresses:
Thissubjectasideologyis
PassengerA:Gas,miles,time.Thehighwaysaregoingtobepacked.Notmuch
wecando,though.PassengerB:I'mgoingtostayhome.I'vegotanofficeinmyhomeandI'm
goingtojuststaythereandwork.Reporter:Butthecommuterinconvenienceisnothingcomparedtotheimpactonfreighttrains.
Uptohalfamillionindustrialjobsmaybeatstake.~ethers~carryit'smorecarsfreightintheheartlandthaneitherortrucks
chemicalsorairplanes,inKansasCity,meaningtherailroadsthatthestrikerecession.
wouldthreatentheheartofindustrialAmericaintheheartofthis
Rtlilr~dOfficiJZl:Ifwedon'tgetthisstrikesettledquicklyalotmorepeopleare
g~mgthiseconomy'stobeoutrecoveryofwork,isalotgoingmoretoproductbesetbackisnotimmensely.
goingtobeshippedand
Reporter:Negotiationsmeanwhileseemtobeatbedrockbottom,onwages,onhealthcare,andthenumberofworkerspertrain.
Bothsidesevenlatetoday
120Whatisculturalstudies?
wereonoppositetracks.Theunionscomplaintherailroadblockedraisesandstonewalledthenegotiationsforthree
years.Therailroadsaccusetheunionsofprotectinglegionsofworkerswhoessentiallydonothing.
RtlilroadOfficial:Theissuewithourunionisbetweenwhoworksandwhowatches.That'stheissueof
whetherwehaveexcesspeopleinthecabwhodon'thaveanythingtodo.Thenational'we'isconstructed
ashardworkingproducersatthepersonallevelbythepassengersandattheindustriallevelbythe
reporter.Therepeateduseofthe'heart'metaphornotonlymakes'America'intoaliving,breathingbody
(liketheone'we'inhabit),butitconstructstheunionsasapotentiallylethaldisease,ifnotastiletto
wieldingassassin!Therailroadofficialcontinuestoconflate'therailroads'(bywhichhemeans'the
management')withthenationalsubjectofthehardworkingproducer.
Sofar,thedisputehasbeencastsolelyintermsofthebadeffectstheunionshaveuponthisnational
'us',andonlyinthereporter'snextsegmentdowereceiveahintthattherearecausesofthedisputethat
maybothjustifyitandimplicatemanagementinit.Thesehintsareleftfloating,sowehavenowayof
assessingthereasonablenessofthewageclaims,forinstance.Thegeneralizedterms'onwages,onhealth
care,onthenumberofworkerspertrain'contrastwiththeconcreterealitiesof230000unionistsnot
workingandofthemillionsofAmericans,thousandsofcommuters,anduptohalfamillionjobsthatare
threatened.Wemightliketothinkabouttheideologicalpracticeofnotallowingtheunionstospeakfor
themselves 'live', but of putting their case into the words of the reportermanagement'us'. Unionists
wouldnot,forinstance,describetheirnegotiatingopponentsas'therailroads',notwouldtheycategorize
theirargumentsasmere'complaints'whileaccordingmanagement'sthestrongerstatusof'accusations'.
Thenewsitemconcludesbycontinuingtheideologicalpracticethatbynowseemssonaturaland
familiar:
Reporter:Whatexactlyhappensinthemorning?Ifyouareacommuter,checklocally.SomeAmtrakand
commutertrainswillbeoperatingandsomeoftheunionssaytheywillstrikeonlyfreightlinesandnot
passengertrains.InWashington,watchCapitolHill.TomorrowPresidentBushislikelytoaskCongress
toimposeasolution:themove,theunionssay,playsrightintotherailroad'shands.Theunionshaveall
alongwamedtherailroadswouldstallthenegotiationsandforcetonight'sstrikeallinthesnugbeliefthat
Congresswouldbailthemout.AsMimiWhite(1992)pointsout,thisviewofideologyasaprocess
constantlyatwork,constructingpeopleassubjectsinanideologythatalwaysservestheinterestsofthe
dominantclasses,foundpowerfultheoreticalsupportinGramsci'stheoryofhegemony.Originally,
hegemonyreferredtothewaythatonenationcouldexertideologicalandsocial,ratherthanmilitaryor
coercive,poweroveranother.However,culturaltheoriststendtousethetermtodescribetheprocessby
whichadominantclasswinsthewillingconsentofthesubordinateclassestothesystemthatensurestheir
subordination.Thisconsentmustbeconstantlywonand
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision121
rewon,forpeople'smaterialsocialexperienceconstantlyremindsthemofthedisadvantagesofsubordinationand
thusposesaconstantthreattothedominantclass.LikeAlthusser'stheoryofideology,hegemonydoesnotdenotea
staticpowerrelationshipbutaconstantprocessofstruggleinwhichthebiggunsbelongtothesideofthosewith
socialpower,butinwhichvictorydoesnotnecessarilygotothebiggunsor,atleast,inwhichthatvictoryisnot
necessarilytotal.Indeed,thetheoryofhegemonyforegroundsthenotionofideologicalstrugglemuchmorethan
doesAlthusser'sideologicaltheory,whichattimestendstoimplythatthepowerofideologyandtheISAstoform
thesubjectinwaysthatsuittheinterestsofthedominantclassisalmostirresistible.Hegemony,ontheotherhand,
posits a constant contradiction between ideology and the social experience of the subordinate that makes this
interfaceintoaninevitablesiteofideologicalstruggle.Inhegemonictheory,ideologyisconstantlyupagainstforces
ofresistance.Consequentlyitisengagedinaconstantstrugglenotjusttoextenditspowerbuttoholdontothe
territoryithasalreadycolonized.
Thisdefinitionofcultureasaconstantsiteofstrugglebetweenthosewithandthosewithoutpowerunderpinsthe
mostinterestingcurrentworkinculturalstudies.Earlierworkinthetraditiontendedtoshowhowthedominant
ideology reproduced itself invisibly and inevitably in the formsof popular television.4 Hall'sinfluential essay
'Encoding/ decoding'isoftenseenasaturningpointinBritishcultural studies,foritintroducestheideathat
televisionprogramsdonothaveasinglemeaningbutarerelativelyopentexts,capableofbeingreadindifferent
waysbydifferentpeople.5Hallalsosuggeststhatthereisanecessarycorrelationbetweenpeople'ssocialsituations
andthemeaningsthattheymaygeneratefromatelevisionprogram.Hethuspostulatesapossibletensionbetween
thestructureofthetext,whichnecessarilybearsthedominantideology,andthesocialsituationsoftheviewers,
whichmaypositionthematoddswiththatideology.Readingorviewingtelevision,then,becomesaprocessof
negotiationbetweentheviewerandthetext.Useofthewordnegotiationissignificant,foritimpliesboththatthere
isaconflictofintereststhatneedstobereconciledinsomewayandthattheprocessofreadingtelevisionisonein
whichthereaderisanactivemakerofmeaningsfromthetext,notapassiverecipientofalreadyconstructedones.
Halldevelopedhistheoryofthe'preferredreading'toaccountforthisconflictofinterests.Hepostulatesthree
broadreadingstrategiesproduced~ythreegeneralized,notmaterial,socialpositionsthatpeoplemayoccupym
relation to the dominant ideology. These are the dominant, the negotiated, ~d the oppositional. The dominant
readingisproducedbyaviewer~1tuatedtoagreewithandacceptthedominantideologyandthesubjectiv~~~tit
produces.Anegotiatedreadingisoneproducedbyaviewerwhofitsmtothedominantideologyingeneralbutwho
needstoinflectitlocallytotakeaccountofhisorhersocialposition.Thisinflectionmaycontainelementsof
resistancederivingfromtheperceptionofareasofconflictbetweentheconstructionsofthedominantideologyand
theviewer'smoremateriallybasedconstructionofsocialexperience.Andfinallytherearereadingsproducedby
thosewhosesocialsituationputsthemintodirect
122Whatisculturalstudies?
oppositionwiththedominantideologythesereadingsaretermedoppositional.
ThepreferredreadingtheoryproposesthatTVprogramsgenerallypreferasetofmeaningsthatworkto
maintainthedominantideologiesbutthatthesemeaningscannotbeimposed,onlypreferred.Readers
whose social situations lead them to reject all or some constructions of the dominant ideology will
necessarilybringthissocialorientationtotheirreadingoftheprogram.
Suchnegotiationsofmeaningoccurnotonlywithspecificprogramsbutalsowithgenres,forexample
thatoftheactiondetectiveshow(fordecadescommononUStelevision),whichIproposetocall'muscle
drama'.Iwouldincludeinthisgenresuchhitsofthe1970sand1980sasStarskyandHutch,TheA
Team,andMagnum,P.I.,aswellasmorerecentvariants,suchasSimonandSimon,Hunter,andJake
andtheFatman.Adominantreaderofthegenrewouldfindpleasureinitbecauseitreproducesinhim/her
asubjectpositionthatfitseasilyintothedominantideology,bolstersthatideologyasanadequatewayof
makingsenseoftheworld,andthereforeaffirmsthesubjectpositionasthenaturalonefromwhichto
viewtheworld.Thetypicalmaleherocanbeseenasliterallyembodyingpatriarchalcapitalism.The
ideologyworksboththroughtheprogressandresolutionofeachweek'snarrativeandthroughtheframe
ofthatnarrativethatis,thoseelementsoftheprogramthatareconsistentfromweektoweek.Theyare
not part of the conflict to be resolved in each episode and therefore form the basic, uninspected
assumptions, or common sense, through and in which the dominant ideology naturalizes itself. The
dominantideologyworksinanumberofoverlappingspecificideologies:masculinity,individualism,
competition, all merge 'naturally' into the general (that is, the dominant) ideology of patriarchal
capitalism.
Thisisamasculinegenre,dominatedbymaleheroes.Malenessisafactofnature,butmasculinityisa
culturalconstraintthatgivesmeaningtomalenessbyopposingittofemininity.ShereHiteinvestigated
men'sopinionsofwhatmakesamanaman.Thelistofcharacteristicsshegeneratedbeganwithsuch
qualities as selfassurance, lack of fear, the ability to take control, autonomy and selfsufficiency,
leadership, depend ability, and achievement. These qualities work along two main avenues: self
sufficiency,whichstressestheabsenceofaneedtodependonothers;andassertiveness,expressedasthe
ability to lead others and to influence events and most readily experienced in performance and
achievement.6 Freudian explanations of how masculinityis achievedinchildhoodpoint to the boy's
rejectionofhisdesireforhismotherbecauseitputshiminapositionofrivalrywithhisfather.Hethen
identifieswithhisfatherinordertogainaccesstomasculinepowerandauthority.Thepricehepays,
however,istheguiltproducingrejectionofhismotherandtheconsequentsuppressioninhimselfofthe
femininecharacteristicsthatthreatenmalepowerandindependence.Thesecharacteristicsareessentially
onesofnurturingandofintimacy.Theabsenceofwomenfromsignificantrolesinmostmuscledrama
represents the suppression and devaluation of feminine characteristics in patriarchal constructions of
masculinity.
Likeallideologicalconstructs,masculinityisconstantlyunderthreatit
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision123
canneverrestonitslaurels.Thethreatscomeinternallyfromitsinsecurebasesintherejectionofthe
mother(andtheguiltthatthisinspires)andthesuppressionofthefeminine,andexternallyfromsocial
forces,whichmayvaryfromtheriseofthewomen'smovementtothewaythattheorganizationofwork
deniesmanymentheindependenceandpowerthattheirmasculinityrequires.Thusmasculinity
constantlyhastobereachieved,rewon.Thisconstantneedtoreachievemasculinityisoneoftheunder
lyingreasonsforthepopularityofthefrequenttelevisiondisplayofmaleperformance.Masculinityforms
alinkbetweenmuscledramaandpornography.For,asAndrewtoperformanceinthisMoyecase,the
pointsperformanceout,pornographyofthepenis.reduces7Inamasculinitypatriarchy,masculinitymust
beabletocopewithanysituation;itbecomeslessaconstructionofmanthanofsuperman.Itisthe
perpetualgapbetweentheactualmaleperformanceandthesupermaleperformanceproposedby
patriarchythattheseprogramsarestrivingtoclose.Similarly,itisthegapbetweenthepenisandthe
rhallusthatpornographystrivestoclose.Thepenisisthenaturalsignomaleness;thephallusisthe
culturalsignofmasculinitythetotalityofmeanings,rights,andpowerthatacultureascribesto
maleness.Hencetheseshows,intheirroleas'masculinedefiners',arefullofphallicsymbols,particularly
gunsasagentsofmalepower(thinkhowrareitisforafemaleon1Vtouseagunsuccessfully,
particularlytokillamale).Theyarealsofullofmachinery,particularlycars,asextensionsofthe
masculinebodyinpowerful,spectacularaction.
Thismalepowermustbetemperedwithnotionsofdutyandservice;itmustbeusedintheinterestof
theweakorofthenation.Ifusedforpersonalgain,itbecomesthemarkofthevillain.Somasculine
powerinvolvesbothexertingandsubmittingtoauthority.Thisisoneofthereasonswhythemaleteamor
duoissuchapopularformationofthemasculinehero,andwhythisheroformationsocommonlyworks
onthesideof,butintensionwith,aninstitutionofofficialauthority.Anotherreasonisthatthemale
bondinginherentinsuchaformationallowsforanintimacythatexcludesthethreatofthefeminine.
Feminineintimacycentersontherelationshipitselfandproducesadependenceontheotherthatthreatens
masculineindependenceconsequently,anywomanwhoattractsaherohastoberejectedattheendof
theepisode.Malebonding,ontheotherhand,allowsaninterpersonaldependencythatisgoalcen~ered,
notrelationshipcentered,andthusservesmasculineperformancemsteadofthreateningit.The
heroteamalsocompensatesformaleinsecurity:anyinadequaciesofoneteammemberarecompensated
bythestrengthsofanother,sotheteamsbecomecompositeconstructionsofmasculinity.Allthetraits
embodiedinonemanwouldmakehimintoanunbelievablesuperman,andideologycloselyconnected
tofantasythoughitbehastobegroundedincredibility,thatis,inaconventionalconstructionofthe
realistic.Ifitwerenot,itwouldbeunabletoworkon,andbeputtoworkby,theviewers.
Ihaveconcentratedonhowtheideologyofmasculinityisactivelyat~o~kinthemuscledrama.Itis
comparativelyeasytoseehowthismerges~~tinguishablytition,andaformintoofthe'social
overlappingDarwinism'ideologiesthatproposesofindividualism,thatmoralitycompeis
124Whatisculturalstudies?
alwaysonthesideofeventualwinners.Theseideologies,intum,mergeintoaparticularconstructionof
AmericanandWesternnationalismarightwingversionofthenationthatseesitasmasculine(exerting
intheinternationalspherepoweroverothersintheserviceoftheweakorofahighermorality),basedon
competitiveindividualismandsocialDarwinism.Suchanideologyserves,atthebroaderlevel,tolink
this genre with the rehabilitation of the Vietnam war that occurred during the 1980s. Heroes like
Magnum,T.J.Hooker,oneoftheSimonbrothers,andthewholeATeamdevelopedtheirmasculinityin
Vietnam.TheirpopularitywaspartoftheremasculinizationofReagan'sAmericaafterits'softness'under
Carter and served to underwrite ideologically Reagan's Grenada 'rescue' and, more recently, Bush's
invasionsofPanamaandIraq.Ideologically,thisgenreasitdevelopedinthe1980sworkedtoground
problematicpoliticalactsinthemuchlessquestionedandthereforemorenaturalseemingconstruction
ofmasculinity.
Thegenericheroteamisconventionallyconstructedtoembody,notjusttheideologiesofmasculinity
andnation,butalsotheoverlappingonesofrace.InMagnum,P.I.,forinstance,T.C.,thedriver/pilotand
engineering expert, represented masculinity as physical power and its mechanical extensions. His
blackness(likethatofB.A.inTheATeam,whoperformedasimilarideologicalrole)introducesthe
racialdimension:physicalpowermaybethebasisofmasculinity,butbecauseitneedsleadershipand
socialcontroltobeacceptable,itthereforerankslowinthehierarchyofmasculinetraits.Itisnoticeable
howoftentheheroteamcontainsanonwhiteinasubordinateposition,fromAhabandQueequegin
MobyDick,throughtheLoneRangerandTonto,tothetelevisionheroteamsofIronside,TheATeam,
andMagnum,P.I.InStarskyandHutch,Starsky,thedarkJewishone,wasthedriver;Hutch,theblond,
collegeeducatedAryan,wastheleader.Theirsuperiorofficermayhavebeenblack,but,asisoftenthe
case, theroleoftheofficialsuperiorwas narrativelysubordinatedtothe heroteam. InMillmi Vice
Crocketwasblondandwhite,whilehispartnerTubbswasablacklookingcocktailofnonwhiteraces.
Thereaderwhosesocialpositionisoneofeasewiththedominantideology,whoworkswiththegenre,
willuseitsforegroundedideologytoreaffirmhis(genderdeliberate)ideologicalframe,throughwhichhe
views the world and makes sense of both himself and his social experi ence. In responding to the
program'sinterpellation,headoptsthesubjectpositionitconstructsforhim.Althusser'saccountofthe
powerofthedominantideologyworkingthroughlanguageandtextstoconstructthereaderasasubjectin
ideologycanreallyonlyaccountforHall's'dominantreading'.Gramsci'snotionofhegemony,withits
emphasis on thedominant ideology's constant struggle to win the consent of the subordinate andto
incorporate or diffuse oppositional forces, underlies Hall's next two read ing strategies those that
producenegotiatedandoppositionalreadings.
A negotiated readingis one that inflects the dominant ideology toward the social experience of a
particularviewinggroup.Thus,boyswatchingamuscledramamightconcentrateontheperformance
side.Theirsocialsituationdeniesthemtheabilitytoexertthepower(eitherphysically,becausetheir
bodiesarestillimmature,orsocially,becauseoftheirlow
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision125
hierarchical position in the family or school) that society tells them they should if they are to be
'masculine'.WeknowthatB.A.,themuscularblackdriverandmechanicinTheATeam,wasparticularly
popularwithwhiteyouths.Presumablytheyforegroundedhisstrength,engineeringexpertise,andlow
rankintheheroteamoverhisraceandthereforemadesenseofhissubordinatepositionasawayof
articulatingtheirsubordinationinsociety,notthepowerlessnessofblacksinawhitehegemony.Black
youths,however,wouldhavebeenmorelikelytouseB.A.'sblackness,hisstrengths,andthegoldchains
healwayswore(whichMrTsaidweresymbolsofhispeople'sslavery)tomakesenseoftheirconstant
struggletoassertandextendtheirownpositioninsociety.
Femaleviewersofthegenrewillalsonegotiateittowardtheirinterests.Thephysicalattractivenessof
Hunter,Jake,Magnum,orCrockettmaybereadasanintegralpartoftheirprotectionoftheweak.Their
rejectionofintimacywithanyonewomanwouldnotbeseenasalatentrecognitionofwomen'sthreatto
masculinity, nor as arepresentationof the suppression of the feminine in the masculine psyche and
thereforeofthesubordinationofwomeninapatriarchalsociety(forthetwoarestructuralreflectionsof
eachother).Itwouldratherbeseenasameansofmaintainingtheirmasculinefreedomtoserveall
womenandprovidethemwiththesecurityandjusticethattheirmaterialsocialpositionmaydenythem.
Masculinityinheroeslikethesecanberead,then,notastheembodimentofmasculineoppressionin
patriarchy,butasthepatriarchalagentthatrightsthewrongsandcorrectsthedeficienciesofthesystemin
practice.
Thesesortsofnegotiatedreadingsareonesproducedbyideologicallycooperativereaderswhoread
'with'thestructuresofthetextandseektomatchtheirsocialexperienceswiththeideologyinthetext.
Actually,theyproducealmostdominantreadings,whichmayleadustospeculatewhetherthe'pure'
dominant reading is ever achieved. There is probably no one audience group positioned in perfect
ideologicalcentrality.Allgroupswillneedto'shift'thetextslightlytofittheirsocialpositions,inwhich
caseallreadingsbecome,asHoraceNewcombsuggests,negotiatedones.8Butifthisisso,itisstill
valuabletorecognizethatnegotiatedreadingscanoccuronascalestretchingfromtheideologically
centraltothedeviant.Thusamachoteenager,atthepointofmaximumoppositiontoauthority,mayread
theviolenceinthegenreasjustifiedmasculinitythatoverridesthe'weakness'ofitsuseintheserviceof
theweakorof'naturalj~tice'.Suchareadingmayseethefailureofthepoliceorofficialauthontiesasa
criticismofthemandofthesocietytheystandfor,andinthisway~y
veertowardtheoppositionalbecauseitplaysdownthecontextualIdeologieswithinwhichthatof
masculinityoperatesandfromwhichitacquiresitssocialandmoralacceptability.
Readingsatthisendofthescalestopbeingnegotiatedandbecome?Ppositionalwhentheygo'against'the
texttodeconstructthedominantIdeo~ogy.Thus,afeministcouldreadthegenreasablatantdisplayof
patriarchalchauvinismandhowitsellsitselftosociety.ThisreadingWouldproduce,notpleasure(except
thewrypleasureofrecognizingthatannoyancepatriarchycouldisbeupusedtotoitsincitetricks
politicalyetagain),action,buteitherannoyance.intheformThatof
U6Wlultisculturalstudies?
consciousnessraisingormoredirectly.Similarly,ablackactivistcouldfindthesubordinatepositionof
T.C.,B.A.,andTubbsintheheroformationaperfectexampleofwhitehegemonyatworkandaspurto
furtheroppositionalpractice.
We have already traced the dominant or preferred reading of the TV news report on the railroad
dispute.Anoppositionalreading,possiblybyanAmtrakbluecollarworker,mightreadinthemediated
versionsoftheunioncasewhathasbeenrepressedordistortedandwouldthusmakesenseofthestory
notasanaccountofthedisputebutasarepresentationof'whatweunionistsarealwaysupagainstinthis
society'.
Anegotiatedreading,however,mightpickupthesamehintsbutwouldusethemtomeansomething
like,'Ibetthere'smoretothisthanthey'retellingushere:Amtrakmanagementisnotexactlythemost
efficientorprogressiveinthecountry'.Althoughsuchareadingdoesnotacceptthepreferredreadingof
thestory,neitherdoesitchallengethedominantideologythatsuchareadingprefers.Itnegotiatesa
positionforthisspecificoccasion.
The typical reading of television is probably, as Newcomb argues, a negotiated one.9 This is an
underlyingassumptionoftheculturalstudiesapproach.Forifoursocietyisseennotashomogeneousbut
asastructureofdifferentinterestgroups,andiftelevisionistoappealtoalargenumberofpeopleinour
society,thenitfollowsthatthetelevisionaudiencemustnotbeseenasahomogeneousmassbutasamix
ofsocialgroups,eachinadifferentrelationshiptothedominantideology.Howevercomplexanddifficult
it might be to describe these relationships, they can always be placed on a scale that ranges from
acceptancetooppositiontothedominantideology.Thetelevisiontextcanonlybepopularifitisopen
enoughtoadmitarangeofnegotiatedreadingsthroughwhichvarioussocialgroupscanfindmeaningful
articulationsoftheirownrelationshipstothedominantideology.Anytelevisiontextmust,then,be
polysemictoacertainextent,forthestructuredheterogeneityoftheaudiencerequiresacorrespondingly
structuredheterogeneityofmeaningsinthetext.Theheroteamisasignificantideologicalformation
here,asitprovidesforagreater'openness'thanthesinglehero.Itsgreatervarietyofopportunitiesfor
identificationenablesvarioussocialgroupstonegotiateappropriatepointsofentryintothedominant
ideology.
Thispolysemyisneverfreebutisconstrainedandstructured,foritexistsalwaysagainstthedominant
ideology,whichworkstocloseoffalternateorresistingmeaningsandtohomogenizethepreferredones
arounditsowninterests.MikhailBakhtin'stheoryofheteroglossiaisanattempttoexplainthisprocess.10
Bakhtinanalyzesthedifferencebetweenheteroglossicormultitonguedtexts,whichcontainthemany
voicesofsubordinatedgroups,andmonoglossicormorehomogeneousones,whichcarryonlythevoice
ofthedominant.Heusesthemetaphorofaspinningwheeltoillustratethedifference:atthecenterisa
relativelyhomogeneoushubofdominationandcontrol,andaroundthecircumferencearemultiple,het
erogeneous points of subordination that form potential points of resistance. Centripetal forces, those
tending toward the center, are ones of hegemony and domination working through homogenization,
whereascentrifugal
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision127
forces,thosetendingtowardthecircumference,areonesofresistanceanddifferenceworkingthrough
heterogeneity.Thetwoarealwaysopposedtoeachother,andtelevisiontextsareheldinanunstable
tensionbetweenthem.
Anearlierversionofthistheory,andonethathasbeenveryinfluentialinBritishculturalstudies,is
Valentin N. Volosinov's account of 'multiaccen tuality' .11 This theory proposes that the prime
determinantofthemeaningofasignisthesocialcontextofitsuseandnot,asstructuralismargues,its
relationshiptoothersignsinthestructureofasignsystem.
Incapitalismthesocialcontextofasign'suseistypicallyoneofsocialstruggle,sothemeaningofthe
signbecomespartofthatsocialstruggle.Thesamewordcanbespokenindifferent'accents'accordingto
whoisusingit,andthusto'accent'awordistoinflectitsmeaningwiththesocialinterestsofaparticular
groupagainstthoseofothers.Whenthewordniggerisaccentedbycontemporaryblackrapartistsintheir
musicvideos,totakeanexample,theyaregivingittheirmeaningsofblackness,racialsubordination,
and prejudice against the historically dominant white ones. In doing so, they are exploiting the
multiaccentualityofthesign'nigger'andarethuspoliticallyengaginginracialrelations.(Theyarealso,
incidentally,engaginginanotherstruggleformeaning,thistimewithinracerelationsbutacrossclass
relations,withthosewhoprefertobecalled'AfricanAmerican'andthosewhoprefertobecalled'black').
Thestruggleoverthesign'nigger'andthusovertheracialidentitiesandpoliticsofthosecategorizedby
itisamoreconfrontationalversionoftheracialstruggleengagedinbythepreviousgenerationoverthe
multiaccen tuality of 'black' in the 'black is beautiful' movement. It is not just a struggle over the
meaningsofawordbutoverwhohasthepowertocontrolthosemeanings.Thisisimportant,forthe
powertocontrolthemeaningofsocialexperienceisacrucialpartofcontrollingthesocialrelations,
identities,andbehaviorsofthose(bothblacksandwhites)involvedinthatexperience.Thesemiotic
struggledoesnotreflectthesocialstrugglebutispartofit.
Theinterestsofthesociallydominantareservedby'uniaccentuality',thatis,bylimitingthemeanings
ofasigntothosethatitbearswhenspokenwiththedominantaccent,therebytakingitoutoftherealmof
struggle.TheTVnewsreportanalyzedabove,forinstance,spokethewordrailroadswithamanagerial
accentandthusexcludedthedifferentandcontradictorymeaningsthataunionaccentwouldhavegiven
it.Again,socialandideologicaldominationisseentoworkthroughhomogeneity~dtheconstructionof
socialdifferencewithinthisunity.SoitisintheInterestsofdominantwhitestoconstructboththeblue
collarclassesandotherracesasdifferentfromandsubordinatetothemandtocontainthisdifference
withinahomogeneousideology.Theinterestsofsubordinate~ups,however,areservedbyexploiting
multiaccentualityorheteroglossut,forthisenablesthemto'speak'theirdifferencefromthedominant
positionintheiraccentsandtoengageinthestruggletomakesenseofsocialdifferenceintheirown
termsratherthansubmittingtothoseproposedandpreferredbythedominantgroup.
Animportantbodyofculturalstudiesworkhasderivedhomthe
128Whatisculturalstudies?
recognitionoftheheteroglossiaormultiaccentualityofTVtextsandtheheterogeneityofaudiences.Such
scholarsasDavidMorley,JohnComerandhiscolleagues,AngelaMcRobbie,andRobertHodgeand
DavidTripphavesetouttodiscoverhowactualaudiencegroupsactivelyusetelevisionaspartoftheir
ownculturesthatis,useittomakemeaningsthatareusefultotheminmakingsenseoftheirownsocial
experiencesandthereforeofthemselves.12Thesescholarsareinoppositiontotheothermainstrandof
British(andEuropean)studyofculture,whichiscenteredaroundthejournalScreenandhascometobe
knownasScreenTheory.ScreenTheorydrawsonacombinationofstructuralismandsemioticswith
psychoanalysisCI:JldMarxismtoarguethepowerofthetextovertheviewingsubjectandtoanalyze,
withgreattheoreticalsophistication,thetextualstrategiesthatoperatetopositiontheviewingsubject
within dominant ideology. David Morley has clearly elaborated the theoretical and methodological
differencesbetweenthetwoschools.13
MorleytestedHall'spreferredreadingtheoryinthefield.Hetookatelevisionprogramthatheand
CharlotteBrunsdonhadpreviouslysubjectedtodetailedculturalanalysis,showedittogroupsofpeople,
andthenhelddiscussionsontheirreactionstotheprogramanditsmeaningsforthem.14Heturnedto
groupsratherthanindividualsbecausehewasinterestedintheshared,andthereforesocial,dimensionsof
reading.Thegroupsweredefinedlargelybyoccupationbankmanagers,apprentices,students,trade
unionists,andsoonbecauseoccupationisaprimedefinerofsocialclass,andclasswas,inHall'stheory,
theprimeproducerofsocialdifferenceandthereforeofdifferentreadings.(AfewofMorley'sgroups,
however,weredefinedbygenderorraceblackunemployedwomen,forexample.)WhatMorleyfound
wasthatthepreferredreadingtheoryoveremphasizedtheroleofclassintheproductionofsemiotic
differencesandunderestimatedthevarietyofreadingsthatcouldbemade.Thusthereadingsshowed
someinterestingandunexpectedcrossclasssimilarities:bankmanagersandapprentices,forexample,
producedbroadlysimilarreadingsdespitetheirclassdifferences;so,too,didsomeuniversitystudents
andshopstewards.Wecouldexplaintheseapparentanomaliesbysuggestingthattheapprenticesand
bankmanagersweresimilarlyconstructedassubjectsofacapitalistideology,inthatbothwereinserting
themselvesintothedominantsystem(albeitatdifferentpoints)andthushadasharedinterestinits
survivalandsuccess.Someuniversitystudents(notall,byanymeans)andtradeunionofficials,however,
wereininstitutionsthatprovidedthemwithwaysofcriticizingthedominantsystemandtheythus
producedmoreoppositionalreadings.
Anotherinterestingexampleofclassdifferenceemergedasoneofthefindingsinarecentstudyby
JohnComer,KayRichardson,andNatalieFentononthewaysinwhichdifferentaudiencesreaddifferent
BritishTVprogramsdealingwithnuclearpowerinthewakeoftheChemobylexplosionintheSoviet
Union.15Themost'mainstream'oftheprogramscontainedreassurancesbywhitecoatedscientistsasto
thehighsafetystandardsofBritishinstallations.Middleclassandeducatedviewerstendedtoaccept
theseassurancesatfacevalue:someworkingclassviewers,however,weremuchmoreskepticaland
producedreadingsalongthe
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision129
lines of, 'Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? ' This skepticism is a product of the constant
experienceofclassdifferenceintheirworkadaylivesandwasbroughtfromtheretocontradictaTVtext
withastronglypreferredmeaning.Itwasasocialdiscourseinnegotiationwithatelevisualone.
Morley'sstudyledhimtodevelopatheoryofdiscourseratherthanoneofclasstoaccountforthe
differentreadingsoftelevision.Adiscourseisasociallyproducedwayoftalkingorthinkingabouta
topic.Itisdefinedbyreferencetotheareaofsocialexperiencethatitmakessenseof,tothesocial
locationfromwhichthatsenseismade,andtothelinguisticorsignifyingsystembywhichthatsenseis
bothmadeandcirculated.Whenthemediareport,astheytypicallydo,thatmanagement'offers'buttrade
unions'demand',theyareusingthemassmediadiscourseofindustrialrelations,whichislocatedina
middleclassposition.Theycouldequallywellreport(butneverdo)thattheunions'offered'toworkfor
an extra five percent, but management 'demanded' that they work for two percent. The consistent
ascriptionofthegenerous'offer'andthegrasping'demand'tomanagementandunions,respectively,is
clearevidenceofthesociallocationofthisparticulardiscourse.Adiscourse,then,isasociallylocated
wayofmakingsenseofanimportantareaofsocialexperience.
Atelevisiontextis,therefore,adiscourse(oranumberofdiscoursesifitcontainscontradictions),and
thereader'sconsciousnessissimilarlymadeupofanumberofdiscoursesthroughwhichshe/hemakes
senseofhis/hersocialexperience.Morleydefinesreadingatelevisiontextasthatmomentwhenthe
discoursesofthereadermeetthediscoursesofthetext.Readingbecomesanegotiationbetweenthesocial
senseinscribedintheprogramandthemeaningsofsocialexperiencemadebyitswidevarietyofviewers;
thisnegotiationisadiscursiveone.
ButnotallTVaudiencesreadallthediscoursesinaTVtext.Forinstance,astudyinwhichIwas
recentlyinvolvedshowedhowhomelessmenwatchedtelevisionintheirchurchshelter.16Theyrarely
watched broadcast television because the norms of domestic life and of work and leisure that were
structuredintotheregularbroadcastschedulewereirrelevanttothem;theyexpressedtheiroppositionto
thedominantideologybyavoidingexpressionsofit.Instead,theypreferredtowatchmoviesalmost
alwaysviolentonesontheVCR.Inviewingthese,theyopposedthedominantideology,orpreferred
reading,byavoidingthosepartsofthetextthatworkedactivelytopromoteitandbypayinggreater
attentiontothosepartsthatopposedit.So,whilewatchingDieHard,theycheeredenthusiasticallywhen
thevillainskilledthecompany'schiefexecutiveofficerandwhentheydestroyedapolicearmoredvehicle
anditsoccupants,buttheyswitchedoffthetapebeforetheend,whentheheroandthepoliceforce
restoredlawandorderandreconfirmedthedominantideology.
AlaterstudybyDavidMorleyfoundthatthewayinwhichTVwaswatchedwasassignificantasthe
readingsmadefromit.17Inthelowerclasshouseholdhestudied,Morleyfoundthattheprocessof
watchingTVwasakeysiteforthestrugglesofgenderpolitics.Themaleofthehouseholdtendedto
dominatetheselectionofviewingand,inparticular,tomonopolizetheremotecontrol.Heemployed
masculinevaluesinthis
130Wfultisculturalstudies?
selection,sothatprogramsappealingtomasculinetastes(onesthatshowed'reallife'outsidethehome
news,documentaries,sports,orthemasculinemuscledrama)wereseenas'better'thanonesappealingto
femininetastes(thoseconcernedwithpeopleandrelationships,suchassoapoperas).Healsoattemptedto
controltheconditionsofviewingandwouldshushhiswifeorchildreniftheydistractedhimwithnoise
orconversation.
Cultural studies sees thetelevisionexperience (that is,theentityconstitutedbythe textandthe
activityofviewingit)asaconstantdynamicmovementbetweensimilarityanddifference.Thedimension
ofsimilarityisthatofthedominantideologythatisstructuredintotheformsofprogramandiscommon
toalltheviewersfromwhomthatprogramispopular.Thedimensionofdifference,however,accounts
forthewidevarietyofgroupswhomustbereachediftheprogramistobepopularwithalargeaudience.
Thesegroupswillbepositionedtothedominantideologyindifferentways,andthesewayswillbe
paralleledinthedifferentreadingstheymakeoftheprogramandthedifferentwaysinwhichtheywatch
it.Theplaybetweensimilarityanddifferenceisonewayofexperiencingthestrugglebetweenhegemony
andresistance.
This emphasis on the reader and the struggle for meaning necessarily reduces the prime position
grantedtothetextbytheculturaltheoristsofthe1970s.Thetextcannolongerbeseenasaselfsufficient
entitythatbearseitherthedominantideologyoritsownmeaningandexertsasimilarinfluenceonallits
readers.Rather,itisseenasapotentialofmeaningsthatcanbeactivatedinanumberofways.Ofcourse,
thispotentialisproscribedandisthusneitherinfinitenorfree;thetextdoesnotdetermineitsmeaningso
muchasdelimitthearenaofthestruggleforthatmeaningbymarkingtheterrainwithinwhichitsvariety
ofreadingscanbenegotiated.Thisdiscursivenegotiationthatwenowunderstandreadingtobealso
meansthattheboundariesofthetextarefluidandunstable.RaymondWilliamssuggestedintheearly
seventiesthattelevisionwasnotadiscreteseriesofprogramsortextsbuta'flow'inwhichprograms,
commercials,newsbreaks,andpromotionalspotsallmergedintoacontinuousculturalexperience.More
recently,JohnHartleyhassuggestedthattelevisionisa1eaky'mediumwhosemeaningsconstantlyspill
overintootherareasoflife.18
AngelaMcRobbiehasalsoexploredthepermeabilityoftheboundarybetweentelevisionandother
formsofculturalexperience.Herstudyofgirlsanddanceshowsthatgirlsderivesimilarpleasureand
meaningsfromdancingindiscosandfromviewingfilmsandtelevisionprogramssuchasFlashdanceor
Fame.19 On one level of reading, the narrative form and pleasure of Flashdance clearly work
hegemonicallythefemalefactoryworkerusesherdancingskillstowinaplaceinaballetcompanyand
marrytheboss'sson.Intheprocessshedisplaysherbodyforpatriarchalpleasure;indeed,herbeautiful
bodyiscrucialtohersuccessfulmoveupthesocialhierarchy(frombreakdancingtoballetandmarrying
intomanagement).Women,sothehegemonicreadingwouldgo,arerewardedfortheirabilitytouse
theirbeautyandtalentstogivepleasuretomen.ButMcRobbiehasshownthatthisisnottheonly
reading.Shehasfoundamongteenagegirlsasetofmeaningsfordanceandfemalesexuality
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision131
that contest and struggle against the patriarchal hegemony. For these girls, dance is a form of
autoeroticism,apleasureintheirownbodiesandsexualitythatgivesthemanidentitynotdependentupon
themalegazeofapproval.Theirdiscourseofdancegivesacoherentmeaningtodancingindiscosorto
watching filmic and televisual representations of dance that asserts their subcultural identity and
differencefromtherestofsociety.Thismeaningisonethattheyhavemadeoutoftheculturalforms
providedforthembypatriarchy.
McRobbie'sstudyprecededthemovieandTVseriesDirtyDancingbysomeyears,butherfindings
andanalysisstillapplyifonemajordifferenceistakenintoaccount.DirtyDancingreversesthegender
politicsoftheclassrelationsbetweenheroandheroine.Inthisscenario,theheroisofalowerclassthan
theheroine,butitisstillthesociallysubordinatepersonwhousesthecontrolofhisbodyindancenot
only to assert his own social worth but also to overcome his subordination. The uppermiddleclass
heroinefinds,throughdancingandthroughherrelationswiththeworkingclasshero,anauthenticityof
identityandexperiencethatislackinginthemasqueradenecessaryforhertoconformtotheversionof
femininityproposedbyapatriarchial,bourgeoissociety.Exploringthestrategiesbywhichsubordinate
subcultures make their own meanings in resistance to the dominant is currently one of the most
productivestrandsofculturalstudies.
Madonna,whohasbeenamajorphenomenonofpopularcultureforalmostadecade,canprovideus
withagoodcasestudy.Hersuccesshasarguablybeenduelargelytotelevisionandtohermusicvideos;
mostcriticshavenothinggoodtosayabouthermusic,buttheyhavealottosayaboutherimage'the
Madonna look'. The simple view of her success would attribute it to her skill in manipulating her
sexualitytomakeasmuchmoneyaspossible,largelyfromoneofthemostpowerlessandexploitable
sectionsofthecommunityyounggirls.
But such an account is inadequate (though not necessarilyinaccurate as far as it goes) because it
assumesthatMadonnafansare,inStuartHall'sphrase,'culturaldupes',abletobemanipulatedatwilland
againsttheir?wninterestsbythemogulsofthecultureindustry.20Suchamanipulation1S
notonlyeconomicbutalsoideological,becausetheeconomicsystem~quires
theideologyofpatriarchalcapitalismtounderpinandnaturalizett;economicsandideologycan
neverbeseparated.Thereisplentyofevidencetosupportthisview,too.Madonna'svideosexploitthe
sexualityofherfaceandbodyandfrequentlyshowherinposturesofsubmission('BurningUp')or
subordinationtomen.AsAnnKaplanpointsout(kaplan,1992)Madonna'sphysicalsimilaritytoMarilyn
Monroeisstressed(particularlyinthevideoof'MaterialGirl'),anintertextualre~~cetoanotherstar
commonly thought to owe her success to her ability to embody masculine fantasies. All this would
suggestthatsheisteachingheryoungfemalefanstoseethemselvesasmenwouldseethemthatsuchis,
isansheagentishailingofpatriarchalthemasfemininehegemony.
subjectswithinpatriarchyandas
watch,Butiflistenherfansto,andarenotimitate'culturalMadonnadupes'ratherif,rather,thananyone
theyactivelyelsetherechoosemustto
132Whtltisculturalstudies?
beallowsomehergapsaudiencesorspacestoinmakeherimagemeaningsthatthatescapeconnect
ideologicalwithcontroltheirsocialand
experience.Formanyofheraudiences,thissocialexperienceisoneofpowerlessnessandsubordination,
andifMadonnaasasiteofmeaningisnottonaturalizethis,shemustofferopportunitiesforresistingit.
Her imagebecomes, then, not an ideological role model for younggirls in patriarchy, but a site of
semioticstrugglebetweentheforcesofpatriarchalcontrolandfeminineresistance,ofcapitalismandthe
subordinate,oftheadultandtheyoung.
Culturalstudies,initscurrentstateofdevelopment,offerstwooverlappingmethodologicalstrategies
thatcanusefullybecombinedtohelpusunderstandhowthisculturalstruggleoperates.Onederivesfrom
ethnographyandencouragesustostudythemeaningsthatthefansofMadonnaactuallydo(orappear
to)makeofher.Thisinvolveslisteningtothem,readingtheletterstheywritetofanmagazines,or
observing their beha viour at home or in public. The fans' words or behaviour are not, of course,
empiricalfactsthatspeakforthemselves;theyare,rather,textsthatneed'reading'theoreticallyinjustthe
samewayasthe'textsofMadonna'do.
Theotherstrategyderivesfromsemioticandstructuralisttextualanalysis.Thisstrategyinvolvesa
closereadingofthesignifiersofthetextthatis,itsphysicalpresencebutrecognizesthatthesignifieds
exist not in the text itself but extra textually, in the myths, countermyths, and ideologies of their
culture.21 It recognizes that the distribution of power in society is paralleled by the distribution of
meaningsintexts,andthatstrugglesforsocialpowerareparalleledbysemioticstrugglesformeanings.
Everytextandeveryreadinghasasocialandthereforeapoliticaldimension,whichistobefoundpartly
inthestructureofthetextitselfandpartlyintherelationofthereadingsubjecttothattext.
Itfollowsthatthetheoryinforminganyanlaysisalsohasasocialdimension,whichisanecessarypart
ofthe'meanings'thatanalysisreveals.Meanings,therefore,arerelativeandchangeaccordingtohistor
icalandsocialconditions.Whatisconstantisthewaysinwhichtextsrelatetothesocialsystem.A
culturalanalysis,then,willrevealthewayinwhichthedominantideologyisstructuredintothetextand
into the reading subject and those textual features that enable negotiated, resisting, or oppositional
readingstobemade.Culturalanalysisreachesasatisfactoryconclusionlocatedmeaningswhenthethat
ethnographicaremade

are
studiesrelatedoftothethehistoricallysemioticanalysisandsociallyofthetext.Semioticrelatesthe
structureofthetexttothesocialsystemtoexplorehowtheeconomicandideologicalsystemis
reproducedinthetextbutalsohowthepolysemyofthetextexceedsthisreproduction.Ethnographic
studiesshowushowthissemioticexcessisexploitedbyspecificaudiencesinspecificsocialconditions
astheystruggletomaketheirmeaningsinrelationshiptothosethatworktoreproducethepatriarchal
capitalistsystemencompassingboththetextanditsreaders.
ThusLucy,thena14yearoldAustralianfan,saidofanearlyMadonnaposter:'She'startyand
seductive...butitlooksalrightwhenshedoesit,yourightknow,tartyouwhatknow,Imean,butwithif
anyoneherit'selseOK,didit'sitacceptableitwouldlook....Withrightanyonetarty,a
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision133
elseitwouldbeabsoluteff,outrageous,itsoundssilly,butit'sOKwithher,youknowwhatImean.'We
can note a number of points here. Lucy could find only patriarchal words to describe Madonna's
sexuality'tarty'and'seductive'butshestruggledagainstthepatriarchyinscribedinthem.Atthesame
time she struggled against the patriarchy inscribed in her own subjectivity. The opposition between
'acceptable'and'absolutelyoutrageous'refersnotonlytorepresentationsoffemalesexualitybutisalso
anexternalizationofthetensionfeltbyadolescentgirlstryingtocometotermswiththecontradictions
betweenapositivefeminineviewoftheirsexualityandthealienpatriarchalonethatappearstobethe
only one offered by the available linguistic and symbolic systems. Madonna's 'tarty' sexuality is
'acceptable'buttowhom?Certainlytoheryoungfemalefanswhoareexperiencingtheproblemsof
establishing a satisfac tory sexual identity within an opposing ideology: at the moment when girls
becomeawareoftheirpotentialaswomen,patriarchyrushesintoassertitscontrolovertheiridentities
and social relations. At this moment, Madonna intervenes, for, as Judith Williamson points out, she
'retainsallthebravadoandexhibitionismthatmostgirlsstartoffwith,orfeelinside,untiltheonsetof
"womanhood"knocksitoutofthem'.23
FurtherevidencetosupporttheempowermentthatMadonnacanoffertogirlscomesfromthereactions
toherofsomeboys.Matthew,aged15andnotaparticularfanofMadonna,commentedthathewouldn't
liketobemarriedtoher'becauseshe'dgiveanyguyahardtime'.Matthewisnotuntypicalinhisopinion,
fora1990pollshowedthat,whenaskediftheywouldliketosleepwithMadonna,60percentoftheboys
questioneddeclined.Notsurprisingly,apowerfulfemaleincontrolofherownsexualityappealsmore
strongly to girls than to boys. As we shall see later, Madonna often denies or mocks patriarchy's
conventionsforrepresentingwomen.Thismightwellbewhy,accordingtoTime,manyboysfindher
sexinessdifficulttohandleand'suspectthattheyarebeingkidded'.24LucyandMatthewbothrecognize,
indifferentwaysandfromdifferentsocialpositions,thatMadonna'ssexualitycanofferachallengeora
threattodominantdefinitionsoffemininityandmasculinity.
'Madonna'sBestFriend',writingtothemusicmagazineCountdown,alsorecognizedMadonna's
resistancetopatriarchy:
I'mwritingtocomplainaboutallthepeoplewhowriteinandsaywhatatartandaslutMadonnaisbecauseshetalksopenly
aboutsexandsheshowsherbellybuttonandshe'snotashamedtosayshethinksshe'spretty.WellIadmireherandIthinkshe
hasalotofcouragejusttobeherself.Allyougirlsoutthere!Doyouthinkyouhaveniceeyesorprettyhairoranicefigure?Do
youevertalkaboutboysorsexwithfriends?Doyouwearabikini?Wellaccordingtoyou,you'reaslutandatart!!Sohaveyou
ju~ed
Madonnafairly?Madonna'sBestFriend,Wahroonga,NewSouthWales.

1hispraiseforMadonna's'couragejusttobeherself'isfurtherevidenceof!fledifficultygirlsfeelin
findingasexualidentitythatappearstobeformedli\
theirinterestsratherthaninthoseofthedominantmale.Madonnarecognizessomemightsay
overemphasizestheimportanceofsexual
134Whtltisculturalstudies?
identityindeterminingthesortofsocialrelationsweenterintoandthusthesocialexperiencewe
undergo:
People'ssexualityandthewaytheyrelatetotheworldisveryimportant....It'ssomuchmorethanjust
fornication.Yoursexualidentityissoimportant.Themoreyoupayattentiontoit,themoreyourealize
thatjustabouteverythingintheworldiscenteredaroundsexualattractionandsexualpower.Youalso
becomeawareofpeoplewhoarenotintouchwiththeirown,orhavethewrongideaaboutitorabuseit.
26Ifsomegirlsfeelthatpatriarchypromotesthe'wrongidea'oftheirsexualityandleadsthemto'abuse
it',thenMadonna'sinvitationtothemtoget'intouchwiththeirown'andtoconstructagenderidentity
(andthesocialrelationsthatgowithit)intheirowninterestsisapoliticallypositiveone.Herfansare
awarethatshedoesindeedofferthemthisinvitation:'She'ssexybutshedoesn'tneedmen....She'skind
ofthereallbyherself';or'Shegivesusideas.It'sreallywomen'slib,notbeingafraidofwhatguys
think.127
This sense of their own identity is never, of course, constructed freely by the girls, for it can be
achievedonlybystrugglingagainsttheidentityproposedbypatriarchy.Thisstruggle,thisfightingback,
canbeenjoyable,asevidencedbyastudentfaninanessay:
Thereisalsoasenseofpleasure,atleastformeandperhapsalargenumberofotherwomen,in
Madonna'sdefiantlookorgaze.In'LuckyStar'atonepointinthedancesequenceMadonnadancesside
ontothecamera,lookingprovocative.Foraninstantweglimpsehertongue:theexpectationisthatshe
isabouttolickherlipsinasexualinvitation.TheexpectationisdeniedandMadonnaappearstotuckher
tonguebackintohercheek.This,itseems,ishowmostofherdancingandgrovellinginfrontofthe
cameraismeanttobetaken.Sheissettingupthesexualidolizationofwomen.Forawomanwhohas
experiencedthisvictimization,thissetupismostenjoyableandpleasurable,whilethemalepositionof
voyeurisdisplacedintouncertainty.28But,likeallpopstars,Madonnahasher'haters'aswellasher
fans:'WhenIsitdownonaSaturdayandSundaynightIalwayshearthewordMadonnaanditmakesme
sick,allshe'sworriedaboutisherbloodylooks.Shemustspendhoursputtingonthatstuffandwhydoes
shealwaysshowherbellybutton?Weallknowshe'sgotone.Mywholefamilythinksshe'spatheticand
thatshelovesherself.PaulYoung'ssexysneakers.'29Hereagain,the'hate'centersonhersexualityand
herpaintinganddisplayingherselftoarousethebasersideofmanexpressedbydetractorsasher
presentingherselfinwhoreliketerms.Butthestingcomesinthelastsentence,whenthewriterrecognizes
Madonna'sapparentenjoymentofherownsexuality,whichhe(theletterisclearlyfromamasculine
subject,ifnotanactualmale)ascribestoegocentricityandthuscondemns.
Madonna'sloveofherself,however,isnotseenasselfishandegocentricbygirls;rather,itistheroot
ofherappeal,anditssignificancebecomesclearinthecontextofthewaytheyareaddressedbytherest
of the media. McRobbie has shown how the 'teenage press' typically constructs a girl's body, and
thereforehersexuality,asaseriesofproblems:breaststhewrongsizeorshape,spottyskin,lifelesshair,
fattythighs,problemperiods.The
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision135
listisendless,ofcourse,andtheadvertisers,theoneswhoreallybenefitfromthesemagazines,always
haveaproductthatpromisesatapricetosolvetheproblem.
Madonnaismuchlovedormuchhated,anotuntypicalpositionforwomantooccupyinpatriarchy,
whoseinabilitytounderstandwomenintheirowntermsisevidencedbythewayitpolarizesfemininity
intotheopposingconceptsofVirginAngelandWhoreDevil.
Madonnaconsciouslyandparodicallyexploitsthesecontradictions:'WhenIwastiny',sherecalls,'my
grandmotherusedtobegmenottogowithmen,toloveJesusandbeagoodgirl.Igrewupwithtwo
images of women: the virgin and the whore. It was a little scary.' She consistently refers to these
contradictorymeaningsofwomeninpatriarchy.Hervideoof'LikeaVirgin'alternatesthewhitedressof
Madonnathebridewiththeblack,slinkygarbofMadonnathesinger;thenameMadonna(thevirgin
mother)isbornebyasexuallyactivefemale;thecrucifixesadoptedfromnuns'habitsarewornona
barelyconcealedbosomorinasexuallygyratingnavel.'GrowingupIthoughtnunswerebeautiful....
Theyneverworeanymakeupandtheyjusthadthesereallyserenefaces.Nunsaresexy.'30
Buttheeffectofworkingtheseoppositemeaningsintohertextsisnotjusttocallattentiontotheirrole
inmalehegemony:womanmayeitherbeworshipedandadoredbymanorusedanddespisedbyhim,but
shehasmeaningonlyfromamasculinesubjectposition.Rather,Madonnacallsintoquestionthevalidity
ofthesebinaryoppositionsasawayofconceptualizingwoman.Heruseofreligiousiconographyis
neitherreligiousnorsacrilegious.Sheintendstofreeitfromthisideologicaloppositionandtoenjoyit,
useit,forthemeaningsandpleasureithasforherandnotforthoseofthedominantideologyandits
simplisticbinarythinking:
Ihavealwayscarriedaroundafewrosarieswithme.OnedayIdecidedtowear[one]asanecklace.EverythingIdo
issortoftongueincheek.It'sastrangeblendabeautifulsortofsymbolism,theideaofsomeonesuffering,which
is what Jesus Christ on a crucifix stands for, and then not taking it seriously. Seeing it as an icon with no
religiousnessattached.Itisn'tsacrilegiousforme.31
Thecrucifixisneitherreligiousnorsacrilegious,butbeautiful:'WhenIwenttoCatholicschoolsIthought
the huge crucifixes nuns wore were really beautiful'. In the same way, her adolescent fans find in
Madonna meanings of femininity that have broken free from the ideological binary opposition of
virgin/whore.Theyfindinherimagepositivefemininecenteredrepresentationsofsexualitythatare
expressedintheirconstantreferencestoherindependence,herbeingherself.Thisapparentlyindepen
dent,selfdefiningsexualityisonlyassignificantasitisbecauseitisWorkingwithinandagainsta
patriarchalideology.
AsAnnKaplanargues(Kaplan,1992)Madonna'simageisbasedinpartonthatofMarilynMonroe,the
greatsexsymbolofanearliergeneration.Butthedifferencesbetweenthetwo'blondbombshells'are
moreinstructivethanthesimilarities.Inthevideo'MaterialGirl',Madonnagoesthroughadanceroutine
withtuxedocladyoungmeninaparodyofMonroe'snumber'DiamondsAreaGirl'sBestFriend'from
Gentlemen
136Whatisculturalstudies?
PreferBlondes.Duringthenumber,shecollectsjewelryfromthemenasshesingstherefrain,'Cause
we'relivinginamaterialworld,andIamamaterialgirl'.Butdespiteherwhorelikegatheringofriches
from men and her singingthat only boys withmoneyhave any chance with her (which is close to
Monroe'sperformancein'DiamondsAreaGirl'sBestFriend'),shetoyswiththeboys,showingthattheir
jewelryhasboughtthemnopoweroverher,butinsteadthatextractingitisanexpressionofherpower
overthem.ThisquitecontradictsMonroe'sperformance.Madonnasaysaboutherimage'smoregeneral
reference:'Idon'tseemyselfasMarilynMonroe,I'malmostplayingwithherimage,turningitaround.I
don'tclaimtoknowherandcanbarelybelievemostofwhat'swrittenabouther.TheimpressionIgetis,
shedidn'tknowherownstrengthanddidn'tknowhowtonurtureit.'32Madonnaclearlydoesknowwhere
herownstrengthliesandhowtouseit.Heraccumulationofmaterialgoodiesisnotmerecapitalistgreed
butawayofexertingpowerovermen.
Buteventhematerialistreadingofthevideoiscontradicted.Thestageperformanceisembeddedina
mininarrativeinwhichsherejectsarichsuitorandacceptsapoorone.Theconclusionofthevideoshows
herdrivingoffwithhiminanoldworkman'struck,inwhichtheymakeloveduringarainstorm.The
materialgirlhasfallenforthenonmaterialvaluesofloveafterall.Theunderminingofthesongbythe
mininarrativemaynotseemtooffermuchofaresistance;afterall,themainnarrativeisaconventional
romanceinwhichthepoor,sensitivemanisfinallypreferredtotheapparentlymoreattractiverichone.
The'truelove'thattriumphsisasmuchapartofpatriarchalcapitalismasthematerialismitdefeats.But
thiscontradictiondoesnotworkaloneitissupportedbyparody,bypuns,andbyMadonna'sawareness
ofhowsheismakinganimage,notjustofwhatherimageis.
Someoftheparodyissubtleandhardtotiedownfortextualanalysis,butsome,suchasthereferencesto
MarilynMonroeandthemusicalssheoftenstarredin,ismoreobvious.Thesubtlerparodyliesinthe
knowingwayinwhichMadonnausesthecamera,mockingtheconventionalrepresentationsoffemale
sexualityatthesametimesheconformstothem.EvenPlayboyrecognizesherselfparody:'Thevoice
andthebodyareherbonafides,butMadonna'ssecretmaybehersatiricalbite.Sheknowsalotofthis
imagestuffisbullshit:sheknowsthatyouknow.Solongaswe'reallinontheacttogether,let'senjoy
it.'33Oneofherformerloverssupportsthis:'Herimageisthatofatart,butIbelieveit'sallcontrived.
Sheonlypretendstobeagolddigger.Remember,IhaveseentheothersideofMadonna.'34Madonna
knowssheisputtingonaperformance.Thefactthatthisknowingnessispartoftheperformanceenables
theviewertorespondtoadifferentinterpellationfromthatproposedbythedominantideologyandthus
tooccupyaresistingsubjectposition.Thesensitivemanwatchinghermaterialgirlperformanceknowsas
shedoesaswemightalsothatthisisonlyaperformance.Thosewhotaketheperformanceatface
value,whomissitsselfparody,arehailedasideologicalsubjectsinpatriarchyorelsetheyrejectthe
hailing,denythepleasure,andrefusethecommunication:
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision137
The National Enquirer, a weekly magazine devoted to prurient gossip, quotes two academic psychiatrists
denouncingherforadvocatingteenagepromiscuity,promotingalustformoneyandmaterialism,andcontributing
tothedeteriorationofthefamily.Feministsaccuseherofrevisionism,ofresurrectingthemanipulativefemalewho
survivesbycoquetryandartifice.'TellGloria[Steinem]andthegang',sheretorts,'tolightenup,getasenseof
humour.AndlookatmyvideothatgoeswithMaterialGirl.Theguywhogetsmeintheendisthesensitiveone
withnomoney.'35
Madonnaconsistentlyparodiesconventionalrepresentationsofwomen,andparodycanbeaneffective
deviceforinterrogatingthedominantideology.Ittakesthedefiningfeaturesofitsobject,exaggeratesand
mocksthem,andthusmocksthosewho'fall'foritsideologicaleffect.ButMadonna'sparodygoesfurther
thanthis:sheparodies,notjustthestereotypes,butthewayinwhichtheyaremade.Sherepresents
herselfasonewhoisincontrolofherownimageandoftheprocessofmakingit.This,atthereadingend
ofthesemioticprocess,allowsthereadersimilarcontroloverherownmeanings.Madonna'sexcessof
jewelry,ofmakeup,oftrashystyle,offersimilarscopetothereader.Excessivenessinvitesthereaderto
question ideology; too much lipstick interrogates the tastefully madeup mouth, too much jewelry
questionstheroleoffemaledecorationsinpatriarchy.Excessoverspillsideologicalcontrolandoffers
scopeforresis.tance.ThusMadonna'sexcessivelysexualpoutingandoverdonelipstickcanbereadto
mean that she looks like that not because patriarchy determines that she should but because she
knowinglychoosesto.Shewearsreligiousicons(andusesareligiousname)nottosupportorattack
Christianity'sroleinpatriarchy(andcapitalism)butbecauseshechoosestoseethemasbeautiful,sexy
ornaments.Sheconstantlytakesitemsofurbanliving,prizesthemfreefromtheiroriginalsocial,and
thereforesignifying,context,andcombinestheminnewwaysandinanewcontextthatdeniestheir
originalmeaning.Thusthecrucifixistomfromitsreligiouscontextandlacyglovesfromtheircontextof
bourgeoisrespectabilityor,conversely,ofthebrothel.Bywearingunderwearasouterwearandtaking
itoutoftheboudoirandintothestreet(orevenintochurch),shereconfigures~t.Withher,dyedblond
hairandwiththedarkrootsdeliberatelydisplayedIS
nolongerthesignofthetartyslut,andthegarterbeltandstockingsnolongersignifysoftpornormale
kinkiness.
Thiswrenchingoftheproductsofcapitalismfromtheiroriginalcontextandrecyclingthemintoanew
styleis,aslainChambershaspointedout,atn'i~lpracticeofurbanpopularculture.36Theproductsare
purifiedintoSl~ers;onginalcontext.theirideologicalThesefreedsignifiedssignifiersaredodumpednot
necessarilyandleftmeanbehindsomething,intheir
theydonotnecessarilyacquirenewsignifieds.Rather,theactoffreeingthemfromtheirideological
contextsignifiestheirusers'freedomfromthatcontext:Itsignifiesthepower(howeverhardthestruggle
toattainit)ofthesubordinatetoexertsomecontrolprocessofmakingmeanings.
Madonna'svideosconstantlyrefertotheproductionoftheimage,andtheymakehercontroloverits
productionpartoftheimageitself.Thisemphasisonthemakingoftheimageallows,oreveninvites,an
equivalentcontrolbythereaderoveritsreception.Itenablesgirlstoseethatthe
138Whatisculturalstudies?
meaningsoffemininesexualitycanbeintheircontrol,canbemadeintheirinterests,andthattheir
subjectivitiesarenotnecessarilytotallydeterminedbythedominantpatriarchy.
TheconstantpunsinMadonnalyricsworkinasimilarway.Punsarisewhenonewordoccursintwo
discoursesinthecaseof'MaterialGirl',thoseofeconomicsandsexuality:onesignifierhassimultaneous
butdifferentsignifiedsaccordingtoitsdiscourse.Themostobviouspunsare'givemepropercredit',
'raisemyinterest','experiencehasmademerich'.Lessobviousonesare'theboywiththecoldhardcash'
or'onlyboysthatsavetheirpenniesmakemyrainyday'('make'hasonlyvestigialsexualmeanings,and
thehomonymbetween'pennies'and'penis'isonlyfaint).Thepunsperformtypicalideologicalworkby
equatingeconomicwithsexualsuccess,acommonstrategyofpopularcultureinpatriarchalcapitalism.
Butpunsdemandactivereadersandcanneverfullycontrolthemeaningsthatareprovokedbytheyoking
ofdisparatediscourses.Thesepunscanexposeandthusreject,oratleastresist,theeconomicandsexual
subordinationofwomenandthewaythateachisconventionallyusedtonaturalizetheother.Thefirstand
lastversesofthesongare:
SomeboyskissmesomeboyshugmeIthinkthey'reOKIftheydon'tgivemepropercreditIjustwalkaway
BoysmaycomeandboysmaygoAndthat'sallrightyouseeExperiencehasmademerichAndnow
they'reafterme.37Thepunsherecanbeused,nottonaturalizethedualsubordinationofwoman,butto
assertwoman'sabilitytoachievesexualeconomicindependence.Ifabodyisallthatpatriarchyallowsa
womantobe,thenatleastshecanuseitinherinterests,notinmen's.
Thepunalwaysresistsfinalideologicalclosure:thepotentialmeaningsprovokedbythecollisionof
differentdiscoursesisalwaysgreaterthanthatproposedbythedominantideology.Thus'BoyToy',the
namethatMadonnahasgiventoherrangeofproductsandthatthemediaapplytoher,canbereadas
Playboydoeswhenitcallsherthe'world'snumberoneBoyToy'or'thecompleatBoyToy'.38Inthis
reading,Madonnaisthetoyforboys,butthepuncanalsomeanthattheboyishertoyasshetoyswith
theboysin'MaterialGirl'.
Puns are also at work in the word 'material', which is located in the discourse of the economic
capitalismbutwhichisoftenusedtocriticizethatdiscourseeitherfromareligiousviewpointorfromone
ofa'finersensibility'.Inrejectingthematerialismofthesong,Madonnamaybereadasproposingthe
valuesofafinersensitivityandamorespirituallove,eitherseculareroticorreligiouserotic.Madonna's
combiningofsecularandreligiouslovemakesexplicitapowerfulundercurrentofpatriarchalChristianity
ingeneralandCatholicisminparticularthattraditionallyhastriedtomogilizeman'slustfullovefor
MaryMagdalene,displaceitontoMarytheVrrgin,andspiritualizeitintheprocess.WithMadonna,
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision139
however,thedualismoftheloveisdenied;itdoesnotfitaneitherIordichotomyinwhichonesortof
loveismorallysuperiortotheother.Bydenyingtheoppositionandthemoralhierarchyinscribedinit,
sherejectsthetraditionalpatriarchalChristianevaluationofloveandallowssexualorsentimentalloveto
appearonthesamelevelasreligiouslovecertainlynotasinferiortoit.Heruseofthecrossasa
beautifulornamentforthefemalebodyandhercharacterizationofnunsassexyareallpartofhercritical
interrogation of a patriarchal Christian tradition that makes sense of love by means of a moralistic
oppositionbetweenthespiritualityofthevirginandthelustandtheloveofthewhore.Similarly,the
videoof'LikeaVugin'refusestoallowthevieweramoralchoicebetweenthewhiterobed,virginal
Madonnabrideandtheblackclad,sexyMadonnasinger.Asshesays,referringtothevideo:'Passionand
sexualityandreligionallbleedintoeachotherforme.Ithinkyoucanbeaverysexualpersonandalsoa
veryreligiousandspiritualperson....I'maverysexual,veryspiritualperson.What'stheproblem?'39
In'LikeaPrayer'thisspiritualityandpassionarebroughttogetherinawaysoexplicitastohave
causedPepsitowithdrawtheirTVcommercialbasedonthevideo.Thevideoconsistsofacomplex
montagethatjuxtaposesimagesofMadonnainherunderwearinablackchurch,kissingtheiconofa
blacksaintandbringinghimtolife,withanarrativeinwhichshesecuresthereleaseofayoungblack
manjailedforacrimehedidnotcommit.Althoughtheremaybenopreferredmeaningtothevideo,its
useofprovocativeimagesorganizedaroundthethemesofsexuality,religion,race,gender,andjustice
offendedmanyofthedominantgroupsinsociety.Butwhereasmainstreamreligiousgroupscondemned
thevideoasblasphemous,twostudentsofminecouldfindnoevidenceofblackchurchesthatwere
offended.40
Madonna'sabilitytooffendthesociallydominantwhileappealingtothesubordinatereacheditspeak
(sofaratleast)attheendof1990withthereleaseofhervideo'JustifyMyLove'(seebelow).Themusic
televisionchannel(MTV)refusedtoscreenit,andahostile,sexistinterviewonNBC'sNightlineaccused
Madonnaofoversteppingacceptablelimitsofsexualrepresentation.Herresponsewasthat,inherview,
theseconventionallimitsallowthedegradationandhumiliationofwomenandtolerateviolencetoward
them,butdonotallowtwoormorepeople,regardlessofgender,toenterintoamutualexchangeofthe
sensual pleasures of touching and looking. The conventional limits confine sexuality topatri archal
dominance,andbyrejectingthemandreplacingthemwithonesofherown,Madonnawasassertingher
controloverherownsexualpolitics,howeveroffensivetheymightbetootherpeople.Thefactthatthe
groupoffendedwas,again,thesociallydominantoneisagoodindicatorofthepoliticsofthiscontrol.
Anearliervideo,'OpenYourHeart',alsocentereditsimagesaroundthecontrolofsexuality.Init,
Madonnaplaysastripteasedancerinapeepshow.Ashersexualandrevealingdanceprogresses,we
graduallyrealize~tsheissubvertingtheconventionsofstripteasebymakingherparodyof1tmuscular,
assertive,andsexuallychallenginginsteadofsupplicatingandappealing.Sheusesthis'turned'striptease
nottoallurethemale
140Whatisculturalstudies?
voyeurswatchingherbuttocontrolthem,andindoingsoshereversesthepowerrelationsinFreud's
theoryofvoyeurism.
Thevideoexplicitlyshowsusanumberofvoyeurs,whereas,accordingtoFreud,voyeuristicpower
dependsuponavoyeur'sinvisibility.Butthesemenarenotonlypulledintothelightandmadevisible,
theyaremocked,parodied,andexaggerated.Theyarerepresentedbyaseriesofdisempoweringimages
suchasacokebottlespectacles or cardboardcutouts(whichMadonnakicks over);some are shown
grovelingdownwardtocatchafinalglimpseofherunderthedescendingshutterofthebooth.Outside,by
theboxoffice,isayoungboytryingtogetinpossiblyto'becomeaman'intheconventionalsense.
Madonna'rescues'himfromthisfate,andinthefinalshotthetwoofthem,androgynouslydressedalike,
danceawayinanonsexual,genderequaldanceofjoywhilethepeepshowownerdesperatelybegs
Madonnatoreturntoherroleassexuallure.Theirony,ofcourse,isthat,incontrollingthelookofthose
sheentices,shewasneverthelurehethoughtshewas.
Madonnaknowswelltheimportanceofthelook.Thisisacomplexconcept,foritincludeshowshe
looks(whatshelookslike),howshelooks(howshegazesatothersthecamerainparticular),andhow
otherslookather.Traditionally,lookinghasbeeninthecontrolofmen,andthemalelookhas,following
Freud'stheoryofvoyeurism,beenacentralelementinpatriarchalcontroloverwomen.ButMadonna
appropriatesthiscontrolforherselfandshowsthatwomen'scontrolofthelook(inallthreesenses)is
crucialtotheirgainingcontrolovertheirmeaningswithinpatriarchy.
Oneofthewaysinwhichshegainsthiscontrolisparadoxically,byrelinquishingit.Shedoesnotwish
torestrictandtiedownthemeaningsofgenderandtheidentitiesthatgowiththem,fortodosowouldbe
merelytoreproducetheworstofpatriarchalpolitics.Heraimistoopenthemup,togivethosewhoare
subordinatedormarginalizedbypatriarchythatis,thosewhoarenotheterosexualmengreatercontrol
overtheirownsexualityandthustodiversifysexualidentitiesandsexualrelationsinoursociety.
Semioticpowerisexertedbycontrollingthecategorizationsusedtomakesenseoftheworld,and
patriarchyconstantlyattemptstocontrolsexualcategoriesandtheirmeanings.SoMadonna'sconsistent
refusal to accept or fit into these categories is a strategy of resistance. She deliberately promotes
ambiguityandandrogynyinhersongsandvideos,andher1990video'JustifyMyLove'isthemost
explicit of all her work in its refusal of conventional sexual categories.41 Its sensuous, erotic
representationofmutuallovemoveseasilyacrossthecategoriesoftheclearlyheterosexual,theclearly
homosexual,andtheandrogynous:itshowshighlyfemininewomenandmen,aswellasmasculinemen
andwomen;itspleasuresareextendedbeyondtheconfinesofthetraditionalcoupleandincludethoseof
lookingaswellasthoseoftouching.NowonderMTVrefusedtoshowit.Thevideobecame,forashort
time, a cause celebre of gender politics and was accused, predictably, of promoting pornography,
perversion,andpromiscuitywhilebeingdefended,equallypredictably,forbeingemancipatory,honest,
anderotic.Oneofitsdefenderssummedupthecontroversythus:
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision141
There'snomistakingthispieceofporn,becauseitcarriessuchafirmpointofview.Madonnausesherportrayalof
blurredgenderstoamuseandliberate,aswellastoexploitHercheekyS&Mfantasieswindupassertingthe
independenceoftheindividual,andtomakesurewedon'tmissthepoint,shespellsoutwiththelyricsprintedon
screenattheclip'sclose:'Pooristhemanwhosepleasuresdependonthepermissionofanother'.42
SofarinthischapterIhavefocusedonyounggirlsasatypicalsubculturalaudienceofMadonna.But
theyarefarfromtheonlyone.Madonnaisalsohighlysignificantingayculture.43Adiscjockeyatagay
barinMadison,WISConsin,callsher'anequalistwhospeakstoagenerationwhothirstsfordiversity'.
ForhimMadonna'sdiversificationofpatriarchy'srestrictedsexualcategoriesisappealinglyprogressive.
OthermembersofMadison'sgaycommunityfindarealattractioninhercampy,playfulcontroloverher
ownimageandinherabilitytochangethatimageatwill.Thereislittleexplicitevidencethatherimage
controlappealedtotheneedexperiencedbysomegaypeopletomasqueradeinorder toreduce the
problemsoflivinginaheterosexualsociety;rather,theappeallayinherhonestyandpowerinrejecting
sexualstereotyping.Heremphasisthat'JustifyMyLove'isabout'beingtruthfulandhonestwithour
partners'carriestheimplicationsthatconventionalsexualityofteninvolvesdishonestyandtheattemptto
fit one's ownsexualityinto acategoryalready constructedthereby submitting oneself tothe control
inherentinthatcategorization.Asonegaymagazineputsit:
Shehelpsusconfrontreligiousguilt,purgesusoflibidinalinhibitionsandforcesustorethinkthelimitationsof
gender,intercourseandresponsibilityallwithagoodbeatthatyoucandanceto....Herpride,flamboyanceand
glamourreachouttogayguysasmuchasherbutch/femdichotomyandherrefusaltobevictimizedstrikesachord
inlesbians.45
Madonnaherselfjustifieshervideobysaying:'It'sacelebrationofsex.Itisabouttwopeopleregardless
ofgenderdisplayingaffectionforeachother,there'snothingwrongwiththat.'Tothosewhoclaimsheis
demeaningherselfandwomeninherwork,sherepliesconfidentlythatthey'aremissingafewthings.I
amtheoneincharge.Iputmyselfinthesesituations.Thereisn'tamanmakingmedothesethings.Iam
incharge'.46Thissenseofpowerandcontrolinsexualrelationsappealsequally,iffinal,~rently,of
Outweek:ifextreme,to'Despitebothendorsementyoungthegovernment'sgirlsofandthistoappealthe
attemptgayisandprovidedtorenderlesbianbysomecommunities.MichaelofMadonMustoA
na'sthemesinvisible,asarolemodelandevocatorofchange,Madonnaisrightnowmorepowerfulthan
thegovemment'.47
CulturalstudiesdoesnottrytounderstandMadonnasimplyeitherasabe~rofmeaningsandideology
orasanagentofcommodificationandprofitmaking,thoughsheisclearlybothofthese.Bystressingher
multiaccentuality,itrevealsherasaterrainofstruggleuponwhichvarioussncial
~gs~ormationsandtheirengagepoliticsinrelationscannotbewithevaluatedthedominantinterms
socialofwhatorder.sheis,Herbutmeanonlyversymtermssheofprovokeswhatpeopleisevidence
makenotofheronlyinoftheirhowsocialopenacontexts.terrainsheTheic;controforthis
142Whatisculturalstudies?
struggleovermeaning,butalsoofpeople'sdesiretoseizewhatopportunitiestheycanfindtoengagein
it.
WhatIhavetriedtodointhischapteristodemonstratesomeofthemethodologyandtheoretical
implicationsofBritishculturalstudies.Ishallnowtrytosummarizethese.
Thetelevisiontextisapotentialofmeanings.Thesemeaningsareactivatedbydifferentreadersintheir
differentsocialsituations.Becausethetelevisiontextisproducedbyacapitalistinstitution,itnecessarily
bearsthatideology.Anysubculturalorresistantmeaningsthataremadefromitarenot'independent'but
aremadeinrelationtothedominantideology.Becausesubculturesarerelatedinvariouswaystothe
socialsystem, theywillproduceanequivalentvarietyof waysinwhichtorelatetheir subcultural
readingsoftelevisiontothosepreferredbythedominantideology.Socialrelationsincapitalismalways
involveapoliticaldimension(becauseallsuchrelationsaredeterminedmoreorlessdirectlybythe
unequaldistributionofpower),andsoallmeaningsarise,inpart,fromapoliticalbase.Forsome,the
politics will be those of acceptance, for others, those of rejection or opposition, but for most the
politics.willbeabaseforthenegotiationofmeaningorforresistance.
Culturalanalysiscanhelpustorevealhowthetelevisiontextservesasanarenaforthisstruggleover
meanings. It treats television as part of the total cultural experience of its viewers; the meanings of
televisionarealwaysintertextual,foritisalwaysreadinthecontextoftheothertextsthatmakeupthis
culturalexperience.Theseintertextualrelationsmaybeexplicitandcloseorimplicitandtenuous.All
muscledramassharemanygenericcharacteristics,buttheyalsobearlessobviousthoughnotnecessarily
lesssignificantrelationswiththeVietnamveterans'paradeheldinNewYorktenyearsafterthewar
endedandwiththeunveilingoftheVietnamMemorialinWashington,DC.
Criticalandjournalisticcommentsontelevisionprograms,fanmagazines,andgossippublicationsare
examplesofothertypesofsignificantintertextuality.Criticismis,accordingtoTonyBennett,aseriesof
ideologicalbidsforthemeaningofatext,andstudyingwhichinterpretationsarepreferredinwhich
publicationsandforwhichaudiencescanhelpustounderstandwhyandhowcertainmeaningsofthetext
areactivatedratherthanothers.48Wemustbeabletounderstandhowthatbundleofmeaningsthatwe
call'Madonna'allowsaPlayboyreadertoactivatemeaningsof'thecompleatBoyToy'atthesametime
thatafemalefanseesherassexybutnotneedingmen,asbeingthere'allbyherself'.Publicationsreflect
themeaningscirculatingintheculture,andthesemeaningswillbereadbackintothetelevisiontextasan
inevitablepartoftheassimilationofthattextintothetotalculturalexperienceofthereader.
Forcultureisaprocessofmakingmeaningsinwhichpeopleactivelyparticipate;itisnotasetof
preformedmeaningshandeddowntoandimposeduponthepeople.Ofcourse,our'freedom'tomake
meaningsthatsuitourinterestsisascircumscribedasanyother'freedom'insociety.Themassproduced
textisproducedandcirculatedbycapitalistinstitutionsforeconomicgainandisthereforeimprintedwith
capitalistideology.Butthemassproducedtextcanonlybemadeintoapopulartextbythepeople,and
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision143
thistransformationoccurswhenthevarioussubculturescanactivatesetsofmeaningsandinsertthose
meaningsintotheirdailyculturalexperience.Theytakemassproducedsignifiersand,byaprocessof
'excorporation',usethemtoarticulateandcirculatesubculturalmeanings.49
Gossipisoneimportantmeansofthisactivecirculationofmeanings.The'usesandgratifications'
theoristsofthe1970srecognizedhowcommonlytelevisionwasusedasa'coinofsocialexchange',that
is,assomethingtotalkaboutinschoolyards,suburbancoffeemornings,coffeebreaksatwork,andthe
familylivingroom.50DorothyHobsonhasshowntheimportanceofgossipamongsoapoperafans,and
ChristineGeraghtyhascalleditthe'socialcement'thatbindsthenarrativestrandsofsoapoperatogether
andthatbindsfanstoeachotherandtothetelevisiontext.51Thisuseoftelevisionasaculturalenabler,a
meansofparticipatinginthecirculationofmeanings,isonlyjustbecomingclear,andgossiportalkabout
televisionisnolongerseenastheendinitself(asitwasinthe'usesandgratifications'approach},but
ratherasawayofparticipatingactivelyinthatprocessoftheproductionandcirculationofmeaningsthat
constitutesculture.
Theculturalanalysisoftelevision,then,requiresustostudythreelevelsof'texts'andtherelations
betweenthem.First,thereistheprimarytextonthetelevisionscreen,whichisproducedbytheculture
industryandneedstobeseeninitscontextaspartofthatindustry'stotalproduction.Second,thereisa
subleveloftexts,alsoproducedbythecultureindustry,thoughsometimesbydifferentpartsofit.These
includestudiopublicity,televisioncriticismandcomment,featurearticlesaboutshowsandtheirstars,
gossipcolumns,fanmagazines,andsoon.Theycanprovideevidenceofthewaysinwhichthepotential
meanings of the primary text are activated and taken into their culture by various audiences or
subcultures.Onthethirdleveloftextualityliethosetextsthattheviewersproducethemselves:theirtalk
abouttelevision;theirletterstopapersormagazines;andtheiradoptionoftelevisionintroducedstylesof
dress,speech,behavior,oreventhoughtintotheirlives.
Thesethreelevelsleakintooneanother.Somesecondarytexts,suchasthoseofofficialpublicityand
publicrelations,areveryclosetoprimarytexts;others,suchasindependentcriticismandcomment,
attemptto'speakfor'thethirdlevel.Underlyingallthis,wecan,Ithink,seeanoralpopularculture
adaptingitsearlierroletoonethatfitswithinamasssociety.
.Thissocialcirculationofmeaningsalwaysentailsstruggleandcontestation,forthosewithsocial
powerconstantlyattempttorepress,invalidate,ormarginalizemeaningsthatareproducedbyandserve
theinterestsofsubordinategroupsandthatthereforeconflictwiththeirown.Thisforegroundingof
conflict,whichinformstherealmofculturejustasitdoesthatofsocialrelations,isthekeydifference
betweenthedevelopmentofculturalstudiesinBritainandintheUnitedStates.Britain,likemostof
continentalEurope,hasneverdoubtedthatitisasocietystructuredaroundclass~onflict;asaresult,
Marxist modes of analysis, which developed to explain capitalist societies as necessarily ones of
conflictingsocialinterestsandthereforeofconstantsocialstruggle,wereparticularlypertinenttocultural
studiesasitdevelopedinBritaininthe1970sand1980s.
CulturalcriticismintheUnitedStates,however,hasquiteadifferent
144Whlltisculturalstudies?
history. Its major concern has been to forge a national unity or consensus out of widely differing
immigrant, enslaved, and native social groups. Its industrialization did not grow from a society of
agrariancapitalism withanalreadypoliticizedpeasant classwhichisone rootreasonfor boththe
instabilityofthelabormovementandtheinvisibilityoftheclasssystemintheUnitedStatescompared
withBritain.USculturalstudies,then,tendedtowardliberalpluralisttheoriesinwhichdifferentsocial
groupswereseentolivetogetherinrelativeharmonyandstability.ThemodelstowhichUScultural
theory turned were ones derived not from Marxism and the analysis of social conflict but from
anthropologyandtheanalysisofsocialconsensus.Drawingonnotionsofritualandmythology,they
stressedwhatdifferentsocialgroupshadincommon,whichwasaformofcommunitasproducedbya
sharedlanguageandcultureintowhichallenteredfreelyandfromwhichallderivedequalbenefits.The
dominant ideology thesis, of course, differs diametrically while still stressing what people have in
common:initscase,whatiscommontoallisthedominantideology,whichisfarfromequalinthe
distributionofitsbenefits.
ThegrowthofinterestinBritishculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesduringthe1980smaywellbe
relatedtotheriseofReaganism.Reaganismrolledbacktheprogressmadeduringthe1960sand1970s
towardreducinginequalitiesingender,race,andclass;itwidenedthegapbetweentheprivilegedandthe
deprivedandconcentratedpowerinthewhite,male,uppermiddleclasses.Undersuchconditions,models
ofculturalconsensusprovedlessconvincingthanonesofculturalconflict.Britishculturalstudies,with
itsfocusonstruggleanditscommitmenttopromotingtheinterestsofthesubordinateandcritiquingthe
operationsofthedominant, seemedtobetailormade for importation.But the theoryshouldnotbe
allowedtoemergeunchangedfromitstransatlanticcrossing.ThedifferenthistoriesoftheUnitedStates
andBritain,particularlyinraceandclassrelations,requireitsmodelstobemodified.Suchdifferences,
though, significant as they are, are still differences within the commonality of a white, patriarchal
capitalismwhoseenormousbenefits,rewards,andresourcesareunfairlydistributedamongitsmembers.
IfanAmericanadaptationofBritishculturalstudiescanprovideacriticallyengagedtheorythatcritiques
the culture of domination and endorses those cultures of the subordinate that work against social
inequality,andifbysodoingitcontributestoamoreequalbutdiversesociety,itsimportationwillhave
beenwelljustified.Ifitdoesn't,thesoonerit'sdumpedthebetter.
Notes
1.StuartHall,'Thenarrativeconstructionofreality',SouthernReview17(1984):1
17.2.AngelaMcRobbie,'Danceandsocialfantasy',inAngelaMcRobbieandMicaNava(eds),GenderandGeneration
(London:Macmillan,1984),pp.13061;LisaLewis,GenderPoliticsandMTV:VoicingtheDifference(Philadelphia:Temple
UniversityPress,1990).
Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision145
3.LouisPhilosophyAlthusser,andOther1deologyEssays(London:andideologicalNewLeftstateBooks,apparatuses',1971),
pp.12786.

inLeninand
4.StuartHalletal."Theunityofcurrentaffairstelevision',inTonyBennettetal.(eds),PopularTelevisionandFilm:AReader
(London:BritishFilmInstitute/OpenUniversityvision:aworldPress,in1981),action',pp.Screen88117;18,Stephenno.2
(1977):Heath759;andJohnGillianFiske,Skirrow,'Television'Tele
andCriticalpopularStudiesculture:inMassreflectionsCommunicationonBritish3(SeptemberandAustraliancriticalpractice',
1986):20016.5.StuartHall,'Encoding/decoding',inStuartHall
etal.(eels),Culture,Media,
lAnguage(London:Hutchinson,1980),pp.12S39.6.ShereHite,TheHiteReportonMJJleSexuality(London:Macdonald,
1981).7.AndrewThe
Sex~mlity
Moye,of'Pornography',Men(London:Macmillan,inAdrianMetcalf1985),pp.
and~9.
MartinHumphries(eds},
8.HoraceStudiesinNewcomb,MltssCommunication'Onthedialogue1(Marchaspect1984):of3450.
masscommunication',Critical

10.9.Ibid.
MikhailBakhtin,TheDialogicImagination(Austin:UniversityofTexasPress,1981).11.ValentinN.Volosinov,Mltrrismand
thePhilosophyof
Lang~mge
(NewYork:SeminarPress,1973).Thereisawell
groundedtheorythatVolosinovandBakhtinwerethesamewriter.12.DavidMorley,The'Nationwide'Audience:Structureand
Decoding(London:BritishFilmInstitute,1980);McRobbie,'Danceandsocialfantasy';RobertHodgeandDavidTripp,Children
andTelevision(Cambridge:Polity,1986).13.Morley,The'Nationwide'Audience.14.Ibid.'Nationwide'Seealso(London:
CharlotteBritishBrunsdonFilmInstitute,andDavid1978).

Morley,EverydayTelevision:
15.JohnResponseComer,inPublicKayRichardson,IssueTelevisionand(London:NatalieJohnFenton,libbey,Nuclear1990).

Reactions:Formand
16.SeeRobertDawson,'Cultureanddeprivation:ethnographyandeverydaylife'.PaperpresentedattheInternational
CommunicationAssociationConference,cultureDublin,ofIreland,homelessness',July1990;CriticalJohnFiske,Studies'Forin
culturalMltssCommunicationinterpretation:(forthcoming);astudyofthe
JohnandEllenFiskeWartellaandRobert(eels),Dawson,Toward'AudiencingaComprehensiveviolence',Theoryinof
LawrencetheAudienceGrossberg(Champaign:UniversityofDlinoisPress,1992).17.DavidMorley,FamilyTelevision:
CulturalPowerandDomesticLeisure(London:
Comedia,1986).18.RaymondWilliams,Television:TechnologyandCulturalForm(London:Fontana,
Cultural1974);JohnStudiesHartley,1,no.'Television2(1983):6882.

andthepowerofdirt',AustralianJournalof
19.McRobbie,'Danceandsocialfantasy',seenote2.20.StuartHall,'Notesondeconstructingthepopular',inRaphaelSamuel
(ed.),People'sHistoryandSocialistTheory(London:RoutledgeandKeganPaul,1981).21.~RolandBarthes,Mythologies
(London:Paladin,1973);JohnFiske,Introduc
Hartley,tiontoCommunicationReadingTelevisionStudies(London:(London:Methuen,Methuen,1978).
1982);JohnFiskeandJohn
22.InterviewbyJohnFiske,December1985.23.Judithpp.4647.
Williamson,"Themakingofamaterialgirl',NewSocialist,October1986,
24.Time,27May1985,p.47.25.Countdown,December1985,p.70.26.US,13June1991,p.23.
146Whatisculturalstudies?
21.Time,27May1985,p.47.28.RobynBlair,studentpaper,SchoolofCommwlicationandCulturalStudies,
CurtinUniversity,November1985.29.30.CountdownMadonna,quotedAnnual,in1985,Naticnullp.109.
Times,23/29August1985,p.9.31.Ibid.,p.10.32.Star,7May1991,p.7.33.Ibid.,p.
127.34.35.36.ProfessorNationallainChambers,Times,Chris23/29PopularFlynn,AugustquotedCulture:1985,inTheNew
p.MetropolitanIdea,10.
11January1986,p.4.
Experience(London:Methuen,1986),pp.713.37.From'MaterialGirl',
lyricsbyPeterBrownandRobertRaus(MinongPublish38.ingPlayboy,Company,SeptemberBMI,1985,1985).
pp.122,127.39.US,13June1991,p.23.40.DavidBreanandChadDell,'Likeaprayer'.
Unpublishedpaper,Universityof
WISCOnsinMadison,April1989.41.42.
JimUS,Farber13Junein1991,Entertainmentpp.2023.
Weekly,14December1990,p.19.43.TheresearchintoMadonna'sappealtoMadison'sgay
andlesbiancommwlitieswasconductedbyastudentofmine,JenniferAlterman.Forafulleraccount,seeher'Madonna:avisual
illusion'.Unpublishedpaper,UniversityofWISCOnsin44.Madison,Madonna,Mayspeaking1991.
onNightline,NBC,3December1990.45.Outweek,March1991,pp.3541.46.47.Nightline,
Outweek,MarchNBC,31991,Decemberp.62.
1990.
48.TonyBennett,TheBondphenomenon:theorizingapopularhero',Southern
Reoiew16,no.2(1983):195225.49.50.LawrenceempowermentDenisMcQuailMcQuail(ed.),Grossberg,Theofet
everydayal.,Sociology'The'Anothertelevisionlife',ofMJJSSboringPopularCommuniCJJtionsaudience:dayMusicin
paradise:4arevised(1984):(Harmondsworth:22557.
rockperspective',androllPenguin,inandDenisthe
51.Dorothy1972),1982);Street,pp.byChristineHobson,Richard13565.
Geraghty,Dyer'Crossroads':etal.The(London:ThecontinuousDramaBritishufserialaFilmSoapInstitute,aOpera
definition',(London:1981),inpp.CoronationMethuen,
926.
7
Banality in cultural studies
MeaghanMorris
Whatgoesaround,comesaround.PatricePetroThispapertakesarathercircuitousroutetogettothe
point.I'mnotsurethatbanalitycanhaveapoint,anymorethanculturalstudiescanproperlyconstituteits
theoreticalobject.Myargumentdoeshaveapoint,butonethattakestheformofpursuinganaimrather
thanreachingaconclusion.Quitesimply,Iwantedtocometotermswithmyownirritationabouttwo
developmentsinrecentculturalstudies.
OnewasJeanBuadrillard'srevivaloftheterm'banality'toframeatheoryofmedia.Itisaninteresting
theorythatdealsinpartwiththetelevisualrelationshipbetweeneverydaylifeandcatastrophicevents.
Yetwhyshouldsuchaclassicallydismisivetermas'banality'reappear,yetagain,asapointofdeparture
fordiscussingpopularculture?FiskeThecallsother'Britishdevelopmentculturaloccursstudies'in,1
andthequiteismuchdifferentmoredifficultcontexttothatspecify.John
JudithWilliamson,however,hasbluntlydescribedsomethingthatalso
1l\~therseveryme:piece'leftwingofpopcultureacademicsfromStreet...pickingStyletooutSoap
strandsOpera'.2of'subversion'Inthiskindof";;'alysisofeverydaylife,itseemstc;>becriticismthat
activelystrivestoachieve~ese'banality',developmentsratherarethannotinvestingapriorirelated,it
negativelyletaloneintheopposedobjectof(as,study.say,11\volvepessimisticdifferentandoptimistic
kindsofevents.approaches'Baudrillard'topopularisanculture).author,BritishTheyCulalso
~Studiesisacomplexhistoricalandpoliticalmovementaswellasanecessarilyraryoftexts.exist.To
Butattemptirritationtodomaysoiscreatetherealrelationspointofwherethispaper.
noneneed
First,I

~ant
todefinethepositionof'culturalstudies'inthecuituralh:~xt

8~eThis
11\arketing.et;Ilthatts1l\
notforlotswhichmerelysomeofofpeopleCulturalItimestudytosayinarestudiesit.thatthedoingIn
stateit'saissmallit'booming'beginningthatortalkingway,theJapaneseinculturaltoaboutthedefine
innocuousit.callstudiesItandisaalsorestrictboom.
inandtoAustraliasayexcitingwhatthatit
148Whatisculturalstudies?
studies,ispossibleato'boom'dowholeconditionsculturallytopicwhiletheartoritnewofhappens.
figurelocalized,predictingatindustryanyandinsaythisinsenseitswhichJapanesegivenpassionof
andexpertise.
isastime.boomssecondguessingemphemeralname.forItismayaisnotmusician,Fortunatelya
generateamassiveasreflectionthEmitisaaabsolutegreatforfilmbecomeswaveofthestar,deal
broaderoffutureforcollective,antheofparticipantsmoney,intellectualofbasiseconomiccultural
ofandbut
a
ThereisadifferencebetweentheJapaneseconceptofculturalboom,andtheolderEuropeannotionof
'fashion'(whichisoftenstillwhatwethinkwemeanby'boom'inintellectualorculturalactivity).Iprefer
'boom'to'fashion'becauseitadmitsgreaterfranknessindiscussionaboutthepoliticsofintellectualwork
asitrelatesto,andmovesinandoutof,commoditycirculation.IoncesawaTVdocumentaryabout
boomsinJapan,andhowusefultheycouldbetoAustralianbandswhichcouldn'tgetahearinganywhere
elsewithoutAmericanizingtheirmusic.Theprogramwarnedthat'nofuture'isallowedinthemythology
ofboomatleast,notforthestars.Tuneisonthesideofthepromotersonly.Nextseason,insteadofa
'veryreturnsorry,tourboomofJapan,over'.theButbandsifitiswouldimpossibleprobablyforstarsget
thetosustainapologeticaconditionrefusal,
ofboom,itisverydifficultforanyonetoachieveitinthefirstplace.Newplayerswouldalsoberejected:
'Verysorry,noboom'.
ThisCatch22principlewasexplainedontheshowbyacartoonJapanesebusinessman,whospoke
cartoonJapaneseEnglish.ThisisawayofsayingthatmynotionofJapaneseboomisacreationof
AustralianTV.Butshortlyafterseeingthisprogram,IdiscussedatranslationprojectwitharealJapanese
mediaanalyst.WhenhesawthattheAustraliancollectioncontainedseveralessaysonFoucault,hesaid,
'AhFoucault...I'mverysorry,butthere'snoboom'.
SowhatI'mcalling'frankness'isanadmissionthatculturalboominvolvesa
pr~mptive

prohibitionandlimitationofactivity,aswellaspassionandenthusiasm.The
notionof'intellectualfashion',incontrast,isusuallyusedtodenigratepassionandenthusiasmas'fickle'
inordertoimplythatreal,solidscholarshipisgoingonsomewhereinspiteofthemarket,withinwhichit
willnonethelessfinditstrueplaceofrecognitiononcethefussoffashionsubsides.Aboom,however,
overtly defines and directs what can be done at a given moment. Once it is conceded that booms
positivelyshapethepossible,bystabilizingatemporaryhorizoninrelationtowhichonecannotclaima
positionofdefiniteexteriority,thenitalsobecomespossibletothinkmorecarefullythepoliticsofone's
ownparticipationandcomplicity.
Toframeculturalstudiesasaboomofthiskindinhoweversmallawaymayseemexcessively
cynical,especiallytothoseforwhom'culturalstudies'meanstherigorouspedagogicalandpolitical
programoftheBirminghamschoolinEngland.SoI'llcompletethesepreliminaryremarkswitha
commentonhowIseetheinstitutionalstatusofculturalstudiesinAustralia.Asaconstituteddiscipline,
ithasafragiletononexistentacademicownrightstatus.asitcanItbeisn'tinthereallyUK.aBut
subjectithasarea,astrongorapracticalschoolprojectforce,mostlyinits
Banalityinculturalstudies149
inmedia,art,andjournalismschoolswithanassociatedproductionunit(forfilm/radio/'IVtrainees),or
throughtheworkofindividualsdispersedinanumberofsubjectareasinuniversitiesandcolleges.
That means two things. First, cultural studies increasingly has a weak degree of proximity to
institutionalizedliterarycriticism,althoughmanyindividualpractitionersmaystillhavereceivedtheir
ownfirsttraininginEnglish(orFrench).Oneimmediateconsequenceisthatcertaininheritedproblems
likethehighart/massculturedichotomy,forexample,orthedebateaboutthenecessityforcanonsneed
notnecessarilybeposedasdefiningframeworksofargumentandresearch,thoughtheycanrecuras
questionsaboutthehistoryofthepresent.
A second consequence of a strong or strengthening relation between cultural studies and media
productionisthatourstudentsarelikelytobedreamingofacareerinthecultureindustries(including
art).Thismeansthatasparticipantsinculturalstudiesasboom,wearehelpingtotrainstudentsinthe
commodificationskillsthatwearealso,hopefully,claimingtoteachthemtocriticize.Thiscancreatea
verycomplexsituation,especiallysincethereisaboomingmagazineandpaperbackmarketforpopular
essaysinculturalstudies.Recently,aSydneygigguidewhichishandedoutfreeatvenuesandhasa
streetcirculationof20000copiesaweekhadanitemunderasimulatedscreamingbannerheadline:
'THECULTDIS COVERSEMIOTICS! LIVEEQUIPMENTDECONSTRUCTION.'3Thearticle
neverreferredbacktosemioticsordeconstruction.Itwasinfactafriendlybutpatronizingreviewofa
Brisbane(i.e.inthiscode,'provincial')bandcalledTheCult,whichhadreinventedthesmashingequip
mentonstage routine. So the gist of the review was : 'cults/semiotics/ deconstruction/Hendrix/The
Who/punk/postpunk...snooze,snooze,cliche,cliche,verysorry,boomover'.
Thissortofthinghappensallthetimeinmostplaces.However,ratherthanappearingasanamusing
sideeffect,thisdefinesformethebasiccontextofmyownactivityasawriterinAustralia,andItakeits
problemsaswellasitsamusementsintoseriousaccountwhenformulatingtheoretical,aswellas
pedagogical,problemsinpracticingculturalstudies..Theseriousnessofboomsforintellectualworkcan
begaugedbycomparmgtheoldslogan'publishorperish'withthenewerversion,'commodifyordie'.
'Publishorperish'stillsuggeststhatitdoesn'tmatterwhatyouP~~h(andofcoursealotofacademic
productionstillobeysthatprmaple).'Commodifyordie'definesascarier,ifperhapslesshypocritical,
principleforacademicpractice.ItalsodefinesthecontextinwhichIWanttoconsider'banality'asa
probleminandforculturaltheory.ForWhatIseeemergingfromtherecentculturalstudiesboomisthe
beginningofamoveto'commodify'anappropriatetheoreticalstyleforanalyzingevery~aylifeand
consequentlyaproper(andinmyview,'banal')speakingpositionforthetheoristofpopularculture.
Iw~~tobeginwithacoupleofanecdotesaboutbanality,fatality,andteleviSton.Butsincestorytelling
itselfisapopularpracticethatvariesfromcul~toculture,Ishallagaindefinemyterms.Myimpression
isthatAmencancultureeasilyencouragespeopletoassumethatafirstperson
150Whatisculturalstudies?
anecdote is primarily oriented towards the emotive and conative functions, in Jakobson's terms, of
communication:thatis,towardsspeakerexpressiveandaddresseeconnectiveactivity,oran1/youaxisin
ctscourse.However,Itakeanecdotes,oryams,tobeprimarilyreferential.Theyareorientedfuturistically
towardstheconstructionofaprecise,local,andsocialdiscursivecontext,ofwhichtheanecdotethen
functionsasamiseenabyme.Thatistosay,anecdotesformearenotexpressionsofpersonalexperience,
butallegoricalexpositionsofamodelofthewaytheworldcanbesaidtobeworking.Soanecdotesneed
notbetruestories,buttheymustbefunctionalinagivenexchange.Mostofmyanecdotesinthispaper
areproposedinthatspirit.
It'salsoinwhatItaketobeanAmericansensethatthese(mostlytrue)storiesareofferedasapersonal
responsetoPatriciaMellencamp'sarticle,'Situationcomedy,feminismandFreud:discoursesofGracie
andLucy'.4Idiscoveredthisarticleafterthinkingforsometimeaboutbanalityandfatalityandwhat
thesetermshadtodowitheachother,andwithmyownfeelingthatthereissomethingboth'fatal'and
'banal'aboutBritishCulturalStudies.
Mellencamp'sarticleclarifiestheproblemformeintwoways.First,itdiscussesthe'pacification'of
womeninAmericansituationcomedybetween1950and1960bydevelopingametaphorthatentangles
militaryanddomesticscenes,catastrophicandeverydayscenarios:'foreignpolicyof"containment"'.It
doesthisnottoretrieveapresupposedsociologicalorhistoricalmodelofthepast,butinordertoquestion
therhetoricofliberationthroughcomedyandpleasureusedintheoreticaldebatesinthepresent.Second,
italsoanalyzesthecontradictioninspecificGracieandLucyprograms,notsimplytoprovetheresistant
possibilitiesoffemalecomedians'beingoutofcontrolvialanguage(Gracie)orbody(Lucy)',butinorder
todefine,inthe'doublebind'ofthefemalespectatorandcomedian,'dilemmaswhich...nomodem
criticalmodelcanresolve'(81,87).Itistothedifficultyofmaintainingandarticulatingthatsenseof
dilemmainculturalstudiestodaythatmyanecdotesarealsoaddressed.
Thefirstisafableoforiginaboutsituationcomedy,foreignpolicy,anddomesticcatastrophe.
TVcameratherlatetoAustralia:1956inthecities,laterstillincountryregionswherethedistance
betweentownswasimmenseforthetechnologyofthattime.Soitwasintheearly1960sthatinaremote
mountainvillagewherefewsoundsdisturbedthepeaceexceptforthemistrollingdowntothevalley,
the murmur of the wireless, the laugh of the kookaburra, the call of the bellbird, the humming of
chainsawsandlawnmowers,andtheoccasionalrustleofasnakeinthegrassthepervasivesilencewas
shatteredbythevoiceofLucilleBall.
InthememoryofmanyAustralians,televisioncameasLucy,andLucywastelevision.There'sajoke
inCrocodileDundeewherethelastwhitefrontiersmanismakingfirstcontactwithmodernityinhisNew
Yorkhotel,andhe'sintroducedtotheTVset.ButhealreadyknowsTV:1sawthattwentyyearsagoat
soandso'splace'.Heseesthetitle1LOVELUCY',andquips'yeah,that'swhatIsaw'.It'sathrowaway
linethatat
BaMlityinculturalstudies151
onelevelworksasaformaldefinitionofthe'mediarecycle'genreofthefi}Infibn,itself.it'salso,Butfor
inAustralians,termsoftheadensepreciseculturalhistoricalpunningjoke.thatIt'sthecharacterizes
moredensetheinthatPaulHoganwashimselfoneofthefirstmajorAustralianTVstars,findingan
instantstardominthelate1960s(sinceAustralianmadeTVprecedespostwarAustraliancinema)by
fakinghiswayontoatalentquestshow,andthenabusingthejudges.Subsequently,hetookonthe
MarlboroManinamassivecigaretteadvertisingbattlethatlastedlongenoughtoconvertthesloganof
Hogan'scommercials('Anyhow,haveaWinfield')intoaproverbinscrutabletoforeigners.SoHogan's
personaalreadyincarnatesapopulistmythofindigenousAustralianresponseto'Lucy'assynecdocheof
allAmericanmediaculture.
ButinthebeginningwasLucy,andIthinksheissingledoutinmemorysinceobviouslyherswasnot
theonlyavailableprogrambecauseoftheusualimpactdebatesofhervoice.aboutThetherestructuring
introductionofoffamilyTVinAustralialifeanddomesticlednotonlyspace,toandthe
topredictablefearsthattheAustralian'accent'inlanguageandculturemightbeabolished,butalsotoa
specificlocalversionofanxietyaboutthescreamingeffectsinbothoflanguageTVhysteric:onchildren.
andas'voice',body.LucySoshetherewaswas'seen'heardwasbymanyAustraliansasatobeawoman
outofcontrolconcernthatLucytelevisionwould,bysomemimesisorcontagionofthevoice,
metabolicallytransformAustralianchildrenfromthecheekylittlelarrikinswewereexpectedtobe,into
raginglyhyperactivelittlepsychopaths.
Myownmemoryofthislivedtheoreticaldebategoessomethinglikethis.MymotherandIlovedLucy,
myfatherloathed'thatnoise'.Soonceaweek,therewouldbeasmallscaledomesticcatastrophe,which
soonbecameroutinized,repetitive,banal.I'dtumLucyon,myfatherwouldstartgrumbling,Mumwould
bewashingdishesinthenextroom,askmetoraisethevolume,I'ddoit,Dadwouldstartyelling,Mum
wouldyellback,I'dcreepclosertothescreentohear,untilLucycouldn'tmakeherselfheard,andI'd
retireindisgusttomybedroom,tothesecondbestofreadinganovel.Ononeoftherareoccasionswhen
allthisnoisehadledtoaseriousquarrel,Iwentuplaterasthetimidlittlevoiceofreason,askingm~
fatherwhy,sinceitwasonlyhalfanhour,didhemakesuchalotofnoiSe.HesaidthattheAmerican
voices(neverthenheard'live'inoursmalltown)remindedhimofthePacificwar.Andthatsurely,after
alltheseyears,hadarighttheretoweretrysometoforget.
thingsthat,inthequietofhisownhome,aman
"':~ddilemmahi
T.:ookingchabackfromthecontradictionsofthepresentalocusofconcernsIsharewithPatricia
MellencampIcandefinefromthisstoryawhichpersistsindifferentformstoday.Ontheonehand,
Lucygalvanizingandemancipatingeffectbecauseofherloquacity,and~rWithandre~entlesstonal
insistence.EspeciallyforAustralianwomenandchil~dren~en,masocietymenwerewerewhereseen
laconicbutwomennotwithheard.wereeachtalkativeLucyotherwasandwithonecatatoniceachofthe
otherfirstwithandsignswomen,laconic
of a groWing sense that women
makingalotofnoisedidnotneedtobeConfinedtotheharemlikeritualsofmorningandafternoontea,
orthe
152Whatisculturalstudies?
washingup.Ontheotherhand,myfather'sresponseappears,retrospectively,asprescientaswellas
understandable.ThecomingofLucy,andofAmericanlV,wasamongthefirstexplicitannouncementsto
ageneralpublicstillvaguelyimaginingitselfashavingbeen'British'thatAustraliawasnow(asithadin
factbeenanywaysince1942)hookedintothemedianetworkofadifferentwarmachine.
Mysecondanecdotefollowslogicallyfromthat,butissetinanotherworld.Tenyearslater,aftera
wholeculturalrevolutioninAustraliaandanotherwarwithAmericansinAsia,Isawa1Vcatastrophe
one banal Christmas Eve. There we were in Sydney, couchpotatoing away, when the evening was
shatteredbythatsentencewhichtakesdifferentformsindifferentcultures,butisstillperhapstheone
sentencealwayscapableofremindingpeopleeverywherewithinreachof1Vofacommonandvulner
ablehumanity'Weinterruptthistransmissionforaspecialnewsflash'.
Usually,onhearingthat,yougetanadrenalinerush,youfreeze,youwait,youhearwhat'shappened,
andthenthemechanismsofbodilyhabituationtocrisistakeovertoseeyouthroughthetimeahead.This
occasionwasalarminglydifferent.Theannouncer'svoiceactuallystammered:'er...urn...something's
happenedtoDarwin'.DarwinisthecapitalofAustralia'sfarnorth.MostAustraliansknownothingabout
it,andlivethousandsofmilesaway.Ittakesdaystogetintobylandorsea,andinawellentrenched
nationalimaginaryitisthe'gateway'toAsia,and,initsremotenessand'vulnerability',thelikelyportofa
conventionalinvasion.Thishasusuallybeenaracistnightmareaboutthe'yellowperil'sweepingdown,
butitdoesalsohaveabasisinflatmaplogic.There'snoonesouthofAustraliabutpenguins.strophe
Somewaspeoplethatpanicked,therewasandno
informJ~tion.waitedanxiouslyfordetails.ButThiswasnotcatastrophetheon1Vcatalikepictures,
theChallengernotreports,sequencejustsilencebutacatastrophewhichhadoflongandceasedforlV.
toTherebecodedwerenoasparadisal,asitwasinmyfableoforigin,butwasnottheverydefinitionof
astateoftotalemergency.Theannouncer'sstammerwasdevastating.Losingcontrolofallmechanisms
ofassuringcredibility,hispalpablepersonaltruth.5Whendistressthosehadofusexposedwhocouldus,
unbelievably,tosomethinglikeasleepwokeupthenextdaytofindeverydayWar

m.
Butlifeitgoingtookonanotherasusual,twentyfourwerealizedhoursitcouldn'tfor'true'havenews
beentoWorldbereestablished,andtoreassureusthatDarwinhadmerelybeenwipedoutbyacyclone.
Whereuponwewentintothe'naturaldisaster'genreof1Vliving,andbanalityresumedforeveryone,
exceptforthevictims.Butintheaftermath,aquestionsurfaced.Whyhadsuchacyclonesensitivecity
notbeenforewarned?Itwasaverybigcyclonesomeoneshouldhaveseen1\voitrumorscoming.
didtherounds.Onewasanoralrumor,orafolklegend.ThecyclonetookDarwinby
surprisebecauseitwasaRussianweatherwarfareexperimentthathadeithergonewrongorinthemore
menacingvariantactuallyfounditstarget.Theotherrumormadeitintowritingintheoddnewspaper.
Therehadbeenforeknowledge:indeed,evenafterthecyclonetherewasafunctioningradiotowerandan
airstripwhichmighthavesent
Banalityinculturalstudies153
newsoutstraightaway.ButthesebelongedtoanAmericanmilitaryinStallationnearDarwin,whichwas
notsupposedtobethere.Andintheembarrassmentofrealizingthescaleofdisastertocome,adecision
hadbeenmadebysomeonesomewheretosaynothing,inthehopeofavertingdiscovery.Uthiswastrue,
'they'needn'thaveworried.Thestorywasnever,tomyknowledge,pursuedfurther.Wedidn'treallycare.
Utherehadbeensuchaninstallation,itwasn'tnewsworthy;trueorfalse,itwasn'tcatastrophic;trueor
false,itmergedwiththeroutinestoriesofconspiracyandparanoiainurbaneverydaylife;and,trueor
false,itwascomparedwiththeDarwinfatalitycountandthehumanintereststoriestobehadfrom
survivorsjusttoobanaltobeofinterest.
Myanecdotesarealsobanal,inthattheymarkoutatelevisualcontradictionwhichisoverfamiliaras
bothatheoreticaldilemma,andaneverydayexperience.Itisthecontradictionbetweenone'spleasure,
fascination,thrill,andsenseof'life',evenbirth,inpopularculture,andthedeathlyshadowsofwar,
invasion,emergency,crisis,andterrorthatperpetuallyhauntthenetworks.Sometimesthereseemstobe
nothingmoretosayaboutthat'contradiction',intheory,yetasaphaseofcollectiveexperienceitdoes
keepcomingbackaround.SoIwanttousethesetwoanecdotesnowtoframeacomparisonbetweenthe
late work of Baudrillard, and some aspects of 'British' (or AngloAustralian) cultural studies two
theoreticalprojectsthathavehadsomethingtosayabouttheproblem.IbeginwithBaudrillard,because
'banality'isaworkingconceptinhislexicon,whereasitisnotasignificanttermfortheculturalstudies
thattodayincreasinglyciteshim.
InBaudrillard'sterms,myanecdotesmarkedoutahistoricalshiftbetweenaperiodofconcernabout
1V's effects on the real which is therebyassumedtobe distinct from its representation (the Lucy
moment)andatimeinwhich1Vgeneratestherealtotheextentthatanyinterruptioninitsprocessof
doingsoisexperiencedasmorecatastrophicintheloungeroomthana'real'catastropheelsewhere.SoI
havesimplydefinedashiftbetweenaregimeofproduction,andaregimeofsimulation.Thiswouldalso
correspondtoashiftbetweenamoreorlessrealColdWarethos,whereAmericanmilitarypresencein
yourcountrycouldbeconstruedasfriendlyorhostile,butyouthoughtyoushouldhaveachoice,and
thatthechoicemattered;andapurewar(or,simulatedchroniccoldwar)~os,inwhichRussiancyclones
or American missiles are completely II\terchangeable in a local imaginary of terror, and the choice
betweenthemismeaningless.,:nus
analysiscouldbegeneratedfromBaudrillard'smajorthesisin~echangesymboliqueetIamort(1976).
ThelaterBaudrillardwouldhavebttle.furtherinterestinmystoryaboutLucy'svoiceanddomestic
squablesII\anAustraliancountrytown,butmightstillbemildlyamusedbythestoryofacity
disappearingfor36hoursbecauseofabreakdownincommunications.However,whereIwouldwantto
saythatthiseventwasforparticipantsareal,ifmediated,experienceofcatastrophe,hecould:>'lYtha~it
wasjustafinalflickerofrealreality.WiththesubsequentII\stallationofaglobalsurveillanceregime
throughthesatellizationof
154Whiltisculturalstudies?
theworld,thedisappearanceofDarwincouldneveroccuragain.Everythingisnowalreadyseenand
filmedbeforeitactuallyhappensanyway.
SoBaudrillardwouldcollapsethe'contradiction'(initself,anarchaicterm)thatIwanttomaintain:and
hewouldmakeeachsemanticpoleofmystories(theeverydayandthecatastrophic,theexhilaratingand
thefrightful,theemancipatoryandtheterroristic)invadeandcontaminateitsotherinaprocessof
mutualexacerbation.Thisisaviral,ratherthananatomic,modelofcrisisineverydaylife.IfforAndreas
Huyssen,modernismasanadversarycultureconstitutesitselfinan'anxietyofcontamination'byitsOther
constituted(massbyculture),6perpetuallytheintensifyingBaudrillardianthecontaminationtexton(or
of)ofmassoneofcultureanytwois
termsbyitsother.
SolikeallpairsoftermsinBaudrillard'swork,thevalues'banality'and'fatality'chaseeachother
around his pages following the rule of dyadic reversibility. Any one term can be hyperbolically
intensifieduntilitturnsintoitsopposite.Superbanality,forexample,becomesfatal,andasuperfatality
wouldbebanal.It'saverysimplebut,whenwelldone,dizzyinglogicosemanticgamewhichmakes
Baudrillard'sbooksveryeasytounderstand,butanyonetermmostdifficulttodefine.Acomplicationin
thiscaseseductionisthat'banality'(1979)andandLes'fatality'strategieschasefataleseach(1983).
otheraroundtwobooks,DeIa
Onewaytoelucidatesuchasystemistoimagineadistinctionbetweentwosetsoftwotermsfor
example,'fatalcharm'and'banalseduction'.Fatalcharmcanbeseductiveintheoldsenseofan
irresistibleforce,exertedbysomeonewhodesiresnothingexcepttoplaythegameinordertocaptureand
toimmolatethedesireoftheother.That'swhat'sfatalaboutit.Banalseduction,ontheotherhand,does
involvedesire:desirefor,perhaps,animmovableobjecttoovercome.That'swhat'sfatalforit.
Baudrillard'snextmovefinished.Theonlyirresistibleistoforceclaimtodaythatisthatbothofofthe
thesemovingstrategiesobjectasareitfleesandevadesthesubject.Thisisthe'force'ofthesexobjectof
thesilentzombiemasses,andoffemininity(notnecessarilydetachedbyBaudrillardfromrealwomen,
butcertainlydetachedfromfeminists).Thisstructureis,strategiesAlthusserianfatales,epistemologyitI
think,aand'fatal'itstravesty,theoryora'seduction'ofthetermsofthemovingobject.Inisrewrittenin
termsofatheoryofglobalcatastrophe.Lesof
Thehumanspecieshaspassedthedeadpointofhistory:wearelivingoutthemoreecstacyandmoreof
permanentintense(unecatastrophe,catastropheauwhichralenti,slowsslowmotion,downasorit
slowingbecomes
motioncatastrophe),untilthesupereventfulnessoftheeventapproachestheuneventfulnessofabsolute
inertia,andwebegintoliveeverydaycatastropheasanendlessdeadpoint,oraperpetualfreezeframe.
This is the kind of general scenario produced in Baudrillard's work by the logic of mutual
contamination.However,anexaminationofthelocaloccurrencesoftheterms'banal'and'fatal'inboth
bookssuggeststhat'banality'isassociated,quiteclearlyandconventionally,withnegativeasp~..s
ofmediaoverrepresentation,excessivevisibility,informationoverload,anobsceneplenitude
ofimages,agrossplatitudinousnessoftheallpervasivepresent.
Banalityinculturalstudies155
Ontheotherhand,andeventhoughthereisstrictlynopastandnofutureinBaudrillard'ssystem,heuses
'fatality'asbothanostalgicandafinedfuturisticastermforinvokingaclassicalcriticalvalue,
discrimination(redeasenseless,butstillrulegoverned,principleofselectiveness).'Fatality'isnostalgic
inthesensethatitinvokesinthetext,forthepresent,an'aristocratic'idealofmaintaininganelite,
arbitrary,andavowedlyartificialorder.ItisfuturisticbecauseBaudrillardsuggeststhatinanageof
overload,rampantbanality,andcatastrophe(whichhavebecomeatthisstageequivalentsofeachother),
thelastPascalianwagermaybetobetonthereturn,inthepresent,ofwhatcanonlybeasimulacrumof
thepast.Whenfatalcharmcansimulateseducingbanalseduction,youhaveafatalstrategy.The
animatingmythofthisreturnistobe,inoppositiontocriticalphilosophiesofDifference(whichhave
nowbecomeidentical),amythofFatumthatis,Destiny.
Soreadinonesense,Baudrillard'stheorymerelycallsforanaestheticorder(fatality)todealwithmass
culturalanarchy(banality).Whatmakeshisappealmorecharmingthanmostothertiradesaboutthe
decayofstandardsisthatitcanbereadintheoppositesense.The'order'beingcalledforisradically
decadent,superbanal.However,thereisapointatwhichtheplaystops.
InoneofBaudrillard'sanecdotes(anenunciativemiseenabymeofhistheory),setinsomevague
courtlycontextwiththeambienceofamideighteenthcenturyFrenchepistolarynovel,amanistryingto
seduceawoman.Sheasks,'Whichpartofmedoyoufindmostseductive?'Hereplies,'Youreyes'.Next
day,hereceivesanenvelope.Inside,insteadoftheletter,hefindsabloodyeye.Analyzinghisownfable,
Baudrillardpointsoutthatintheobviousness,theliteralnessofhergesture,thewomanhaspurloinedthe
placeofherseducer.
Themanisthebanalseducer.She,thefatalseducer,setshimatrapwithherquestionashemovesto
entrapher.Intheplatitudinouslogicofc~urtliness,
hecanonlyreply'youreyes'ratherthannamingsomemoreVItalorganwhichshemightnot
havebeenabletopostsincetheeyeisthewindowofthesoul.Baudrillardconcludesthatthewoman's
literalnessisfataltotheman'sbanalfiguration:shelosesaneye,buthelosesfa~e.Hecanneveragain
'castaneye'onanotherwomanwithoutthinkingliterallyofthebloodyeyethatreplacedtheletter.So
Baudrillard'sfinalresolutionoftheplaybetweenbanalityandfatalityisthis:abanaltheoryassumes,
liketheplatitudinousseducer,thatthesubjectis11\orepowerfulthantheobject.Afataltheoryknows,
likethewoman,~tpzre..the:object).
isalwaysworsethanthesubject('jenesuispasbelle,jesuis
:audri~lcudtl'
No~etheless,deliteralizmg.~factintheenunciativelymakingwoman'sthegesture,punreoccupies'she
andlosesthereturninganplaceeye,ofitbuthelosesface',controlofmeaningtofiguration.Only'be(or
loadaP~femuust~~makesthemoraleye.thest~ryWtthouttale).Sowo!k~t,1tfollowsweaswoulda
fableofseduction,bydrainingthethatmerelyBaudrillard"sbereadingfigurationahorrorstoryis,in
storyfact,'fatal'thatmighttothepresumablywoman'sliterality,ensue.
andtoaliteralfeministreadingofher
156Whatisculturalstudies?
Thisembeddingofaninscriptionofwomanasliteralnessinadiscoursethatadmiresit,butdeniesit
power,isnotspecifictoBaudrillard.Itcouldbecomparedto
JeanFran~ois

Lyotard'smythoffemininityasafatalcollapseofmetalanguage,orabearer
ofthatterribledestiny,thatgeneralliquidationofdiscourse,thatDerridacalls'catastrophe'?Isuspect
thattheproblemofwomanasliteralness(ultimately,asweknow,anundefinableconcept)couldbea
more'fatal'objectofstudythanfemininityandmetaphor.Atanyrate,theprivilegeof'knowing'the
significanceofthewoman'sfatalbanalgestureissecurelyrestoredtometalanguage,andtothesubject
ofexegesis.
Recentculturalstudiesofferssomethingcompletelydifferent.Itspeaksnotofrestoringdiscrimination,
butofencouragingculturaldemocracy.Itrespectsdifference,andseesmassculturenotasavastbanality
machine,butasrawmaterialmadeavailableforavarietyofpopularpractices.
Insaying'it',Iamtreatingarangeofquitedifferenttextsandargumentsasasingleentity.Thisis
alwaysunfairtoanyindividualitem,butitisamodeofperceptionendemicto,andpossiblyvalidfor,the
experienceofculturalbooms.Sometimes,readingmagazineslikeNewSocialistorMarxismToday
fromthelastcoupleofyears,flippingthroughCulturalStudies,orscanningthepoptheorypileinthe
bookshop,IgetthefeelingthatsomewhereinsomeEnglishpublisher'svaultthereisamasterdiskfrom
whichthousandsofversionsofthesamearticleaboutpleasure,resistance,andthepoliticsof
consumy~on

arebeingrunoffunderdifferentnameswithminorvariations.Americansand
Australiansarerecyclingthisbasicpoptheoryarticle,too:withtheperhapsmajorvariationthatEnglish
poptheorystillderivesatleastnominallyfromaleftpopulismattemptingtosalvageasenseoflifefrom
thecatastropheofThatcherism.Oncecutfreefromthatcontext,ascommoditiesalwaysare,andrecycled
in quite different political cultures, the vestigal critical force of that populism tends to disappear or
mutate.
Thisimaginarypoptheoryarticlemightrespondtomytelevisionanecdotesbybracketingthebitsabout
waranddeathasasignofparanoiaaboutpopularculture,bypointingoutthatit'samistaketoconfuse
conditionsofproductionwiththesubsequenteffectsofimages,andbynotingthatwith1Vonemay
alwaysbe'ambivalent'.Itwouldcertainlystress,withtheLucystory,thesubversivepleasureofthe
femalespectators.(MyfathercouldperhapsrepresentanEnlightenmentpaternalismofreasontryingto
makeeverythingcohereinaWiththeDarwinstory,itwouldinsistonthecreativitymodelofsocialofthe
consumertotality.)Ispectator,andmaybehaveusdistractedlyzappingfromchanneltochannelduring
thecatastropheinsteadofbeingpassivelyhookedintothescreen,andthenresistingthewarmachinewith
ourlocallegendsandreadings.Thearticlewouldthenrestate,usingamixofdifferentmaterialsas
illustration,theenablingthesesofcontemporaryculturalstudies.
Inordertomoveawaynowfromrelianceonimaginarybadobjects,I'llreferMicatoNava'sanexcellent
'Consumerismrealarticleandwhichitscontradictions'.givesasummaryAmongofthesetheenabling
theses
thesesandtheyhavebeenenablingarethese:consumersarenot
Banalityinculturalstudies157
'culturaldopes',butactive,criticalusersofmassculture;consumptionpracticescannotbederivedfromor
reducedtoamirrorofproduction;consumerpracticeis'farmorethanjusteconomicactivity:itisalso
aboutdreamsandconsolation,communicationandconfrontation,imageandidentity.Likesexuality,it
consistsofamultiplicityoffragmentedandcontradictoryI'mnotnowdiscourses.'8
concernedtocontestthesetheses.Forthemoment,I'llbuythelot.restatements,definitionWhatI'm
interestedinisandsecondly,theemergencefirstly,inthesomesheerofproliferationthemofarestrictive
ofthe
oftheidealknowingsubjectofculturalstudies.JohnFiske'shistoricalaccountin'Britishculturalstudies
andtelevision'[reprintedhereasChapter6]producesonesuchrestatementandrestriction.Thesocial
terrainofthebeginningofhisarticleisoccupiedbyaversionoftheawesomelycomplexAlthusserian
subjectinideology,andbyasummaryofGramscionhegemony.Blendingtheseproducesanotionof
subjectivityasadynamicfield,inwhichallsortsofpermutationsarepossibleatdifferentmomentsinan
endlessprocessofproduction,contestation,andreproductionofsocialidentities.Bytheendofthe
article,thefieldhasbeenvastlysimplified:thereare'thedominantclasses'(exertinghegemonicforce),
and'thepeople'(makingtheirownmeaningsandconstructingtheirownculture'within,andsometimes
against'thecultureprovidedforthem)(Fiske,1987,286).democracy.CulturalstudiesOnewayforof
Fiskeunderstandingaimstounderstandthedemosisand'ethnography'encourageculturalfindingout
whatthepeoplesayandthinkabouttheirculture.Butthemethodscitedare'voxpop'techniquescommon
tojournalismandempiricalsociologyinterviewing,collectingbackground,analyzingstatementsmade
spontaneouslyby,orsolicitedfrom,informants.Sothechoiceoftheterm'ethnography'forthese
practicesemphasizesapossible'ethnic'gapbetweenthecultural~g'voice,Interrogationsubjector
studentafigureandmayandanalysisof
shareathevoice,cultureissomemomentarilycitedaspectsstudied.inadiscourseoflocatedThethat
'understanding'culture,outsideofexegesis.butit.'TheinandForthepeople''encouraprocessexample,
isofa
Fiskecites'Lucy',a14yearoldfanofMadonna('She'startyandseductive
butitlooksalrightwhenshedoesit,youknow,whatImean...');andthengoesontotranslate,and
diagnose,whatshemeans:'Lucy'sproblemsprobablystemfromherrecognitionthatmarriageisa
patriarchalinstitutionand,assuch,isthreatenedbyMadonna'ssexuality'(273).fIfthisisagainaprocess
ofembeddinginmetadiscourseasampleofrawelllalespeech,itisalsoaperfectlyhonestapproachfor
anyacademic~lysttoexpenence'o_fculturetovalidatetotake.andItdiffersuniversalizefromaits
discourseownconclusions.thatsimplyHowever,appeals
~uchhonestyshouldalsorequiresomeanalysisoftheanalyst'sown~~estmentsomerecognitionofthe
doubleplayoftransference.(Lucy~Pknowmglransl~tionlaceduso.flS
herre.cogrution.firstlysubjectplea.s~eandcommentary,aofcttingcultural~Madonna:1~rarelyof
studies,popularandmadebut.whatthenandmvmcesap~pulistaplaycollectiveisC?ur(theofpleas~
inLucy's?)Thispolermcs.identificationinformants),subject,What'thebetweenanpeople'.takesactthe
itsof
158Whatisculturalstudies?
InFiske'stext,however,'thepeople'havenonecessarydefiningcharacteristicsexceptanindomitable
capacityto'negotiate'readings,generatenewinterpretations,andremakethematerialsofculture.Thisis
also,ofcourse,thefunctionofculturalstudiesitself(andinFiske'sversion,thestudydoesincludea
'semioticanalysisofthetext'toexplorehowmeaningsaremade)(Fiske,272).Soagainstthehegemonic
forceofthedominantclasses,'thepeople'infactrepresentthemostcreativeenergiesandfunctionsof
critical reading. In theendthey are not simply the cultural student's object of study, and his native
informants.Thepeoplearealsothetextuallydelegated,allegoricalemblemofthecritic'sownactivity.
Theirethnosmaybeconstructedasother,butitisusedastheethnographer'smask.
Once'thepeople'arebothasourceofauthorityforatextandafigureofitsowncriticalactivity,the
populist enterprise is not only circular but (like most empirical sociology) narcissistic in structure.
Theorizingtheproblemsthatensueisawaytobreakoutofthecircuitofrepetition.Anotheristoproject
elsewhereamisunderstandingordiscouragingOtherfigure(oftenthatfeministorMarxistEcho,the
blastfromthepast)tonecessitateandenablemorerepetition.
TheopeningchapteroflainChambers'sPopulilrCultureprovidesanexampleofthis,aswellasa
definitionofwhatcountsas'popular'knowledgethatisconsiderablymorerestrictivethanJohnFiske's.
Chambersarguesthatinlookingatpopularculture,weshouldnotsubjectindividualsignsandsingle
textstothe'contemplativestareofofficialculture'.Whenappliedtothetactile,transitory,expendable,
visceralworldofthepopular,contemplationwouldbeamisunderstandingcalledVanity.Instead,itisa
practice of 'distracted reception' that really characterizes the subject of 'popular epistemology'. For
Chambers, this distraction has consequences for the practice of writing. Writingcanimitate popular
culture(life...)by,forexample,'writingthroughquotations',andrefusingto'explain...referencesfully'.
Toexplainwouldbetoreimposethecontemplativestare,andadopttheauthorityofthe'academicmind'.9
Chambers'sargumentemergesfromaninterpretationofthehistoryofsubculturalpractices,especially
inmusic.I'vearguedelsewheremydisagreementwithhisattem;ttousethathistorytogeneralizeabout
popularcultureinThePresent.1Here,Iwanttosuggestthatanimageofthesubjectofpopepistemology
ascasualand'distracted',obliquelyentailsarevivalofthefigurethatAndreasHuyssen,TaniaModleski,
andPatricePetrohavedescribedinvariouscontextsas'masscultureaswoman'.11Petroinparticular
further points out that the contemplation/ distraction opposition is historically implicated in the
construction of the 'female spectator' as site, and target, of a theorization of modernity by male
intellectualsinWeimar.12
There are many versions of a 'distraction' model available in cultural studies today: there are
housewives phasing inandout of TV or flippingthroughmagazines inlaundromats as well as pop
intellectuals playing with quotes. In Chambers's text, which is barely concerned with women at all,
distraction is not presented as a female characteristic. Yet today's recycling of Weimar's distraction
nonethelesshasthe'contours',inPetro's
Banalityinculturalstudies159
phrase,ofafamiliarfemalestereotype.Distracted,absentminded,insouciant,vague,flighty,skimming
fromimagetoimage...therushofassociationsrunsirresistiblytowardsafigureofmassculturenotas
womanbut,morespecifically,asbimbo.
InthetextsPetroanalyzes,'contemplation'(ofdistractioninthecinema)isassumedtobetheprerogative
ofmaleintellectualaudiences.Inpopepistemology,acomplicationisintroducedviatheproceduresof
projectionandidentificationthatElaineShowalterdescribesin'Criticalcrossdressing'.13Theknowing
subjectofpopularepistemologynolongercontemplates'massculture'asbimbo,buttakesonthe
assumedmassculturalcharacteristicsinthewritingofhisowntext.Sincetheobjectofprojectionand
identificationinpostsubculturaltheorytendstobeblackmusicand'style'ratherthantheEuropean(and
literary)feminine,wefindanactantialheroofknowledgeemergingintheformofthewhitemilletheorist
asbimbo.Whitemaletheoriststodayhavetheirproblems,andIdon'twanttodiminishthem.I'mnot
aversetocrossdressingindeed,thewonderfulAmericanword'bimbo'wasactuallysuggestedtomeby
KathleenWoodwardwhenIwasstrugglingtoarticulatemyowncontemplativeinterestintheSylvester
StalloneofRockyIandll.Ithinktherealproblemwiththenotionofpopepistemologyisnot,inthis
case,thevestigalantifeminismoftheconceptofdistraction.Theproblemisthatinantiacademicpop
theorywriting(muchofwhich,likeChambers'sbook,circulatesastextbookswithexamandessaytopics
attheendofeachchapter),astylisticenactmentofthe'popular'asdistracted,scanningthesurface,and
shortonattentionspan,performsaretrieval,atthelevelofenunciativepractice,ofthethesisof'cultural
dopes'.InthecritiqueofwhichgoingrightbacktotheearlyworkofStuartHall,nottomention
RaymondWilliamstheprojectculturalstudieseffectivelyandrightlybegan.
Onecouldclaimthatthisinterpretationisonlypossibleifonecontinuestoassumethattheacademic
traditionsof'contemplation'reallydodefineintelligence,andthattobe'distracted'canthereforeonly
meanbeing~opey.Iwouldreplythataslongasweacceptrestatingthealternativesmthoseterms,thatis
preciselytheassumptionwecontinuetorecycle.Nomatterwhichofthetermswevalidate,the
contemplation/distraction,academic/popular,oppositionscanonlyservetolimitanddistortthe
possibilitiesofpopularpractice..Furthermore,Ithinkthatthisreturntothepostulateofculturaldopism~
~epracticeofwritingmaybeonereasonwhy,beyondthepressureon~dividualproducerstosupplythe
demandcreatedbybooms,poptheorybeytsnowgeneratingoverandoveragainthesamearticlewhich
nevergoes.o.ndrecyclingandrestatingitsownbasicpremises.Ifaculturaldopism15bemg
enunciativelyperformed(andvalorized)inadiscoursethattriesto~ontestit,thentheargumentinfact
cannotmoveon,butcanonlyretrieveItsP<?intofdepartureas'banality'(awordpoptheoriestsdon't
normallyUSe)mthenegativesense.
F~rthethesisofculturalstudiesasFiskeandChamberspresentitrunsP~o~lyclosetothiskindof
formulation:peopleinmodemmediatizedSOCietiesarecomplexandcontradictory,massculturaltexts
arecomplexandcontradictory,thereforepeopleusingthemproducecomplexand
160Whtltisculturalstudies?
contradictoryculture.Toadd!latthispopularculturehascriticalandresistantelementsistauto!"gical
unless one (or a predicated someone, that Other who needs to be told) has a concept of culture so
rudimentarythatitexcludescriticismofandresistancehomthepracticeofeverydaylife.
GiventhecompletelydifferentvaluesascribedtomasscultureinBaudrillard'sworkandinpoptheory,
itistemptingtomakeadistractedcontrastbetweenthemintermsofelitismandpopulism.However,they
arenotsymmetricalopposites.
Culturalstudiespositsa'popular'subject'supposedtoknow'inacertainmanner,whichthesubjectof
populisttheorythenclaimstounderstand(Fiske)ormimic(Chambers).Baudrillard'selitism,however,
isnotanelitismofaknowingsubjectoftheory,butanelitismoftheobjectwhichisforever,and
actively,evasive.Thereisahintof'distraction'here,anechobetweentheproblematicsofwomanand
literalnessandmasscultureasbimbowhichdeservesfurthercontemplation.Afinaltwististhatfor
Baudrillardtheworst(thatis,mosteffective)elitismoftheobjectcanbecalled,precisely,'theory'.
Theoryisunderstoodasanobjectifiedandobjectifying(never'objective')forcestrategicallyengagedin
anevermoreintenseprocessofcommodification.Like'distraction'itisdistinguishedbytherapidityof
itsflight,ratherthanbyaconcentratedpursuit.Insteadofpursuingit,however,Ishallcomebackaround
tocommodification,andtheproblemofculturalboom.
Itisremarkable,giventhedifferencesbetweenthemandthecrisisriddensocietythateachinitsown
wayaddresses,thatneitheroftheprojectsI'vediscussedleavesmuchplaceforanunequivocallypained,
unambivalentlydiscontented,oraggresivetheorizingsubject.Itisn'tjustnegligence.Thereisanactive
processgoingoninbothofdiscreditingbydirectdismissal(Baudrillard),orcovertinscriptionasOther
(culturalstudies)thevoicesofgrumpyfeministsandcrankyleftists('FrankfurtSchool'candodutyfor
both).Todiscreditsuchvoicesis,asIunderstandit,oneoftheimmediatepoliticalfunctionsofthe
currentboominculturalstudies(asdistinctfromtheintentionalityofprojectsinvestedbyit).Todiscredit
avoiceissomethingverydifferentfromdisplacingananalysiswhichhasbecomeoutdated,orrevising
astrategywhichnolongerservesitspurpose.
Baudrillard'shostilitytothediscoursesofpoliticalradicalismisperfectlyclearandbrilliantlyplayed
out.Itisalittletooaggressivetoaccuseculturalstudiesofplayingmuchthesamegame.Culturalstudies
isahumaneandoptimisticdiscourse,tryingtoderiveitsvalueshommaterialsandconditionsalready
availabletopeople.Ontheotherhand,itcanbecomeanapologetic'yes,but...'discourse,thatmostoften
proceedsfromadmittingclass,racial,andsexualoppressiontofindingtheinevitablesavinggracewhen
itstheoreticalpresuppositionsshouldrequireitatleasttodobothsimultaneously,even'dialectically'.And
inpracticethe'but...'thatistosay,theargumentativerhetoricisimmediatelydirectednottothehege
monicforceofthe'dominantclasses',buttoothercriticaltheories(vulgarfeminism,theFrankfurtschool)
inscribedasmisunderstandingpopularculture.
Banalityinculturalstudies161
Thismaybepartlyaresultofthenotionsof'negotiated','resistant',and'oppositional'readingsthatstill
playsuchalargepartinouranalyses.Intheend,theaimofanalysisbecomestogenerateoneofthese,
thusrepeatedlyprovingitpossibletodoso.Sincethereislittlepointinregeneratinga'dominant'reading
ofatext(thefeaturesofwhichareusuallypresupposedbythesocialtheorywhichframesthereading
inthefirstplace),thefigureofamisguidedbutonsideOtherisnecessarytojustifytheexerciseand
guarantee the 'difference' of the reading. I think that two related rhetorical determinants also enable
culturalstudiestoworkthiswayinspiteoftheintentionsofmanyofuswhodoit.
Thefirstoftheseisatendencytowardsemotionalsimplification.Tosimplifymyself,I'dsaythatwhere
thefatalstrategiesofBaudrillardkeepreturningustohisfamousBlackHoleascenariothatissogrim,
obsessive,andinitsenunciativestrategiesmaniacallyovercoherent,thatinsteadofspeaking,awoman
musttearouthereyetobeheardthevoxpopstyleofculturalstudiesisonthecontraryofferingusthe
sanitizedworldofadeodorantcommercialwherethere'salwaysawaytoredemption.There'ssomething
sad about that, because cultural studies emerged from a real attempt to give voice to much grittier
experiencesofclass,race,andgender.
Ifemotionalsimplificationisoneproblem,thenthereisanotherthathelpstoproducethesimplification.
This'problem'isoneoftheenablingthesesofculturalstudies:that'consumption'canbetreatedasa
quasiautonomousrealitydivergingfromanother'reality'called'production'which,afterMarxism,we
aresupposedtoknowquiteenoughaboutforthetimebeing.Production'processes'arewellknown,but
consumption'practices'remainenigmatic.
There are a number of difficulties with this even as a rough working assumption: for example,
consumption(albeitas'practice')canonlybeopposedasanequivalenttermto'production'oncethe
conceptof'modeofproduction'hasbeenreducedto'factoriesmakinggoods,capitalistsmakmgprofits'.
Onlyinthisutterlyvestigaleconomicsensecanthepracticeofconsumptionbepredicatedasa'separate
sphere'ratherthanoneofthenecessary,complex,variablephasesofaproductiveprocesswhichisno
moreautonomousfrom,thanitismetonymicof,thatprocess.'Difference',afterall,isnot'autonomy'.
Moreconcretely,atatimewhenitisimpossibletodeterminetowhat~tent,andinwhichplaces,
'practices' like programtrading and arbitrage m foreign exchange futures are effects or causes of a
catastrophic stock mar~ crash which is immediately reconstituted as banal in media also functio~g
indeterminately as causes and effects in the process, the assumption that production is 'known' and
consumptionenigmaticis,tosay
theleast,unhelpful.Baudrillard,forallhisunrelentingbleakness,isinthisr~ectmoreeffective,more
fatal,asananalystofthewaytheworldis~orking.Thekindofexplanationfrom'production'so
cheerfullyrejected~~turalstudiesusuallyboilsdowntoonebasedonamodelofgoodoldashahioned,
familycompanyindustrialism.Youcan'tderiveyouranalysisofwtpeoplemakeofarecordfromfinding
outthatcapitalistsownthefactory.Youcan'tdeduceourusesofTVfromknowingwhomakesthe
162Whatisculturalstudies?
programandwhoownsthechannelsandhowtheylinktoothercompaniesandagenciesofstate.
Indeed,youcan't.Butinaneraofdeindustrializationandincreasingintegrationofmarketsandcircuits
alike,theproblemoftheorizingrelationsbetweenproductionandconsumption(orthinking'production'at
all)isconsiderablymorecomplexthanisallowedbyareductionoftheefforttodosotoanachronistic
terms.Thecomputerizationofcapitalismisalsoafactorwhichmakesextremelydubioustheliterary
analogiesthatunderpin,alltoooftenunquestioned,thenotionofconsumerpractice:productionislike
writing, consumption is like reading, therefore we can write our readings of consumption without
reference to the author's (capitalism's) intentions. However, unlike the concept of 'writing', the term
'production'inculturaltheoryhasatrophiedinsteadofbeingretheorized.Thesedaysitisoftenusedasa
shorthandtermfor'talkingeconomics'.'Consumption'meanstalkingaboutsex,art,'culturalpolitics',and
fun.Beforecompletelyrelegatingtheformertotherealmofthedejavu,however,itmaybeaswellto
considerthatinthelatetwentiethcentury,afteracenturyofromanticism,modernism,theavantgarde,
andpsychoanalysis,economics,infact,maybeconsiderablymoreenigmaticthansexuality.
Yetinsayingthis,myowndiscourseistakingontheharanguingtoneofanalreadydiscreditedvoice.
Thesenseoffrustrationthatsomeofuswhowouldinscribeourownworkasculturalstudiesfeelwiththe
termsofpresentdebatecanbedisabling.Ifoneisequallyuneasyaboutfatalistictheoryontheonehand,
andaboutcheerily'makingthebestofthings'inthenameofanewpoliticsofcultureontheother,thenit
isapoorsolutiontoconsenttoconfineoneselfto(andin)thedourpositionofrebukingboth.
InThePracticeofEverydayLife,MicheldeCerteauprovidesamorepositiveapproachtothepolitics
oftheorizingpopularculture,andtotheparticularproblemsIhavediscussed.14Oneofthepleasuresof
thistextformeistherangeofmoodsthatitadmitstoafieldofstudywhichrathersurprisingly,since
'everydaylife'isatissueoftenseemstobeoccupiedonlybycheerleadersandprophetsofdoom.Sofrom
itIshallborrowinacontemplativeratherthanadistractedspirittwoquotationstointerruptmyown
slideintosermonizing.
ThefirstquotationisinfactfromJacquesSojcher'sLaDemarchepoetique.DeCerteaucitesitafter
arguingforadoubleprocessofmobilizingthe'weightyapparatus'oftheoriesofordinarylanguageto
analyzeeverydaypractices,andseekingtorestoretothosepracticestheirlogicalandculturallegitimacy.
DeCerteauinsists,however,thatinthiskindofresearch,everydaypracticeswill'alternatelyexacerbate
anddisruptourlogics.Itsregretsarelikethoseofthepoet,andlikehim,itstrugglesagainstoblivion'.So
IwillusethisquotationinturnasaresponsetotheterrifyingandunrelentingcoherenceofBaudrillard's
fatalstrategies.Sojcher:
AndIforgottheelementsofchanceintroducedbycircumstances,calmorhaste,sunorcold,dawnordusk,thetaste
ofstrawberriesorabandonment,thehalfunderstoodmessage,thefront pageofnewspapers,thevoiceonthe
telephone,
Banalityinculturalstudies163
themostanodyneconversation,themostanonymousmanorwoman,everythingthatspeaks,makesnoise,passes
by,touchesuslightly,meetsusheadon.(xvi}
Thernan',"vulgar"secondand[or,thequotationIdifficultwouldcomesproblemsadd,fromthea
discussionof'Freudandtheordinarythatarisewhen'elitistwritingusesthe'feminine']speakerasa
disguisefora111ary'etaianguageandthe'popular'aboutitself'.canactForasdeaCerteau,maskina
recognitionthatthe'ordinanalyticaldiscoursedoesnotiJilplythatthestudyofpopularcultureis
impossibleexceptasrecuperation.Instead,itrequiresadisplacementinthepracticeofknowledge:
Farfromarbitrarilyassumingtheprivilegeofspeakinginthenameoftheordinary(itcannotbespoken),or
claimingtobeinthatgeneralplace(thatwouldbeafalse'mysticism'),or,worse,offeringupahagiographicevery
daynessforitsedifyingvalue,itisamatterofrestoringhistoricitytothemovementwhichleadsanalytical
proceduresbacktothefrontiers,tothepointspeakswheretheyin'Everyman'arechanged,intheindeedsixteenth
disturbed,century,byandtheironicthathasandreturnedmadbanalityinthefinalthat
stagesofFreud'sknowledge....(5)
Inthiswaytheordinary,hesuggests,'canreorganizetheplacefromwhichdiscourseisproduced'.Ithink
thatthismeansbeingverycarefulaboutourenunciativeandstorytellingstrategiesmuchmorecareful
thanmuchculturalstudies(andfeministwriting)hasbeeninitsmimesisofapopularor'feminine'
voice.bricoleurInspirit,impulsedeCerteau'sofculturalworkstudiesismuchthanmorewithin
sympathyapocalypticwiththinking.thepopulist,Themottowhattheyofhishave'book(18).couldIts
Frenchbethetitlesentence,isArts'Peopledefaire:haveartsoftomaking,makedoartswithofdoing,
artsofmakingdo.Whatisusefulinhisbookasacharmagainstemotionalandtheoreticalsimplification
isitsperpetualmovementbetweenwhathecalls'polemological'and'utopian'spacesandpractices(15
18).15Thebasicassumptionfoundinganypolemologicalspaceissummedupbyaquotationinthetext
fromaMaghrebiansyndicalistatBillancourt:contemporary'Theyalwaysfuckculturalusover'.studies:
Thisitdefinesisasentenceaspacethatofstruggle,seemsinadmissibleandmendacityin
('thestrongalwayswin,andwordsalwaysdeceive').Butatthesametime,
.utopianspaceisreproducedinthepopularlegendsofmiraclesthatdrc:ulateandintensifyassocial
repressionbecomesmoreabsoluteand....~~tlye;,:udaryfriarsuccessful.innortheasternAsanexample,
Brazil.
deCerteautellsthestoryofa
B
irthday.I'dciteasCakeanallegoryofbothatelevisionanecdoteabouttheSydneyScandal.1988isthe
celebrationoftheAustralianBicentennational~~cateUStraliaButbenevolentto.it:s.history.
be1Sn:allyanmSydneyfactexercisetheonlyBicentenaryrealin87estatetheyearssimulation,baron
ofold,Sydneyandproposedsoratherasthethetoeventthanoriginalbuildcelebration,isapenalcolony.
widelyunderofa
giantbirthdaydevastationab~veanzoneexpressw~yoftheoty,tunnelsowecouldintheknowmostwe
famousweresocialhavingwastageandaparty.The
164Whiltisculturalstudies?
projectwasunveiledonaTVcurrentaffairsshow,andtherewasanuproarnotonlyfromexponentsof
goodtasteagainstkitsch.Thenetworkswitchboardswerejammedbypeoplepointingoutthat,abovethe
areathatbelongstojunkies,runaways,homelesspeople,andthechildaswellasadultprostitutiontrade,a
giantcakewouldinvokealateeighteenthcenturyvoicequitedifferentfromthatofourfirstprison
governorsaying,'HereweareinBotanyBay'.ThevoicewouldbeMarieAntoinette's'Letthemeat
cake'.Therewasnothingcasualordistractedaboutthevoxpopobservation.
Thebaronthenproposedapubliccompetition,againviaTV,tofindanalternativedesign.Therewere
lotsofproposals:afewofuswantedtobuildKafka'swritingmachinefrom'Inthepenalcolony'.Others
proposedanechidna,awatertower,ahypodermic,oragiantcondom.Thewinnerwasasuburbanrotary
clothesline: Australia's major contribution to twentieth century technology, andthus something of a
symbolforthecurrentdeclineinoureconomy.Butintheend,thegeneralverdictwasthatwe'drather
makedowiththecake.Asonepersonsaidinavoxpopsegment,'Atleastwiththecake,thetruthabout
thepartyis allnowoutintheopen'. Sohadthe cake beenbuilt, itwouldhave been, after allthat
polemologicalnarrativity,averypoliticalandproblematized,utopianpopularmonument.
Nomonumentmaterialized,andthestorydieddown.However,itreappearedinadifferentformwhen
anextravagantBicentennialBirthdayPartywasdulyheldonJanuary26,1988.Twoandahalfmillion
peopleconvergedonafewsquarekilometresofharborforeshoreonaglorioussummer'sdaytowatchthe
ships,tosplashabout,toeatanddrinkandfallasleepinthesunduringspeeches.Thelargestgatheringof
AboriginalpeoplesincetheoriginalInvasionDaywasalsoheld,toprotesttheproceedings.Theparty
endedwithafabulousdisplayoffireworks,choreographedtomusicincluding'PowerandthePassion'
byAustralia'smostpolemologicalrockband,MidnightOil.Thedayafterthissplendidandawfulevent,a
slogansurfacedinthestreetsandonthewallsofthecityandinpresscartoons:'Letthemeatfireworks'.
DeCerteau'sinsistenceonthemovementbetweenpolemologicalandutopianpracticesofmakingdo
makesitpossibletosaythatifculturalstudiesislosingitspolemologicaledgeitscapacitytoarticulate
loss, despair, disillusion, anger and thus to learn from failure Baudrillard's work has not lost its
utopianism, but has rather produced a convergence between polemological and (nightmare) utopian
spaces.ButtoinvokeinsteadwithdeCerteaua'madandironicbanality'ofthepopularthatcaninsinuate
itselfinourtechniquesastheorists,andreorganizetheplacefromwhichourdiscourseisproduced,is
immediatelytopositanawkwardpositionfortheorizingsubjectsforwhomEvery1tummightnotserveas
wellasILoveLucyasapoliticalfableoforigin.Formeasafeminist,asadistractedmediababy,and
also,tosomeextent,asanAustralian,areferencetoEverymanisratherareminderoftheproblemsof
disengagingmyownthinkingfrompatriarchal,humanist,andeurocentricculturalnorms.
Banalityinculturalstudies165
'Banality'isoneofagroupofwordsincluding'trivial'and'mundane'whosemodernhistoryinscribes
thedisintegrationofoldidealsaboutthecommonpeople,thecommonplace,thecommonculture.In
medievalFrench,the'banal'fields,mills,andovenswerethoseusedcommunally.Itisonlyinthelate
eighteenth century that these words begin to accumu late their modern sense of the trite, the
platitudinous,andtheunoriginal.Soit'sabanalobservationthatifbanality,liketriviality,isanirritant
thatreturnsagainandagaintotroubleculturaltheory,itisbecausetheveryconceptispartofthemodern
historyoftaste,value,andcritiqueofjudgment,thatconstitutesthepolemicalfieldwithinwhichcultural
studiestakesissuewithclassicalaesthetics.
Ifbanalitykeepsoncomingbackaroundinourpolemics,itislessbecauseoftheresidualelitismof
individualintellectuals,andpopulistreactiontoit,andmorebecause'banality'asmythicsignifieris
alwaysamaskforthequestionofvalue,andofvaluejudgment,or'discrimination'.IfIfindmyselfinthe
contradictorypositionofwantingtorejectthepatronizingideathat'banality'isausefulframingconcept
todiscussmassmedia,andyetgoontocomplainmyselfof'banality'inculturalstudies,theproblemmay
arisebecausethecriticalvocubularyavailabletopeoplewantingtotheorizethediscriminationsthatthey
make in relation to their own experience of popular culture without debating the 'validity' of that
experience,evenlessthatcultureasawholeisstill,today,extraordinarilydepleted.Itseemstome,
therefore,thattheworstthingonecandointhiscontextistoaccusepeopletryingtodevelopacritiqueof
popularcultureofsuccumbingto'elitism'orpessimism.
Forthereisanextratwisttothehistoryofbanality.IntheOxfordversionofthishistory,beforeitgoes
roundthrougholdFrenchtocomeroundinmedievalEnglish,ithasatwinordoubleheritagein,onthe
onehand,oldEnglish,bannantosummon,ortocurseandaGermanicbannantoproclaimunder
penalty.Sobanalityisrelatedtobanishing,andalsotoweddingbans.Inotherwords,itisafigure
inscribingpowerinanactofenuncitltion.Inmedievaltimes,itcouldmeantwothingsbeside'common
place'.Itcouldmean,toissueanedictorasummons(usuallytowar).Thatwastheenunciativeprivilege
ofthefeudallord.Oritcouldmeantoproclaimunderorders:tolinethestreets,andcheer,inthemanner
requiredbythedemand'Unbanpourlevainqueur!'Toobedientlyperformarhythmicapplauseisthe
'banal'enunciativedutyofthecommonpeople.:nus
twosidedhistoricalfunctionofbanalitylordlypronouncement,II\lmeticpopularperformance
isnotyetbanishedfromthepracticeoftheorizingthepopulartoday.It'sveryhard,perhapsimpossible,
nottornak~theinvokedvoiceofthepopularperformitselfobedientlyinjustthatrnedievalwayinour
writing.However,whenthevoiceofthatwhichacademicdiscoursesincludingculturalstudies,however
populisttheymaybeconstitutesaspopular,beginsinturntotheorizeitsspeech,thenYouhavean
interestingpossibility.ThattheorizationmaywellgoroundbyWayoftheproceduresthatHomiBhaba
hastheorizedas'colonialmimicry',forexample,butmayalsocomearoundeventuallyinadifferent,
andasyetutopian,modeofenunciativepractice.16
166Wlultisculturalstudies?
Forthisreason,Ithinkthatminoritariantheorizingsubjectsinculturalstudieshavetoworkquitehard
nottobecomesubjectsofbanalityinthatolddoublesense:nottoformulateedictsandproclamations,yet
tokeeptheorizing;nottobecomesupermimicsintheBaudrillardiansenseofbecoming,byreversal,the
sameasthatwhichismimicked,yettorefusetosubsidepermanentlyeitherintosilenceorintoaposture
ofreifieddifference.Throughsomesucheffort,painedanddisgruntledsubjects,whoarealsojoyousand
inventivepractitioners,canarticulateourcritiqueofeverydaylife.
Soasavocalspinoff,perhaps, rather than'child' of Lucytelevisionandits complexeffects as a
'foreign policy of potential"containment"' in myculture, I come back around, inthe end, to Patricia
Mellencamp'sstressonengagingwiththecontradictionsofLucyinthesituation'comedy'ofthepresent.
'Child' is probably an unfortunate way of thinking about historical relationships: as Sonja Rein has
pointedout,oneofthedifficultieswithfeministtheorizationoftelevisionfromthe1950s(andalsowith
theimageryofdistraction)isthatiteasilybecomesjustanotherwayoftalkingaboutourmothersina
mode of regression to an imaginary, if utopian, infancyP Mellencamp's analysis, however,
polemologicallyrefusesto'contain'Lucyinthepast,ortoatheoryof'subversive'humor,'resistant'
pleasure,alone.Inthecontextofaculturalboominthesepropositions,itmaywellbelessfatalistic(if
more'fatal'inBaudrillard'ssense,moreutopianindeCerteau's)tokeepspinningofffromherinsistence
on'dilemmaswhich,forme,nomodemcriticalmodelcanresolve'(87).
Notes
1.JohnFiske,'Britishculturalstudiesandtelevision',ChllnnelsofDiscourse:TelevisionandContemporaryCriticism,ed.
RobertC.Allen(ChapelHill:UniversityofNorthCarolinaPress1987),254,1J9.ReprintedhereasChapter6.2.Judith
Williamson,'Theproblemsofbeingpopular',NewSocialist,September
1986,1415.3.OntheStreet,21October1987.4.PatriciaMellencamp,'Situationcomedy,feminismandFreud:discoursesof
GradeandLucy',StudiesinEntertainment:CriticalApproachestoMassCulture,ed.TaniaModlesld(Bloomington:Indiana
UniversityPress,1986),8095.5.Cf.MargaretMorse,'Thetelevisionnewspersonalityandcredibility:reflections

onthenewsintransition',StudiesinEnterlllinment,5579.6.AndreasHuyssen,AftertheGnatDivide:
Modernism,MJJssCulture,Postmodern
ism(Bloomington:IndianaUniversityPress,1986),vii.7.JeanFran~isLyotard,'Oneofthethingsatstakeinwomen's
struggles',SubStance20(1978),917;JacquesDerrida,'Noapocalypse,notnow(fullspeedahead,sevenmissiles,seven
missives)',Dillcritics(Summer1984),
2~31.8.MicaNava,'Consumerismandits
contradictions',CulturalStudies1(2)(May1987),20410.Thephrase'culturaldopes'isfromStuartHall,'Noteson
deconstructing"thepopular"',Peopk'sHistoryandSocilllistTheory,ed.RaphaelSamuel(London:RoutledgeandKeganPaul,
1981),22739.9.lainChambers,PopularCulture:TheMetropolitanExperience(NewYork:
Methuen,1986),1213.10.MeaghanMorris,'AtHenryParkesMotel',CulturalStudies2(1)(1988),147.
Banalityinculturalstudies167
1
1.AndreasDiuide,approachHuyssen,'Masscultureaswoman:modernism'sother',AftertheGreat4462;tomassTania
culture',Modleski,HighTheory/Low'FemininityCulture,asmas(s)querade:aed.ColinMacCabefeminist(Manchester:and
thefeminine:ManchestertheUniversity"place"ofPress,television1986),in3752;filmstudies',PatriceCinemaPetro,'Mass
Journal25culture(3)(Spring1986),521.12.PatriceCritiqueonsexualityPetro,40(Wmterin'Modernityearly1987),theories
and11546.
massofperceptioncultureinandWeimar:representation',contoursofNewadiscourseGerman
13.Elaineyear',MenShowalter,inFeminism,'Criticaled.crossdressing:AliceJardineandmalePaulfeministsSmithand(New
theYork:womanMethuen,ofthe

14.1987),Michel(Berkeley:11632.
deUniversityCerteau,TheofCaliforniaPracticeofPress,Everyday1984),Life,xvi.
trans.StevenF.Rendall
15.16.Apractice.HomispaceK.SeeforBhaba,deTheCerteau'OfPracticemimicryisoftheEverydayandproductman:Life,
theof,Partambivalenceasill,well'Spatialasapotentialarenafor,a
practices'.ofcolonialdiscourse',October28(Spring1984),12533.17.Privateconversation.Onecouldarguethatthetopicof
punkforthesubcultural
strandofculturalstudiesmaywellperformmuchthesamerole.
8
The future of cultural studies
RaymondWilliams
IwishheretoaddresstheissueofthefutureofCulturalStudies,thoughnotasawayofunderestimating
its very real current strengths and develop ment a development which would have been quite
impossible,Ithink,topredictthirtyorsoyearsagowhenthetermwasfirstbeginningtogetaround.
Indeed,weshouldremindourselvesofthatunpredictability,asaconditionlikelytoapplyalsotoany
projectionswemightourselvesmake,someofwhichwillcertainlybeasblind.Yetweneedtoberobust
ratherthanhesitantaboutthisquestionofthefuturebecauseourowninputintoit,ourownsenseofthe
directionsinwhichitshouldgo,willconstituteasignificantpartofwhateverismade.Andmoreoverthe
clearingofourmindswhichmightleadtosomedefinitionoftheconsiderationsthatwouldapplyin
decidingadirectionisbothhardandnecessarytoachieve,preciselybecauseofthatuncertainty.
IwanttobeginwithaquitecentraltheoreticalpointwhichtomeisattheheartofCulturalStudiesbut
whichhasnotalwaysbeenrememberedinit.Andthisistousecontemporarytermsinsteadoftherather
moreinformaltermsinwhichitwasoriginallydefinedthatyoucannotunderstandanintellectualor
artistic project without also understanding its formation: that the relation between a project and a
formationisalwaysdecisive;andthattheemphasisofCulturalStudiesispreciselythatitengageswith
both,ratherthanspecializingitselftooneortheother.Indeeditisnotconcernedwithaformationof
whichsomeprojectisanillustrativeexample,norwithaprojectwhichcouldberelatedtoaformation
understoodasitscontextoritsbackground.Projectandformationinthissensearedifferentwaysof
materializingdifferentways,then,ofdescribingwhatisinfact_acommondispositionofenergyand
direction.Thiswas,Ithink,thecruoaltheoreticalinventionthatwasmade:therefusaltogivepriorityto
eithertheprojectortheformationor,inolderterms,theartorthesociety.Thenoveltywasseeing
preciselythatthereweremorebasicrelationsbetweentheseotherwiseseparatedareas.Therehadbeen
plentyofprecedentsforkindsofstudywhich,havinglookedataparticularbodyofintellectualorartistic
workrelatedittowhatwascalleditssociety;justastherewasawholebodyofworkforexample,in
historywhichdescribedsocieties
Thefutureofculturalstudies169and
thenillustratedthemfromtheircharacteristicformsofthoughtandart.Whatcentralwethingwereto
thensay,tryingisthattothesesay,conceptsanditremainsadifficultbut,Idobelieve,whatwewould
nowdefineas'project'and'formation'areaddressingnottherelationsbetweentwoseparatematerial
entities,formsin'art'socialandformations'society',butofaprocessescreativeorwhichacriticaltake
kind,theseordifferentontheothertanCeofhandthistheisthatactualifweformsareserious,ofartistic
weandhaveintellectualtoapplyitwork.toourownTheproject,impor
includingtheprojectofCulturalStudies.Wehavetolookatwhatkindofformationitwasfromwhich
theprojectofCulturalStudiesdeveloped,andthenatthechangesofformationthatproduceddifferent
definitionsofthatproject.Wemaythenbeinapositiontounderstandexistingandpossibleformations
whichwouldinthemselvesbeawayofdefiningcertainprojectstowardsthefuture.
Nowthatis,inasummaryway,atheoreticalpoint;andI'dliketogiveoneortwoexamplesofit.First,
notinCulturalStudiesbutinoneofthecontributorstoit;namelyEnglishorLiteraryStudies.Itisvery
remarkablethatineverycasetheinnovationsinliterarystudiesoccurredoutsidetheformaleducational
institutions.Inthelatenineteenthcentury,whentherewasinfactnoorganizedteachingofEnglish
literatureatall,thedemandsociety.cameinFirst,twoneglectedinadulteducation,andinasensewhere
repressedpeoplewhoareashadofthebeenculturedeprivedofthisofanycontinuingeducational
opportunitywereneverthelessreaders,andwantedtodiscusswhattheywerereading;and,evenmore
specifically,amongwomenwho,blockedfromtheprocessofhighereducation,educatedthemselves
repeatedlythroughreading,andespeciallythroughthereadingof'imaginativeliterature'asthephrase
usuallyhasit.Bothgroupswantedtodiscusswhatthey'dread,andtodiscussitinacontexttowhichthey
broughttheirownsituation,theirownexperienceademandwhichwasnottobesatisfied,itwasvery
soonclear,bywhattheuniversities(iftheyhadbeendoinganything,andsomeinformallywere)were
preparedtooffer,whichwouldhavebeenacertainkindofhistoryorasetofdates,a~
descriptionofperiodsandforms.Thedemand,then,wasforadiscussionofthisliteraturein
relationtotheselifesituationswhichpeople~ere
stressingoutsidetheestablishededucationalsystems,inadulteducationandinthefrustratedfurther
educationofwomen.Hencesomeofthe~eideasmostaroseremarkableinearlydefinitionsofwhata
modemEnglishfromOxfordExtensionlecturerswho'dgoneoutandrelationtothisquitenewdemand.
Andwhenthiscoursemightformedtheirnewkindof~~~yofliteratureoutsidetraditionalphilology
andmerecataloguingua:omryfinallygotintotheuniversity,itssyllabuswaswritten,forexampleat
Cambridge,almostpreciselyonthelineswhichthatearlyPhase~ed.inItthewaslatesaidnineteenthby
oneofcenturythefoundersandearlyofCambridgetwentiethcenturyEnglishthathad
textbookofthatperiodwasvirtuallyadefinitionoftheirsyllabus.B~tthenlookwhathappened:having
gotintotheuniversity,EnglishStudieshadwithin20yearsconverteditseHintoafairlynormalacademic
CO~,onginalmarginalizingproject.BecausethosebymembersthistimeofwhatitseHitwhowaswere
doingsustainingwithinthethe
170Whatisculturalstudies?
institutionwaslargelyreproducingitself,whichallacademicinstitutionstendtodo:itwasreproducing
theinstructorsandtheexaminerswhowerereproducingpeoplelikethemselves.Giventheabsenceofthat
pressureandthatdemandfromgroupswhowereoutsidetheestablishededucationalsystem,thisnew
disciplineturnedverymuchinonitself.Itbecame,withsomenotableadvantages,asalwayshappens,a
professionaldiscipline;itmovedtohigherstandardsofcriticalrigourandscholarship;butatthesame
timethepeoplewhounderstoodtheoriginalproject,likeLeavisforexample,weremarginalized.The
curiousfactisthattheythentriedtomoveoutsidetheuniversity,tosetgoingagainthismoregeneral
project.Butbecauseoftheformationtheywerelargely,ifonewantstobestrictintheusualterms,a
groupofpeoplefrompettybourgeoisfamilies,almostequallyresentfuloftheestablishedroUteupper
middle class which thought it possessed literature, and o the majority who they felt were not only
indifferenttoitbuthostileandeventhreateningtheychoseaverypreciseroute.Theywentout,andsent
theirstudentsout,tothegrammarschoolstofindtheexceptionalindividualswhocouldthencomeback
totheuniversityandforwardthisprocess.Whathadbeentakenastheirprojectintotheuniversitywasnot
any longer the same project, so they went outside. But because they conceived themselves as this
minorityinstitution,seekingtoeducateacriticalminority,itwasnowadifferentprojectandnotthe
generalprojectofthefirstdefinition.Andsoallthepeoplewhofirstreadwhatyoucouldnowquitefairly
call 'Cultural Studies' from that tendency from Richards, from Leavis, from Scrutiny who were
studyingpopularculture,popularfiction,advertising,newspapers,andmakingfruitfulanalysesofit,
foundintimethattheaffiliationofthisstudytothereproductionofasped.ficminoritywithindeliberately
minorityinstitutionscreatedaproblemofbeliefforthem,andalsoaproblemfordefiningwhatthe
projectwas.
Ifyouthenlookatthesiteinwhichtherewasafurtherprocessofchangeandinwhichadifferent
projectwasdefined,itwasagaininadulteducation.Indeed,itcanhardlybestressedtoostronglythat
CulturalStudiesinthesensewenowunderstandit,forallitsdebtstoitsCambridgepredecessors,
occurred in adult education: in the WEA, in the extramural Extension classes. I've sometimes read
accountsofthedevelopmentofCulturalStudieswhichcharacteristicallydateitsvariousdevelopments
fromtexts.WeallknowtheaccountswhichwilllineupanddateTheUsesofLiteracy,TheMJUcingof
theEnglishWorkingClass,CultureandSociety,andsoon.But,asamatteroffact,alreadyinthelate
forties,andwithnotableprecedentsinarmyeducationduringthewar,andwithsomeprecedentsthough
theyweremainlyineconomicsandforeignaffairseveninthethirties,CulturalStudieswasextremely
activeinadulteducation.Itonlygotintoprintandgainedsomekindofgeneralintellectualrecognition
withtheselaterbooks.Ioftenfeelsadaboutthemanypeop~ewhowereactiveinthatfieldatthattime
whodidn'tpublish,butwhodidasmuchasanyofusdidtoestablishthiswork.Inthelatefortiespeople
weredoingcoursesinthevisualarts,inmusic,intownplanningandthenatureofcommunity,thenature
ofsettlement,infilm,inpress,inadvertis'ing,inradio;courseswhichiftheyhadnottakenplaceinthat
notably
Thefutureofculturalstudies171
unprivilegedsectorofeducationwouldhavebeenacknowledgedmuchearlier.Onlywhenitreached
eitherthenationalpublishinglevelorwasadoptedwithsomerecoilintheuniversity,wasthiswork,in
thetypicalwaysofthisculture,perceivedasexistingatall.TherewerepeopleIcouldtellyouaboutwho
didasmuchasanyofusinmygeneration,whosenamesthepeoplenowteachingCulturalStudieswould
simplynotknow,andtheyweredoingitinasitewhichwaspreciselyachosenalternativetotheLeavis
group. And it should be stressed that it was a choice: it was distinctly as a vocation rather than a
professionthatpeoplewentintoadulteducationEdwardThompson,Hoggart,myselfandmanyothers
whosenamesarenotknown.Itwasarenewalofthatattemptatamajoritydemocraticeducationwhich
had been there all through the project, but which kept being sidetracked as elements of it got into
institutionswhichthenchangedit.ThustherewasaninitialcontinuityfromtheLeavispositionofcertain
analyticprocedureswhicheventuallywerethoroughlychanged,becausethesepeoplewantedpreciselya
democratic culture, and did not believe that it could be achieved by the constitution of a Leavisite
'minority'alone.Theywereneverthelessaware,becausethiswasaverypracticalandpressedkindof
work,thatthesimplicitiesofrenouncingmasspopulareducationanddemocraticculture,whenyouhave
togooutandnegotiatethemontheground,wouldnotbeeasilyresolved.
IgivethisexamplebecausesooftenthehistoryofeachphaseofCulturalStudieshasbeentracked
throughtexts.Suchaccountstalkaboutthisindividualhavingdonethiswork;thistendency;thisschool;
thismovementlabelledinthisorthatway;whichlooksverytidyasthistypeofidealisthistoryavery
academicizedkindofliteraryorintellectualhistoryalwaysis.Yetthatisinasenseonlythesurfaceof
therealdevelopment,andismoreovermisleadingbecausewhatishappeningeachtimeisthata
formationinagivengeneralrelationshiptoitssocietyistakingwhatyoucouldotherwisetraceasa
projectwithcertaincontinuities,andinfactalteringit,notnecessarilyforthebetter.Therehavebeenas
manyreversionsastherehavebeenadvances;andoneofthereversionscomes,Ithink,~thenextphase.
Becauseassomeofthisworkbegantoberecognizedmtellectually,asitwasbothindiscussionandin
periodicalsandtosomeextentintheuniversities,itwasthoughttobeamuchnewerthingthanitwas.If
youtakemybookCommuniCiltionswhichwascommissionedbecausetheNationalUnionofTeachers
calledaconferenceon'PopularCultureandPersonalResponsibility'whichinfactcameoutofthe1950s
concernabouthorrorcomicstherootisasoddasthatIactuallymadeth~~k,whichdidn'ttakelongto
write,outofthematerialIhadbeen~gmadultclassesforfifteenyears.Thusthesenseofnoveltywhich
is::UY~onveyedbytracingthetextsisinfactmisleading,sincethereal.rmationoftheprojectwas
alreadythere.Butwhenthisbegantohappenltrnadeacertainsignificantintellectualdifferenceinthe
university,thoughneveronewhichcouldshiftitsmostcentralinstitutionsandassumptions..Butthena
periodofexpansionineducationoccurredwhichcreatednew51tesforpreciselythiskindofwork,anda
newkindofformationoneJ>erhapscontinuousuntiltodaycameintoexistence.Icanstillremember
11\yownstudentsgettingtheirfirstjobsandcomingbackandsaying1
172Whatisculturalstudies?
wenttomeettheprincipalasthenewlyappointedlecturerinLiberalStudies,andIaskedhimwhat
LiberalStudieswasandhesaid,1don'tknow;IonlyknowI'vegottohaveit'.Theywere,then,inthat
unprecedentedsituation,formostpeoplestartingtheirfirstjob,ofbeingabletowriteasyllabus,which
otherwiseyoulabouranddragyourselfforalifetimetoclimbtowards,andthenprobablyfailtodo.They
hadtheoptiontoputdowncertainideas,andwhattheyputdown,inthemajority,innewuniversities,in
polytechnics,incollegesoffurthereducation,insomeschoolseven,asthisnewphasegotaround,was
preciselythisareaofworkwhichtheuniversitywasratherwarilylookingatbutkeepingwelloutsideits
reallycentralanddecisiveareas.AndtheywereabletodothisbecausetheoptionforLiberalStudieshad
beensovague;ithadbeenbasedonnothingmuchmorethanthesenseitselfbased,perhaps,inthe
lingeringculturaldistrustofscienceandtechnologyastooworldythatpeopleshoulddiscovercertainof
thefinerthingsoflife.
Inthisway,andwithoutanywellestablishedbodyofworktobaseitselfon,anewformationinthese
newinstitutionsbegantodevelop,butwithcertainconsequences.First,thatpreciselyasyoumoveinto
theinstitutionsasyoupassthatmagicmomentwhenyouarewritingthesyllabusandhavetooperateit,
toexamineit;asyouarejoinedbycolleagues;asyoubecomeadepartmentandastherelationsbetween
departmentshavetobenegotiated,astherelativetimeandresourcesaregiventothemwhatthentakes
placeispreciselytheprocesswhichemasculatedEnglishatCambridge.Attheverymomentwhenthat
adventuroussyllabusbecameasyllabusthathadtobeexamined,itceasedtobeexciting.Andjustatthe
momentwhenthisnewworkfloodedintowhatwere,forallthewelcomeelementsofexpansion,still
minority institutions still, moreover, formed with certain academic precedents around departments,
aboutthenamesofdisciplinesandsoonthencertainkeyshiftsintheprojectoccurred.
YetthereisoneotherkindofinstitutionwhichI'dfirstliketomentionwhichalsooccurredinjustthis
periodI'mtalkingofthesixtiesandthat'stheOpenUniversity.Onthis,twocrucialpointsneedtobe
made,asitwere,simultaneously.First,thatthiswasanextraordinaryattemptinthetraditionofthat
movementtowardsanopenaccessdemocraticcultureofaneducationalkindnotthebureaucratically
centralizedimpositionofaculturalprogrammewhichwouldenlightenthemassesbutoneofagenuinely
openandeducationalkind.Atthesametime,however,itwasadeliberatebreakwiththetraditionsofits
ownsocietyinadulteducationandtheCooperativeGuild,inallthelocalselfeducatingorganizationsof
workingpeopleandothers,whichhadbeenbasedpreciselyonaprinciplewhichitcouldnotrealize:that
intellectualquestionsarosewhenyoudreWupintellectualdisciplinesthatformbodiesofknowledgein
contactwi~people'slifesituationsandlifeexperiences.Becauseofcoursethat
J.Sexactlywhathadhappened
inadulteducation.Academicstookout~mtheirinstitutionsuniversityeconomics,oruniversityEnglish
orunivers1typhilosophy,andthepeoplewantedtoknowwhatitwas.Thisexchangedidn'tcollapseinto
somesimplepopulism:thatthesewereallsillyinte~lectualquestions...,.h..;..nurn<~~.ihJation
Yettheseande:xperiencenewstudentshadinsistedtobediscussed,(1)thattheandrelation(2)thatof
therethiS
Thefutureofculturalstudies173
wereareasinwhichthedisciplineitselfmightbeunsatisfactory,andthereforetheyretainedasacrucial
principletherighttodecidetheirownsyllabus.Thisprocessofconstantinterchangebetweenthe
disciplineandthestudents,whichwasthereinstitutionalized,wasdeliberatelyinterruptedbytheOpen
University,averyWilsonianprojectintwosenses.Itwasontheonehandthispopularaccess;onthe
otherhanditwasinsertingatechnologyoverandabovethemovementoftheculture.Thisprojectwould
bringenormousadvantagebutitlackstothisdaythatcrucialprocessofinterchangeandencounter
betweenthepeopleofferingtheintellectualdisciplinesandthoseusingthem,whohavefarmorethana
righttobetestedtoseeiftheyarefollowingthemoriftheyarebeingputinaformwhichisconvenient
wheninfacttheyhavethismorebasicrighttodefinethequestions.Thesepeoplewere,afterall,ina
practicalpositiontosay'well,ifyoutellmethatquestiongoesoutsideyourdiscipline,thenbringme
someonewhosedisciplinewillcoverit,orbloodywellgetoutsideofthedisciplineandanswerit
yourself'.Itwasfromthisentirelyrebelliousanduntidysituationthattheextraordinarilycomplicatedand
oftenmuddledconvergencesofwhatbecameCulturalStudiesoccurred;preciselybecausepeople
wouldn'tacceptthoseboundaries.YettheOpenUniversity,asamajorexampleofabreakthroughbeyond
aminorityinstitution,hadthiselementinitofatechnologyinsertedoverandabovethesocialprocessof
education:ithadthischaracteristicdoubledimension.Inowcometomycontroversialpoint.Atjustthis
moment,abodyoftheorycamethroughwhichrationalizedthesituationofthisformationonitswayto
becomingbureaucratizedandthehomeofspecialistintellectuals.Thatistosay,thetheorieswhichcame
therevivalofformalism,thesimplerkinds(includingMarxistkinds)ofstructuralismtendedtoregard
thepracticalencountersofpeopleinsocietyashavingrelativelylittleeffectonitsgeneralprogress,since
themaininherentforcesofthatsocietyweredeepinitsstructures,andinthesimplestformsthepeople
whooperatedthemweremere'agents'.Thiswaspreciselytheencouragementforpeoplenottolookat
theirownformation,nottolookatthisnewandatonceencouragingandproblematicsituationtheywere
in;atthefactthatthiskindofeducationwasgettingthroughtonewkindsofpeople,andyetthatitwas
stillinsideminorityinstitutions,orthattheinstitutionse.xercisedtheconfiningbureaucraticpressuresof
syllabusandexamination,whichcontinuallypulledtheserawquestionsbacktosomethingmanageable
withintheirterms.AtjustthatmomentwhichIhopeisstillamomentoffruitfultensiontherewasfor
atimeaquiteuncriticalacceptanceofasetoftheorieswhichinasenserationalizedthatsituation,which
saidthatthiswasthewaytheculturalorderworked,thiswasthewayinwhichtheideologydistributedits
rolesandfunctions.The;_holeprojectwasthenradicallydivertedbythesenewformsofidealisteory.
EventhequitedifferentworkofGramsciandBenjaminwassub~Uln~withinthem;andofthepowerful
earlychallengetosuchModernistldealismslaunchedbyBakhtin,VoloshinovandMedvedev,littleor
nothingw~heard.Even(anditwasnotoften)whenformationsweretheorized,thell\ainlessonof
formationalanalysis,concerningone'sownandother
174Whatisculturalstudies?
contemporaryformations,waslessemphasizedthanmoresafelydistancedacademicstudies.
Initsmostgeneralbearings,thisworkremainedakindofintellectualanalysiswhichwantedtochange
theactualdevelopmentsofsociety,butthenlocally,withintheinstitution,therewereallthetimethose
pressuresthathadchangedsomuchinearlierphases:fromotherdisciplines,fromothercompetitive
departments,theneedtodefineyourdiscipline,justifyitsimportance,demonstrateitsrigour;andthese
pressureswerepreciselytheoppositeofthoseoftheoriginalproject.Nowtherewasindeedaverygreat
gain in this period, as anybody who compares the earlier and later work will see. When I wrote
CommuniCQtionswewereanalyzingnewspapersandtelevisionprogrammes,withmaterialstrewnover
thekitchenfloorandourselvesaddinguponbacksofenvelopes,andwhenIlooknowatMediaStudies
departmentsandseetheequipmenttheyhavetodothejobproperlyIofcourserecognizetheadvancesas
beingmarked.Similarlywithfilmstudies,weneverknewwhetherthefilmwould(a)arrive,(b)work
withthatprojector,(c)whetherinanadultclasspeoplewouldn'tbesodazedafterwatchingthefilmthat
whenyouaskedfordiscussionyounevergotaword;nowfilmcoursesoperateinaproperinstitution,and
I've never doubted the advantages of this; just as nobody in the centre of the English Faculty at
Cambridgenowcouldbelieveforamomentthatwhattheydoisn'tinfinitelysuperiortoLeavis'swork.I
mean,incertainnewwaysitisalwaysmoreprofessional,moreorganized,andproperlyresourced.Onthe
otherhand,thereremainstheproblemofforgettingtherealproject.Asyouseparatethesedisciplinesout,
andsayWell,it'savagueandbaggymonster,CulturalStudies,butwecandefineitmorecloselyas
media studies, community sociology, popular fiction or popular music', so you create defensible
disciplines,andtherearepeopleinotherdepartmentswhocanseethatthesearedefensibledisciplines,
thathereisproperlyreferencedandpresentedwork.Butthequestionofwhatisthenhappeningtothe
projectremains.Andinasensethecrisisoftheselastyearsshouldremindusofthecontinuingrelation
betweentheprojectandtheformation:theassumptionthatwewerewitnessingtheunfoldingofsome
structurewhichwas,sotosay,inherentacontinuationofsomesimpleline,asinthoseaccountsofthe
history of Cultural Studies which had shown people gradually, although always with difficulty,
overcomingtheirresidualerrorsandmovingonabithasbeenbrutallyinterruptedbytheveryconscious
counterrevolutionoftheselastyears.
1hisiswhereIcometothequestionofthefuture.Forwhatwenowhaveisasituationinwhichthe
popularculturalinstitutionshavechangedsoprofoundlythroughtheperiodinwhichCulturalStudieshas
beendeveloped,withrelativealterationsofimportanceforexamplebetween~roa~castingandprint
ofakindthatnoonewouldhavebelievedposs1ble
ll1 the fifties. We've got new
setsofproblemsbothinsidethedifferentkindsofstudywedo,astowhichofthemreallybearonthe
project,andalsothequestionofconsideringourownformationinthisnowverychangedsituation.I'll
takeacoupleof examples first from the internal process of the subjects themselves, illustratingthe
contradictoryeffectsofthiswelcomedevelopmentbutsimultaneousinstit..J.tionalizationofCultural
Stu
Thefutureofculturalstudies175
dies.Ifyoutakethequestionofpopularculture,orpopularfiction,ithasbeenclearlyquitetransformedinthe1980s
fromitssituationinthe1950s,notonlybecausepeoplehavebeenmoreprepared,becauseofgeneralsocial
andformationalchanges,torelatedirectlytopopularculture,puttingthemselvesataveryconsciousdistancefrom
RichardsandLeavisinthe1920sand1930swhosawitonlyasamenacetoliteracyanelementwhichsurvives,
perhaps,althoughalwaysasuncertainlyandambiguouslyasever,inRichardHoggart'sbook.Butatthesametime
thatearliertensionbetWeentwoverydifferenttraditionsandkindsofworkcanaseasilybecollapsedasexplored.It
isnecessaryandwhollyintellectuallydefensibletoanalyseserialsandsoapoperas.YetIdowonderaboutthe
courseswhereatleasttheteachersandIwouldsayalsothestudentshavenotthemselvesencounteredthe
problemsofthewholedevelopmentofnaturalistandrealistdrama,ofsocialproblemdrama,orofcertainkindsof
serialforminthenineteenthcentury;whichareelementsintheconstitutionoftheseprecisecontemporaryforms,so
thatthetensionbetweenthatsocialhistoryofformsandtheseformsinacontemporarysituation,withtheirpartly
newandpartlyoldcontent,partlynewandpartlyoldtechniques,canbeexploredwithweightonbothsides.This
canveryeasilynothappenifoneisdefiningthesimplerkindofsyllabusbecausetheteachercansay'well,forthat
you'dhavetogotodrama',orliteratureorfiction,'we'redoingpopularfiction'.Yethowcouldyoucarrythroughthe
veryimportantworknowbeingdoneondetectivestories,forinstance,withoutbeingabletotrackbacktothecrime
storiesofthenineteenthcenturyandgrasptheprecisesocialandculturalmilieuoutofwhichthatformcame,sothat
youarethenabletoaddanextradimensionofanalysistowhatwenowsayabouttheformofthedetectivestory?
Or,inthesociologicaldimensionofCulturalStudies,thereisthewholeproblemoftherelationbetweenveryclose
upcontemporaryworkwhichiscruciallynecessarytohistory,andtheverycomplicatedinterpretationsofhistory
whicharenottobediminished,inmyview,simplytolabourhistoryorpopularhistory,becauseotherwiseone
isolatesaclasspreciselyfromtherelationswhich,inasense,constitutethatclass.Igivethesecasesasexamplesof
howintheveryefforttodefineaclearersubject,toestablishadiscipline,tobringorderintotheworkallofwhich
arelaudableambitionstherealproblemoftheprojectas.awhole,whichisthatpeople'squestionsarenot
answeredbytheexistingdistributionoftheeducationalcurriculum,canbeforgotten.AndP~le,whentheyarefree
tochoosethoughtheyareoftennot,becauseofqUitenaturalpressuresanddeterminationsandareasonable
ambitionto~ualifyagainandagainrefusetolimittheirquestionstotheboundariesofesetcourse.Sothatthe
interrelationsbetweendisciplines,whicharethewholepointoftheproject,havethisinherentprobleminwhatis
otherwiseavaluableprocessofdefiningandmodellingthesubject.
~utthemore.crucialquestionnowisthis:thatevenaftertheexpansionWevehad,whichwasfirsthaltedand
thenturnedbackbyasuccessionfro~CallaghantoThatcherandJoseph,wearefacingasituationwhichisqU1te
differentinkindbutjustaschallengingasthatwhichfacedanyofthosepeoplewhodevelopedtheprojectin
particularcircumstancesinearlierperiods.Whatwehavegotnow,andwhatwasnotavailable
176Whatisculturalstudies?
whenthestudiesweregettingintothenewinstitutions,istheeffectivedisappearanceofthosekindsof
teenage work which were profound anti educational pressures at just the time that some of these
developmentswerehappening.Therewerethenunderstandablepressuresofmoneyandworkagainstthe
problemsofstayingonwiththatkindofschool,thatkindofeducation.We'venowgottheextraordinary
institutionofcourseswhichinasensearedeliberatelyplacedbeyondthereachofeducation.Wehavethe
effectiveeducationofthemajorityintheagegroupof16to18beingremovedasfaraspossiblefrom
whatareconceivedastheolddamagingeducators.Wenowencounteradefinitionofindustrialtraining
whichwouldhavesoundedcrudeinthe1860swhensomethingverylikeitwasproposedandwemight
begladifithadthenhappened:atleastitwouldhavesolvedonesetofproblems.Itisagainbeingsaid
thatpeoplemustgainworkexperiencewithintheformsoftheeconomytowhichtheymustadapt,andas
thatsyllabusiswritten,asthatprogrammeofworkexperienceiswritten,noplaceatallisenvisagedfor
peoplelikeus.Idon'tmeanthatindividualinitiativesdon'thappen,butratherthatawholesubstitute
educational provision is being made with certain very powerful material incentives, including the
possibilityofemployment.Andwhilethelabourmovementssayofsuchworkexperiencethatit'smerely
'cheaplabour'orwhatever,Isaywhateducatorsmustsayandthisis,asamatteroffact,whereIseethe
futureofCulturalStudies.Hereisagroupwhichifitisgivenonlywhatiscalled'workexperience',but
which is actually its introduction to the routines of the foreseen formations of this new indus trial
capitalismwillbewithoutthatdimensionofhumanandsocialknowledgeandcriticalpossibilitywhich
againandagainhasbeenoneoftheelementsofourproject.Andifitseemshopelessthatpeopleintheir
ownhardpressedinstitutions,whichofcoursewehavetodefend,shouldbeaskedtolooktowardsthis
areawhichhasveryconsciously,asamatterofpoliticalpolicy,beenremovedasfaraspossiblefrom
professionaleducators,Iwouldsaythis:thatthereistheprospect,afterall,withintwo,three,fouryears,
ofanotherkindofgovernment;thereisthepossibilityoftherenewaloftheexistinginstitutionsorat
leasttheeasingofsomeoftheirresourceandstaffingproblems.Whenthatcomes,shallwesimplycheer
thatthebudgetarycrisisisover,theestablishmentcrisisrelievedabit?Ifwedo,thenthosecheersshould
onlybeutteredoutofonesideofthemouthbecauseifweallowanabsolutelycrucialareaofformative
humandevelopmenttoremaindeliberatelyisolatedfromeducatorsmoreoveranareainwhichwhat
Cultural Studies has to contribute is particularly relevant then we shall have missed a historic
opportunity;justasrelatedopportunitieswerenearlymissedoronlypartlyrealized,ortoalargeextent
incorporatedandneutralized,inearlierphases.Weshallhavemissedthathistoricopportunitybecausewe
hadbecome,inourverysuccess,institutionalized.
IhavedeliberatelynotsummarizedthewholedevelopmentofCultur~lStudiesintermsofthe
convergenceofintellectualdisciplines,which
15anotherwayofwritingthis
history;aninternalandilluminatingway,butneverthelessinsufficientunlessyourelateitallthetimeto
theverypreciseformationsandsocialinstitutionsinwhichtheseconvergences
Thefutureofculturalstudies177
happenedandhadtohappen.Forthatapproachintermsofintellectualhistorymayobscurefromuswhat
is,asweenterthecomingperiod,ahistoricopportunityforanewCulturalStudiesformation.Andthe
timetopreparethisnewinitiative,whichwouldindeedbemuchresistedbymanyvestedandpolitical
interests,ispreciselynow.Becauseitisonlywhenapersuasive,reasonedandpracticalproposalisput
forwardtoafavourablelocalauthorityorgovernment,whichwouldthenhaveyousortthroughtheways
inwhichyouwouldteachit,thatthisnewworkwillbecomemorethanaresentedinterruptionfromwhat
isotherwisetaught.Ifthisisthoughtthroughnow,ifwefightforit,evenifwefailweshallhavedone
somethingtojustifyourselvesbeforethefuture.ButIdon'tthinkweneedfailatall;Ithinkthatthe
resultswillbeunevenandscattered,butthisiswherethechallengenowis.Ifyouacceptmydefinition
thatthisisreallywhatCulturalStudieshasbeenabout,oftakingthebestwecaninintellectualworkand
goingwithitinthisveryopenwaytoconfrontpeopleforwhomitisnotawayoflife,forwhomitisnot
in any probability a job, but for whom it is a matter of their own intellectual interest, their own
understandingofthepressuresonthem,pressuresofeverykind,fromthemostpersonaltothemost
broadlypoliticalifwearepreparedtotakethatkindofworkandtorevisethesyllabusanddisciplineas
best we can, on this site which allows that kind of interchange, then Cultural Studies has a very
remarkablefutureindeed.
9
The circulation of cultural studies
LawrenceGrossberg
Culturalstudiesismovingrapidlyintothemainstreamofcontemporaryintellectualandacademiclifein
theUnitedStates.Withinthedisciplineofcommunications,itseemsthatculturalstudiesisnolonger
merelytoleratedasamarginalpresence;itiscourtedandevenempoweredwithinlimitedparameters
bythediscipline'srulingblocs.Itisoneofthefewintellectuallymarginalandpoliticallyoppositional
positionstobelegitimatedandincorporatedintothemainstreamofthisrelativelyyoungdiscipline.And
this,tosomeextent,hasmadeitproblematicforthoseinotherstillmarginalizedpositions,whoseeits
successasanimperialisticattempttorepresentthem.Atthesametime,culturalstudieshassuddenly
appearedinotherdisciplinesincludingsociologyandliterarystudiesbutwithlittlesenseofitsradical
challengetothesedisciplinarytraditions.
Thefactthatculturalstudiesincreasingly,andinnewways,isbeingcommodifiedandinstitutionalized
raisesanumberofdisturbingquestions(Allor,1987;Morris,1988b).Asacommodity,ithaslittle
identityofitsownandiscelebratedonlyforitsmobilityanditscapacitytogeneratefurthersurplus
capital.Asaninstitutionalsite,itisreinscribedintotheacademicanddisciplinaryprotocolsagainstwhich
ithasalwaysstruggled.Iwouldliketoaddressoneconsequenceofthechangingplaceofculturalstudies:
themorewetalkaboutit,thelessclearitiswhatwearetalkingabout.1Asculturalstudiesbecomes
something of an established position, it loses its specificity. As the term appears with increasing
frequency,itsrelationtoaspecificBritishbodyofworkdisappears,anditbecomeslessclearwhat
spacewearesupposedtobeinhabiting.2
Thisdilemmaisconstructedfromtwosides.Ontheonehand,culturalstudieshasbeenhijackedbyan
alliancebetweentheapparentdemandsofintellectualwork(whichrequiresthatitbecondensedintoa
positionthatcanbedefinedandsummarized),theexigenciesofthedistributionofitswork(whichhave
functionallyeraseditshistory,itsinternaldifferences,anditscontinuousreconstructionthroughongoing
debates),anditsownsuccessesasapoliticallycommittedandtheoreticallysophisticatedbodyofwork.
Thishas
Thecirculationofculturalstudies179
11\eantthat,toooften,aspecificexemplarofculturalstudiesmostcommonly,~onteJnporarysingleposition
CulturalderivedStudiesfromsomewhere(whetherdefinedintheinworktermsofofthetheory,Centrepolifor
tiCSorcollectiveintellectualwork)istakentobethedefiningpositionor11\odel,thestablerepresentationofthe
history and terrain of cultural studies. Onthe other hand, the assimilation of cultural studiesinto the broader
universeoftheoriesofculturalinterpretation(e.g.theforumsheldonculturalstudiesatthe1988meetingofthe
ModemLanguageAssociation)simplyendsupsubstituting,metonymically,culturalstudiesforthemoreambiguous
notionofcriticaltheory;theresultisthatculturalstudiesisentirelydis~,
leftwithoutanysenseofhowitsintellectualandpoliticalhistoryoffersadifferentwayofengaging
questionsofcultureandpower.
Thoseofusworkingin'culturalstudies'findourselvescaughtbetweentheneedtodefineanddefenditsspecificity
andthedesiretorefusetocloseofftheongoinghistoryofculturalstudiesbyanysuchactofdefinition.Thisis,it
mustbesaid,averyrealdilemmathatcannotbesolvedbyasimpleassertion.Itisnotaquestionof'possessing'
culturalstudiesbutofaskingwhyitisthatthenamehassuddenlybeentakenupbypeopleindifferenttheoretical,
political,anddisciplinarypositions.Itisnotaquestionof'policing'theboundariesbutofrecognizingthatthereisa
historyofintellectualarerealstakesandinpoliticalthestrugglepracticesovernamings,thatisworththenthe
strugglingprojectofover.articulatingIfthere
'culturalstudies'involvesarefusaltorelinquishthegainswhichaspecificintellectualformation(withitsown
history,contradictions,unevendevelopments,conflicts,unities,anddifferences)bringstothestudyofculture.The
formationofculturalstudies.Thepowerandattractivenessofculturalstudiesdependspartlyuponthreefeaturesthat
oftendirectlycontradicttheformsofitscontemporaryappropriation:First,itrefusestoconstructitselfasafinished
orsingulartheoreticalpositionwhichcanfreelymoveacrosshistoricalandpoliticalcontexts.Thehistoryofcultural
studiescanbereadasthecontinuousefforttoreconstructitselfinthelightofchanginghistoricalprojectsand
intellectualresources.Thisdoesnotmean,however,assomewouldhaveit,thattherearenoboundariesonthat
history,~teverytheoryofculture,orevenofcultureandpolitics,representsavtablestudiespositionhasnowithin
identitythebutfieldratherofculturalthatitsstudies.identityItisisalwaysnotthatcontested,cultural
alwaysmultiple,alwayschanging;culturalstudiesisanhistoricallyarticulated'unityindifference'.
Second,culturalstudiesrefusestodefineitsowntheoreticaladequacyinacademicornarrowlyepistemological
terms.TheoryinculturalstudiesisD\e~uredbyitsrelationto,itsenablementof,strategicinterventionsintothe
specificpractices,structures,andstrugglescharacterizingitsplaceinthecon~poraryworld.Culturalstudiesis
propelledbyitsdesiretoconstructPOSSibilities,bothimmediateandimaginary,outofitshistoricalcircums~ces.
Ithasnopretensionstototalityoruniversality;itseeksonlyto81Vhereew.us.abetterunderstandingofwherewe
aresothatwecangetsomeelse(someplace,wehope,thatisbetterbasedonmorejustPllnciplesWecanhaveof
equalityaandthedistributionofwealthandpower),sothatlittlemorecontroloverthehistorythatwearealready
180Whatisculturalstudies?
making. 1ltis is not to say that it surrenders the epistemological question rather it historicizes and
politicizesit.Atheory'sabilityto'cutintothereat'touseBenjamin'smetaphor,ismeasuredbythe
political positions and trajectories theory enables in response to the concrete contexts of power it
confronts.Justlikepeopleineverydaylife,culturalstudiesbeginstograpplewithandanalyzedifficult
politicalsituationsusingtheresourcesandexperiencesathand;itdrawsuponandextendstheoriesto
enableittobreakintoexperienceinnewways.Thus,culturalstudies'developmentisnotaseriesof
epistemologicalrupturesorparadigmshifts(therationalistillusion)buttheongoingattempttomeasure
oldtheoriesagainsttheemergenceofnewhistoricalarticulations,newculturalevents,changesinthe
tempoandtextureofsociallife,newstructuresofsocialrelationshipsandnewsubjectivities.
Cultural studies refuses to be driven by purely theoretical considerations; its agenda is always
constructedbyeventsanddiscoursesthatarelocated,inthefirstinstance,outsideofitsowntheoretical
agenda.Thisanchorinhistoryenablesculturalstudiestocopewiththeimpossiblecomplexityofitsown
historical context a context in which our theories demand more of us than we can reasonably
accomplish, in which everything is evidence and evidence is changing more rapidly than we can
document.
Third,theformofitsinterdisciplinarycharacterisbuiltupontherecognitionthatmuchofwhatone
requirestounderstandculturalpracticesandrelationsisnot,inanyobvioussense,cultural.Whateverthe
effectsofculturalproduction,theyareneverautonomousfactstobelocatedin,andcomparedwith,other
forms of social relationships. Culture exists in complex relations with other practices in the social
formation, and these relations determine, enable, and constrain the possibilities of cultural practices.
Culturalstudiesdoesnotattempttoexplaineverythingfromtheculturalpointofview;rather,itattempts
toexplaincultureusingwhateverresourcesareintellectuallyandpoliticallynecessaryandavailable,
whichisdeterminedinpartbytheformandplaceofitsinstitutionalization.Consequently,cultural
studieshasalwaysbeenacollectiveactivity,althoughitisoftenproducedbyasingleauthorandthe
formsofitscollectivityhavevariedgreatlyandcanneverbedefinedinadvance,outsideofanyspecific
historicalandinstitutionalcontext.
Ifthereisnofixeddefinitionofculturalstudies,perhapstheterrainonwhichitoperatescanatleastbe
identified:culturalstudiesisconcernedwithdescribingandinterveningintheways'texts'and'discourses'
(i.e.culturalpractices)areproducedwithin,insertedinto,andoperateintheeverydaylifeofhuman
beingsandsocialformations,soastoreproduce,struggleagainst,andperhapstransformtheexisting
structuresofpower.Thatis,ifpeoplemakehistorybutinconditionsnotoftheirownmaking(Marx),
culturalstudiesexploresthewaysthisprocessisenactedwithinandthroughculturalpractices,andthe
placeofthesepracticeswithinspecifichistoricalformations.Butsuchstatementsarefraughtwithdanger
fortheysuggestthatthehistoryofculturalstudies,andthedifferenceswithinit,canberepresentedasa
continuousrephrasingofsomeoriginalproblemali;cCulturalstudiesisthenreducibletoaparticular
theoryoftherelationshipbetweencultureandsociety,orbetweencultureandpower,andthehistory
Thecirculationofculturalstudies181
0

fthewerfulformationandenlighteningisseenasthetheoryteleologicaloftherelationship.
orrationalachievementofamore
polerybe)ievequestionsthatwetheneedproblematictobeginwithatthethemorehearttroublingof
culturalrecognitionstudiesarethatconthe
~tlybeingreshapedandreinflected.Culturalstudiesistheongoingefforttodefineitsownlocal
specificity.Atanymoment,theprojectofculturalstudies.valveslocating'culture'bydefiningthe
specificityofbothculturalstruggle:dthehistoricalcontextwithinandagainstwhichsuchstrugglesare
functioning.relat:iollshiPItisitselfthehistoricallyasaterrainconstructedofpowerthatform,defines
structure,thesiteandofeffectivityculturalstudies'ofthe
intervention.Inotherwords,thepointofculturalstudiesisthattherelationsbetWeencultureandsociety,
orbetweencultureandpower,arealwayshistoricallyconstituted.Itfollows,then,thatculturalstudiesis
notbuiltuponatheoryofthespecificityofculture(usuallydefinedintermsofsignification,ideology,
subjectivity,orcommunity);rather,culturalstudiesexaminesminedhowspecificpracticesareplaced
betweenthesocialstructuresofpowerandtheirproductivitydeterandthelivedrealitiesofeverydaylife.
Itisforthisreasonthatcurrentworkonposbnodernityintersectswithculturalstudies;itisnotamatter
oftakinguppostmodemismasapoliticalandtheoreticalpositionbutofengagingitsdescriptionofthe
natureofcontemporaryculturalandhistoricallife.
Obviously,anyattemptto'define'culturalstudiesisimmediatelycaughtinadilemma.Thereisnotone
culturalstudiesposition,eithersynchronicallyordiachronically;therearealwaysmultiple,overlapping,
changingprojects,commibnentsandvectorsaccordingtowhichithascontinuedtorearticulateitself.
Culturalstudiesisconstantlyrenegotiatingitsidentityandrepositioningitselfwithinchanging
intellectualandpoliticalmaps.Itsidentityaswellasthesignificanceofanypositionorconceptwithin
culturalstudiescanonlybedefinedbyanalwaysincompletehistoryofpoliticalengagementsandbeing
theoreticaltakendebatesintoaccountinresponseandnewtopositionswhichalternativeoffered.But
positionsthehistoryareconstantlyofculturalstudiestheonlyplaceinwhichitsspecificity(asan
emergentsetofcommitmentsandprojects)canbefoundisnotalinearorprogressivedevelopment.
Culturalstudieshasalwaysencompassedmultiplepositions,andithasalwayscontinuouslyengagedin
debates,notonlywithinthesedifferencesbutalsowithpositionswhichwereneverquiteapartofcultural
studies(althoughtheysometimeswereappropriatedandrearticulatedintoit).Cultur~studieshas
alwaysproceededdiscontinuouslyanderraticallythroughacontinuing?ftenterraintt~Will_retrace
movedttlateritselfdownitsstrugglehaveinontoownpathsresponsetoterrainstepstoitreoccupy.has
rearrangetoitandhadspecificwilltoeven,Itlaterandstrugglehashistoricalhaveredefineoccasionally,
hadtoitstoescape;questionsabandonsharethetheoreticaltoofithasleapfalseandandatevents.
abandonedontostartstimesdifferencespathswhichbeenThus,terrainforceditofithavehadhasthe
5Carcelyimagined.Inthatsense,culturalstudiesinvolvesconstanttheoreticalworkonalreadyoccupied
theoreticallyandpoliticallyground.&
05ltions~~'practicingculturalstudiesisnotsimplyamatterofferedbyvariousindividualsorgroupsin
theoftakingupBritishtradion;suchappropriationsfailtorecognizethecomplexwaysinwhich
182Whatisculturalstudies?
thesevariousefforts(e.g.theworkoftheBinninghamCenter,orRaymondWilliams,ortheScreen
collective)weredeterminedbytheirplacewithinaspecificallyBritishtopographyandhistory.Norisita
matter of erasing the specific formations, trajectories, and histories of the British tradition. Such a
'fetishism of the local' would contradict cultural studies' commitment to explore the complex and
changingrelationsbetweenlocalcontextsandlarger(perhapsevenglobal)vectors.
Rearticulating cultural studies. The task confrontingus is to work on already occupied ground, to
rearticulate cultural studies into specific American contexts andinthe process, totransform cultural
studiesitself.3Butthiswouldseemtorequiresomesenseoftherelevantground,somemapofthespace
wearetooccupyandthewayswecantakeupplaceswithinit.Isuggestthatwecanreadthemobilities
andstabilitiesofculturalstudies,thevariousformsofitsunityindifference,4asacontinuingstruggle
toarticulateasetofcommitmentswhichwouldbothdifferentiateitfromothertheoreticalpositionsand
empowertheplacesfromwhichitseekstointerveneintoapoliticalspace.Iamnotclaimingthatallof
thesecommitmentsareuniquetoculturalstudies,noreventhatthey'originate'withinculturalstudies.In
fact,muchofmydescriptionwillreflecttheradicalwayinwhichcontemporaryfeminismshavetrans
formedthesocial,intellectual,andpoliticalconditionsofculturalstudies.Ioffermyowntake(motivated
bymyowncontextandproject)onthe'tendentiallinesofforce'whichhaveoftenpropelledcultural
studies,definedtheconceptsithasstruggledaround,andarticulateditinwaysanddirectionsitcouldnot
haveforeseen.
Materialismdescribeshumanrealityintermsofmaterialpractices:whatpeopledo,howtheytransform
theworld.Butitislessamatterofintentionsthanofeffects,anditislessamatteroforiginsthanof
distribution(i.e.whatpracticesareavailabletowhom,andwhicharetakenup).Materialismdoesnot
reducetheworldtoacollectionofbodies,althoughitdoesrecognizetherealityofsociallyconstructed
biological bodies. It addresses the world of people in social, cultural, political, technological, and
economicrelations;ittalksaboutpeoplewithideas,desires,pleasures,andemotions,allofwhichare
definedbytheformsandorganizationsofpracticesthatareavailabletotransformthesedimensionsof
reality.Inthatsense,ideasarerealbecausetheytransformrealities;theymakeadifference.Butitis
often less a matter of the content of ideas than the practices by which ideas are constructed and
transformedandplacedintotheworld.
Antiessentialismdescribesacontingenthistoryinwhichnothingisguaranteedinadvance,inwhichno
relationship (correspondence) is necessary, in which no identity is intrinsic. Such 'essences' may be
historicallyreal,buttheyarenotnecessary.Whatwetakeforgranted,thestartingpointofwhatever
storywetell,isalwaystheendpointofanotherstorythathasyettobetold.Historyispreciselythe
ongoingstruggletoforgeconnections,toarticulatepracticestogetherlinkingthistexttothatmeaning,
thismeaningtothatexperience,thisexperiencetothatpoliticalposition,producingspecificeffectsand
thereby constructing the structures of social and historical life. Articulation describes this ongoing
constructionofonesetofrelationsoutofanother:rearticulationalwaysentailsdisarti
Thecirculationofculturalstudies183
cU~ation.

Itisthecontinuousstruggletorepositionpracticeswithinashiftingfieldofforces,toconstruct
structures,momentsinwhichthings
artobestitchedintoplace,outoforontopofthedifferences.apnonotmeantosuggestthatthefieldis
everentirelyopen,thatwearebletoremakehistoryatourwhim.Wearealwaysconstrainedbyahistory
~veaedidnotforcemake,ofthebymultiplethedistributionhistoriesofofarticulationpractices
available(leavingto'tracesus,bywiththe
~table),utaninventory'bythemultiplethatareoftenandoftensotightlycontradictoryboundintologics
placeofthoseastoarticulaappear
tionswhichdefinethe'tendentialforces'oflargerhistoricalspaces.Thus,theprocessofmakinghistoryis
alwayspartlyanonymoussinceweareneverincontroloftheeffectsofourstruggles.Butitiscarriedout
by the practices of real individuals and groups, consciously and unconsciously, through activity or
inactivity,throughvictorieswhichmaysometimeshavedisastrousconsequencesordefeats.
Itisinthissensethatculturalstudiesisoftendescribedasantihumanistic;culturalstudiesdoesnotdeny
realpeople,butitdoesplacetheminequallyrealandoverdeterminedhistoricalrealities.Whattheyare,
asindividualsandhumanbeings,isthusnotintrinsictothem.Ourpracticesproduceouridentityandour
humanity,oftenbehindourbacks.Infact,theproductionofsocialtheindividualpositionsasareasocial
subjectproducedisacomplexprocessbywhichdifferenttherearenonecessarycorrespondences
amongeconomic,political,ideological,andsocialsubjects.Individualsmustbewonorinterpellatedinto
thesepositionsor,ifyouprefer.theyhavetotakethemupinspecificways,andthesepositionscanthen
bearticulatedtoeachother(aswellastootherstructuresofmeaningandpractice)sothatacertain
culturalorideologicalidentificationappearstopullitssubjectsintospecificpoliticalpositions.
Antihumanismdoesnotdenyindividuality,subjectivity,experience,oragency;itsimplyhistoricizesand
politicizesthem,theirconstruction,andtheirrelationships.Ifthereisnoessentialhumannature,weare
alwaysstrugglingtoproduceitsboundaries,toconstituteaneffective(andhencereal)humannature,but
onewhichisdifferentindifferentsocialformations.Inotherwords,humannatureisalwaysrealbut
neveruniversal,singular,orfixed.Itisinthehistoryofstruggles,thathistoricallyofarticulation,
constitutedthatrelationshistoryitselfofpowerisgivenareshapeanddirection,and
putintoplace.~oweroperatesateverylevelofhuman
life;itisneitheranabstractuniversalstructurenorasubjectiveexperience.Itisbothlimitingand
Productive:producingdifferences,shapingrelations,structuringidentitiesandhierarchies,butalso
enablingpracticesandempoweringsocialsubjects.~erall,everyarticulationprovidestheconditionsof
possibilityforotherarticulationsevenasitstructuresandlimitsthefield.Atthelevelofsociallife,power
involvesthehistoricalproductionof'economies'thesocialProduction,~g:capital,distribution,money,
andconsumptionofdifferentformsofvaluemeanings,information,representations,identities,.estres,
emotions,pleasures).5Itisthespecificarticulationofsocialsubjects!!!~~esecircuitsofvalue,circuits
whichorganizesocialpossibilitiesand....a~ces,there
lS

noguaranteethatconstructsthatthestructuredinequalitiesdifferenteconomiestraceofsocialpower.
Whileoutthesamelinesof
184Whtltisculturalstudies?
inequality,theinequalitiesarerarelyrandom.Onthecontrary,theycirculatearound,andarearticulated
to,systemsofsocialdifferencewhicharethemselveshistoricallyconstructed.Moreover,different
economiesmaoperateindifferentways;wecannotignorethefactthatsometimesth~distributionof
resourcesisstrategicallymanipulatedthroughconspiraciesintimidation,misrepresentation,etc.Inthese
complexways,thesocialformationisalwaysorganizedintorelationsofdominationandsubordination.
Thestruggleoverpower,then,involvesthestruggletodeconstructandreconstructcorrespondences
betweensystemsoftheunequaldistributionofresourcesandsystemsofsocialidentitiesanddifferences.
Antireductionismclaimsthatpeopleandpracticesarealwaysimplicatedincontradictoryways,in
hierarchicalstructuresofpower.Ittellsustoavoidassumingeithertoosimpleabeginningortooneatan
endingtoourstory.Historyisneveralltiedupintoasingleknotwaitingtobeunraveled.Thereisno
singlestructurewhichstitchesallofhistoryintoplace,thepatternsofwhichareindeliblysewnintothe
fabricofhistory.Consequently,powercannotbereducedtoanysingledimensionofvaluewhichcanbe
assumedisnecessarilyandalwaysfundamental.Norcanpowerbereducedtoanysinglesocialstructure
ofdifference.Nosingleplaneofdisempowerment,suffering,oroppressionhasaguaranteedprivileged
relationtohistory.
Theconjuncturedefinesculturalstudies'methodologicalcommitmenttospecificity.Itdictatesthatwe
canonlydealwith,andfromwithin,specificcontexts,foritisonlytherethatidentitiesandrelationsexist
effectively.Thestruggletoarticulateapracticeisthestruggletoconstructitscontext.Structuresarereal
and effective only within a specific context, always defined at a particular level of abstraction. For
example,thecommodityisanecessarystructureofcapitalism.Buthavingsaidthat,wemustrecognize
thatitoperatesatsuchanabstractleveldescribingmanycenturiesandmanynationalcontextsthatit
tellsusverylittleaboutmoreconcretecontexts.Ifweremainatthehighlevelofabstractionatwhich
MarxwroteCapital,theeffectsofthecommodityseemsimpleanddirect.Aswemovetootherlevels,
attemptingtoconstruct'theconcrete',itseffectsareincreasinglydelayed,deferred,detoured,hybridized,
etc.Andtheonlywaytoarriveatitsactual'local'effectivityistorecognize(a)howitisarticulatedby
otherrelationsand(b)itsspecificabilitytoproduceeffectsitsreachorpenetrationintothesocial
formationacrosstimeandspace.Thus,thepracticeofculturalstudiesinvolvestheattempttoconstruct
thespecificityofaconjuncture,theappropriatenessofwhichisonlygivenbytheintellectualandpolitical
projectathand.This,then,isnotmerelyamatterofacknowledgingthecontext,ofinterpretingtextsand
takingthecontextintoaccount.Itinvolvesthemovementofculturalstudiesfromaninterpretiveor
transactionalviewto'amorehistoricalandstructuralview'(Halletal.,1978,p.185).
Thepopublrdefinesanecessaryfocusandcommitmentofculturalstudies.Asapoliticalcommitment,
itisantielitist;itdemandsthatwenotseparateourselvesentirelyfromthemasses.Weare,asitwere,
partofthepeoplewhoarealwaystryingtoinfluencetheirownmarchthroughhistory.Thisdoesnot
assumethat'thepeople'existsasareifiedcategoryalwaysdefinedbysomeintrinsicproperty;'thepeople'
asanhistorically
Thecirculationofculturalstudies185
rthe~tions~~jection.estroctedthatnationsubordination(e.g.Peoplesocialinashegemonicnomadic
livecategory,theiris,subjectsafterstrugglespositionsasiteall,ofinnotstrugglein[Hall,mediathe
complex,same1988]).culturearticulatedascontradictory,Culturalmanipulation,[Grossberg,bystudies
specificand1987)norrecogactiveinter
totaland
waystransforming~ordination,~itThis.edpossibilitiestheyreproduceandattemptingimprovingand
andresources;toresistmaketheirtheytheirthepositionbestlivesubordination;ofwith,accordingwhat
within,theytheytoareandtheirgiven,seekagainstownwaystowintheirimaof
arnoreisnotcontroltosayoverthattheytheirarelives,alwaystoextendstruggling,themselvesorthat
andwhentheirtheyresources.do,itisToalwaysdoessaynotthateffectiverequirepeopleorusare
victorious,toalwaysequateorempoweredempowermenteventhattheirinsomewithvictoryways
struggle,willbybetheirresistance,progressive.positionsorop~sition;whichpeopletakepeople.
resistance,therelationssuchpeopleareWepassiveandneedmanipulated,itamonglivemerelyevento
positioningstheirrecognizethemstrugglerequireslives.misled,areNorreferthatnevertousbedoes
misinformed,subordination,tototheguaranteedcomplexrecognizeittotalityrequiresetsorus
mystified;intheconstitutiveempowerment,ofadvance.
toactivelocaldenyeffectsthatbutcomplexitynaturesometimeswepleasure,andcannotofthatthein
succeedandculturalculture,empowerover'theOnlypopular'transformandinifpractices.forms
articulateditthistheirdoesalsomessywhichthemselvesaudiencesnotdefinesThus,toterrainentermay
largerweainontoproducefocus,andneedcanahistoricallyvarietythewetheirtoforterrainbegina
addressculturalvarietyworldoftospecificways,ofhowsortwithinstudies'people'sofpleasuresoutare
specificpoliticalandhowthemselvesinterventionsownformsthroughpeopleandprojects.liveswhich
ofinrecognizestruggledorderpopularpopular
willHence,may
nottofieldofferthemselvesintowepopularmoralities,canthethecandiscovertheofthemforces,help
popularnewdesires,constructedarticulate,howthatpossibilities,subordinationpopularwe
consciousnessescannurture,throughseelanguages,andwhereandistheirtolivedstruggleslocate
supportculturalcultures,thatandthewethem.resisted,arewayspractices.canlogics,actualizedItgain
inisthatemotions,whichinItathewebetterisandonlypopularcan'thepossible,experiences,senseby
understandpeople'entering
thatofthatare
the
we
possibilitiesstructuresasaoffieldofdominationsubordinationofcultureandandandwhicheveryday
resistancepointlifethatbeyondthataremakestheseopenedstructures.availablebyandtoItwithinusis
thethecomplexfieldofpowerinwhichpeoplelivetheirlives.
IS~tra~cTheneitherpopularengagementourtaskastobothcondemnwithcommitmentrealthem
people,norexistingandtodefinefocusintheirrealforcesrelationsutopianusbackaspirations.of
power.intoIta
C~~alactiVity,norstudiesdoesdoesiterasenotitsvalorizeownintellectualeverymomentlaborofin
localorderand'topopularletthestudiesfubordinate~the~sses,
asintellectualisabutconstantspeak'.itmustItstrategicrefusedoesnottheeffortalwaysluxurytoof
articulateandperpetualonlyitsspeakselfanalysis.ownthelocallanguagesidentityCulturalof
critiqueandaspoliticalinterventiontofindaplacefor1his~lftoricalfromlives.
whichitcanstruggletoreconstructthelargerspacesofour
186Whatisculturalstudies?

Notes
1.studies;Thisessayhowever,representsitismyinmanylatesteffortwaystobetterthinkrepresentedthroughtheasspecificity
thelatestoftakecultural

in
anongoingpolylogue,myownstatement
ofatrulycollectiveeffort.Thus,1il!nindebtedtomanypeople,andIapologizefornothavingtheirindividualcontributions,
ideas,andphrases.Igreathelpandcontributiontothisessay:MartinAllor,JamescanonlyattemptedHay,aclcnowledge

Meaghan

to dOCUJnent Morris their


JaniceRadway,acknowledgeaAndrewRoss,veryrealdebtJennifertoTonyDarylBennett,Slack,JohnandClarke,Ellenand
Wartella.lnStuartHall
addition.

j
2.Hall(1980)andJohnson(198687)arethe'standard'descriptionsofcultural
studies.3.Seemy1988workforacritiqueoftheBritishtraditionintheserviceofaneHorttodefineanAmericanpracticeof
culturalstudiesrespondingtothespecificpoliticalcontextconstructedbytheriseoftheNewRight.Partofthelaborofthisthe
UnitedtransformationStateshasinvolvestolocatereadingitselfwithinonehistorythetrajectoriesintoanother:oftheCultural
AmericanstudiesLeft,in
includingthevariousurbanimmigrant,labor,andagrarianpopulistformations,theculturalismintellectuallySocilllText.It
inspiredoftheNewprojectsLeft,oftheMonthlyvariousReview,feministCulturalstruggles,Correspondence,andthedifferent
wouldhavetorecognizethespecificconjuncturallimitsofandtheAmericanLeftlizedLeftwhichtheUnitedStatescould
occupyaplaceneverinformedcommonansense.integratedIandinstitutionaamgratefultoJodyBerlandforthispoint.4.For
historiesofculturalstudies,seemy'inpress'article[Grossberg,1989]and5.myearlierandflawedeffort(1983).
Certainly, within the British tradition, cultural studies focused on a limited set of these values specifically meaning,
representation,andidentity.ItisthearticulationofthesethreeeconomiesthatHalldescribesasideology.

References
ALWR,GROSSBERG,of(ed.),PoliticalCommunicationsM.(1987)andL.Social(1983)'ProjectiveTheoryin'Cultural
'IrtmSitionreadings:11,134137.
studies(pp.Cultural3970).revisitedstudiesNewandYork:&omrevised'.here',Praeger.

InOmadillnMander,JournalM.S.,
GROSSBERG,GROSSBERG,L.L.(1987)(1988)'TheIt'saindifferericeSin:Essaysofontelevision',Postmodernism,Screen
Politics,28,2846.
andCulture.GROSSBERG,Sydney:in
Birmingham',PowerL.(inPublications.
Strategiespress[1989])[2,11449].
'Theformationsofculturalstudies:anAmerican
HALL,InHall,S.(1980)S.,Hobson.'CultureD.,studiesLowe,A.andandtheWillis,Centre:P.(eds),someCulture,
problematicsMedill,andlAnguageproblems'.(pp.HALL,HALL,1547).London:PolicingS.,S.London:the(1988)
CRITCHER,Verso.
Crisis:TheHutchinson.Mugging,HardC.,JEFFERSON,RoadtheJOHNSON,R.(19861987)
'WhattoStateisRenewal:ThatcherismandtheCrisisoftheLeft.
culturalandT.,lAwCLARKE,studiesandOrder.anyway?',J.,andLondon:ROBERTS,SocilllMacmillan.
TextB.(1978)6,3890MORRIS,ReprintedofTeleuision.M.here(1988)Bloomington,as'BanalityChapterlA:in5.cultural
Indianastudies'.lnUniversityMellencamp,Press.P.,(ed.),TheReprintedhereasChapLogrcs
.

ter 7.
10
The problem of American cultural studies
AlanO'Connor
ThisessayraisesquestionsaboutculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesandcontrastsitwithculturalstudies
inBritain.Itisarguedthatculturalstudiesshouldbeunderstoodaspractice,institution,andculturalform.
InBritain,thepracticeisaneffortatcollectiveintellectualworkagenuineattemptatademocractic
graduateresearchinstitute.ThetypicalpublishedforminEnglandisacertainkindofcollectivelywritten
book.CulturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesisdiscussedwithparticularreferencetotheworkofGrossberg.
Aconcludingargumentismadeforresearchthatmakesconnectionswithgrassrootsorganizations,
includingtheproductionofalternativemediaforms.
Cultural studies in Britain is an intellectual tradition. It is composed of several institutions and
formations, and it has a characteristic cultural form and teaching practice. Cultural studies is not a
science.Itisneitherorganizedaboutacentralproblematic(orparadigm),asAlthusserarguedascience
mustbe(Althusser&Balibar,1970),nordoesitaspiretothealmostmathematicalgoalofsemiotics.
Neitherisitorganizedasaprofessionalactivityofliberalscholarshipforitsownsakealongthelinesof
theModemLanguageAssociationorotherprofessionalassociations.Thetraditionofculturalstudiesis
notoneofvaluefreescholarshipbutofpoliticalcommitment.Thisincludesareflexivityaboutitsown
activitiesthatisnotexemptfromitsownkindofscrutinyandanalysis.
Thefoundinginstitutionofculturalstudies,nowtheDepartmentofCulturalStudiesattheUniversityof
Birmingham,hasbeendescribedmanytimes(Hall,1980;1986,p.59;Tolson,1986;Women'sStudies
Group,1978,pp.717).Theintellectualformationsorinvisiblecollegesandtheiraffiliations(Williams
1977b)ofculturalstudiesisamoredifficultissue.Itisnonethelesscrucialbecausethemodelof
individualscholarshipisparticularlyinappropriate.IntheworkoftheBirminghamC~treduringthe
1970s,1forexample,therearenoticeableaffiliations~1ththeradicalsociologyoftheNationalDeviancy
Conference(Rock&clntosh,1974),theMayDayManifestogroup(Williams,1968),2theWomen's
LiberationMovement,andtheanalysisofRaceToday,aswellastnoreobviousintellectualdebtsto
RaymondWilliamsintheearlyyears
188Whatisculturalstudies?
andlatertotheAlthusserschool.TherearealsoimportantdebateswiththeformationsaroundScreen
magazine,andlaterwiththeformationaroundMedia,CultureandSociety.3
Thecharacteristicculturalformofculturalstudiesisacertainkindofcollectivelyproducedbook.4
ThisisdirectlyrelatedtothetraditionofgroupworkandcollectiveprojectsdevelopedattheBirmingham
CenterandcontinuedintheteamteachingoftheOpenUniversitycourseonpopularculture.Thebest
examplesofEnglishculturalstudiesareallofthiskind.ResistancethroughRituals(Hall&Jefferson,
1976).WomenTakeIssue(Women'sStudiesGroup,1978),WorkingClassCulture(ClarkeCritcher,&
Johnson, 1979), and Policing the Crisis (Hall, Critcher, Jeffer~ son, Clarke, & Roberts, 1978) are
collectivelywrittenprojectswithadirectrelationtotheirconditionsofproductionatagraduateresearch
centerandthebroaderLeftpoliticalcultureinwhichtheyareclearlyembedded.
CulturalstudiesinBritainischaracterizedbytheextraordinarydiversityandoriginalityofthetopics
thathavebeenstudied.Thestudiesofyouthsubculturesandtelevisionnewsprogramsarewellknown.
Equallydeservingofattentionarestudiesofmasculinity(Tolson,1977),theimageofwomen(Millum,
1975),waysinwhichthepastispresentedinmuseums(Lumley,1988),youngwomenatschooland
work(Griffin,1985),jobtraining(Finn,1987),thepoliticsofsport(Whannel,1984),thehistoryof
sexuality(Mort,1988),Caribbeanmusic(Hebdige,1987a),genderandexpertise(McNeil,1987),James
Bond (Bennett & Woollacott, 1987), dime novels (Denning, 1987b), the history of middle class
intellectuals(McNeil,1987),andhowwhitekidsinBirminghamrespondtoreggaemusicOones,1988).
Alongwiththediversityoftopicsthereisawiderangeoftheoreticalapproachesandlivelydebate
amongthem.Culturalstudiesisnotunifiedaroundacentralthemeorproblematicbutischaracterizedby
adiversityofconcretestudieswhicharetheoreticallyinformed.Therehasbeenatendency,ingeneral
discussions, to reduce the theoretical diversity of cultural studies to a small number of alternative
positions.Theactualpracticeisatraditionoftheorizingthroughconcreteandhistoricalstudieswhich
mustbereadintheirownterms.
CulturalstudiesintheUnitedStates.TheideaofculturalstudiesisfairlynewintheUnitedStates.
However,aminoritytraditionofcommunicationscholarshiphasexistedfor10or15yearswhichhas
made a claim for cultural studies against the behavioral and functionalist paradigms of mainstream
communicationresearch.5Carey(1977)makesacasefora'ritual'perspectiveinwhichcommunicationis
understood as part of the creation and transformation of a shared culture. However, the interpretive
approachforwhichhecallsdoesnotaddresstheissueofitsownpoliticalintentions.Itispresentedasa
humanitiessubjectintheuniversity,beyondpolitics.
Newcomb(1984;Newcomb&Hirsch,1983)presentsamoretextorientedversionwhichpointstothe
multiplemeaningsintelevisionandothermassmedia.LikeCarey,Newcombinsiststhatcommunication
media are not in any way secondary but are an important part of contemporary culture. He rejects
abstractionforanotionofthecomplexityofexperiences.
TheproblemofAmericanculturalstudies189
f{is~IJ\ethingWilliaiJ\Sftheoverallidea(1961).ofemphasisdifferent'mass'Newcomb,
communicationofonitthecomplexitybecauseoftextseachandviewerhisexistentialorreader
rejectionmakesiscloseinsomewaystotheearlyworkofhowever,haslittlesenseofthesocialor
politicalstructure,whichappearsinhisworkonlyasthebehavioristandtunctionalistInGrossbergsocial
(1983),sciencethereresearchisacritiquethatheofrejects.
Carey on the grounds that he ignores issues of power.
WhereasCareyandNewcombunderstandAmericanIJ\ediaaspartofeverydaylifeintheUnitedStates,
Grossbergarguessocialthatcommunicationgroups.Thisisisatheverysiteimportantofsymbolic
argumentstrugglesindeed.
amongantagonistic
Inhisownsubsequentwork,Grossberg(1983,1984b)presentstheBritishculturalstudiestraditionasa
seriesoffailedattemptstostudytherelationshipsbetweencultureandsociety.BythisaccountWilliams
(1961) triedto studythis relationwith his concept of a 'structure of feeling'. But Grossberg argues,
drawingonAlthusser,thattheconceptisflawedbecauseitassumesaholisticunityandexcludessocial
and political conflict. Studies of encod ing/decoding in television discourse (Brunsdon and Morley,
1978, Morley, 1980, 1981, 1983) also fail to connect culture (encoding) and society (decoding).
Grossbergreadsthesestudiesasshowingnopatternsofresponsebyvarioussocialgroupsandtherefore
failing in any systematic way to connect structures of television encoding and audience decoding.
Hebdige'sstudyofyouthsubculture(1979)alsofails.AccordingtoGrossberg,ittriestoconnectthe
encodingsofthefashionandentertainmentindustries(culture)withthewaystheirproductsareactually
usedbyyouthsubcultures(society).ButGrossbergarguesthattheconceptofsubcultural'style'failsto
accomplishthisresearchgoal.Sincehereadsculturalstudiesinthiswayasaseriesoffailedattemptsto
connectcultureandsociety,Grossbergthenproposesthattheconceptsshouldbeabandoned.Thereisno
such thing as culture or society. To replace cultural studies Grossberg (1983, 1984b) proposes a
postmodernistresearchpracticeinwhichpoweranddesirearelocatedinconcreteanarchistexamples.
Grossberg'smorerecentworkiscenteredaroundthedescriptionofthe'affectiveeconomy'ofthe'rock
music apparatus' (1984a; 1986b) and the 'television apparatus' (1986a). Instead of deconstructing
categoriessuchas~tureandsociety,Grossbergnowproposesanonunifiedtheoreticaldiscourseabout
embodiedexperience(affect,thebody)whichinpart~onstructs
afield(e.g.differentgroupsoffansincludedifferentthingsasrockmusic')inparticularepochs(e.g.the
eraofnuclearweapons).These~dothervectorsintersectindifferentways.Grossbergstressesasituated
d1versitytheoryofofculture.
formandexperienceandrejectsthepossibilityofaunified
Hisownconceptualsuggestionsamounttoakindoftheoreticalbricolage.Scatteredthroughthese
recent writings are the 'nomadic subject' (Deleuze &t .Guattari, 1977), a 'billboard world' (Jameson,
1984),a'cultureofpessiJtUsm'(Benjamin,1968),'affect'and'youth'(frommainstreamsocialpsy
ch(Baologyandsociology),andanotionofapostmodemexperience
by
Udrillard,Marcus
(1986,1983).p.This78),whoweirdsaystheoreticalthat'Theapparatustheoryhashasnobeensupport
criticizedother
190Whatisculturalstudies?
thanitsabilitytofloatintheair',andNugent(1986,p.82),whopointsoutthatGrossberg'suseofthe
word 'hegemony' barely connects with Grams.. ci's active interest in politics. It may be that this
theoretical apparatus best fits Grossberg's interest inrockmusic in the United States, a topic where
cognitiveanddirectlypoliticalmodelsseemtobeoflittleuse.
AcritiqueofGrossberg.ThemainproblemofGrossberg'sinfluenceisthatinmakinghiscasefor
postmodernismandmoreconcretestudiesof'culturalapparatuses'heapparentlydiscardsmostofcultural
studiesasithasdevelopedinBritain.AtconferencesintheUnitedStates,culturalstudieshasbecome
synonymouswithvarioustypesofpostmodemtheorizing.
Therearetwofactorswhichencouragethisdevelopment.ThefirstisthedifficultyintheUnitedStates
ofreadingtheculturalstudiesstyleoftheorizingthroughconcreteexampleswhenmostoftheexamples
are specific to British society. How many students in the United States have read a copy of Jackie
magazine?HowmanyhaveseenaNationwidetelevisionnewsshow?Also,therearedifficultiesof
obtaining copies of most cultural studies articles and books in the United States. The more general
overviewsanddiscussionsoftheoryobviouslycrosstheAtlanticbetter.Thishasledtoatendencyto
falselyunifythefieldaroundasmallnumberofarticlesbyStuartHall.GivenHall'sstrongadvocacyof
collectiveandcommittedintellectualwork,thisisanironicdevelopment.
TheseconddifficultyistherelativeisolationofculturalstudiesscholarsintheUnitedStatesandthe
relativeabsenceofaLeftintellectualtradition.CulturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesisbeingsponsoredby
scholarswhorarelyhaveanyconnectiontoexistingpoliticalandculturalmovementsandaresomewhat
surprisedthatthismightevenbepossible.
Grossberg's selective history of cultural studies is mapped as an alter native paradigm for
communicationstudies.Thishighlyselectivepresentationconcentratesmainlyontheearlyworkof
Williams,onresearchusingthemodelofencodinganddecodingintelevision,andonHebdige'sbookon
subcultures. There is a logic in this selection. Williams is read through a comparison with Dewey's
interestincommunityandcommunication.Hall'sencoding/decodingmodelisreadthroughthedominant
paradigmofAmericancommunicationstudies:theproductionofmediaandtheiractivereceptionby
audiences.6
ThereadingofWilliams,however,ispartialandreductionistic.Grossbergessentiallystopsatabout
1974andnowherediscussesWilliams'majorworkofcommunicationtheory,MarxismandLiterature
(1977b).GrossbergtreatsWilliamsasifthenotionofa'structureoffeeling'isarigorousconceptwhich
guidesallofhiswork.Itisactuallyacontradictoryandadhocformulationandhasonlyaresidualrolein
Williams'sworkafterthemid1970s(O'Connor,1989b,pp.8385).1Grossberg'sreadingofHallhaslost
thesenseofrootednessofcommunicationprocessesinsocialreproductionandpolitics.Hallbecomesa
theoreticianofthesuperstructure,ofcommunicationeffectivelyisolatedfrommaterialandpoliticallimits
andpressures.
Grossberg'smorerecentworkemploystheoreticalvectorswhichfrequentlylookverysimilartoideas
heruledoutofcourtinarticlesinthe
TheproblemofAmericanculturalstudies191
early1980s.Forexample,hissketchofapostwar'cultureofpessimism'intheUnitedStatesafterthe
1950sseemsineffectverycloseinpurposetoWJlliamS'sketch(1961)ofthestructureoffeelingof
Britain in the 1960s. A wide diversity ~f books which are somew:hat similar to G~s~berg's recent
position,includmgBennett(1982),Bourdieu(1984),andWilliams(1971b),arerarelymentionedandfor
reasonsthatarecompletelyunclear.
Theeffectisasomewhatesotericframeworkthathaslittleincommonwiththemuchmoregenerous
boundariesofculturalstudiesinBritain.Whathashappenedundertherubricofpostmodemismisthatthe
senseofcultureaspractice,form,andinstitutionhasbeenlost.Thishasresultedinconfusedthinking
abouthowculturalstudiesmightlookasinstitution,practice,andculturalformintheUnitedStates.
Culturalstudiesinandoutoftheclassroom.Itappearstobedifficulttoreproducetheinstitutional
situationof theBirmingham Center or the OpenUniversityinNorth America, although there is the
exampleoftheCenterforTwentiethCenturyStudiesattheUniversityofWISconsinMilwaukeeandthe
DepartmentofCulturalStudiesatTrentUniversityinCanada.Individualinstructorsinhumanitiesor
socialsciencefacultieshavetowork,ofteninisolation,withintheirexistinginstitutionalframework.In
particular,collectivework,whilepossible,isactivelydiscouragedinAmerica'suniversitysystem.
Thisdoesnot,however,meanthattheactivityhastobecomeoneofculturaltheoryratherthanthe
practiceofculturalstudies.TherearesometraditionsofresearchintheUnitedStateswhichoughttobe
continued.Oneoftheseisaninterestinstudyingalternativemedia(Downing,1984).Anotherpossibility
istocriticallyappropriatethethemeofcommunityandmedia,ifthisisanimportantthemeinNorth
Americanculture,sharplycriticizingnaivenotionsof'community'andradicalizingthetopic.Itwould
alsoseemsensibleforculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatestodevelopastronginterestindoingcultural
studiesinMexicoandtherestofLatinAmericaespeciallysincethe'communicationfbrdevelopment'
paradigmisalmostcompletelydiscreditedthere,butthereisastrongmterestthereinsemiologyandthe
workofBourdieu.CulturalstudiesinNorthAmericacouldbeverydifferentifastrongfeministpresence
were ~ere from the start, rather than having to fight against an already estab lished formation.
Connectionsshouldbemadetostudiesofthecultural~dpoliticalstrugglesofblack,Latino,Asians,and
otherminorityfractionsWithintheUnitedStates.8
Itmaybeusefultomakeonefurtherpointinconclusion.Williams(1977a)hassaidthatweliveina
worldthatisinasenserottenwithcriticism.Aworkoftheoryandcriticismistodayvaluedmorehighly
thantheactualculturalproductionuponwhichitisacommentary.Partof.tl_tereasonforthisinEngland
isthedifficultyofdoingratherthanwritingaboutalternativeculturalforms.(Williams'ownfilmprojects
~ereeffectivelyblocked,althoughhedidscriptseveraltelevisionproductions.)Butthisislessthecase
intheUnitedStateswithitsdifferentorganizationofradioandtelevision.ThereisnothinginEngland
thatc?rrespondstothePacificagroupofradiostationsorpublicaccessteleviSion.Culturalstudiesin
theUnitedStateswillbepoorerifitneglectsthis
192Whsltisculturalstudies?
alternativeexperience.Itsurelyalsowouldbeusefultomaketheconnectionwithalternativefilmandtelevision
producerswhoseworkdealscriticallywithmediaissuesandisitselfanexampleofanalternativeculturalpractice.
ExamplesincludeLizzieBardon'sfilmBorninFlames(1983)and'Papertigertelevision'(Halleck,1984).Finally,it
is usually possible in American universities for students to learn about cultural forms first hand. Instead of
theorizingaboutencodinganddecodingstudentscanlearnbytr}'i!lgtocreateandfindanaudienceforanalter~
nativetelevisionprogram.9

Notes
1.ArticlesbymembersoftheBirminghamCentreincludeHall(1980),Johnson(1979;1986),Tolson(1986),
LumleyandO'Shaughnessy(1985),ConnellandMills(1985),Green(1982),andSparks(1977).American
introductionsincludeBecker(1984),Streeter(1984),andGrossberg(1983).SeealsotheJournalofCommunication
InquiryspecialissueonStuartHall(1986).Fiske'sintroductionsfromanAustralianformation(1986;1987)give
moreemphasistohisownversionofsocialsemioticsandarelesspoliticallyengaged.2.Williamswaseditorofthe
MayDayManifesto,1968,andthelargeworkinggroup
includedThompson,Hall,andothers.3.Forthesedebates,seeChambersetal.{197778),Coward{1977),Hall
{1980),andJohnson{1979).OnthehistoryoftheScreenformation,seeMacCabe(1985).Hall{1980)shouldbe
understoodnotas'culturaltheory'butaspartofadebatebetweenthepoliticaleconomyargumentsofthejournal
Media,CultureandSocietyandculturalstudiesingeneral.Thisdebate,initiatedinCollinsetal.{1986),deservesto
betakenmuchmoreseriouslyintheUnitedStates.4.ExamplesofthecollectiveworkfromtheBirminghamCenter
includeSmith(1975),Hall,Connell,andCurti{1976),CenterforContemporaryCulturalStudies{1978;1981;
1982a;1982b),Batsleeretal.(1985),Women'sStudiesGroup{1978),andEnglishStudiesGroup{1979).Other
booksandarticlesbypastmembersoftheBirminghamCenterinclude:BrunsdonandMorley{1978),Morley
{1981;1983;1986),Brunsdon{1981),Hebdige{1979;1987a;1987b),LanganandSchwarz{1985),Milium
{1975),Hobson{1982),Willis{1977;1978),Denning{1987a;1987b),Bromley{inpress),Chambers{1986),
Jones(1988),McRobbie{1980;1984),andMcRobbieandMcCabe{1981).Althoughmanyofthesewerewritten
aftertheauthorslefttheCentertheyareclearlyextensionsofworkdonethereandevidenceofthefruitfulnessof
groupwork.5.ThissectionisindebtedtotheveryhelpfulresponseofCSMCreviewersofthe
firstdraftofthisessay.6.Sparks{1977)doesnotevenmentiontheencoding/decodingmodelinhissurveyof
culturalstudies.SeealsoJohnson{1979;1986).Cohen{1980,p.83)sayshisinterestinsubculturesisnotamatter
ofstudyingdecodingsofthedominantculture.Culturalstudiesnarrowlyinterpretedasthestudyofencoding/
decodingiscriticizedbyComer{1986).7.Seealsomy1989awork,RaymondWilliamsonTelevisionand,foran
overview,my1989bwork.Elsewhere{1981),IreviewHebdige{1979)andClarkeetal.{1979).8.Birmingham
CenterbooksonissuesofraceincludeHalletal.{1978),Hebdige{1979),CenterforContemporaryCulturalStudies
{1982a),Gilroy{1987),andJones{1988).
TheproblemofAmericanculturalstudies193
9
On'activist'culturalstudies,seeMcRobbieandMcCabe(1981)andMcRobbie(1982).Foractivistculturalstudiesresearchin
theUnitedStates,seeKahnandNeumaier(1985),Halleck(1984),Lippard(1984),andKellner(1985).

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11
Feminism and cultural studies
ElizabethLong
Britishculturalstudiesisnowintheprocessofredefinitionthroughappropriation.Thisprocessappears
tobebothespeciallydifficultandconsequential.Difficultbecause,asbothGrossberg[Chapter9]and
O'Connor[Chapter10]pointout,itisnotasharplyboundedor'singlefathered'intellectuallineage.This
isaradicalheritage,anditspoliticalstandpointappearsindangerofbeingcompromisedbyabsorption
intotheAmericansceneasjustanotherparadigmforsaleonthemarketplaceofideas.1
IamstruckbythewaysinwhichthesummaryorpresentationalstatementsaboutBritishcultural
studies that havebeenmadein this country have alreadypracticed anexclusion that seems tohave
marginalizeditsfeministpractitioners,ironicallythestrandofthattraditionthathasarguablythebest
chanceofmaintainingacriticalstanceinitsappropriationbyfeministscholarsinAmerica,bothbecause
oftheirconnectionswithabroadsocialmovementandbecauseofthenatureoftheirpracticeswithinthe
academy. This is particularly troubling given the tendency for feminist thought to have a truncated
'circuit'(Escarpit,1965)ofdistributionandreadershipbeyondfeministcircles,whichareoftenonthe
marginsof'general'theoryandresearch.ItisthislacunathatIaddressbydiscussing,first,whatBritish
culturalstudiesfeministshavecontributedtoculturalstudiesin'general'and,second,someoftheways
feministBritishculturalstudieshavebeenandmightbewellusedbyAmericans.
ThesmallnumberofwomenattheBirminghamCenterforContemporaryCulturalStudiesbegantheir
workmainlyinreactiontotheinvisibilityofwomeninthetheoreticalandempiricalanalysesoftheir
maleseniorc~lleaguesandpeers,andtheirworkbearssomeofwhatLeslieRomanandLlildaChristian
Smith(1988)calla'reactive'stamp.However,theywererespondingnotonlytotheabsenceofwomenas
subjectsandasacategoryanabsencethatfueledtheearlyyearsoffeministcritiqueintheUnitedStates
butfromwithinatheoretical,methodological,andinstitutionalpositionthatallowedthesimplequestion
'Whataboutwomen?'tohavelargeconsequences.Onemethodologicalandthreeconceptualarenasseem
tohavebeenespeciallysignificantbothforengenderingBritishfeminist
198Whatisculturalstudies?
contributionstoculturalstudiesandforthoseAmericanswhoreferbacktotheirwork.Idiscusseachin
tum.
First, Birmingham feminists took issue with the valorization of the public sphere that marked the
Center's work on subcultural forms and the media. As Angela McRobbie's articles on the study of
subculturespointedout,thefocusonspectacularmalegroupbehaviorsonthestreetorinotherpublic
placestendedtoaddressgirlsonlybythetermsofderogationcommonamongparticipants.Forthemost
part,thisfocussimplymadefemalesinvisible,sincethe'public'biasofsubculturalstudiesmarginalized
thefamilyandothercontextsinwhichgirlsmightbeparticipatingin'equivalentrituals,response,and
negotiations'(McRobbie,1980;McRobbie&Garber,1976).
Similarly,DorothyHobsonandCharlotteBrunsdonchallengedmediastudiesthatvalorizednewsand
publicaffairsprogramsoversoapoperasandother'female'genres(seealsoAng,1985).Theirearly
identificationofthefamilyasanimportantsitefortheappropriationoftelevisionprogrammingopened
the way for innovative investigations of the interpellation of public and private life. In her book
Crossroads(1982),aboutasoapoperaofthesamename,Hobson,forexample,discusseshowthefamily
contextinfluencesboththeconcentrationandperspectivethatpeoplebringtotheirviewing,andtheways
inwhichthewomenviewers'use'theprogramtoreflectontheirownfamilyissues,linkingwomen's
senseof'ownership'oftheprogramnotonlytoitscontentbuttoitsinclusionintheirdomesticroutine?
Suchearlyfeministformulationsclearlydemandedfurthertheoreticalandempiricalwork,forasserting
theimportanceofwomenandthedomesticspheredidnotaddresstheissueofhowthestructuraland
ideologicalboundariesbetweenpublicandprivatearehistoricallyconstitutedandhierarchizedsoasto
devaluewomen,theirdomesticandmarketorientedlabor,andthesocialsettingsandculturalformsin
whichtheyare'athome'.
IfthefeministschallengetotheCenter'svalorizationofpubliclifewassomewhatinhibitedbytheir
refusaltoproblematize'theprivate',theyweremuchclearerabouttheneedtochallengetheregnant
assumptionthatsocialclasswastheprimaryorsingularmechanismofdomination.Yet,allremained
convincedoftheimportanceofclassaswellasgender.Soinsteadofposingtheseasexclusiveclaimants
foranalyticattention(classvs.gendervs.race),thewritingsofMicaNava(1984a;1984b),EricaCarter
(1984),McRobbie(1978a;1978b;1980;1982;McRobbie&Garber,1976),ValerieAmosandPrathiba
Parmar(1981;Parmar,1982),Brunsdon(1981),andHobson(1981;1982)manifestaconcernwithhow
tointegrateclassandgenderinculturalstudies.
Ithinkthisworkisparticularlyexcitingfortworeasons.First,informedbytheCenter'scommitmentto
keeping a close and dialectical connection between theory and empirical research, these feminist
culturalistsdiscusstheintersectionofsystemsofsubordinationinthelivedexperienceofactiveand
sensemakinghumanbeings,ratherthanasstaticdeterminantvariablesoraspurelyabstracttheoretical
categoriesthatmustsomehowbebroughttogether.Ingeneral,workofthiskindseemscrucialforunder
standingthecomplexlycontradictorywaysinwhichsubjectivityiscon
Feminismandculturalstudies199
strUctedunderlatecapitalismandforgainingtheleverage(bothscholarlyandpolitical)tounderstandthe
oftenconflictedwaysourmanystranded.dentitiesarepositionedwithintheexistingsocialorder,the
firststageof~orkingtowardresistanceofitsimperatives.
Second,especiallyintheiressaysaboutthestateanditsroleinenforcingenderedaswellasclass
relationsofdomination,Birminghamfeminists~antounderminestillprevalentassumptionsthatgender
cansomehowbeequatedwithamarginal'woman'ssphere'ofsexualityandthefamily.Rather,asessays
byNava(1984a;1984b)andBarbaraHudson(1984)inGenderandGeneration,aswellasthosebyAnne
Strong(1981),TrishaMcCabe(1981;McCabe&Sharon,1981),andGillFrith(1981)inFeminismfor_
Girls,detailtheworkofeducationalandjudicialauthoritiesinenforcingwhatRobertConnell(1987)
calls'hegemonic'masculinityand'emphasized'femininityintheirclassrelatedinflectionshas
consequencesthatpervadethesocialorder.
This kind of work seems particularly important today, when new wave conservatism is centrally
concernedwithenforcingaregressiveutopianvision(orvisions,sinceallsuchpoliciesaredifferentiated
by class andrace) of 'traditional' womanhood, of homophobic masculinity, andof sexualityand the
familyinwaysthatlegitimizeotherrepressivepolitical,military,andeconomicinitiatives.
It is because of the deep connection between sexuality, desire, and the emotional roots of both
domination and resistance that articles like McRob bie's 'Dance and social fantasy' (1984) are so
important not only for feminists but for all those concernedwithmodifyingthe rationalistic bias of
Marxism and, indeed, most academic representations of human action. British feminists, like their
American counterparts, have pushed their exploration further, theoretically working through their
assignmentaswomentotherealmofintuitionandsexuality.WorthnotingisMcRobbie'sinsistenceon
mappingout thesocial natureoftheconstructionof female subjectivity,pleasure, anddesirebya
discussion of the history of popular dance, its representations in the media, several ethnographic
experiencesinmoderndiscos,andtherelationshipofdancetoworkingclassfamilycustomsandwomen's
lifecycles.3
Perhapsbecauseoftheirunderstandingofthecrosscuttingcomplexitiesofpowerrelations,theBritish
feministsextendednotonlytheCentre'ssubstantiveinterestsbutalsotheirmethodologicalprogramin
regardtoProducinganddisseminatingscholarlywork.AnotherMcRobbiearticle(1982)is,again,
exemplaryoffeministculturalstudiesdiscussionsaboutethnography.Init,shecriticizes'naturalistic'
sociologybypointingoutthatresearchersdonotlosetheirsocialprivilegewhileinthefield,which
underminesthe'innocence'oftheknowledgefieldencountersgenerate,aswellasthe'transparency'ofthe
processbywhichdatabecometext.h.~~issomeindicationinMcRobbie'swork,andthatofotherBritish
o:uwustswhointerviewedmainlywomen,thattherelationsbetween":0m~informantsandwomen
ethnographersaswellastheWomen's~era~onMovement'spreoccupationwithdominationby
authoritative,disempowermentthroughsilence,andwithwaystodemocratizeaceesstothespokenand
writtenwordinformedherinsightsabout
200Whlltisculturalstudies?
ethnographic knowledge. The connection with an oppositional social movement certainly influenced
McRobbieandMcCabe's attempt to make an innovative political intervention through publishing an
'engaged'ferninistcollectionofessays,FeminismforGirls(1981),writtenbyacademicspolitically
involvedteachers,andstudents,andalsodirectedto
tho~students,teachers,andyouth
workersaswellastoscholars.Thebookisanimpressivebutawkwardattempttospeakbeyondthe
academy,onethatfoundersintherealityofthedivergencesininterestand
vocab~betweentheseconstituencies.Insomeways,itstandsforcertainqualitiesoftheBritishfeminist
presenceinculturalstudiesthatarebothstrengthsandlimits:itstheoreticaleclecticism,itsofteninformal
methodologicalstance,anditsenthusiasticrisktakinginthenameofnurturingresistance.IfBritish
culturalstudiesingeneralhashadsomethingofablindspotaboutfeminismbecauseofwhatfeminists
fromvariousperspectiveshavecalledclass'essentialism'oreconomicorclass'reductionism',mainstream
AmericanfeministshaveuntilrecentlymanifestedasimilarblindspottowardBritishculturalstudies
(feministornonfeminist)becauseofatendencytoward'genderessentialism'andanaccompanying
sympathytowardmodelsdrawnfromindividualpsychologythatobscurequestionsofclassandrace.4
Evennow,itismainlyfeministsinfluencedbyMarxismorneoMarxismswhofindthistradition
sympathetic.Thisisadmittedlyagrossgeneralizationaboutamanyfacetedintellectual/political
movementandoneImodifylaterbut,eveninsofarasitholds,feministsmaybethescholarswhocan
bestmaintainthecriticalstanceofBritishculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesfortwomajorreasons.
First,feministscholarshipinAmericahasremainedintouchwithanoppositionalsocialmovement
howeverembattledorembourgeoisifiedandthushashadagenuine(self)interestincriticalthinking;
dominationandsubordinationare,fortheBirminghamthinkers,morethanacademiccategories.Further,
whilethiscriticalstanceisoftenambivalentbecauseofthepossibilityofsomerewardsfromthestatus
quoitisalwaysbeingreconstitutedby'theenvironingsociety'.Indeed,asmentionedearlier,muchof
thethrustoftheNewRighthasbeeninthearenasoffamily,sexuality,andtheproper'sphere'forwomen,
aswellasinpolicies,suchastheerosionofaffirmativeaction,thatmakeexplicittheconnectionbetween
women'soppressionandthatofothersubordinatesocialgroups.Thisenvironingsocietycomprises,as
well,thestillmaledominatedacademy;soevenintellectualworkersfindthemselves,aswomen,atodds
withtheprevailinghierarchiesofscholarlyvalueandopentocriticalthought.5
Second,feministscholarshipdisplaysmanyoftheinstitutionalfeaturesandworkpracticesarguedby
bothO'ConnorandGrossbergtobenotonlycharacteristicoftheBirminghamCenterbutconstitutiveof
theirradicalintellectualpolitics.Forinstance,feministsworkacrossdisciplinesandofteninmarginal
positionsinrelationtomainstreamacademicdepartmentsorsubspecialties.So,feministreceptionof
Britishculturalstudieshasoccurrednotonlyincommunicationbutalsoineducation,sociology,women's
studies, popular culture, American studies, and rhetoric. The interdisciplinary nature of the feminist
responsetoBritishculturalstudiesinAmericahasmilitatedagainstitssimplisticencapsulationwithina
Feminismandculturalstudies201
spec!iicfieldasoneofthatfield's'paradigms'(ashasbeentrueforfeminists(:holarshipasawhole)and
hassupportedthedesire,enactedatBirming}\aJll.,
tochallengetheexisting,depoliticizing,disciplinaryfragmentationofculturalTherestudies.
isalsoastrongtraditionofcollectiveworkamongfeministscholarsandanequallystrongdesireto
undercutthehierarchicalnatureofacademiclife(althoughthisstandsintensionwiththedesiretoamass
individual'intellectualcapital').Moreoftenthanmen,womenareaptto}lavenonstandardcareersand
thusaremorelikelytomakecontributionsas~ents,aduateandstudents,toworktooutneedinnovative
supportwithin'spaces'inhospitabletodevelopuniversityenvironthissupport.Thus,thefeminist
scholarlycommunityinAmerica,beingcomposedof'deviants'whohavefeministtraditionsofanti
hierarchicalanddemocraticprocesses,findssympathywiththe'processual'aspectsoftheBritishcultural
studiestraditionand,indeed,hashadahistoryofsimilarworkprocesses.
ThealreadyconstitutednatureoffeministscholarshipintheUnitedStates(marginal,interdisciplinary,
andcollectivistinactionordesire)mayalsoexplainwhysuchawideranginggroupofcriticallyoriented
feministscholarshasbeguntotakeupBritishculturalstudiesasformativeoftheirwork.Itappearsthat
the political and intellectual scenes were similar enough to engender some parallel developments in
criticalscholarshipinBritainandtheUnitedStates,sothat whenAmericanfeminists of acritical
orientationbecameawareofBritishculturalstudiestheyincorporateditveryquickly.
Thisappropriation,however,isrelativelyrecent.6So,justasBritishculturalstudieshasappearedinthe
disciplineofcommunicationaspartofthealmostgenerationalparadigmatic'ferment'ofthepastfew
years,itsfeminist'wing'hasbecomemostinfluentialamongagenerationofscholarsfinishinggraduate
school orinthejuniorstages of theiracademic careers.Thesearewomenforwhom the theoretical
advancesofadecadeagosuchasobjectrelationsorLacanianperspectives,poststructuralism,the
Frank furt School are takenforgranted and somewhat constraining aspects of ~eir intellectual
background.Thisisalsoagroupwho,intheconservative,Jumpy1980s,issearchingforwaystoinvest
political/theoreticalenergyinanalysesthathavethecriticalpowertointerveneinboththeacademyand
theworldoutsideit,becausetheyareinformedbyatheoreticaltraditionthatunderstandsthembothas
siteswhoseculturalorsymbolicpracticesarealsosocialstruggles.
The point here is that American feminist appropriations of British cultural studies challenge both
mainstreamfeminismandmainstreamculturalstudieslessbytransformingsubstantiveareas(thestudyof
subcultures,curricula,popularmedia,etc.),orbyafocusonwomen'spopular~ture,sexuality,andthe
family,thanbyforegroundingamultidimenSIOnal
understandingofpower,domination,andpossibilitiesforresistance?Particularlyimportant
contributionsarethefeministculturalists'appreciationthatpeople'ssocialidentitiesandallegiancesare
multivalent~db~gthemintooftencontradictorypositionsinregardtohegemonic~~vepractices,and
theirequallyperspicaciousunderstandingoftheIl\ultiplicityofsiteswhereinrepressiveformsofsocial
subordinationcanbe
202Whatisculturalstudies?
reproducedorcanprovideopportunitiesforcontestation.Tomakethispointmoreconcrete,Idiscussthe
workoftwoAmericanwomenscholarswhoseprojectspowerfullyintegratetheseissues.
TriciaRose'sstudiesofrapmusic(1989;inpress)thecentralcomponentofHipHop,predominantly
blackurbanyouthculturealsoknownforbreakdancingandgraffitiartarguethatitisnotanatural
outgrowthoforalAfroAmericanformsbutacomplexfusionoforalforms,modernnotionsofindividual
authorship,andpostmodemtechnology.Shealsocontextualizesrapasaculturalresponsetothebrutal
policies of urban renewal in the South Bronx that abandoned a gutted neighborhood to Blacks and
Hispanics.Movingfromsocialhistoryto'closereadings'ofrapsongsandtheirliveperformances,she
demonstrates that the music incorporates highly selfconscious references to a musical and cultural
traditionthatisrecuperatedthroughreconstitution,aswellasartfulcritiquesofdominantsocialvalues
andtheirreplicationinthepowerrelationsofthecommercializedmusicindustry.Showinghowwomen
inHipHoparemarginalizedinmainstreamandleftistjournalism,Roseanalyzeshowthesongs,videos,
andstyleofwomenrappers,andfanschallengehegemonicnotionsofsexuality,courtship,andbodily
aesthetics,articulatingacommunitybasedfeministperspectivewithinthesubculture.Herworkurges
considerationofthecomplexinterrelationshipsamonggender,race,andclassastheyareconstructedat
specifichistoricaljuncturesinstrugglesbetweencollectivitiesofsharplydifferentpower,astheyare
representedbytheperformancesofculturalactivistswhetheronthestreets,atconcerts,orinthestudio,
ambivalentlylegitimatedbythemusicindustryandastheyareframedbydiversewingsofthemedia
andtheacademy.
LeslieRoman'sethnographicandsemioticanalyses(1987;1988;inpress)ofhowmiddleandworking
class Punk young women culturally produce their feminine sexualities in the slam dance examine a
smallersocial'scene',withequallychallengingtheoreticalandempiricalconsequences.Addressingthree
problemswithinculturalstudiesromanticizationof'resistance','classessentialism',and'productivism'
Roman shows how the young women's classdifferentiated experiences within the family (often
includingsexualabuseandfamilyviolence),school,andtheirdifferentopportunitiesandhistoriesinthe
workworldprovidedthemwithverydifferentsymbolicandmaterialresourcesforselfarticulationwithin
thesubculture.Sheexploresthe'asymmetriesinsubjectivity'thatkepttheyoungwomen'sgenderor
classbased alliances from transcending momentary insight and becoming socially transformative.
Moreover,heractivistand'dialogic'ethnographyilluminatestheepistemologicalramificationsofethical
andpoliticalresearchchoices.Roman'sworklinksthemostprivatelevelsofsubjectivitytoitsmultiple
sites of structuration, illuminating the complexities of motivation for action, whether defensive or
challenginginrelationtoanequallycomplexunderstandingofthelandscapeofpowerrelations.
Thiskindofpoliticalengagement,methodologicalinnovation,andwillingnesstousegenderasan
entryintoamoremultiplexandlessromanticunderstandingoftheconstituentsofpower,subordination,
andresistance
Feminismandculturalstudies203
British.(elninism11
generaldemonstratestraditioniscentraltoforgraspdevelopingasthedoestheworkofotherfeminists
usingspecificitythecriticalofcontemporarypotentialofculturalAmericastudies.thethat
Moreover,atatimewhenhegemonicinterestsarevestedinremappingtherelationsbetweenpublicand
private,familyandwork,inredefiningdependencyandindividualresponsibility,andintappingintothe
wellspringsofterroranddesirefordubiouspurposesofpacificationand01criticalobilization,indeed.
thefeministcontributiontocriticalculturalstudieswillbe

Note
1.2.MyLikewise,responsethankstofeministtotheMichelenewsandFarrell,programotherGeorgeUpsitz,Ellen
Wartella,criticismsNationwideof(heMorley'sconstructedstudyandJoeDumit.
(1980)ofviewerartificialaudienceled'groups'tohisonbooktheFamilybasisofTelevisionoccupation,(1986),
thoughwhichalsobeginsattendingtoaddresstogenderhowthatandmostrace)
domesticofmediaisincorporatedwithinandconstitutiveoftherelationsoffamilialpowerandauthority.3.Thisis,
aswell,aprojectvitalforfeministscholarshipintheUnitedStates,andMcRobbieoftenappearsincitationsasthe
authorizationforamovetoundercuttheessentialisttendenciesthatpsychoanalysisasreceivedinAmericaoften
seemstoencouragevisavisissuesoffantasy,desire,andsubjectivity.4.Differentaspectsofthisdiscussionhave
beentakenupbyscholarsasvariedasMicheleBarrett,AllisonJaggar,SandraHarding,HeidiHartmann,TorilMoi,
andLeslieRoman.5.Thesociallinkgroupsofa(athasleasttendedpotentially)tokeepevenbroadliberalsocial
Americanmovementfeministwithotherculturaloppressedstudiesworkintouchwithissuesofpower,andthus
somewhatprotectedfromfallingintothetwointellectualcampsortendenciesthathavemarkedAmericancultural
studies:'high'andoftenpessimistictheorymistic,pluralistic,andblindtoissuesofpower)ofthevs.popular.
celebrationSeemy(often1986workopti
forafullerdiscussionofthisissue.6.FromaninterviewwithEllenWartella(4/30/89).AsexamplesofAmerican
workthatmaynothavebeendirectlyinfluencedbyBritishculturalstudiesbutengagedclasswomen'swithsimilar
problematics,Iwouldnotemyownwritingonmiddlereadinggroups(1986;1987;inpress)andtheworkby
Radway

1.fro!!'
This(1984),qualitytheMcCormackrealmscharacterizesofsociology(1983),scholarshipandandThchman
literaryinallstudies.
(1978),threeoftothenamecategoriesjustaunderfewexampleswhichIhavegroupedsomerecentAmerican
'culturalstudies'publicationsbyfeminists.!'otForinstance,onlypoliticallyafairnumberinformedofbutscholars
alsotendsdealprimarilytobehistorically,withtexts.contextually,Theirworkoris
UlStitutionallygroundedratherthanformalistic(Carter,1988;ChristianSmith,class,1988),ethnicity,tobe
concernedorrace,withtherelationratherthanwithbetweenconstraintslikegenderandgenderalone(Bright,
1989a;Franco,1986;Steeves&:Smith,1981),andtobeorientedtowardtheintersectionbetween'tex~'and
audiences'culturalpractiCesevenwhennotengagedinempiricalstu~esofculturalusagesbyspecificpeople
(Byards,1987;Ellsworth,1988;~,1987a;1987b;Silverman,1986;Taylor,1989).Anotherstrandofresearch
examinesculturallymediatedsocialrelations,usuallyusingsomecombinationof
204Whtltisculturalstudies?
ethnographic,historical,andinstitutionalanalysis(Banks&Zimmerman,1987Press,inpress).OfparticularnoteareBright's
discussion(1986b)of
thee~son'saestheticsworkof(1989)masculineontheidentitysocialconstructionamongMexicanAmericanof'individual'
talentlowriders,atafilmHenderschoolandtheunderminingeffectsofthatideologyonwomen'sattemptstoorganizeagainsta
maledominatedestablishmentthere,Lesko'swork(1988)onstylepress)authority,onStarandTre/cclassculture,amongand
girlsRakow'sataCatholicwork(1988b)highschool,ongenderAmesly'sandtechnologywork(~
incommunication.Moretheoreticalorprogrammaticworks(Henderson,1988Press,1987;Rakow,1986;Schwichtenberg,
1986;1989;Steeves,1987)
have~particularlyusefultomewhenthey
understandtheoryandmethodologyasculturalpracticesinthemselves.EssaysbyMcCarthy(1988),Smith(1988)Treichler
(1989)are(1986),especiallyTreichlernoteworthyandWartellainthisregard.
(1986),Henderson(1987),andRako~

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12
Discipline and vanish: feminism, the resistance to theory,
and the politics of cultural studies
EllenRooney
...culturalstudiesisnotonething;ithasneverbeenonething.(Hall,'Emergence',11)

Headnote (1990)

InNovemberof1988,theNationalAssocilltionofScholarsheldaconferenceinNewYorkCity.Three
hundredacademicsattended,includingsuchwellknownmedillfiguresasJohnSilber,thenpresidentof
BostonUniversity,lateracandidateforgovernorofMassachusetts,andJeanneJ.Kirkpatrick,apolitical
scientist,formerlyoftheUnitedNations.Theassembledscholarswereexhorted'toredeemAmerican
highereducationfromintellectualandmoralservitudetoforceshavinglittletodowiththelifeofthe
mindorthetransmissionofknowledge'.Theseusurpingforces,composedofacademic'radicals'engaged
in'oppressionstudies',apparentlythreatentheobjectivepursuitofknowledgewithpolitics.Feminists
figuredprominentlyintheconvention'sapocalypticnarrativesofgiddilydecliningstandards,'radical
egalitarillnism',and'chilling'demandsforpoliticalcorrectness.Atthesametime,thepurveyorsof
radical scholarship were paradoxically described as frail and timid. As one speaker put it: 'the
barbarillnsareamongus.Weneedtofightthemagoodlongtime.Showthemyouarenotafraid[;]they
crumble'(Berger,22).'Saytothefeminists,"Whatdoyoumeanbyseparatecourses?Youhaveno
methodology."Whenyoulose,makethemstatetheiragendatotheworld.Theyhaven'tgotthegutsto
stateit,andyou'llbeatthemthatway'(Mooney,11).Thisimageryconflatesanurgentcalltoarmswith
thecontemptuousandimperilllassurancethatthe'barbarillns'lackthecouragetoputupmuchofa
fight;itsuggeststhatthecampusradicalismorefearsomeasaluridspectaclethansheprovestobein
anhonestconfrontation.1
Afewweeksafterthisrousingaffair,inDecemberof1988,Ideliveredthefollowingessayasatalkin
anMLAprogramthatmightbecharacterizedastheNAS'sworstnightmarecometrue.Thesessionwas
one of five organized by Nancy Armstrong and Richard Ohmann for the Division of Sociological
Approachesto
Disciplineandvanish209
r~ulticulturalCi:htpo~rnNtltionaltXJJrnple,studiessuccessDirectionS'hasconservatives~;
terature.iiticslturalion~beenonslaughtsallhasTheandinternalStudiesreportedculturalAssociation
especiallyaddressedOvernotYetcoordinatedConservatives'demandStudies',allowedthisofthe
Program',andstudiestherightwingangletruecoursetheofthatMLAexternal,reactionary'Theseries
Scholars.ofquestionhaswiththeandofthePoliticsAttacks,sessionsgenerallycriticsofallegedlythree
storyregard'FeminismofpanelsideologuesThe'Whatthisdays,ofofcanCulturalStudiesunder
CulturalthetocouldrecentbeenChroniclequestionbefourtheShoulduniversityandoverstated;the
committedtoeasilypoliticizationcategoryworkshopsCulturalsetStudies',headline:wasCulturaltheof
belikethusinterpretedatermsHigherScholarsoftoStudies',Williamtopic'Practicum:on'Inafar,the
ofStudiesofheterogeneous'ThirdFacetheatraisedits'political'.Education,PonderBennettandleast,
asuniversitydebates.ofWorldaBe?'2MakingainGrowingresponseculturalgeneral
Futureorevery
NeoThisand
The
andforthe
bea
inclusive(mountingtheir'proper'accountmorevenue.panelsofAndtheandpoliticalyet,biggerasthe
andconferences),USsuspiciousculturalstudiestheofeffortsquestionmovementto'return'ofpolitics,
haspoliticsexpandedspecifito
cally,suggeststionoftentheinquestionrevolves'Politicsofaroundwhatnow(anxietiescountstheas
relationpolitical,ofapettybourgeois(orhasthereemerged.difference)intellectual)',Asbetween
Meaghanthis'aestheticMorrisques
gestures,CJIUtions
tlulttextual'ina"subversions"massmediasociety[onthewithonemassmediahand,and}political
culturesactions'.andmassmediaMorris
attlu:kspolitics,politicalintellectualpolemic,ofTem4insthepoliticaldenunciationrhetoricofthe
problematic.
onesthoughacts,culturalobjectivityofrelationshipclarifyingmaynotandofstudiesmerecoursenot
dismissivenesstobebetweenlimitstexts.bethescholarssotheclearculturalechoesAtobjectsignifying
thecut'seemalsotheofsamestudiesreappears(185).hisbothredemptivesaving(rathertime,
warrantedscholarIninpractice,thegrace;tlulnlanguageexhortationsintendspolitics"aesthetic")and
thetheintertwinedgestural.politicsofof'political'neoconservativeculturaltoattendgesturesrather
Strangely,imageryanxiety
studiestotlulnand
real
of~heImportantf!'D'l.oun.MyknowledgepolemicessayInasintervenesofNewproductionImy
reworkedOrleansoralinpresentationasthistheinapossible1988,talkdiscussionanditan
differences:AJournalofFeministinstrategyseemeddiscoveredCulturalthetoproposepresentfairly
forStudies,cultural(yetthecleartext.feministagain)whostudies.theThis'we''we'themodelseemedI
problemhaswere;lulveofshiftedespeciallyainretainedpolitics
of1990,andthe
~~unz~ty.

asIamonegratefulofthestakestoRiclulrdintheOhmannconstructionandNancyofcultural
Armstrongstudiesforwithinincludingthe
:5tateP/ulanUnaversitythec~mentspanel;fortoonElizabethathefellowshiptext;Weed,andtlultto
NeilenabledtheLAzarus,CentermefortoandpursuetheKhachigHumanitiestheseTololyanquestions.
atforOregontheir
My";;"sumentbeginsbyarticulatingfeminismasanetworkoffeminist~ctic.es.Iwanttoapproachthe
politicsofculturalstudiesthroughan\VY~oftherelationbetweenculturalstudies,ontheonehand,and
0

;:eneother.sstudies,Theasymmetryfeministtheory,andthewomen'sliberationmovement,ofthis
formulation,inwhichculturalstudies
210Whatisculturalstudies?
isopposedtowomen'sstudiesandtofeministtheoryandtothewomen'smovement,isanallegoryofmy
argument.3ThehistoricalandinstitutionalsituationofculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesdoesnotyet
allowustonameanyparticularpoliticalmovement(outsidetheuniversity)as'properly'affiliatedwith
culturalstudies.Thisfactmakesthesecondtermofthefeministconfigurationthatis,theoryacrucial
weaponforculturalstudiesasittriestostakeoutitspoliticalposition(s),bothwithintheacademyand
elsewhere.Inmyanalysis,thequestionofthepoliticsofculturalstudiesintheUSisinseparablefromthe
question of the theory of cultural studies, where theory is understood primarily as the practice of
interrogatingtheproductionofknowledge.StuartHallhassuggestedthatculturalstudiescanonlyresist
'the remorseless march of the division of knowledge and the gap between theory and practice' by
'developingapracticeinitsownright,apracticetobringtogethertheoryandpractice'.Suggestingthat
thepoliticsofculturalstudiescanneverbereducedtoa'populistintellectualproject',Hallarguesthat'the
vocationofintellectualsisnotsimplytotumupattherightdemonstrationsattherightmoment,butalso
toalienatethatadvantagewhichtheyhavehadoutofthesystem,totakethewholesystemofknowledge
itselfand,inBenjamin'ssense,attempttoputitattheserviceofsomeotherproject'('Emergence',18).
This alienation of advantage requires a theoretical and political reading that forces the system of
knowledgeoutofits'proper',disciplinarycontext.Asapoliticsofknowledgeproduction,culturalstudies
can have farreaching and radical effects; a theoretical practice that interrogates the disciplinary
production of systems of knowledge can ground its progress. On the other hand, if cultural studies
collaboratesintheresistancetotheory,itwillquicklybeassimilatedtothedisciplinarystructureofthe
university,whichistosay,itwilltradeitspoliticaleffectsforaproperplaceamongthedisciplines.
Ifweexamineculturalstudiesinlightoftheexampleoffeminism'striplepracticeaswomen'sstudies,
feminist theory, and the women's liberation movement, three topics emerge immediately for
consideration.First,thepoliticsofwomen'sstudies,especiallyinrelationtostudents,whoconstituteone
ofthemostimportantconstituenciesscholarsandcriticsaddressandwhomayactintheuniversityeither
asagentsofrecuperationorofradicalcritique.Second,theefforttotheorizetheobjectofculturalstudies,
thatisthestruggleamongpractitionerstoanswerthequestionputbyRichardJohnson:'whatiscultural
studiesanyway?'And,finally,theformofthedangerstheuniversity'sdisciplinarylogicpresentstoany
oppositionaldiscourseatworkwithinitsprecincts:whatkindofdeformationswillculturalstudiesas
theoryandpracticeundergoifitsuccumbseithertothetemptationsorthebullyingofdisciplinarity?
Thespecterthathauntsmyanalysisisthepossibilitythattheinstitutionalemergenceofcultural
studiesintheUSwillleadtoitsrapidrecuperationbythedisciplinesasareactionarydiscourse."Iintend
theword'reactionary'inasliteralasenseaspossible:thecunningofideologyallbutassuresthatthe
universitywillrespondtothechallengespresentedbyculturalstudiesbypromotingitsownversion
thereof.Thiskindofreactionformationwouldreinforcetheverydisciplinaryeffectsthatcui
Disciplineandvanish211tuf8lf0con~roent,studies
evennowdisrupts.}cnowledgecea1smanybeyondofitssocialpower,diesbeassimilatedtoIwantto
suggestTheideologyoffreeandobjectiveinquiry,whichstructurestheliberaluniversityandand
politicalfunctions,demandsthatculturaladisciplinarylogic.Toanticipatemyselfforathatcultural
studiesmoldedintoadisciplinary~f!IUltwouldlead,ataminimum,tothefollowingunhappyresults:
first,fourstudents(andeventuallyourfaculties)wouldneverneedtoconfront~fundamentallypolitical
significanceoftheirownintellectuallabor,thusdeadeningtheacuteawarenessofthepoliticsof
knowledgethatnowc:}uuactenzesfined
asanhistoricalgeopoliticalculturalstudies;second,periodourorobjectasaofunitstudyofareawould
studiesberedeandthusnaturalizedasthepropercontentofadisciplinarydomain;finally,cultural
studieswouldabandonitspositionasacriticalreadingofthetraditionaldisciplinesandofthe
disciplinaryassuch(Green,84;Hall'Cultural'and'Emergence';Johnson,3843)andtakeupitsown
authoritativeMyanticipationnicheamongofthedisasterdisciplines.
gainsurgencyfromananalogywiththehistoryofAmericanstudies.Despitetheleftiststrainsinitspast
andtheimportantworkofmanyindividualscholars(likeJaniceRadway,MichaelDenning,andMaryJo
Buhle),Americanstudiestoofrequentlyparticipatesintheresistancetoprogressiveworkinthe
humanities.Thereareexceptionstothistendency,buttheruleholdswellenoughtomakeuspauseover
thisinstitutionalhistory.Asafield,Americanstudieshasnoparticularpoliticalconstituencyorvalence.
Indeed,thedisciplinarycharacterofAmericanstudies,itsinstitutionalstatusasadiscipline,is
indistinguishablefromthatofotherdisciplinaryformations,likeEnglish,Philosophy,orRomance
Languages.5Mypointhereisnottoaccusethelate,greatforefathersofAmericanstudiesmuchlessits
currentpractitionersofsomefailureofpoliticalinsightorwill,buttodisclosetherusesofdisdptinary
Americanrecuperationstudies'lifeasintheytheuniversity.6haveplayedAtthemselvesthemoment,out
inthethedisciplinaryhistoryof
~ofAmericanstudiesissuchthatitisasdifficulttoundertakecnticalleastpartlyworkduetheretotheas
itfactisthatinanyAmericanofthetraditionalstudieshasdisciplines.beenestablishedThisisasata
'~od',awellmappedgeopoliticalandhistoricaldomaininwhichobjectsareWords,~usgatedfreighted
has~mofthedisappearedinquiryvariousproblematicwithappearperspectivestheasfullofanas
authorityAmericanobjectgivens;andofeventocontestationofstudiesbetheoccasionallysure,
disciplinaryhastheseorbeen'redefined',inquiryobjectsnaturalizedobject.(Althusser)areInbutinvesti
otherthey
and..e.m~confrontthepossibilitythatculturalstudiescouldrepeattheUtsti~tionaltheInstitutional
trajectorycontextofandAmericanthehistorystudies.
ofthedisciplinesareeverythingto~ptationa~ysisIpropose.AsStuartHallsuggests,culturalstudiesis
'antoitsterrain...aconjuncturalpractice'('Emergence',11).
sen.~tionsgget'atecf.:P~minenceinInthenoIUSsensewantacademy.dotoassigntotheoretical
practiceTheimportanceofthisImeantosuggestthattheoryisaresponsetocaveatcannotbewitha
capital'T'es,byvirtueofitsapparentselfreflexivity,asaninfallibleprophylactic
212Whatisculturalstudies?
against recuperation or as the guarantee of an essentially radical practice in any field. (Countless
examples,manyfrommyown'home'disciplineofEnglish,demonstratethepoliticallyconservativeor
negligibleeffectsoftheoreticallysophisticatedwork.)Idonotproposethattheoryasselfconsciousness
will set us free; on the contrary, theoretical practice seerns important to me primarily insofar as it
disclosesdegreesofunfreedomirreduciblelimitsandexclusions,theoftenharshterrain.AsBruceRobb~
has persuasively argued, theory is neither 'a determinate set of philosophi cal positions' nor an
'authoritarianruler'thatseekstodominatepracticefromwithout.Rather,theoryisitselfapracticewithin
aparticular'historicalconjuncture',thatis,an'event',andRobbinsinsiststhatweshoulddefineit'in
termsof[the]historicalmoment'(4,56).
ThepublicinsufficienciesandinternalcontradictionsoftheNewCriticism,theurgenciesoftheVietnam
Warandthefeministandcivilrightsmovements,changingethnicandgenderproportionsofstudentsand
teachersalongwiththepressureforcapitalistvocationalizingoftheuniversities,movementsofnational
liberationabroadenergizingLeviStrauss'critiqueofEurocentrismandliterarycriticism'sslowsurrender
toaglobal,anthropologicalviewofcultureallwereclearlypartoftheconjuncture,andifitisdifficult
toassignaspecificweighttoanyoneelement,toaccumulatethemistofeeltheircollectiveforce.
Consenttospeakaroundtheory'snewseriesofpropositions(thoughnotnecessarilytoassenttothem)
hademergentsocialpowerbehindit.(6)Thequestionoftheoryisaquestionofwhatwecandonow,
givenwhereweareinthehistoryoftheUnitedStatesandoftheUSacademy,andinthehistoryof
culturalstudiesasanintellectualpracticeandasafieldofworkwithintheuniversity.Fortheforeseeable
future,Ibelievethatatheoreticalpracticethatconcentratesonexposingtheenablingassumptionsandthe
stakesofintellectualprojectsisessentialtogroundingtheprogressivepoliticsofculturalstudies.We
require,asAdrienneRichargues,atheoryandaJ'oliticsoflocation'.GivenitspresentlocationintheUS
academy,culturstudiesmustforegroundtheconflictof(its)theoreticalproblematicswithinthe'field'
ofculturalstudiesandbetweenculturalstudiesandthedisciplinesitchallenges.Thisstrategyenables
whatGayatriSpivakhascalledapersistentcritiqueofthedisciplinaryproductionofknowledgeall
aroundculturalstudies,aswellaswithinitsboundariesacritiquethatcannevereludethequestionof
politics('InaWord',126).1'
Tospeakverygenerally,thosescholarsandcriticspursuingculturalstudiesareunitedbythedesirethat
theirstudents(andtheircolleagues,forthatmatter)seeculture,notasa'canon'ora'tradition',butasthe
embodimentandsiteofantagonisticrelationsofdominationandsubordination,thatis,asaproductive
networkofpowerrelations.Inprincipleandinpractice,itmattersrelativelylittlewhetherstudentscome
tothiscriticalpositionbyearningadegreeinaculturalstudiesprogramoronsomedisciplinarysite.
Indeed,manyofthosewhocurrentlypracticeculturalstudiesareextremelywaryofdisciplinarization:
'culturalstudiesmustbeinterdisciplinary(andsometimesantidisciplinary)initstendency'ao~ son,42).
Atthesametime,programsarebeingestablishedwillynilly(Ohmann'Thoughts'),andtheymaybeless
vulnerabletorecuperationif
Disciplineandvanish213
.,earepreparedtorecognizeandresistthespecificformsofdisciplinaryrecuperation.
CulturalstudiesintheUnitedStateshasapoliticalprobleminsofarasitsrelationshiptoaspecifically
politicalstruggleoutsidetheuniversityisat:rebeStdvantageoftencontested.aoverpolitically
Practicallybothculturalconsciousspeaking,studiesconstituencywomen'sandAmericanbeforestudies
studies:theyhasenteranitsenormousthestudentsfield,thatisbeforetheyaresubjectedtotherelatively
loose'disciplinary'~dvantageracti~ofwomen'sstudies.(AfricanAmericanstudieshasasimilarinsome
settings.)Irealizethatinmanycollegesanduniversitiesareonlyalsoapartsignificantoftheminority
ofthestudentsinwomen'sstudiescourseswomen'smovement.Butfeministstudentshavea~ortionate
weightwithinthefieldandwithintheirprograms.Fre~tl}',
theyparalleltheirworkinwomen'sstudieswithsomeformof~ric
liticalofwork,wherethepoliticalincludesculturalactivityunderthefeminism.Theoppositionalpolitics
ofwomen'sstudiesisforgedasmuchbythesestudentsasitisbythewomen(andmen)teachinginthe
programsandwritingessaysandbooks'in'women'sstudies.Thispracticaladvantagehastheoretical
consequencesintheformofstudents'awarenessthattheirpoliticalworkisintimatelylinkedtotheir
intellectualprojects;indeed,thistietosocalled'realworld'politicssuggeststheideological
interestednessofwomen'sstudies,remindingeveryonethatthis'field'isnotideologicallyneutral,merely
disciplinary.
Thesimplefactthatitsyoungestscholarsareoftenalsoactivistsofsomekinddoesnotensurethat
women'sstudieswillplayadisruptivepoliticalrolewithintheuniversity.(Thereare,ofcourse,dramatic
limitstothecurrentpoliticsofwomen'sstudiesinmanyplaces;thefeminismofmanywomen'sstudies'
facultiesguaranteesnoparticularpolitics.)8Indeed,itrunscountertomyentirepolemictosuggestthat
thepoliticsofwomen'sstudiesissimplyparasiticuponthesocalled'realworld'politicsofwomen's
liberation.Nevertheless,Iwanttostressthetheoreticalimportance!M
university,ofthewithoutpoliticalidealizingactivitiesthem.ofwomen'sThisemphasisstudiesstudentsis
notmeantoutsideto~lythatsomestudents(orfaculties)have'authentic'politicsthatnaturally'express
themselves,whileothersneedprostheticdevices;nordoI~tosuggestthatanyprogramaticlinkbetween
culturalstudiesas~litical)activitywithintheuniversityandsomeparticularpractice(of~turalpolitics)
outsidetheuniversityisimpossibleintheUS.MypointisDUI\plythatitscurrentabsencerobscultural
studiesofonestrategyof~~llft1Wrsity.
maytobedisciplinarizationpeculiarlyvulnerableandalertstopoliticalustotheneutralizationpossibility
thatwithinculturalthe

~lace becaUSe
thesuchexistenceastrongofemphasisprogramsonassumesthepositioningtheexistenceofstudentsof
students,notsimplybut~theyfortheir
'discipline'.(generallycanItissopresentedfrequentlyeasilybebyininvokedatheircurriculumnameas
analibifortheuniversity'scommitteeofsomekind)(thoughoftennotthroughP'rin~orts)upinthat
coursedisciplinarycataloguesstandardsasrequirements.areestablished,Andascodified,thisscenario
and
214Whatisculturalstudies?
suggests,thecritiqueoftheproductionofdisciplinaryknowledgeisinstitutionallyspecifictotheuniversity.As
Gayatri Spivak continually argues, this critique is always a 'made' thing ('In a Word'), requiring painstaking
constructionandreconstruction,'withnoendinsight'('Political',218).
Inotherwords,acritiqueofthepoliticsofknowledgeproductionisnevermerelyasideeffectofpoliticalactivity
outsidetheuniversity.Thefeministstudentswhochoosetomajorinwomen'sstudiesconstructtheirchoiceasa
politicalone.Ibelievethisisalwaystrue(thoughIwritethatphrasewithacertaindread).Thissenseofthepolitics
ofthefielditselfpreparesthemtoworkagainstthedisciplines,asfeministtheorydemands.Thecreationofwomen's
studies programs entails a specifically feminist critique of the disciplines. This critique is predominantly anti
essentialist andattacksthecommonsenseviewofdisciplinarydiscourseasat least potentiallyobjectiveinits
representationofthereal.9Theseinterventionsinsistthattheuniversityorganizesknowledgepoliticallyandthatthe
disciplinesthemselvesarepoliticalateverylevel.Feministtheoryintheacademyisconstitutedbythediscovery
thatapoliticized,theoreticalinterventionwithinthedisciplinesisunavoidable.Therefollowsarejectionbothof
thefigureoftheneutral,transparentinvestigatorthesubjectofdisciplinaryknowledgeandofthedisciplinary
mythofthegivenobjectofknowledge,innocentlydiscoveredintheworld.AsJaneGallopsuggests,'oneofthe
goalsofwhatwesoambiguouslycallwomen'sstudies[might]betocallintoquestiontheoppressiveeffectsofan
epistemology based on the principle of a clear and nonambiguous distinction between subject and object of
knowledge' (1516).10 'Men's studies modified' (Spender) means a recognition of the interested nature of all
knowledge,ofeveryconstructionofanobject,andofeveryinquiringsubject'sposition.
Culturalstudiesseekstoparticipateinasimilarcritique,to'alienate'thesystemofknowledge,asHallputsit
('Emergence',18).Butwhilewomen'sstudiesjoinsitsintradisciplinarycritiquetoaprojectoffeministtheory
buildingthatinterpellatesitssubjectsas'feminist',itisnotatallclearyetwhat(orwho)the'subject'ofcultural
studieswillbe.Ataminimum,culturalstudiesmustpursueanantidisciplinarypracticedefinedbytherepeated,
indeed,endlessrejectionofthelogicofthedisciplinesandoftheuniversalsubjectofdisciplinaryinquiryOohnson,
42;Spivak'Political'and'Canthesubaltern';Rooney'What').Withoutsuchaconsistentefforttopoliticizethe
subjectofinquiry,theinsinuatingsubjectofdisciplinaryknowledgewillinevitablereemerge.AsMichaelGreen
argues,
...therelationofculturalstudiestotheotherdisciplinesis...oneofcritique:oftheirhistoricalconstruction,oftheir
claims,oftheiromissions,andparticularlyoftheformsoftheirseparation.Atthesametime,acriticalrelationship
tothedisciplinesisalsoacriticalstancetotheirformsofknowledgeproductiontotheprevalentsocialrelationsof
research,thelabourprocessofhighereducation.(84)
Thisantidisciplinarypracticebeginsbyrejectingtheuniversalsubjectofdisciplinaryknowledge;itproducesnew
relationstoknowledgeandneWsubjects.
Disciplineandvanish215
'Jhepluralisessentialandmayremainsoindefinitely.ThepoliticsofthestUdanvarucaldents1euse
feelingsinitiallyfocusthattermasofattractedtodiscontentnotapproachentirelytoculturalandintheits
genuinelyresentmenthonorificstudiesaresense.apolitical.)whichobviously(IammayThisthinking
heterogeneous,haveamorphoussoherelittleof
J'.'>tuationcannotberemediedbyassigningaparticularpoliticotheoretical51odel_ontheorderofthe
JamesonofThePoliticalUnconscious,for~pie,or'theBirminghamSchoo1'11

anddemandingthatstudentsdoptit,evenassumingsuchathingwerepossible.Theproblemcannot,~
~gotherthemwords,thatbeitssolvedpoliticsbyaregivingthepoliticsstudentsofculturalatheoryof
cultureandstudies.Whateverthelimitsofpoliticalheterogeneity,Idonotseeanypossibilityofelaborat
inga'line',aunifiedtheory,orevenapoliticalcentertoorientthewholeoftheenormousanddiverse
projectofculturalstudies.Indeed,intheUScontext,suchaunifyingprojectwouldverylikelycontribute
totheprocessofdisciplinarizationthatIhavebeenatsuchpainstooppose.Incontrast,toplacethe
politicalconflictamongtheoreticalproblematicsatthecenterofCulturalstudiesprogramswouldbeto
enablestudents(andscholars)toconfronttheirownintellectualprojectsaspoliticalfromthegroundup:
choicesaboutsubjectmatter,methodology,theorycannotbemadeaccordingtoanysetofinvariant
principles,butarealwaysaneffectoftheprojectoneprivilegesandseekstopursue.Thestudentof
culturalstudiesisaculturalworker.Withintheuniversity,herpoliticsmustbeginwiththatpositionality.
IntheUSacademy,aspecificformofconsciouslytheoreticaldiscourseisessentialtopursuingthispoint,
preciselybecauseitdirectlycontradictsthepositivistemphasisofwhatMargaretFergusonhascalledthe
'hiddencurriculum'oftheuniversity(219).Imustrepeatthatthisisnotbecausetheoreticalself
consciousnessisinnatelysubversive.Rather,culturalstudiesdisclosestheoreticalchoicesaspolitical
choices.Thevisceralantipathythatcertainselfnominateddefendersoftraditionhavefortheorybecomes
moreexplicableinthisview.Thestudentscholarofcultural~tudiesshouldworkfromthebeginningwith
whatAlthussercallsacho1ces,~ty'beginningsenseofthewithpoliticalthechoiceeffectsofculturalof
herstudiestheoreticalitselfandpractical(14).Thiscanonlyhappenifstudentsandcriticshavethe
theoreticaltoolstoseetheirOWn
worksimultaneouslyasatacticofresistanceandanexerciseofpower,0:aandP~deliberately.
discipline,ofexposingreorganizingAmericantheconcealedstudiesthepursuithasinvestmentslostof
thisknowledgepoliticalofdisciplinarysenseassuch.ofposition.systems
~~~theeffortsofmany,manyindividualpractitioners,inmostuniv~~,~ticallyanorstudent's
theoreticallychoicediscomfiting.12ofthefieldofAmericanstudiesisneitherUneasinessisasignthat
thepyt:hoftheneutraldivisionofrealityintoappropriatedisciplinesisunder
\V0~;IarsthoseconventionfieldsmostarevehementlyattackedataNationalAssociationthosecultural
studiesshouldemulate.Whileano88
omen~a~~tical~dieschoice,majorandorwillgraduatethusprogramcanneverescapeitsresonance
alwaysbeavailableforattack,thereisPoliticalweightwhatsoevertothechoiceofAmericanstudiesasa
216Whatisculturalstudies?
discipline.anothermaJor.
I~

remainstobeseenifculturalstudieswillbeconstitutedasiUst
effort1usttoanotherobscuremajor'thepositionisinstitutionalandthusshorthandthepoliticalfor
disciplinarization,invesbnentofthetheinquirerandtonaturalizetheobjectofinquiry.Ananti
disciplinary
prac~tice(suchaswomen'sstudies)cannotbedisciplinedifitinsiststhattheobjectofknowledge,the
contentthatdefinesthedisciplineassuchisalwaysapoliticalfictionandapoliticalchoice,nevera
given.Wom;n'sstudiesstrugglesconstantlytomaintaintheseinsights,toavoid'revertingtothevery
termsofoppositionwhichfeministtheoryhassoughttoundo'studies(I<amuf,emphasisought42),13on
thistoandbeprocessthereselfconsciousitselfiscertainlyasanaboutaspectnothingitsofproduction
newcriticalinarguingpracticeofobjects.thatneedsculturalButtoanbecentraltoourcurricula.One
disturbingtrendinculturalstudiesisatendencytodisciplineprogramsasthestudyeitherofa
g~historicalperiod,'cultureundercapital',
orofmediapracticeswithinthecultureindustry,suchas'Hollywood','rockandroll',and'sport'.Atmy
owninstitution,oneofthesitesforculturalstudiesworkistheprograminModernliteratureandSociety,
whicheffectivelyexcludescultural
materi~ alistic work that situates
itselfbeforetheFrenchRevolution.Inarecentreporton'CSintheUS',RichardOhmann,whohaslong
beenanadvocateforculturalstudies,aswellasoneofthemostcunningandlucidof
counter~criticsontheleft,tracesthegenesisofculturalstudiestotheeffortsbyintellectualsto
understandthe'massiveculturaltransformations'ofconsumersociety,especiallythe'roleofmass
cultureinshapingconsciousness';inthecourseofthisanalysis,theterm'massculture'appearsinfour
consecutivesentences,mostinterestinglyinthephrase'massculturalstudiesintheUS'.14Although
nothingcouldbefurtherfromhisintention,toreduceculturalstudiestothestudyofmassculture(that
is,toaperiod)istoinviteadisciplinaryfixthatwillultimatelydisplacethepoliticsthatOhmannhopesto
foreground.Disciplinarylogicpressesculturalstudiestodefineitsobjectinjustsuchpositivistterms,
termsthatconcealthecontingencyofthegestureofdefinitionitselfand,withit,itspoliticaleffects.
terms,and,Women'sasaconsequence,studieshasneveritiscontinuallypermitteditself(andto
sometimesbedelimitedbitterly)intheseretheorizingitsproject.Ontheotherhand,Americanstudiesis
definedpreciselyasahistoricalandgeographicalperiodstudy.
Ifculturalstudiesbecomesanew'period',itwillinevitablybecomeanaturalobjectfordisinterested
inquiry,adiscipline.Theironyisthatthisprocessisencouragedbysomeculturalstudiesscholars.Not
surprisingly,thedrivetofixasubject/objectforculturalstudiesisoftenaccompaniedbyvehement
resistancetothe'textualization'ofculture,whichisthenassociatedwiththeory(or'bad'theory).The
respectfulhearingaccordedrecentsuggestionsthatthesocalledtheoreticaleraiscomingtoacloseis
alsorelatedtodisdainfor'theideologyofthetext',andthisdisdaintootendst.oprideitselfonpolitical
toughmindedness.Thisresistancetotextuality
J.S announced as an effort to
maintainaproperspaceforpoliticalacti~n'outsidethetext',l5butitsactualeffectistodepoliticizethe
verysi~cantpracticeswhichenableustoengageinanykindofpoliticallymoti
Disciplineandvanish217
tedintellectualworkwhatsoever.Inthenameofpolitics,politically~strategiesaredismissed.The
coincidenceofthisbacklashwithwinginstitutionalsupportforprogramsinculturalstudiessuggestsgrot
tha}lavethetheirdominantculturaldiscoursesstudiesandofthenotuniversityhaveit,too.haveThe
perhapsNASviewfoundofpoliticsaway
toasMargaretsoll\ethingFergusonexternalremindstointellectualusofanworkoldwomen'sitselfcan
studiesslipinadageunremarked.
whenshearguesfthecurriculumthatradical...workbeincorrelatedtheacademywithrequireschanges
thatinthe'changesformsofininstruction'thecontent

( effectS 2
19).Whenculturalstudiesburdensallofitsstudentswiththepoliticaloftheirintellectualwork;whenit
ownspoliticalandintellectualresponsibilityfortheconstructionofitsobjects;whenitclingstoitsanti
disciplinarypolemicandrefusestocultivateitsowngardentotheneglectofneighboringfields;then,in
thisspecificandtemporarilyprivilegedformasacritiqueofthedisciplinaryorganizationofknowledge,
culturalstudieswillbearadicaltransformationoftheformsofinstruction,adirectthreattotheentire
'hiddencurriculum'ofthedisciplines.
Notes
1.Innumbers,'Conservative',butsoareMooneytermites'reports(11).Sheoneconferee'salsonotesconclusion:'They'resmall
inthediscrepancybetweenthewillingnessof'manyconferees[to]describ[e]themselvesasconservativeintellectually,
politically,orboth'andtheofficialline,whichfabulatesasilent(andunrepresented)majority:'Wedon'tintendtobeabunchof
rightwingscholarsoutthere'pushing(11).
forourownbeliefs.Ithinkwerepresentamuchlargergroup
2.Theforum,presidedoverbyOhmannandincludingpresentationsbyGayatriSpivak,JaniceRadway,CatherineGallagher,and
RichardJohnson,wasitselfentitled'WhatShouldCulturalStudiesBe?',echoingthetitleofJohnson'sessay,'Whatiscultural
studiesanyway?'3.Iusetheword'opposed'onlyinthesenseof'incontrastto'.Obviously,women'sstudies,feministtheory,and
thewomen'sliberationmovementare~ottionstudies',Grafts,'opposed'tothem.asdotodifferencesculturalworkslikestudies
itselfWomentestifiesintheTakesensetoIssue,theofexistencebeingHook'santitheticalofYeJJrning,'feministandessayslike
Hall's'Cultural'andJohnson's'Whatis'.
orinopposiculturalSheridan's
4.Iamspecificallyconcernedherewiththedilemmasofculturalstudieswithin~academy;theinstitutionalpressuresbroughtto
bearbythepeculiarpracticesandideologiesoftheuniversitydiffersignificantlyfromthosethatshape::alworkersonother
sites,includingculturalstudiesscholarswhoarenot5

~IS..tedwithnottouniversities.
sayitisstaticorevenstable;butinthisageofthe'crisis'ofthe~~es,criticalinterrogationhasengulfedevery
discipline.Americanstudies~thisIS
isoftenhousedinprogramsandcentersratherthanindeparbnents,changingslowly,and2Qyearoldprogramscanbehavevery
much.departments.ShumwayanalyzestheunevenprocessofdisciplinarizationII\'Interdisciplinarity'.Henotesthata
commitmenttointerdisciplinaryworkdoeseffects;
nothenecessarilyalsoobservesforestallthat'AmericanthedevelopmentStudiesofdisciplinarystructuresandhadnevergiven
upth(e]idea
218Whatiscultumlstudies?
(20).[ofinterdisciplinarity],andithadneverrecognizeditsowndisciplinarynature
6.IamsympathetictotheviewthatAmericanstudies,asadiscoursethatseernectunavoidablylarlystrugglethatargument
vulnerableagainsttohere.reflecttothereactionaryIgrainwill(andargueofcelebrate)therecuperation,onlydisciplinethat
AmericantodaybutjustAmericanideologyIascannotscholarsstudiesatenterlarge,intooscholarsthe

wasdeeply50calledParticu.
rnus~int
traditionaldisciplinesdo.TherelativeratesofsuccessareextremelyVariableandoftendependon'external'forces.Denning
makesaveryhelpfuldistinctioninhisreadingof'AmericanstudiesasasubstituteMarxism'.Hecontrasts'Americancultural
studies'pursuedunderthesignofAmericanstudiesWith'marxistworkinsocialorlaborhistory...sociologyoreconomics'
whichdealswiththeUS(373);theformerseemstohimtobethesiteofan'exceptional'resistancetomarxismandBritish
culturalstudies.ForsomerecentdiscussionsoftheideologyofAmericanstudies,see:Giroux;Denning;Shumway;WJSe.7.My
inclinationtoworryaboutthisparticularmatterispartofmyownintellectualandpoliticalhistoryasafeminist.AsaWesleyan
undergraduateonthecommitteeinvestigating/agitatingforthecreationofawomen'sstudiesprogram,Ipoweraspossiblewas
thedoubter,anxioustointhehandsofstudents,craftaproposalthatplacedas'us',atthatpoint.Ididnotcaremuchverymuch
aboutbeingabletomajorinwomen'sstudies.Icaredaboutbeingafeministandaboutmakingthataseasyandasradicala
practiceaspossiblewithintheconfinesoftheuniversity,whereeaseandradicalinterventionseemedopposed.Tomakeacourse
ofstudyeasy,orrather,howeasytomakeitspecifically,howeasytomakeittomajorinculturalstudiesisformeacrucial
question.8.SeeSpivak,'Political',foradiscussionoftheupwardmobilityandmaterial
rewardsthatmayattendacareerasafeministscholarinthe'firstworld'.9.Idonotusethetermantiessentialistascodeforpost
structuralist.Theenormousandgrowingbibliographyofthetheoryandpracticeofwomen'sstudiesinawiderangeof
institutionsrevealsvariedandcomplexrelationstotheoryandtotheproblemofthedisciplines.Whiletheword'anti
essentialism'iscertainlynotuniversallyprivilegedintheseanalyses,theemphasisisalwaysonacritiqueoftheproductionof
knowledgeitself,notsimplyonthemarginalizationortrivializationofwomenasobjectsofstudy.Thisistrueeveninthose
textsthatultimatelydocallforanefforttothinkfeministscholarshipindisciplinaryterms:women'sstudies'asadiscipline'is
alwaysacounterdiscipline.AnextremelyabbreviatedlistoftextstouchingonthistopicincludesBowles;DuBois;Farnham;
Hull;Minnich;Mohanty;Spender;'Iieichler.10.SeealsoBell.11.StuartHallhasrecentlyprotestedthetendencytopositionthe
Birmin~Centreastheoriginoforanauthorityonculturalstudies:'thereisnosuchthingastheBirminghamschooLTohear'the
BirminghamSchool'evokedis,fc?rme,toconfrontamodelofalienationinwhichsomethingonetookpartmproducingreturns
togreetoneasthing,inallitsinevitablefacticity'('Emergence',11).Johnsonalsoinsiststhat'theresearchandwriting[at
Birmingham)hasbeenpolitical,butnotinanyimmediatepragmaticsense.Culturalstudies~notaresearchprogrammeforany
particularpartyortendency.Stilllessdoes1tsubordinateintellectualenergiestoanyestablisheddoctrines'(42).12.sentedThis
mayanalternativenothavealwaystothebeentraditionalthecase.belleslettristicInsofarasviewAmericanofliterature,studies
whi~rep~
privilegedEnglishoverAmericantextsandelitecultureoverpopular,an
Discipline1=
pro~
themilitary~:,a~d
industrialPoliticscomplex'forandvanishdiscussionstocanonofformation,topicsrangingteachingfrommass'Englishculture,
101219andand'ThefunctionofEnglishatthepresenttime'.15
totransgresstheboundariesseparatinghistoryfromliterarystudies,1:
itdiddisruptbusinessasusualinthosedisciplines.
Thetendencytoseeculturalstudiesasaperiodcaneasilydevelopoutofa
position that discounts theory as ahistorical and lacking in specificity or that opposes 'concrete', 'particular' projects to
abstraction;thesemovesareoftencOirelatedporary8ndTerryculturalEagleton.withacriticsdeepSeetendingsuspicion
Rooney,toof'Going';thiscategorieslineShumway,arelikeEdward'textuality'.'Transforming';Said,FredricAmongRobbins.
Jameson,contem

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13
pessimism, optimism, pleasure: the future of cultural studies
DuncanWebster
[ ... ) Toreducecultural studies to the studyof popular culture narrows its range and places much
interestingworkoutsidethescopeofmyargument,butpopularculturehasbeencentraltotheemergence
and development of the discipline, and their relation is at the core of criti cisms of trends in
contemporary cultural studies. A repeated accusation is that a notion of a democratised culture, a
transformedand'trulypopular'culture,hasbeendilutedtobecomeapopulistcelebrationofexisting
popularforms.
[...]MartinBarker'sreviewof[John]Fiske'sReadingthePopularandUnderstandingPopularCulture
[...]suggests,inthefirstissueoftheMagazineofCulturalStudies,that'theproblemswithFiske's
version of cultural studies are just those this magazine was born to oppose'. Fiske's books, student
textbooks'cashinginonanewmarketinAmericaandelsewhere',representa'realthreattocultural
studies'. The problems found in the books are 'their profound lack of any interest in history; their
transmogrificationoftheoryintohollowandmechanicalepithets;theircongratulatorydomesticationof
culture,andtheirdullingofallpoliticsofcultureundertheguiseofadvocating"semioticresistance"'.
What'smore,they're'bloodydull'.Fiske'swork,Barkerargues,'representsallthatisgoingbadinworkon
popularculture.Itistheequivalentofcheeringinthefaceofdefeats,warmingone'shandsinthecoldfog
ofth~newconservatism'.Itdoesn'tanalyseorchallengethedominantrightwmgcultureandpolitics:
'Peoplenegotiatetheirreadingswow!'Barkerconcludesbysayingthatifthis'isculturalstudies,let's
writefivebooks,drawoursalariesandgobacktobed'.1
IfthetoneandopennessofBarker'sreviewarerare,thefeelingthatSOmethingeitherisgoingwrong
withculturalstudiesorhasalreadygoneWrongiswidespread,andoverlapswithanxietiesexpressed
elsewhere about the loss of critical work. So Ann Gray in a reviewessay of studies of.lV viewing
concentrateson'theproblemofthepopular',takingissue'WlthJaneRoot'sOpentheBox.Grayworries
thatwhileRootchallengesa
222Whstisculturalstudies?
'leftmiddleclassintellectualelitism',shealsoseemstosuggestthat,inthisinstance,the'spontaneous'
pleasureofThePriceisRightstudioaudienceis'natural'andunmediated.Thereis,therefore,adangerof
falling into 'the consumerism notion of popular culture which naturalises the meanings produced by
capitalism',ofacceptingthattelevisiongives"'theaudiencewhatitwants"'.Thisisn'tseenasaparticular
flawofRoot'sworkbutasa'worryingtrend':'bycelebratingontheonehandanactiveaudiencefor
popularformsandontheotherthosepopularformswhichtheaudience"enjoy'',weappeartobethrowing
thewholeenterpriseofaculturalcritiqueoutofthewindow'.Apopulistpolemicagainstthemythof1V
audiencesaspassivezombies,combinedwith'thesubjectivitylicensedbythepostmodernethos',leadsto
thelossofsome15years'hardlabouraroundtheproductionofmeaningandtheideologicalandpolitical
significanceofthecultural.Thesethingsdomatter'.'Distance',sheargues,isanecessarypartofthe
processofculturalcritiqueifitis'togobeyondasimplecelebrationofwhatisalreadythere'?
So,culturalcritiqueandcriticaldistanceversusapopulistcelebrationofthepopular.Aresponsefrom
thatpopulistperspectivemightfocusonGray'squotationmarksaroundenjoyandthepunitivesoundof
that'15years'hardlabour',andarguethatthepopularisnotaproblembut'theproblemofthepopular'is.
In this analysis 'pleasure' might well replace 'ideology', but that should be presented not as a
depoliticisationofculturalcriticismbutasawayofaddressingnotjustthepleasuresoftheaudiencebut
alsothepositionofthecritic,theconditionsofthat'distance'class,education,'culturalcapital'.Iwill
return to these issues, but it is important to emphasise different variations of this critiqueversus
celebrationopposition.TwopiecesbyPaulWillemenareofinterestheresincetheystressthatthe
'problem'isseenasculturaltheoryinthelastdecade,notjustspecificallyculturalstudies.Inalong
piece on 'The Third Cinema question', Willemen offers a critique of current approaches to 'popular
culture'andapolemicagainst'post'theory.
Hecharacterisessuchapproachesaseither'hypocriticallyopportunist',asinthe'attemptstovalidatethe
mostdebilitatingformsofconsumerism,withacademicscynicallyextollingthevirtuesofthestunted
productsofculturalaswellaspoliticaldefeat',orasdegeneratinginto'acomatoserepetitionof1970s
deconstructivistrituals'.Instead,'thequestiontobeaskedtodayinBritainis:howtoinducepeopleinto
adopting,criticalsocialistwaysofthinking'.3HecontinuesthisargumentinareviewofJohnHill'sSex,
ClassandRealisminthesameissue.Hill'sbook,ratherliketheThirdCinema,ispraisedasoffering'the
wayoutofthemainimpassecurrentlyincapacitatingAngloSaxoncriticism': the 'impossible choice'
between deconstruction's claims that films are 'thoroughly plural' and 'the abdication of critical
responsibilitiesinfavourofthecelebrationofexistingpatternsofconsumption'.Thelatterisseentostem
fromarefusal'tocountenancethepossibilitythatvastsectionsofthepopulationhavecometoderive
pleasurefromconservativeorientatedmediadiscourses'.4Notethat'havecometoderive',whichsuggests
changeseitherinpopularcultureoritsaudienceswhicharenowhereanalysed.
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies223
Socialistfilm(andcultural)theoryofthe1970s,accordingtoWillemen,ill\plied'animageofwhata
socialistculturalpracticemightbe,forproducersaswellasconsumers',and'operatedwithasocialist
idealegoassomethingyettobeattained'.Headmitsthatthis'idealego'was'apuritanicalone',butargues
thatsinceThatcher,'largesectorsoftheapparentlyleftinclinedintelligentsia'haveabandonedanykind
ofgoaltoworktowards.Thishasbeendone'undertheguiseofcriticisingtheshortcomingsof1970s
theoryanditspuritanicalidealegowhichhastoworkforitsgratifications'.Intellectualsinthe1980sno
longerarguefor'asocialistculturalpractice',sincethatwasrelocatedinthewaysthat'workingclass
people(andblackpeople,andwomen,andgays,etc.)madesenseof/withthematerialprovidedforthem
bytheestablishedmediamultinationalsandourexistingtelevisionregimes'.'Atbest',thiswasseenin
termsofresistance;'atworst(andpredominantly)existingpatternsofconsumptionwerelegitimisedand
evencelebrated'.Basedon'the(innocent?)misuseofcertainaspectsof1970stheory',suchas'textual
plurality' and a socialist essentialism (if 'oppressed consumers' enjoy popular cul ture, then it must
contain socialist elements), this was 'cloaked in an aggressively populist rhetoric aimed against
intellectualsatatimewhenweneedtokeepourcriticalwitsmorethanever'(117).
'Thetragicmistakeofmanyleftculturalcommentators,andacademicsistoconnive'withtheforcesof
commodification,'wittinglyornot'.Althoughheseesthe'pleasurequestion'asimportant,Willemensees
helpingtheroletheof'pleasure''commodityinthedisguisediscussionitselfofaspopulartheultimate
filmandobjecttelevisionofenjoyas
ment'(119).Furthermore,theseideasofsubversivepleasuresdependon'acapitalistlogicwhichcreates
anddefinesthesitesofpossiblecontestation.Merelytoplayaroundwithinthosespaceswiththe
materialofferedistoconsenttothatprocessofdefinition,nottochallengeit'(118).Oneproblemwith
Willemen'sargumentisthestrikingabsenceofhistoryfromasocialistanalysis;deconstructionand
populismaretranscendedratherthanlocated.Thereisthecoincidenceofleftculturalcriticsmakinga
'tragicmistake'andThatcherism,buttheonlyrelationbetweenthemissomesenseofguiltbyassociation:
cynicalopportunistsbetrayingsocialism('undertheguiseof...','innocent?','wittinglyorunwittingly').
There'snodiscussionofanyproblemswithinsocialismSion~uringofathedecadeproblemsoftheof
NewfundingRight'salternativehegemony,culturalnoristherespacesanysincediscusthe1970s.Noris
theremuchanalysisofanyoftheproblemswithin1980stheorywhichmayhaveshapedthepositionshe
attacks.Hisdiscussionofpleasurenotonlyoverlooksworkonpleasureandusevalue(TerryLovell's
ConsumingFiction,forexample),italsoseemstosurrenderagreatdeal.IfWegiveupstruggleswithin
spacesdefinedbycapitalistlogic,whereisleft?betweenWereturnsocialisttoatraditionalpictureofthe
leftintellectualasmediatorvanguardandartisticavantgarde.Thestartingpointfora'socialistcritical
culturalpractice'appearstobetoinformpeoplethattheirpleasureinpopularcultureissuspect,thento
formtheminto~
orderlycrocodileandmarchthemofftoaretrospectiveofCubanCtt\ema.
224Whatisculturalstudies?
JudithWilliamson'srecentciticismsofculturalstudiesatleastplacemoreofastressonhistory.In
'Theproblemsofbeingpopular',shecomplainsthattheLeft'svocabularynolongerincludeswordssuch
as 'revolutionary' or 'reactionary', and instead, feminist and left academics are busy discovering
'subversion'inalmostanyaspectofpopularculture.SheseestheLeftasbecominglessandlesscritical,
stemmingfromtheLeft's'post1979awarenessoftheRight'ssuccessfulpopulism,knowntomanyas
"Thatcherism"'.Tworeadingsofthisawarenessareoffered:a'charitable'onewhichseestheLefttrying
toreappropriate'popularpleasures'fromtheRight,andamorecriticalviewwherepoliticallydemoralised
socialistacademicssinkintopopularcultureoutofamixtureofpessimismandboredom.Shearguesthat
theyshouldbeofferingradicalandnewwaysofmeetingpopulardemandsanddesiresinstead.5

[...1
Thecriticismsofculturalstudiesoutlinedsofarrevealapattern:aconflictbetweenasocialist
criticismandonethatisseenasLeftpopulist,andbehindthat,atpointsoverlappingwithit,somenotion
of being'for' or 'against' postmodemism, alsoa sense of an argument between cultural and political
optimismandpessimism.Thislastoppositionconnectschangeswithinculturalcriticismtothediverse
processesof'rethinking'ontheLeftinthe1980s.SobothLabourandtheCommunistPartyhavebeen
accusedofratherapessimisticthantransformingcapitulationitto[...
Thatcherism,1;
justas,sotakingtheovertheRight'sagendaargumentgoes,culturalstudieshascapitulatedtothe
celebratethecouchpotatoratherexistingculturalindustries,inorderthanproposeanalternative.[...

1
toItmightbeusefulheretotumtosomeperspectivesfromoutsideBritain,tofollowtheexportofBritish
theorybutalsotogetadifferentviewpointonthesedebates.

[...1
Ifatypicalculturalstudiestextofthepastmightbecharacterisedbyitsstrongsenseoflocality
(fromHaggartthroughtosubculturaltheory),atextlikeLawrenceGrossberg'sIt'saSinispossibly
typicalofculturalstudiesnow:anAmericanacademicdiscussescontemporaryAmericancultureandthe
historyofBritishculturalstudiesinfrontofanAustralianaudience.
Grossberg'sfirstsectionon'Thescandalofculturalstudies'startswithculturalstudies'successinthe
UnitedStates:'itsrecentrisehasalltheingredientsofamadeforTVmovie',butit'hasbeeninstalled
intotheseemsAmericantoacademybestalled'.atjustFortheGrossberg,momentculturalwhenits
studiesworkisespeciallypowerfulininthesoUSfarasitseestheoryhistorically,politicallyand
strategically,butitssuccessthreatenstorestrictitstheoreticalmobility.Hearguesthatitisnowfailingto
addresslinksbetweenpoliticalstrugglesandthenationalpopularculture.Hiscritiqueoverlapswiththe
othersoutlinedabove,ashewelcomesworkon'thepoliticsofeverydaylife'(Modleski,Chambers,
Fiske),butsuggeststhat'theeveryday'isseeninthiswork'asifitwereabsolutelyautonomous,andits
practicesasiftheywerealwaysformsofempower
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies225
Jl\ent,resistanceandintervention'.1hisapproach'simplyanswerstooJI\8I\Yquestionsaheadoftime';
notonlydotermslikepleasureorresistanceconcretely','refertobutcomplexalsothesetsrelationsof
differentbetweeneffectsthemwhich'arethemselveshavetobespecifiedcomplexandneverguaranteed
inadvance'(13).
However,Grossberg'sworriesabouthoweffectiveculturalstudiesisrelateproblemsinrecentwork
back to its original emergence (Haggart, WilliamS and Thompson in the usual shorthand) and its
institutionalisationat theBirminghamCentrefor ContemporaryCultural Studies. He arguesthat this
initial step skewed cultural studies: 'first, a cultural theory of communication is transformed into a
communicational theory of culture; second, the terms of the problematic culture and society are
bifurcated and disciplinised into literarytextual studies and sociology'. As 'these two theoretical
structures are mapped onto each other', cultural studies subse quently focuses on the ideological
relationshipbetweentheproductionofmeaningandexperience'(15).
Thusculturalstudies'isalwayscaughtinthetwinpullsoftextualandsociologicalresearch';reading
'experienceoffoftexts'orreading'textsthroughexperience'withideologyas'theultimateobjectof
research'forbothtraditions.1hisleadsGrossbergtolocateanotherproblem,'apopulistpoliticsbased
upontheidentificationofthepopularwithsocialposition',arguingthatthisdiffersfromWilliamsbut
resemblesThompson'scriticismofhim,whichreplacedwaysoflifewithwaysofstruggle,'thatis,which
identifiedculturalandpoliticalpositions'(17).
Insomeways,then,Grossbergreversesothercriticismsofcurrentculturalstudiesbyrelatingproblems
withtoday'smodelstoitsinitialconception.However,hisargumentisnotthatclearaboutwhereand
whenculturalstudiesstalled.The'scandal'seemstobebothitscurrentpoliticalweaknessanditsinitial
theorisationasadiscipline.Bypoliticisingtheoreticalquestionsit'spossiblethathe'sarguingthatdespite
theoreticalproblemsculturalstudies'worked'untilmeetingthetransformedpoliticalandculturalterrain
ofthe1980s.Thechangedconditionsofculturalanalysisarethusboththeoreticalandhistorical.
Boththeoryandhistoricallydifferentconditionshaveunderminedfixednotionsoftexts(19)and
audiences(21).Apartfromdebateswithinculturaltheory,there's'thechangingspatialandtemporal
complexityoftheculturalterrainitself'(19):newtechnologies,theexpansionofleisure,thedifficultyin
isolatingoneareaofpopularculturehisexampleisAmericantelevision(2021).Grossbergcriticises
culturalstudiesforredu~gculturetoideology,suggestingthatafocusonmeaningmissesthe
unportanceof'complexlyproducedaffectivestructuresstructuresofdesire,oftheAmericanemotion,
pleasure,NewRightmood,whoetc.'have(35).located1histheiscentral'crisisoftoAmerica'his
analysisas?f'neitherReaganism'seconomicattemptnorideological,toproducebutanewrathernational
affective'popular(31).Hisisandiscussioninterest11\~
analysis,andalthoughIwillnotbeabletodiscusshisargument,I~illreturntothepostscriptofIt'sa
SintoexamineGrossberg'ssuggestionsPast.
aboutthefutureofculturalstudiesratherthanhisquarrelwithits
226Whatisculturalstudies?
Grossbergrefers toWilliamson's 'Problems of being popular' and toMeaghanMorris' 'Banalityin
culturalstudies',probablythetwomostcitedpiecesinthedebatesaboutculturalstudiesnow.Morris
relocatesthedebatesaboutculturalstudiesthroughanengagementwithfeminismandpostmodernism.
The range of her writing (movies, philosophy, art, the everyday), and her own position outside the
academy, contribute to a constant awareness of the circulation of 'theory'. She is, for example, as
interestedin'thetheoreticaldebatesthatcirculateinandaspopularcultureasIaminacademically
situatedtheoreticalworkaboutpopularculture'.Shealsopointstothe'shuttling'ofpeopleanddiscourses
'betweenpedagogicalinstitutionsandtheculturalindustries',aspartofaprocessofthedisseminationand
commodification of ideas. The academy functions within a network of bookshops, TV chatshows,
interviews,reviews,exhibitions,andsoon?Thisstressonmobilityacrosssocialsitesandculturalspaces
runsalongsideaninsistenceonspecificity,theculturalpoliticsofspaceandplace.'Thingstodowith
shoppingcentres',forinstance,concernsthespecificityofplace,thehistoryofparticularAustralianmall
developments,butalsoaddressestheplaceoftheanalyst.
Theanalysisofshoppingcentresinvolves'exploringcommonsensations,perceptionsandemotional
statesarousedbythem',bothpositiveandnegative,butalsoworkingagainstthose'inordertomakea
placefromwhichtospeakotherthanthatofthefascinateddescriber'.Thelattercanbe'outside'intherole
ofethnographeror,'inaposewhichseemstometoamounttomuchthesamething',supposedly'inside'
asthe'celebrant'ofpopularculture.Thefirstpositionbelongstothesociologyofconsumerismorleisure
andthesecondcorrespondstopositionsinculturalstudies.MorrisquoteslainChambers'sargumentthat
recognising'thedemocratic"potential"ofpeople'sactiveappropriationsofpopularcultureinvolvesthe
"wideeyedpresentationofactualities"'thatAdornocriticisedinWalterBenjamin.Morrisrelocatesthis
argumentoveramaterialistaccountofBaudelaire'sParistotheAustralianmall.Adornodeclaredthat
Benjamin'sstudywaslocated'"atthecrossroadsofmagicandpositivism.Thatspotisbewitched"',but
theorycanbreakthespell.Morrisrejectsboththe'strategyof"wideeyedpresentation"'andthe'faithin
theoryastheexorcist';neithermeets'thecriticalproblemsposedbyfeminismintheanalysisof"everday
life'". Feminist cultural studies pays more attention to 'everyday discontent' in shopping, 'anger,
frustration,sorrow,irritation,hatred,boredom,fatigue',ratherthanconsumerismasliberating(remem
ber'shoppingfordemocracy').Feminism'sdiscontentwiththeeveryday,'andwithwideeyeddefinitions
oftheeverydayas"thewaythingsare"',thus'allowsthepossibilityofrejectingwhatweseeandrefusing
totakeitas"given"'.8
Morriscommentsonthevogueforemphasisingthemeaningsforusers/shoppersandthepossible
resistance inherent in contemporary practices of consumption. Articles return to certain 'exemplary
inauguralstories'(punkisherexample);'principlesofculturalactionbricolage,cutup,appropriation,
assemblageandsoon'arerestated.Butas'timepassesinshoppingtown,however,it'stemptingtowonder
howmuchlonger(andforwhom)thesestoriescandotherounds'.Aftertheanalysthashungout
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies227
atconsumerthemall,toconsumption,whathappensfromnext?personsTheretoarestructurestwo
slides:toprocesses';'fromuserandto
{rom'notionsofindividualandgroup"creativity"tocultural"production"to'"thepoliticaldiscovery
"resistance"'.thatwashingMorrisyourquotescaronSundayafriendsisaparodyrevolutionaryofthis
event"'slidea
(21314).Pehapsthatpointneedstoberelatedbacktotheproductionistaestheticsofthe1970s.Washing
yourcarorqueuinginSainsbury'sisn'trevolutionary,causearushtobuttheequallybarricades'baring
either.thedevice'Instead,inMorrisindependentchallengesfilmscurrentdidn't
t:heOrisationsoftheproduction/consumptionprocess,arguingthattheoppositionneedstoberethought
andthatassumptionsthatweknowabout'production'and'canmovetotheotherside'areproblematic.
Shesuggeststhatanessaycouldbewrittenontheslidessheidentifies;itcould,shedid'Banalityin
culturalstudies'.9
MorrisstartswithherirritationwithBaudrillard'suseof'banality'intheorisingthemediaandwithtrends
intheanalysisofthepopularandthe''banality'".everyday,Shewhichdoesn't'seemsopposetobethese
criticismpositionsthatactively'as,say,strivespessimistictoachieveandop~tic
approachestopopularculture',whichadmittedlyavoidssime_lifyingthesedebatesbutalso,Ithink,
missesachancetohistoricisethem(Baudrillard'srelationtoMarxismandsituationism,forexample).The
boominculturalstudiesisplacedthroughthepoliticsofintellectualworkasitrelatesto,andmovesin
andoutof,'commoditycirculation'(15).Recentwork,withitsideasof'culturaldemocracy',of'mass
culturenotasavastbanalitymachine,butasrawmaterialmadeavailableforavarietyEnglishof'master
diskpopularpractices'fromwhich(19),thousandssuggeststoofMorrisversionsthatofthere'sthesame
an
articleaboutpleasure,resistance,andthepoliticsofconsumptionarebeingrunoffunderdifferentnames
withminorvariations'(20).Ideasarenotjustrepeatedbutexported,andanEnglishleftpopulismis
decontextualisedand'recycledinquitedifferentpoliticalcultures',Australiatheway(20).
andAmerica,forexample,dullinganyoppositionaledgealong
Shedoesnotchallengethe'enablingtheses'oftheoriesofconsumptionusersthatconsumersofmassare
not'"culturaldupes"'(StuartHall),but'active,criticalculture';thatconsumptioncan'tbereadofffrom
productionnorconfinedtotheeconomic;andthatconsumptionpractices,likesexuality,aremadeupof
'amultiplicityoffragmentedandcontradictorydisCourses'(20).Insteadshecriticisesthestyleandways
inwhichintellectualsinscribetheirrelationtothepopular.Anethnographicapproachcites'popular
Studies,duCe&'avoices',playoftranslatesidentificationandbetweencommentstheonknowingtheir
pleasures,subjectofthenculturalintro
andacollectivesubject"thepeople"'.InJohnFiske'swork,forexample,Morrissuggeststhat'thepeople'
aredefinedasnegotiatingtheirreadings,reworkingandinterpretingculture:'Thisisalso,ofcourse,the?
Uturalfunctionstudent'sofculturalobjectstudiesofstudy,itself'.and'Thehispeople'nativeend
informants'upnotjustbutalsoas'theasTheythetextuallyare'bothdelegated,asourceofallegorical
authorityforemblematextandoftheafigurecritic'sofitsownownactivity'.critical
228Wlultisculturalstudies?
activity';the'populistenterprise'isseenasbothcircularandnarcissistic(20).
Morris then moves on toanother strategy, impersonatingthe popular. Referringto work on 'mass
culture as woman', the conflation of stereotypes of feminity with the popular, Morris looks at lain
Chambers'sPopularCultureasatextwhichinvitesthisdistractedskimmingoverthesurfacesofthe
popular,andasanexampleof'criticalcrossdressing'(ElaineShowalter'sphrase):'thewhitemaletheorist
asbimbo'(22).Theproblemof'antiacademicpoptheorywriting'shaped,sheargues,by'thevestigial
antifeminismoftheconceptofdistraction',isthat'astylisticenactmentofthe"popular"asdistracted,
scanningthesurface,andshortonattentionspan'reproduces,'atthelevelofrenunciativepractice',the
notion of 'cultural dupes' that cultural studies opposes. Recycling the oppositions of
contemplation/distraction,academic/popular,regardlessof'whichofthetermswevalidate',limitscritical
andpopularinterventionsina'returntothepostulateofculturaldopisminthepracticeofwriting'(22).
Shearguesthatculturalstudiesmayhavestallednowbecauseitsstylecontradictsitsargument,andit
canonlymotivateitsrepetitionsthroughinscribinganOther('grumpyfeministsandcrankyleftists')
whoneedstoberemindedofthecomplexitiesofconsumption.Inherview,discreditingtheseother
voicesis'oneoftheimmediatepoliticalfunctionsofthecurrentbookinculturalstudies'(23).
Morrisannouncesherfrustrationatthechoiceinculturaltheorybetween'cheerleadersandprophetsof
doom'.Sheis'equallyuneasyaboutfatalistictheoryontheonehand,andaboutcheerily"makingthebest
ofthings"'andcallingitculturalstudiesontheother(24).Theproblemsofrecentculturalstudiesareset
outquitebrilliantlyhere,butifthatconcludingstandoffbetweenfatalistsandcheerleaderscaptures
elementsofthepresentimpasse,thepieceavoidsasenseofhowthiscameabout.Reintroducehistory
and those discredited voices get louder; the standoff is no longer between cheery populists and
apocalypticpostmodemists,othervoicesarehecklingfromthesidelines,andwhatthey'reshoutingis:
'What'sallthiscrap,then?'ThistakesusbacktoanotherMorrispiece,butalsosuggestsreasonsforthe
populistscaricaturesofthosewho'misunderstand'popularculture.
In the conclusion to 'Banality in cultural studies', Morris suggests that seeing the need for a
discriminatingcriticismofpopularcultureaspessimisticorelitistleavesuswithaweaker,poorer
critical language. I agree, but the associations that a wordlike 'discrimination' carries are not easily
scrapedoff.Ifyouwantedtolocateanotherimpassewithinculturalstudies,it'seasilyfoundinthehistory
of(Left)Leavisiteattemptstoseparateoutgoodandbadpopularculture,Marxistjudgementsofthe
'progressive text', and feminist quests for 'positive images', and the depres sing narrative of their
interchanges.Andthat'sahistoryofanengagementwithpopularculture,there'salsosimpledismissal.In
'Politicsnow'Morristalksoftheinscriptionofpolitics'asaperfectnonsequitur':herexampleisan
immediateresponsetoalecturebyJulietMitchellafterPsychoanalysisandFeminismwaspublished,'that
nightmarevoiceoftheLeft,yellingboldlyfromthebackoftheroom,"Yeah,Juliet,wluztaboutChile?'"
She
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies
229

workingaddseachother'.to
thatclass,thisbutisnotamatteraquestionoftheofway'thethatgulfpettyburgeoisbetween
intellectualsintellectualsandtreatthe
Theconclusionto'Politicsnow'introducesatopicoftengreetedwithexactlythiskindofdismissal
postmodernism.UsingJameson'sanalysisofpostmodemismas'theculturallogicoflatecapitalism',
Morrisarguesthatthere'sa'practicalinsistence'thatany'criticalpoliticalculture'mustengagewitht}tese
debatesandtakeintoaccountthatthe'abolitionof"criticaldistance'"makes'theoldtoolsofideology
critique'ineffective.Aculturesfurtherandpracticalmassmediapointispolitics,that'intheamass
mediarelationshipsocietybetweenwithsignifyingmassmedia...~tures
andpoliticalones'cannoteasilybedividedupbetweentheCultural/mail:arhetoricaestheticofand
urgencythepolitical.whichShearguesagainstakindofblackdismissesthe'idlespeculation,wild
theorising,andlunaticprose'.Shearguestheopposite:'thingsaretoourgentnowfortheLefttobegiving
upitsimagination,orwhateverimaginationtheLeft'sgotleft....Theverylastthingthat'susefulnowisa
return(asfarce,ratherthantragedy)tothenotionofone"proper"criticalstyle,one"realistic"approach,
one"right"concern'(18586).BearinginmindMorris'scritiqueof'banality'andherwarningagainst
prescription,myconcludingsuggestionsfor'thefutureofculturalstudies'areofferedasawayof
reframingthedebatesoutlinedabove,ratherthananurgentdemandforachangeofdirection.

Pistachio shirts and corsets: Intellectuals and the popular


It'salwaystemptingthesedaysandespeciallyattheendoflongessaystowheelonGramsciasa'heypresto'
man,asthetheoristwhoholdsthekeytoallourcurrenttheoreticaldifficulties.11
Echoinginthedebatesoutlinedabove,thereisalongerargumentbetweenculturaloptimismand
pessimism,oftenalsoconnectedtoanalysesofpoliticalpossibilities.However,thepositionthatthe
massmediahavea'progressivepotential'currentlydeformedthroughexistingsocialandeconomic
relationshasbeeneclipsedbyasenseofthe'popular'whichlocates'culturaldemocracy'hereandnowin
theactiveresistanceandnegotiationsofconsumers.Onereasonforthisradicalrelocationofthatideal
fromasocialistfuturetoacapitalistpresentliesinarejectionofshared.theculturalCommenting
conservatismonthethatparallelsintellectualsbetweenofDebray'stheLeftTe~~chers,andRight
Writers,have
~elelnitiestensecombinationandtheworkoffatalismoftheandLeavises,defiance'Francisinboth
Mulhernanalyses.pointsDebray'stothe
study"pessimismcouldoftaketheintelligence,asitsmottooptimismeither'Gramsci'softhewill'",
famousor'theborrowingperhapsll\oreoftermsthelucidofmassesculturalLeavisianturnsconservatism
thisphrase,inside"desperateout(theoptimism"'.12optimisticmassesasBaudrillard'sviewdespair
stayinginthezombieconsumers)butrejectingcritique.
230Whatisculturalstudies?
Gramsci's'famousborrowing'suggeststhequalitiesneededfordigginginforalongstruggle.Setting
asideoptimismandpessimism,whatofwillandintelligence?Wherearetheylocated?
[...)Iwanttosuggestthat,inreactionto1970stheory,whatgetsinsertedintothispessimism/optimism,
intelligence/willcoupletispleasure.Pleasure,theblindspotofmuchpastMarxistandfeministanalysis,
introducesquestionsofdesire,affectiveinvestment,fantasyandsoon,shiftingthefocustoconsumption
ratherthanproduction.Ithinkthiswasanecessaryandproductivemove,butonewhichhasfalteredby
locatingpleasureinaudiences(orinapoststructuralistdeliriousplayoftextuality),leavingtheacademic
or critic as the secretary or analyst of these pleasures, transcrib ing, commenting, explaining, but
disembodied.
'Pleasure'aspoststructuralistjouissanceoraspopulistfuninsertsthebodyintoculturalstudiesasasite
ofresistance,respectivelyreconstructingtheproprietyofpowerorempoweringtheconsumer,butwhat
isofteninvisiblehereistheintellectual'sownbodyandpower,notjustintellectuals'desirebuttheir
positioninregimesofpowerknowledge.I'mbasingthisonabeliefthatthe'collapseofcriticaldistance'
isnotjustanepistemologicalquestionbutahistoricalandmaterialprocess,andalsoonarejectionof
currentpositions:anostalgiaforapanopticalivorytower,aleftvariantofthatnostalgia,wherethe
intellectualscansthehorizonandconfidentlypronouncesonprogressivetextsandforces,andthepopulist
perspective that Morris uncovered, gazing at the popular in order to celebrate cultural studies' own
reflection.WhatI'msuggestinginsteadisn'tapositionsomuchasaproject,maintainingcriticismwhile
respatialising'distance'.Someworkonintellectualsandthepopularcanserveassignposts.
GrossbergaddsapostscripttoIt'saSinashefelthisconclusionwastoopessimistic;itleft'littleroom
forthat"optimismofthewill"whichGramscithoughtnecessaryforpoliticalstruggle'.Hefindsthat
optimism by relating thefanatic, utopianside of Americanhistoryto the shiftingterrain of popular
culture,andexploring'thepostmoderngap'betweenfans,fanaticsandideologues(66).Thedifferences
betweenthesehavebeenproducedbydiscoursesofpowerknowledgeandbythedrawingof'distinctions'
(Bourdieu).Postmodernityunsettlesthesedifferences,butGrossbergtakesissuewithmanyversionsof
'the postmodern collapse of critical distance and the increasing uncertainty about the authority of
intellectualandpoliticalvoices/positions'.Sincethishasbeenarticulatedas'anabstractepistemological
problem', the answer has been seen as a 'need for reflex ivity', defined as 'autocritique and self
revelation,asasearchformoreautobiographicalanddialogicalwritingforms'(66).Butthatmovesurren
dersnotjustauthoritybutalsothepossibilityofintervention;'itcannotrearticulateanewstructureof
authorityappropriatetothecontemporarycontext'(67).
Grossberg argues that the collapse of critical distance and 'the crisis of authority' are not
epistemologicalquestions'butaconcretehistoricaldilemma',shapedbythefactthatweareapartofthe
terrainwewrite
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies231
aboutdjstaste',(67).soOurreflexivityauthorityneedscannottoberestrethoughton'privilegedasthe
distinctionsbasisforanewoftasteformandofcritique.Asfansandcritics,'wecanbesimultaneouslyon
theterrainbutnotentirelyofit',enabling'anhistoricallyspecificformofcriticaldistance'(68).Wemay
havetolimitourclaimsbutas'intellectuals,wehavetheresourcestoarticulatesocialpossibilities':as
'criticalfans',ourtaskisnottodefine'"proper"culturaltastes'or"'proper"politicalpositions',butto
analyse"specificinvestments'"inthepopularandtheirpoliticalpossibilities.If'wearefans,wearenot
onlyfans;norareweonlyintellectuals'(68).Insteadofreconstructingauthority,weneed'torearticulate
newformsofauthoritywhichallowustospeakascriticalfans'.Heendswithavisionofa'politicsfor
andbypeoplewholiveinthemodemworld,peoplewholiveintheworldofpopulartastes.Animpure
politicsforpoppeople!'(69).cultureGrossberg'scanbeaccountcomplementedofthecontradictoryby
AndrewRoss'sspacesNoofRespect,contemporaryahistorypopularoftherelationbetweenAmerican
intellectualsandpopularculturefromearlyresponsestomassculturetopostmodemism.It'sanimportant
studypreciselybecausethat'and'isaterrainofgenuinedebateanddialogue,linking,forexample,
argumentswithintheAmericanLefttodebatesovermodernismandkitsch,focusingonconceptsthat
bridgedtheintellectualandthepopular(hip,camp,andsoon),rangingacrossculturalformsfromthe
Rosenbergletterstopornography,examiningthecomplexinteractionsbetweendiscoursesandbodies,
classandtaste,andwideningthedefinitionoftheintellectualbydrawingonGramsciandBourdieu
amongothers.Ross'sapproachisnecessarilydialectical,forahistoryofpopularculturecannotbejusta
historyeitherofproducersorofconsumers,itmustalsobe'ahistoryofintellectualsinparticular,those
expertsincultureislegitimate'.13
whosetraditionalbusinessistodefinewhatispopularandwhat
Rossoffersa'postmodempictureofmultipleandunevenactivities,loyalties,obligations,desiresand
responsibilities' of intellectual work now, suggesting, like Grossberg, a sense of 'impure' political
possibilities(230).Bothargumentsstemfromapractical,localratherthanapocalyptic,~
ofpostmodemism'sdissolutionofboundariesbetweenpopularandhighcultures,withanawareness
thatpowerrelationsbetweenintellectualsandpopularculturedonotsimplydissolveinthatprocess.
Bearing Ross's argument that intellectuals and popular culture need to be thought of together, a
transformedwecanculture.
nowtumfromchangesinthepositionofintellectualsto
Inareviewessayofworkonpopularculture,GeoffreyNowellSmithsuggeststhatthetermisnow
problematic:'popularculturalformshavern':lvedsofartowardscentrestageinBritishculturallifethat
theseparate~tence~~ntishculturerockofmusicaisdistinctivenowwouldinpopularcultureinan
oppositionalrelationtoquestion.'14shortlybeaskedTheideatoperformthat'thebeforeleadingthe
lightsPrincessof
?!::~Vales<&usiswhatmusthashavehappened'seemeda(83).crazyNowellSmithpopculturalists'
historicisesdreaminthat1956,shift,but
firstbyaninterestingcomparisonbetweenBritainandotherEuropean
232Whlltisculturalstudies?
countriesandtheirrelationtoAmericanpopularculture,thenbyturningtothelate1950sandthe
simultaneousemergenceofculturalstudies(WilliamsandHoggart)andanewpopularculture(rock'n'
rollandcommercialtelevision).Despitethesechangesandtheexpansionofleisureandpopularculture
inthe1960s,anassumptionremainedthatclassdivisionswerereflectedin'differentialcultures'.Itwas
assumedthat'thedividethatseemedtoexistbetweenpopularculturalformsandthoseofhighculturewas
apermanentfeatureofthemodemworld',andthatthisdivision'couldbemappedsociologicallyand
madetocorrespondtodivisionsinsocietyatlarge.1\vocultureshadtoexist,andtheyhadtobethe
culturesofthedominantanddominatedclassesrespectively'(82).Hearguesthatthismeantthat
differences'betweenandwithincultures'wereoverlooked.Also,thatthisisanotherinstanceofthe
'pecularities'ofBritishculture,highlystratifiedandfollowing'classstratificationmorecloselythanin
othercountries'(82).Britaininthe1960s,then,didnotprovideanappropriatemodelforanalysisof
popularcultureinothercountries,nordothecriticalassumptionsofthatperiodworkfortoday'spopular
culture.Today,NowellSmithargues,thechoiceisbetweensayingthatthereis'oneculture(albeitwith
divisionsinit)orseveralcultures(overlappingandrubbingupagainsteachother)butnolongerthatthere
aretwocultures,highandpopular,dividedfromeachother'.Hesuggeststhatthereis'one(multiply
divided)culture'withthedominantformsbeingthose'traditionallydesignatedaspopular'(83).Hefeels
thattheuseof'popular'canitselfbeadistractionoutsideofananalysisofaform'sproducersoritspublic,
andwritingfromwithinfilmstudiesratherthanculturalstudiesproper,heusesthatdistanced
engagementtocallintoquestioncentralassumptionsof(popular)culturalstudies.Althoughheseemsto
approveofthe'moveawayfromthetheoreticalhighgroundintotheempiricalflatlands'intheworkhe
reviews,henotestheabsenceofan'implicittheory'ofhow'thecomponentsofpopularculturerelateto
eachother'(90).Hesuggeststhatifthecentralprojectofseeing'cultureasawhole'issetaside,then
culturalstudieshaslostitsrationale,andheseesaweaknessinthestressonconsumptionattheexpense
ofproduction;'themoststrikingabsence'inthestudyofpopularcultureis,forhim,'anysenseofartistic
production'.Whenproduction'comesin,orratherwhenitcomesback,thenthestudyofpopularculture
willhavebecomethestudyof...culture'(90).
DickHebdigearguesforasimilarshiftinboththestudyofpopularcultureandthefielditself,ina
piecethatsuggeststheradicalpotentialof'banality'(postUveAidevents,etc.).lfinthe1950sand1960s
the'artificialorderoftheclassroomwasbuiltagainsttheviralchaos'ofthepopular,thosepopularforms
arenowlegitimateobjectsofstudyfromschoolstopostgraduateresearch.Thecentralassumptionthat
111

pop/pap" was culture's Other' maintained a


strictlypolicedfrontierbetweenthepopularandathreatenedculture('classical,high,modernisteven...
folk,progressiverockorgrittyworkingclass').'PopularculturewasananimaltobeapproachedBarbara
Woodhousestylewithfirmvoiceandsteadyhand'.Now,intheWestatleast,themaphasbeenredrawn:
'popularcultureisno
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies233
longerpeor.lemarginal,itsimplyisstillculture'.lesssubterranean.ThisneedstoMostberecognisedof
thetimewithinandforculturalmost
stUdies,culturenowand'mayinaprovocativeparadox,Hebdigesuggeststhatpopularnotactuallyexist
anywhereexceptontheshelvesofacademicHebdigebookshops.15
suggeststhatthemapsbeingusedbyacademics,thepopularasaIcnowableterraincrossedbyclass,race,
andgender,arenolongeras~veindadvertisingasthepractices.discoursesHe'sofidentitynot
suggestinganddesirethatofferedthebymarketingconsumerismparadiseofendlessindividuationhas
arrived,northatclass,raceand~er
areirrelevant,butpointingtotheweaknessofcurrentculturalstudies:'academics(Icountmyselfamong
them)armedwithsemiotics,aculturalismtruncatedaccounthavebeenofGramscistaggeringandaround
theremnantstheruinsofRaymondofthesixtiesintheWilliams's
eightiesaccompaniedbytheirpublisherstryingtorevivethefallengiantofthemasses'.Wereturntothe
standoffbetween'gloomy,decadentBaudrillard'and'optimistic,enablingculturalstudies',butthistime
offeredasamirroring:Baudrillard'isprogressiveBritishculturalstudiesbacktofront'.Thewayoutisto
smashthatglass'ontowhichgenerationsofintellectualshavebeenprojectingsomanyoftheirown
largelyunadmittedanxietiesanddesires';toletgo'ofourselvesandthegravitytraditionallyaccordedto
intellectualprojects';toadmitthat'disposablecultureisintrinsicallyworthstudyingwithouttryingto
justifyitbyreferringtheanalysesbackto"proper"politicalconcerns';togiveup'speakingonbehalfof
thewholeofhumanity'and'thequestofintellectualseithertomergewiththeimaginarymassesorto
triumphintheirdisappearance'.
WhileI'mnotpersuadedthatthepophumanismofUveAidisagreatadvanceonthehumanismofthe
universalintellectual,Hebdige'susefulproposalslinktransformationswithinpopularculturetoa
rethinkingofthepositionofintellectuals.Inarelatedpiece,heagainoutlinesatransfiguredsocial
mappedbypostFordistmarketing'svocabularyofdesire,aspirationandidentity,inordertoarguethat
culturalstudies,andtheLeftingeneral,mustlearnfrombothpostmodemscepticismandthealternative
definitionsofraceandnationalidentitywithinpopularculture.Thisvisionof'newtimes'escapesa
universalmodeofWithinpostmodemism'sthischanging'logic'worldandwetheneed'old'tolanguage
abjurecertainofthekindsleft'.Toofinterveneauthoritywemighthavelaidclaimtointhepast,without
losingsightofthelongertermobjective,howtoarticulateanewkindofsocialism,howto11\asses'make
socialism,.16
asRaymondWilliamsmighthavesaid,withoutthe
rethinkMyclaimsthepositionaremoreofintellectuals;modestbutcouldtofollowbesummarisedthe
dissolutionastheof'popularneedto
culture'into'culture'or'thepopular';andtolinkthatwiththerelationbetweentheconstructionofa
nationalpopularwithinaninternationalPopularcultureandchangingdefinitionsofnationalidentity.
Thislast~omtraisesthecomplexrelationsbetween'Englishness'anditsproductionthroughcultureand
leisurepractices('heritage',etc.),andtheformof
234Whatisculturalstudies?
thenationstatewithinacontextofmulticulturalism,'Europe',Americanpopular'culturalimperialism',andthe
political demands for a transforma tion of that form. This may provide a way of rethinking audiences and
consumption,reframingthemwithquestionsofcitizenshipandthecomplexrelationsofpowerknowledgethat
shapediscussionsof'taste','standards'and'quality'andwhichlinkthesetermstothenationalBritishtelevisionas
thebestintheworld.
Rethinkingtherelationsbetweenintellectuals,popularcultureand(cultural)democracytakesusbacktoGramsci,
the'heypresto'man.AlanO'SheaandBillSchwarzaskwhatGramscihastooffer:
He had no liking for the Americanised popular culture of his own day, for all the originality of his cultural
investigationshewasnevertheslightestbitinterestedinitsmodemmanifestationslikethecinemaandradio,he
system aticallysubordinated selftopolitics,hadnothinginterestingtosay onthe symbolic formsofpopular
culturesortheirelementsoffantasy,wroteincomprehensiblyonpsychoanalysis,sufferednervouscollapseif
subjectedtoolongtothespeedinessofcitylife,andsoon:agrizzledoldBolshevikaboutasfarremovedfromthe
dynamicsofcontemporarypopularculturesasonecouldpossiblyimagine.17
Such a critique could be extended, they argue, to the way that the study of the popular is institutionalised,
specificallytheexternalityofacademicdiscourseandintellectualswhenconfrontingthisterrain.
Orwellisintroducedhereasafigurerepresenting'almostanyexplorerofpopularcultureofthepasthundred
yearsorso',sittingonatrain,'insulatedfromtheculturehewatches',seeingawomanclearingoutadrain.lbatself
reflexivity,TheRoadtoWiganPier'sawarenessofthesocialrelationsimpliedbythiskindofobservationand
description,iseclipsedasOrwellwrigglesfreeinordertosuggestthatit'snothimselfwhois'caughtupinallthis
afterall,butothers,andto'castigatethedeluded,pistachioshirtedintellectualsallaroundhim'.O'SheaandSchwarz
findamirrorimageofthismoveinlainChambers'smappingofthe'metropolitanexperience',PopularCulture.By
turningfrom theacademytothepostmoderndazzleofthestreets,Chambers'canmakeit appearasifallthe
problemsofknowledgeandpedagogyliewithothersinthisbipolarworld:themonochromeguardiansofofficial
culture'.ChambersisthepomoOrwell,appearingto'absolvehimselffromhisownpositions:onlythistimehe
championsthepistachioshirts'.Butexternality,indeedsocialrelations,can'tsimplyberhetoricallyshruggedoff.
O'SheaandSchwarzrightlyrefuse'thechoicebetweentwoplanetarydiscoursestheoneacademic,totalisingand
external,theotherlivedandpopular'.TheysuggestthatareturntoGramscimightenablethosediscoursestobe
'more fruitfully, and more justly' integrated. Gramsci's work, historicising both intellectuals and the popular,
providesthetermsforthecritiqueofGramsci.IfChambers's'popularepistemology'doesnotresolvetheproblems
ofexternality,'itmaybenecessarywizened,miserableoldBolshevikthathewastogobacktoGramsci,toread
himanew,toimagineorinventaGramsciforourownbleaktimes'(108109).
Pessimism,optimism,pleasure:thefutureofculturalstudies235
RosalindBrunt,discussingthe'politicsofidentity',doesjustthat,argub:lgforanewimageofthe
politicalactivist.Insteadoftheactivistas'Jllole',tunnellingbeneathcapitalisminordertoundermineit,
sheturnstoGramsci'ssuggestivemetaphorfor"'intellectualsofanewtype"':theys}louldbecome"'asit
were,thewhaleboneinthecorset'".HerpleasureinthiSalsoimagebeingstemsanintimate,fromits
indeedideaofsensuously'revolutionarymaterialiststiffeningfigureandofcontrolspeech'.whileIt'san
theopenInimagemasses,
theandelcontextofwhileose.
discipline118
ofsuggestingculturalbutsupport,ofliterally'"keepinginanonvanguardist'wayofworking:studies,
the'whaleboneinthetouch"'withupfront,
corset' is an iJnage that suggests both
embracingthepopularandshapingit.ItmaydraWonimagesof'masscultureaswoman',butitalso
providesafigurefortheproblemsofexternalityanddistance,andsuggestswaysoflinkingthetwo.
Madonna'slingerie,andthefierceargumentsaboutthemeaningofherembodimentofafemalepopand
desiringsubject,couldbeseenasdeconstructinganoppositionbetweenoutsideandinside,forexample.
Asanimageoftransition,ofnewwaysofrelatingintellectualsandthepopular,italsosuggeststheways
thatculturalstudiesisnowseenas'sexy'bypublishers,asworryinglycommodifiedandpopulistby
critics,andpatenbally,asawayofrearticulatingacriticalpracticewithinandoutsidethepopular.
Notes
1.2.BARKER,GRAY,A.M.(1987)(1990)'ReadingMOCS,the1March,audience',pp.Screen,3940.
28.Summer,pp.2728,30.3.4.5.6.7.September,
WILLEMEN,WILLEMEN,WILUAMSON,PopulistGROSSBERG,(NovemberMORRIS,CultureM.pp.1986);
P.P.L.(1988)(1987)1415;'Review(London,J.
(1988)DUNCAN(1986)The'NotesKAPLAN,It'sof1988).

'ThePirate'sSex,aSin.WEBSTER,andproblemsClassSydney,C.reflections',FiJmcee:'TheandLookaof
Realism',p.cultureFeminism,being8.
Framework,Yonder!crossover',Framework,popular',TheR.eJiding,34,ImaginaryNewp.New34,
Postmodernism.
7,p.37.

SocuJlist,Socialist,115.
America41.43of
London,pp.8,9,10.8.MORRIS,M.(1988)'Thingstodowithshoppingcentres',inSheridan,S.(ed.),9.Ibid.,
Grafts:p.Feminist214;'BanalityCulturalinCriticism.culturalLondon,studies',pp.Block,19697.
14(1988).Reprintedhereas10.12.11.ChapterMORRIS,
BENNETT,StudyMlJLHERN,ties.London,ofPopular7.
Pirate'sT.F.p.(1989)(1981)xii.

Fiction:Filmcee,'Marxism'IntroductionApp.Source18081.
andBook.topopularRegisLondon,Debray',fiction',p.182.
inTeJIChers,BobAshleyWriters,(ed.),CelebriThe
13.ROSS,14.NOWELLSMITH,80.
A.(1989)NoG.Respect:(1987)Intellectuals'Popularculture',andPopularNewCulture.Formations,London,2.
Summer,p.5.
p.
15.liEBDIGE,D.(1988)'Banalarama,orcanpopsaveusall?'NewStatesmanand
Society,9December,pp.3132.
236Whatisculturalstudies?
16.HEBDIGE,D.(1989)'Afterthemasses',MlzrrismToday,January,p.53.17.O'SHEA,A.andSCHWARZ,B.(1987)
'Reconsideringpopularculture',Screen,
28,3.Summer,p.106.18.BRUNT,R(1988)'Bonesinthecorset',MarxismTodsJy,October,p.23.
14
culture and communication: towards an ethnographic
critique of media consumption in the transnational media
system
lenAng
Cultural studies and cultural critique

An intense interest in culture is one of the most significant trends in contemporary communication
studies.Theterm'culture'issowidelyusedanditsmeaningsoelusivethatitscurrentprominencecould
obscurethefactthatitsanalysisisbeingundertakenfromadiversityofperspectivesandapproaches.
Theemergenceofasetofcriticalculturalapproachestocommunication,generallycalledculturalstudies,
needstobedistinguishedfromthelessencompassingsocialscientificinterestinculturalphenomena
displayed within mainstream communication research. More precisely, the perceived convergence of
disparatescholarlytraditionsthatishailedbysomeobservers(e.g.Blumleretal.,1985;Schrsder,1987;
Curran,1990)shouldbeembracedwithcaution.Althoughculturemayatfirstsightbea'commonobject
of study' (Rosengren, 1988: 10) that can contribute to the further erosion of unproductive divisions
between 'mainstream' and 'critical' traditions, the theoretical and methodological, as well as
epistemologicalandpolitical,differencesbetweenthetwotraditionsremainimpressiveandneedtobe
acknowledgedassuch(Ang,1989).
Inbrief,'culture'inmainstreamcommunicationresearchisgenerallyconceptualizedinbehaviouraland
functionalistterms,aboutwhich:objective'knowledgecanbeaccumulatedthroughthetestingofgeneral
izablehypothesesbywayofconventionalsocialscientificmethods.Theculturalindicatorsprojectsof
GerbnerandassociatesintheUnitedStatesandRosengrenandassociatesinSwedenarethemostwell
knownlargeSCaleprogrammesinthisvein.Importantastheseresearchprojectsare,Suchpositivist
interestinmediacultureis,inmanyrespects,atoddswiththeconcernsofculturalstudies.Inthelatter,
'culture'isnotsimply~tedasadiscreteobjectofcommunicationresearch.Itisthecontradictoryand
continuoussocialprocessofculturalproduction,circulation
238Whatisculturalstudies?
andconsumptionthatculturalstudiesisabout,not'culture'definedasamoreorlessstatic,objectifiedset
ofideas,beliefsandbehaviours.
1bisimpliesacompletelydifferentsetofworkingprinciples:culturalstudiesisinterestedinhistorical
andparticularmeaningsratherthaningeneraltypesofbehaviour,processorientedratherthanresult
orientedinterpretiveratherthanexplanatory.Mostimportant,whatfundamentallydividesbothtraditions
istheirrespectiveselfconceptionsasintellectualdiscourses:thescientisticambitionsoftheonewill
always be rejected by the other. As an intellectual practice, cultural studies is positively and self
consciouslyeclectic,criticalanddeconstructive.1Itdoesnotseekparadigmaticstatus,nordoesitobey
establisheddisciplinaryboundaries.Itsintellectualloyaltiesreachbeyondthewallsoftheacademetothe
critiqueofcurrentculturalissuesinthebroadestsense.CulturalstudiesformwhatOiffordGeertz(1983)
hascalleda'blurredgenre'ofintellectualwork:itisatonceculturalresearchandculturalcriticism.
Ultimately,doingculturalstudiesdoesnotmeancontributingtotheaccumulationofscienceforscience's
sake,thebuildingofanevermoreencompassing,solidlyconstructed,empiricallyvalidatedstockof
'receivedknowledge',butparticipatinginanongoing,openended,politicallyorienteddebate,aimedat
evaluatingandproducingcritiqueonourcontemporaryculturalcondition.Inthiscontext,topicality,
criticalsensibilityandsensitivityfortheconcretearemoreimportantthantheoreticalprofessionalismand
methodologicalpurity.AFrenchMarxistpsychologisttoldmeyearsago,quitenonapologetically,'I
don'tworkhardenoughbecauseIreadtoomanynewspapers'.Inmyview,aboveallelseitisthisworldly
attitudethatisrequiredfordoingculturalstudies.
Media reception as focus of cultural critique

Culturalstudieshasgainedanenormouspopularityinthepastdecadeorso.Ithasbecomeonenewhope
forscholarswhoaresearchingforalternatives,notonlytothewornoutpathsofthe'dominantpara
digm',butalsototheincreasinglysterilereiterationsofclassicalcriticaltheory(e.g.Hardt,1989;Real,
1989).TheworkoftheBirminghamCentreforContemporaryCulturalStudies(e.g.Halletal.,1980)is
generallyseenasthesourceoftheemergingtradition,butitsinfluencehasspreadtomanycritical
intellectualcomersinadvancedcapitalistsocieties,although,paradoxicallyenough,lesssoincontinental
EuropethaninCanada,Australiaand,particularly,theUnitedStates(AngandMorley,1989).
The aim of this article, then, is to sketch out some of the central issues related to media and
communicationthathavepreoccupiedculturalstudiesandclarifythelinesalongwhichtheformulation
ofculturalcritiquewithinthistraditionhasdeveloped.SomeofthethemeswhichIfindparticularly
pertinent for cultural studies to take up in the present period of massive economic, political and
technologicaltransformationofourmediaenvironmentwillalsobesuggested.IntheEuropeancontext,
thequestionof'nationalidentity'hasbeenparticularlyprominentinofficial
Cultureandcommunication239
responsestothesechangesandthediscussionherewillfocusonthisissue.'fheEuropeancasewillonly
berenderedobliquely,however,becausesuro~~c)
inproblemsaworldthataremoveshardlyprogressivelyunique(althoughtowardscertainlyglobal
integration,historically
atleastatthestructurallevelofpoliticaleconomy.Finally,theimportanceofanethnographicapproachin
assessingtheculturalimpactofthesecurrentdevelopmentswillbehighlighted.
Theseconcernsreflectapersonalpointofviewaperspectivecolouredb~theandpoliticsunderstandof
mytelevisionownwork,audiences.whichhasThus,centredWatchingonwaysDallastoconceptua
(1985),inwhichanalysed,andgivelettersmeaningwasfromanattempttoviewersaabouttheAmerica
primetimesoapweretoprobethewaysinwhichaudiencesinterpretpopulartelevisiontext,butits
broaderpoliticalcontextwasthethenrampantpublicoutrageaboutthe'Americanization'ofEuropean
publicbroadcasting.InshowinghowDallasfansweresilencedandthusdisempoweredbyadominant
officialdiscoursewhichcategoricallyrejectedsuchprogrammesas'badmassculture',Ihadhopedto
disarticulatetheoftenassumedconflationbetweenthelogicofthecommercialandthepleasureofthe
popular.Theaimwastoopenupthepossibilityforalessdeterministicmodeofthinkingaboutthese
issues:apoliticalstanceagainsttheincreasingcommercializationofbroadcastingatthelevelofpolicy
shouldnot,assooftenhappens,precludetherecognition,ataculturallevel,oftherealenjoyment
peopletakeincommerciallyproducedmediamaterialarecognitionthatissustainedbymaking
understandablethetextualandsocioculturalparamatersofthatpleasure.things,Inaotherformwords,
Iimaginedmyworktobe,amongmanyotherofculturalcritiquethataimedatunsettlingtheprevailing
and,fromapersonalviewpoint,counterproductiveviewsonpopulartelevisionOfcourse,andtheitsway
audiences.
thebookwasreceived(and,asaresult,itsdiscursiveeHectiveness)wasbeyondmy
control, and is something about which I can say very little here. What is important to emphasize,
however,isthatwhilethebookcametobeseenasanexerciseinwhatisnowcommonlycalled'reception
analysis',theideologicalandculturalclimateinwhichthebookwaswrittenplayedadecisiverolein
shapingtheargumentsandinterpretationsputforwardinit.2In1990,areceptionanalysisofDallas
wouldundoubtedlybeinspiredbyverydifferentpoliticalandsocioculturalproblematics.(Forexample,
theverysuccessofDallashasdramaticallyc:hallengedEuropeanprogrammingpolicies,tothepointthat
ithasbecome[Silj,1988].)
anacceptedmodelforEuropeanproductionsoftelevisiondrama
Itmayseemimmodesttoproposemyownworktoillustratethevalueofthe'~uncturalism'rightmoment
ininculturaljustthestudies,rightway,thatasis,theRichardneedRortytotry(1989:'writing174)at
justhasputitandIapologizeforthis.Thejustificationforit,however,isthefactthatreceptionanalysis
(thatis,thestudyofaudienceinterpretationsandUsesofmediatextsandtechnologies)hasbeenoneof
themostprominentdevelopmentsinrecentcommunicationstudies,includingculturalstudies(e.g.
Morley,1980,1986;Radway,1984,tonamebuttheclassicexamples).
240Whatisculturalstudies?
Inmoregeneralterms,receptionanalysishasintensifiedourinterestinthewaysinwhichpeopleactively
andcreativelymaketheirownmeaningsandcreatetheirownculture,ratherthanpassivelyabsorbpre
givenmeaningsimposeduponthem.Asaresult,thequestionofmediaconsumptionasitselfalocusof
activeculturalproductionhasacquiredacentralplaceinculturalstudies.Thethrustoftheinteresthas
beenethnographic;whilemostreceptionstudieswerelimitedtoanalysingthespecificsofcertaintext/
audience encounters, the methods used were qualitative (indepth interviewing and/ or participant
observation),andtheemphasishasbeenoverwhelminglyonthedetaileddescriptionofhowaudiences
negotiatewithmediatextsandtechnologies.Inthissense,receptionanalysiscouldverywellbecalledthe
ethnographyofmediaaudiences.3
Numerousconcretestudieswhichwereinspiredbythistrendhavebeencarriedout.Australiancritic
MeaghanMorris(1988:20)evengoessofarastosuggestthat'thousandsofversionsofthesamearticle
aboutpleasure,resistance,andthepoliticsofconsumptionarebeingrunoffunderdifferentnameswith
minorvariation'.Shegoesontosaythatwhilethethesesunderlyingtheethnographyofaudienceshave
beenextremelyenablingforculturalstudies(e.g.thatconsumersarenot'culturaldopes',butcriticalusers
ofmassculture),sheisnowworriedabout'thesheerproliferationoftherestatements',whichinherview
threatentoleadto'theemergence...ofarestrictivedefinitionoftheidealknowingsubjectofcultural
studies'.
Translatedfreely,theproblemsignalledbyMorrisisasfollows:theperspectiveoftheethnographyof
audienceshasledtoaboominisolatedstudiesofthewaysinwhichthisorthataudiencegroupactively
producesspecificmeaningsandpleasuresoutofthisorthattext,genreormedium.However,whilethe
positivistwouldbepleasedwithsuchanaccumulationofempiricalverifications(andelaborations)ofa
centralhypothesis,itisnotadequateforpurposesofculturalcritique.Onthecontrary,selfindulgent
'replications' of the same research 'design' would run the danger of merely producing an ever more
absoluteformal'Truth',anempty,abstractandultimatelyimpotentgeneralizationthatcouldrunlikethis:
'peopleinmodemmediatisedsocietiesarecomplexandcontradictory,massculturaltextsarecomplex
andcontradictory,thereforepeopleusingthemproducecomplexandcontradictoryculture'(Morris,1988:
22).
Althoughaudienceethnographieshavecertainlyenhancedandtransformedourunderstandingofthe
dynamicsofmediaconsumption,IdotakeMorris'sconcernstoheart.Forpurposesofculturalcritique,
validatingaudienceexperience,or'takingthesideoftheaudience'aloneisnotenough.Inthissense,the
termreceptionitselfbearssomelimitationsbecause,stemmingfromthelineartransmissionmodelof
communcation,ittemptsustoforegroundthesocialpsychologicalmomentofdirectcontactbetween
media and audience members, and thus to isolate and reify that particular moment as the preferred
instance that merits ethno graphic examination. A more thoroughly cultural approach to reception,
however,wouldnotstopatthispseudointimatemomentofthemedia/audienceencounter,butshould
addressthedifferentiatedmeaningandsignificanceofspecificreceptionpatternsinarticulatingmore
general
Cultureandcommunication241
5()CialnovelrelationsTheSatanicofpower.VerseswouldTheconflictriddenbeadramaticreception
caseinpointofSahnanhere.Rushdie'sThiscaseformillustratesanodalhowpointthewhereclash
betweencomplicateddifferentpoliticalinterpretivetensions,ideologicalcommunitiesdilemcan
Jil&.Stheirandexpressioneconomicinwayspressureswhich(e.g.haverelatingworldwidetothe
consequences.publishingindustry)Thisadmitfind
tedlyextraordinaryexamplesuggeststheimportanceofnotreducingreceptionasToadeeplyavoidto
politicized,thean'banality'essentiallyculturalinpsycholo,pcalculturalone.
process,buttoconceptualizeit
studiesthatMorrispointsto,then,theethnographicperspectiveonaudiencesneedstobeplacedina
broaderformofempiricaltheoreticalaudienceframework,research,sothatbutitbecomesceasestopart
bejustofaamoresophisticatedencompassingunderstanding,bothstructuralandhistorical,ofour
contemporaryculturalcondition.Inotherwords,whatweneedisnotmoreethnographicintegraland
'objective',partofworkbothpopularon'micro'discreteculturalandaudiencepractices'macro'processes.
groups,thatarticulatebutThatonbothisreceptionto'subjective'say,recepasan
tionshouldbeseenasonefieldof'thecomplexandcontradictoryterrain,themultidimensionalcontext,
withinwhichpeopleliveouttheireverydaylives'(Grossberg,1988:25).Atthesametime,itisinthis
verylivingoutoftheireverydaylivesthatpeopleareinscribedintolargescale,structuralandhistorical
relationsofpowerwhicharenotoftheirownmaking.Thissetoftheoreticalassumptionswillbebornein
mindinchartingaconceptualterrainthatcaninformsucha'globalization'oftheethnographicpursuit.
First,however,Iwanttoplacetheethnographicshiftwithinculturalstudiesinamorespecifichistorical
andtheoreticalperspective.

The power of the popular: beyond ideology and hegemony


1beethnographicthrustinaudiencestudieshasfunctionedasawayofrelativizingthegloomytendency
ofanolderperspectivewithinculturalstudies,namelyideologicalcriticism.Adistinctiveassumptionof
cultural~diesisthatthesocialproductionandreproductionofsenseandmeaningmvolvedalsoamatter
intheofpower.5culturalTheprocessintimateisnotconnectiononlyamatterofsignifyingof
signification,practicesandbut
theexerciseofpowerisafocalinterestofculturalstudies.AsGrossberg(1983:46)notes,'Oncewe
recognize that all of culture refracts reality as Well as reproducing it as meaningful, then we are
committedaswellto

1~gch;ology
wasthelogicallyinterestsplacedimplicatedintheinforegroundparticularrefractions'.ofcultural
Consequently,studiestothepomtanother;thatculturaltheculturalprocessesandarethebyideological
definitiontendedalsoideologicaltobecollapsedinthatintothewayone
theworldismadetoappearinasocietytendstocoincidewiththeinterestsofthedominantorpowerful
classesandgroupsinthatsociety.TheGlearamscianconceptofhegemonyismostlyusedtoindicatethe
culturaldershipofthedominantclassesintheproductionofgeneralized
242Whlltisculturalstudies?
meanings,of'spontaneous'consenttotheprevailingarrangementofsocialrelationsaprocess,however,
thatisneverfinishedbecausehegemonycanneverbecomplete.Sincethecommunicationsmediaare
assumed to play a pivotal role in the continuous struggle over hegemony, cultural studies became
preoccupiedwiththequestionofhowthemediahelpedtoproduceconsensusandmanufactureconsent
(Hall,1982).Thissetofassumptionshasenabledustounderstandtheprecisetextualandinstitutional
mechanismsbywhichthemediafunctionideologically;how,thatis,inprocessesofinstitutionalized
culturalproductionparticularmeaningsareencodedintothestructureoftexts,'preferredmeanings'which
tendtosupportexistingeconomic,politicalandsocialpowerrelations.
Asaformofculturalcritique,thiskindofideologicalanalysis(onlyasimplifieddescriptionisgiven
here)isultimatelypropelledbyawilltodemystify,denounceandcondemn;itisadeconstructivepractice
which presupposes that the researcher I critic can take up the marginal position of critical outsider.
However,thisperspectivewassoonsidedbyacountercurrent,whichemphasizednottopbottompower,
butbottomtopresistance,itselfaformof(informal,subordinate)power.Thewellknownworkonyouth
subcultures (e.g. Hall and Jefferson, 1976; Willis, 1977; Hebdige, 1979), but also the emergence of
ethnographicapproachestomediaaudiencesarepartofthesametrend.Itisapopulistreactionwhich
stressedthevitalityandenergywithwhichthosewhoareexcludedfromlegitimate,institutionalpower
createameaningfulandliveableworldforthemselves,usingtheverystuffofferedtothembythedomi
nant cultureas raw material andappropriating it in ways that suit their own interests. Hall's (1980)
encoding/decoding model opened up the space to examine the way in which the media's preferred
meaningscouldbe'negotiated'orevenoccasionallysubvertedinrecalcitrantaudiencereadings.John
Fiske,themostexuberantambassadorofthisposition,haspushedittoanextremeinseveralprovocative
publicationsbyvirtuallydeclaringtheaudience'sindependenceintheculturalstruggleovermeaningand
pleasure(e.g.Fiske,1987a,1987b).Inthisversionofculturalstudiestheresearchercriticisnolongerthe
criticaloutsidercommittedtocondemntheoppressiveworldofmassculture,butaconsciousfan,whose
politicalengagementconsistsin'encouragingculturaldemocracyatwork'(Fiske,1987a:286),bygiving
voicetoandcelebratingaudiencerecalcitrance.
AsMorris(1988:23)hasremarked,whatwehavehereisa'humaneandoptimisticdiscourse,tryingto
deriveitsvaluesfrommaterialsandconditionsalreadyavailabletopeople'.What,however,doesit
amounttoasculturalcritique?Thereisaromanticizingandromanticisttendencyinmuchworkthat
emphasizes(symbolic)resistanceinaudiencereception,which,accordingtoMorris,canalltooeasily
leadtoanapologetic'yesbut...'discoursethatdownplaystherealitiesofoppressioninfavourofthe
representationofarosyworld'wherethere'salwaysawayofredemption'.Similarcriticismshavebeen
voicedbyothercriticaltheorists(e.g.Modleski,1986;Schudson,1987;Gripsrud,1989).
Butthiskindof'sellingout'isnottheinevitableoutcomeofethnographicworkonmediaaudiences.In
thisrespect,itisunfortunatethatthepolitics
Cultureandcommunication243
oftefii1Sresearchserve
receptionasofaacouldliberaldecontextualizedanalysisimplicitlydefencehasoforallpopulardefence
explicitly,toooftenculture,ofinthebeentheoreticalmediajustonesidedlyasstatususesandandquo
castpoliticalgratificationsbywithinpointingterms,the
totheir'functions'fortheactiveaudience(d.Elliott,1974).Similarly,~culturehasintooftenhowbeen
audiencesusedascreateanempiricalmeaningsrefutationoutofofitemstheelitistofpopularargusnent
thatmassculturestupefies,numbsthemind,reinforcespassivityand50wouldon.Thereissomething
trulydemocraticaboutthisdiscourse,andIbethelasttowanttoquestiontheimportanceofattackingthe
informsdaJ:naging~piricalte.impactofthehigh/lowculturedivide,whichstillpervasivelyandlimits
diverseculturalandeducationalpolicies,forexamHowever,revalidatingthepopularalonebystressing
theobviousfactthataudiencesareactivemeaningproducersandimaginativepleasureseekerscan
becomeabanalformofculturalcritiqueifthe~Otheritselfisnotseeninathoroughlywords,audiences
maybeactivesocialandpoliticalcontext.Ininmyriadwaysinusingandinterpretingmedia,butitwould
beutterlyoutofperspectivetocheerfullyequate'active'with'powerful',inthesenseof'takingcontrol'at
anenduring,structuralorinstitutionallevel.Itisaperfectlyreasonablestartingandtechnologiespointto
considerasempoweringpeople'sinactivethecontextnegotiationsoftheirwitheverydaymediatexts
lives(which,ofcourse,isthecontextofmediareception),butwemustnotloeesightofthemarginality
ofthispower.AsdeCerteau(1984:xvii)hastryremarkedto'makeaboutdo'theclandestinetacticsby
whichordinarywomenandmen
intheireverydaypracticesofconsumption:
thisculturalactivityunsigned,thosewhounreadable,neverthelessofandtheunsymbolized,nonproducersremains
ofculture,thecmlyancmeactivitypossiblethatforallis
buyandpayfortheshowyproductsthroughwhichaproductivisteconomyarticulatesitself.
(Emphasisadded}
Tobesure,oneoftheimportantcontributionsmadebyethnographicstudiesthedocumenting,of
receptiontheisputtingexactlyintothe'signing','reading'and'symbolizing'tangiblediscourseofthe
fragmented,pnate~le,aworldmarginalnotoftacticstheirbyownwhichmaking.mediaThisaudiences
isnodoubtsymbolicallywhatFiskeappromeantbyencouragingculturaldemocracy,andheisright.
However,ifaudience~phywantstoelaborateitscriticalfunction,itcannotavoidcon~morefullywhat
sociologistshavedubbedthemicro/macroproblematic:cu1turaJ.democracy
thefactthata
IaFiske,therethatareitsstructuralexpressionlimitstakestoplacethepossibilitieswithinspecificof
Parameterstotheandconcreteconditionsproblematicofhegemony.
ofexistence.Inshort,weneedtoreturn
._~theeuphoriaoverthevitalityofpopularcultureanditsaudienceshas...,;w.edtomakethequestionof
hegemonyratherunfashionableinsomeCUlturalstudiescircles,itisbecausethepopularcametobeseen
asanautonomous,positiveentityinitself,arepositoryofboldindependence,~gthOUtsideof,andand
creativity,resist,theahappyhegemonicspacefieldinwhichofforce.peopleInfact,canarguably
however,staythe
244Whatisculturalstudies?
relationshipbetweenthehegemonicandthepopularshouldnotbeconceivedofintermsofmutual
exteriority; the hegemonic can be found within the very texture of the popular. As Colombian
communicationtheoristMartinBarbero(1988:448)hasnoted,'weneedtorecognizethatthehegemonic
doesnotdominateus&omwithoutbutratherpenetratesusandthereforeitisnotjustagainstitbut&om
withinitthatwearewagingwar'.Therefore,heiswaryofa'politicalidentificationofthepopularwithan
intrinsic,spontaneousresistancewithwhichthesubordinateopposethehegemonic'.Instead,whatshould
be emphasized is 'the thick texture of hegemony I subalternity, the interlacing of resistance and
submission,andoppositionandcomplicity'(MartinBarbero,1988:462).Theresultingformsofcultural
resistancearenotjustwaystofindredemption,butalsoamatterofcapitulation;investedinthemisnot
justpleasure,butalsopain,anger,frustrationorsheerdespair.
Infact,MartfnBarbero'sLatinAmericanperspective,informedasitisbytheharshanduglyrealities
whichareaproductofthesubcontinent'sunequaleconomicdevelopment,profoundpoliticalinstability
anddaytodaysocialdisorder,especiallyintheexplosiveurbanareas,notonlycanhelptoundermine
theEuroandAmericocentrismofmuchculturalstudies,butalso,morepositively,can(re)sensitizeusto
themessyanddeeplypoliticalcontradictionswhichconstituteandshapepopularpractices.InLatin
America,thepopularisoftennostalgicallyequatedwiththeindigenous,andthisinturnwiththeprimitive
and the backward the disappearing 'authentic popular' untouched by, and outside of the realm of
modernity.Fromthisperspective,theunruly,crimeridden,povertystrickencultureoftheurbanpopular,
concentratedintheJavelas,thebarriosandotherslums,diffusesitssubversions&omthererightintothe
heartsofthemodemcitycentres,andcouldonlybeconceivedofascontaminationofindigenouspurity,
asanirreconcilablelossofauthenticity.Againstthisvision,MartinBarbero(1988:460)proposesto
reconceptualizetheindigenousasatonce'dominatedandyetasthepossessorsofapositiveexistence,
capable of development'. In this way, we can begin to see the urban popular not as inauthentic
degenerationbutasthetrulycontemporarysitewherepowerlessgroupsseektotakecontroloftheirown
conditionsofexistencewithinthelimitsimposedbythepressuresofmodernity.
Inthewest,whereeverydaylifeisrelativelycomfortableevenfortheleastprivileged,thestrugglefor
popularsurvivalandselfaffirmationseemstohavelostitsurgency.However,itisnottruethat,as
MartinBarbero(1988:464)wouldhaveit,'intheUnitedStatesandEurope...totalkofthepopularisto
refersolelytomassnessortothefolkloremuseum'.Inthedevelopedworld,too,thepopularremains
investedwithintense conflict: this is the case even in such a seemingly innocent terrain as cultural
consumptionandmediareception.Tobesure,MartinBarbero'sassumptionthatpopularcultureisa
subordinateculturethatstandsinacontradictoryrelationtodominantculture,ishardlyuniqueandiswell
representedinBritishculturalstudiestoo,particularlyasaresultofitsGramscianlegacy(e.g.Bennettet
al.,1986).However,thisgeneraltheoreticalassumptionhasnotsufficientlysucceededininforming
Cultureandcommunication245
concreteJllediatakeSanalysesofreceptiononeshapeintoday'smediaaudiences.Instead,ofthemost
prominentpractices'consumersocieties'ourunderstandingofwherethepopularisstillgovernedbythe
unhelpful50then.on.isWhatthedichotomiesunrecognized,acriticalethnographyofunconscious
passive/ofactivity,mediaandcontradictorymanipulative/liberating,audiencesneedseffectivitytoferret
ofout,and
thehegemonicwithinthetexturewithintheofreceptionpopular,thepractices.relationsTheoffollowing
powerthatsectionareinscribedsketchesoutoneofthetrajectoriesalongwhichwecanbegintostakeout
thisterrain
The hegemonic specified: the transnational media system

Tobeginwith,itisimportanttodevelopaconcretesenseofthehegemonicforcesthatruletheworld
today.Intoomuchculturalstudieswritingunderstandingofhegemonyremainsatanabstracttheoretical
level,evokedratherthananalysed,byalludingtobasicconceptssuchas'class','gender'and'race'.We
needtogobeyondtheseparadigmaticconceptualizations ofhegemonyanddevelopamore specific,
concrete,cus,contextual,1986).
inshort,amoreethnographicsenseofthehegemonic(Mar
Agoodpointtobeginwith,althoughbriefly,istheratherdisturbingchangesthattheworldmedia
system arguably an important locus of hegemonic forces is undergoing at present. As we move
towardstheendofthecenturythecommunicationsindustries,aspartoftheeverexpandingcapitalist
system,havebeeninaprocessofprofoundeconomicandinstitutionalrestructureandtransformation,
whichcanbecharacterizedbyacceleratedtransnationalizationandglobalization.Wecanseethisinthe
emergenceoftrulyglobal,decentredcorporationsinwhichdiversemediaproducts(filmandtelevision,
pressandpublishing,musicandvideo)arebeingcombinedandintegratedintooverarchingcommunica
tions empiressuchas thoseofBertelsmann,Murdoch, Berlusconi andTuneWarner. This processis
accompaniedbyanincreasedpressuretowardsthecreationoftransnationalmarketsandtransnational
distribu tionsystems (madepossible by newcommunication technologies suchas sa~te andcable),
transgressingestablishedboundariesandsubvertingexistingterritoriesaprocesswhich,ofcourse,has
profoundpoliticalandculturalconsequences(Robins,1989;MorleyandRobins,1990).The~
of such notions as 'the information revolution' and 'postmoder IUty' are indicative of the
perceivedpervasivenessofthechanges,andinoureverydayliveswebeardirectwitnesstothesechanges,
throughtheturbulenttransformationofourmediaenvironment,inbothtechnological(cable,satellite,
video) and institutional (new TV channels, dismantling of ";ltd Public tices These global of service
historicalmediaconfigurationsmonopoly)receptiondevelopmentsofterms.
andhegemonyconsumptionform,inwithinveryspecificevolve.whichcontemporaryways,Aswethe
havestructuralpracseen,ethnographiesofmediaaudiencesemphasize,andtendtocelebrate,the
246Whatisculturalstudies?
capabilityofaudiencegroupstoconstructtheirownmeaningsandthUstheirownlocalculturesand
identities,eveninthefaceoftheirvirtuallycompletedependenceontheimageflowsdistributedbythe
transnationalcultureindustries.However,thisoptimisticcelebrationofthelocalcaneasilybecountered
byamorepessimisticscenario,picturedbyManuelCastells,whoforesees'thecoexistencebothofthe
monopolyofmessagesbythebignetworksandoftheincreasinglynarrowcodesoflocalmicrocultures
aroundtheirparochialcableTV's'(quotedinRobins,1989:151).Inotherwords,wouldnotthevitality
andcreativityofaudiencesincreatingtheirownculturesmerelyamounttopaltrymanifestationsof,in
Castells'words,'culturaltribalism'withinanelectronicglobalvillage?'
Itwouldbeludicrous,Iwouldargue,totrytofindadefinitiveandunambiguous,generaltheoreticalal
answertothisquestionasthetheoryofculturalimperialismhasattemptedtodopreciselybecausethere
isnowaytoknowinadvancewhichstrategiesandtacticsdifferentpeoplesintheworldwillinventto
negotiatewiththeintrusionsofglobalforcesintheirlives.Forthemoment,thenwecanonlyhopefor
provisionalanswersanswersinformedbyethographicsensitivitytohowstructuralchangesbecome
integratedinspecificculturalformsandpractices,underspecifichistoricalcircumstances.Onlysucha
particularisticapproachwillallowustoavoidprematureclosuresinourunderstandingandkeepusalert
tocontextualspecificitiesandcontradictions.
However, an ethnographic perspective suitable for and sensitive to the peculiarities of our
contemporaryculturalconditionneedstomovebeyondtherestrictivescopedelimitedbytheboundaries
ofthelocal,andtodevelopanawarenessofthepertinentasymmetriesbetweenproduction/distribution
andconsumption,thegeneralandtheparticular,theglobalandthelocal.Inotherwords,ethnography's
criticaledgedoesnotonlyhavetoresideindiscoveringandvalidatingdiversityanddifferenceinan
increasinglyhomogeneousworld,ashasbeensuggestedbyseveralauthors(e.g.VanMaanen,1988),it
canworkmoreambitiouslytowardsanunravellingoftheintricateintersectionsofthediverseandthe
homogeneous(e.g.Lull,1989).Furthermore,theethnographicperspectivecanhelptodetailandspecify
theabstracting,telescopicviewinvokedbystructuralanalysisofthetransnationalglobalsystem:
Theethnographictaskliesaheadofreshapingourdominantmacroframeworksfortheunderstandingofhistorical
politicaleconomy,suchascapitalism,sothattheycanrepresenttheactualdiversityandcomplexityoflocal
situationsforwhichtheytrytoaccountingeneralterms.(MarcusandFischer,1986:88)Inshort,onemeansof
examiningthewayinwhichthehegemonicandthepopularinterpenetrateoneanotheristotracetheglobalinthe
localandthelocalintheglobal.Thelastsectionofthisarticlegivesanillustrationofthistrajectory.
Cultureandcommunication247

_...,.. the global and the local meet: nationality and the struggle for cultUral identities

onetocal
centraldevelopmentsissue,inhaswhichparticularlyrecognitionstrongofthetheoreticalintertwining
andpoliticalofglobalconseand
quences,istheissueofculturalidentity.Inthestrugglesthatarefoughtoutaroundthisissueinmany
pP.rtsoftheworldtoday,thestructuralchangestnou~tand
officiallyaboutdefinedbythetransnationalizationintermsofathreattoofmediatheautonomyflowsare
andoftenintegrityassessedofJiDUted'pationalandidentity'.limitingHowever,one,suchadefinitionof
theproblemseemsaverybecauseittendstosubordinateother,more~c
anddifferentialsources for theconstructionofcultural identity(e.g.those baseduponclass,
locality,gender,generation,ethnicity,reliility.f.~
Thepolitics,defenceetc.)andtothepreservationhegemonicandofnationalseeminglyidentitynaturalas
oneaofnationprivilegedfoundationforculturalidentityisfarfromageneral,selfevidentlylegitimate
callyconstitutedpoliticaloption.politicoculturalAfterall,nationsunits;theyarearethemselvesnotthe
naturalartificial,destinyhistoriofpregivencultures,rathertheirexistenceisbaseduponthe
constructionofastanCiardized'nationalculture'thatisaprerequisitetothefunctioningofamodemand
nationalindustrialculturestatewholesome(Gellner,and1983).pristineThedesireisnottoonlykeep
becomingnationalidentityincreasinglyunrealistic,butisalso,atamoretheoreticallevel,damagingly
oblivioustothecontradictionsthatarecondensedintheveryconceptofnationalidentity.Defining
nationalidentityinstatic,essentialisttermsbyforging,inamannerofspeaking,authoritativechecklists
ofBritishness,Dutchness,Frenchness,andsoonignoresthefactthatwhatcountsaspartofanational
identityisoftenasiteofintensestrugglebetweenapluralityofculturalgroupingsandinterestsinsidea
nation,andthatthereforenationalidentityis,justlikethepopularidentitiesinLatinAmericaand
elsewhere,fundamentallyadynamic,conflictive,unstableandimpurephenomenon..However,contrary
tothesubterraneantacticsbywhichinformalpopularidentitiesarecreated,thecategoriesofnational
identityandnational~turestillpolic:ies.dominantlyareItisinvestedthisusedconstellationwithasa
centralformal,thatfoundationdiscursivehasbeenforlegitimacythrownofficialintoculturaland
questionareandatpresentbymediathe
:rn,electroniccare~onaboutthatintrusionsofthetransnationalmediasystem,whichdoesnotnational
boundaries,onlyaboutboundariesofterritory,ofandofmarkets.Itisnotjustaquestionof'cultural
imperialoldertermthatsuggeststheunambiguousdominationofoneependentculturebyaclearly
demarcatedother.Thehomogenizing!endenciesbroughtaboutbythetransnationaleramaybebetter
character~quite
bya
differentthetermproblem'culturalassynchronization'tothepoliticsof(Hamelink,culturalidentity.
1983),TheandMexicanitposes
theorist,GarciaCanclini,hasformulatedtheproblemasfollows:
TostruggletomakeoneselfindependentofacolonialpowerinaheadonCO!nbatwithageographicallydefined
powerisverydifferentfromstruggling
248Wlultisculturalstudies?
forone'sownidentityinsideatransnationalsystemwhichisdiffuse,complexlyinterrelatedandinterpenetrated.(Quotedin
MartinBarbero,1988:452).

Inotherwords,intheincreasinglyintegratedworldsystemthereisnosuchthingasanindependent
culturalidentity;everyidentitymustdefineandpositionitselfinrelationtotheculturalframesaffirmed
bytheworldsystem.Ignoringthis,whichisthecasewhennationalidentityistreatedasasacrosanct
given,notonlycanleadustoundesirableunintendedconsequences,butisitselfanactofsymbolic
power,bothbydefininganabstracted,unifiedidentityfordiversesocialandculturalgroupswithina
nation, and by fixing, in a rigid fashion, relationships between national 'imagined communities'
(Anderson,1983).
TwomoreThirdWorldexamplescanilluminatehowapoliticsofnationalidentity,oronethatis
propelledinitsname,alwaysimpliesarearrangementofrelationsofculturalpower,bothlocallyand
globally.Theexamplesalsopointtothekindofconcretesituationsthatethnographiesofreceptioncould
takeupwhileholdingtogetherbothlocalspecificityandglobalpressures.
InitsattempttofosterMalaysianidentity,theMalaysiangovernmentruledin1989thattelevision
commercialswerenolongerallowedtofeature'panAsian'models(andstilllessCaucasianmodelsor
advertisements'suggestingWesternsuperiority').Instead,actorsshouldrepresentMalaysia'smainethnic
groups:Malays,ChineseandIndians.Ironically,however,thegovernmenthadintheearly1980staken
precisely the opposite tack, directing advertising agencies to stop using racially identifiable models,
reasoning that using mixedrace actors would be more adequate to pro mote Malaysian identity
(Goldstein,1989).Whatweseehereisnotonlythatnationalidentityisamatterofselectiveconstruction,
includingsomeandexcludingotherelementsfromit(definingitselfasmuchintermsofwhatitisnotas
inwhatitis),butalsotheveryuncertaintyandinstabilityofwhattheidentityisandshouldbe.The
inconsistencyexemplifiedinthiscaseglaringlyelucidatestheprecariousnessofaculturalpoliticsthat
dependsontheconceptofnationalidentityforitsrhetoricandassumptions.
The second example describes a more popular case of cultural national ism. In the Philippines,
English,broughtbytheAmericancolonizersatthetumofthecentury,hasbeentheofficiallanguagefor
nearly 30 years after the nation's independence in 1946. English was the language that served
linguisticallytounifyacountryinhabitedbypeopleswhospeakmorethanseventyregionallanguages
and dialects. After the downfall of President Marcos in 1986, however, the country has seen the
spectacularandspontaneous(i.e.unplanned)emergenceofoneofthenativelanguages,Tagalog,asa
popularnationallanguage.Tagalog,notEnglish,wasthelanguageofstreetralliesanddemonstrations
anditbecameanemblemofnationalselfesteem.Now,mostpopularTVshowsandcomicbooksarein
Tagalog,TVnewscastsinTagalogaredrawingfarlargeraudiencesthanthoseinEnglish,andthereis
evena'serious'newspaperinTagalog,breakingthepreviousEnglishlanguagemonopolyinthismarket.
Politicianscannolongerrelyupondeliveringtheirspeechesin
Cultureandcommunication249
snglishonly.(PresidentAquino'scommandoftheindigenouslanguageissaidtohaveimproved
tremendously)(Branegan,1989).Ifthis
turn

ofe\'ents~"talsOlinguisticallybasedhaswouldmorestircontradictorysomeoptimisminequalities
consequences:inandthesocialheartsitdivisions.mayofprincipledlead,Itforisnotnationalists,
example,unlikelyto
t}ult'theuseandcommandofEnglishwillgraduallydeclineamongthelessprivil~ged,]JngWlges.access
ThesetotwoeconomicwhileAfterexamplestheall,successupperonreinforceaglobalandandsocial
middleSchlesinger'sscalemobility.
Englishclasseswill(1987:isthecontinue234)languageclaimtospeakthatthatgivesboth
itisi.Jnportantfor
communicationresearchers
notanditself,toculture,tostartaskwithhowbutcommunicationanditssupposedeffectsonnationalidentityrather
tobeginbyposingtheproblemofnationalidentityitmightbeanalyzedandwhatimportancecommunication
practicesmighthaveinitsconstitution.
furthermore,wecanseehowtheculturalconstitutionofnationalidentity,asarticulatedinbothofficial
policiesandinformalpopularpractices,isaprecariousprojectthatcanneverbeisolatedfromtheglobal,
transnational[elationsinwhichittakesshape.Atamoregenerallevel,thesecasesgiveusahintatthe
multiplecontradictionsthatareatplayinanylocalresponsetoThereglobalisforces.
alsoanoppositetacktotake.Whilethetransnationalcommunicationssystemtendstodisruptexisting
formsofnationalidentification,italsooffersopportunitiesofnewformsofbondingandsolidarity,new
waysofforgingculturalcommunities.Theuseofvideobygroupsofmigrantsallovertheworld(e.g.
Indians,ChineseandTurks)isatellingcase.Thecirculationandconsumptionofethnicallyspecific
informationandentertainmentonvideoservestoconstructandmaintaincrossnationalwhowould
'electronicotherwisecommunities'losetheirtiesofwithgeographicallytraditionanddisperseditsactive
peoplesperpetuation(Gillespie,1989).Thus,whileofficial,national(ist)policiesagainstfurther
disseminationofthetransnationalmediasystemseemtobelesspossibleandmoreineffectualthanever,
socialgroupsinsideandbetweennationsseemtohavefoundinformalwaystoconstructtheirowncollec
tiveusallidentities.
withintheboundariesofthesystemthatlimitsandbinds
.Theabovecaseshavenotbeenhighlightedoutofcrossculturalromantif:!lesCISJn,ess:ons
butthat
becauseoftenarethingshappeningindistantplacesandamongotherreifiedasanamorphousThird
Worldmayofferusrelevanttoourownsituations.Forexample,European~onalidentitieshaverecently
beenthoroughlyputunderpressureby~plegrowingintheimportanceEEC'sdirectiveofanfor
integratedaTelevisionEuropeanwithoutmediaFrontiers.policy,Culturally,asfor
'"'US
policy, which is an attempt to regulate the otherwise uncontrolled ::!artsion of the transnational
mediasystemacrossEurope,islegitimized~,
_pointingtotheneedtodefendandpromotesomenotional,supra!'"ltionat'Europeanidentity',in
whichthespectreofseparatenationalidentitiesinEuropewillpresumablyberepresented.However,this
sweep
250Whatisculturalstudies?
ingpanEuropeanism,whichisincreasinglybecomingahegemonicforeeatthelevelofofficialpolitics,
containsmanycontradictions.Foronething,itisclearthatthereisnoagreementaboutwhatsucha
Europeanidentityshouldlooklike.Thus,thesmallernations(suchastheNetherlands,Denmarkand
Greece)aresuspiciousaboutthedominanceofthelargernations(France,GermanyandItaly),whilethere
is also a clash of visions and interests between nations whodefine themselves as part of a 'Nordic'
Europeancultureandthosethatrepresentthe'Latin'culture.Ofcourse,thisisnottosaythattheseparate
nationalidentitiesthemselvesshouldbeseenasharmoniousgivenstowhichwecouldresortasasafe
haven(afterall,thenationsthemselvesarerepositoriesofconflictingculturalidentifications);rather,itis
tosuggestthatthepoliticsofEuropeanidentityisamatterofculturalpowerandresistance,notsimplya
questionofcherishingsome'heritage',asofficialpolicydiscoursewouldhaveit.
Troublinginthisrespectisthewayinwhichsucha'heritage'isartifi.ciallyforgedbytheformulation
ofwhatisincludedinandexcludedfromtheconfigurationof'Europeanness'.Thisimpliessymbolic
strategiesthataresustainedbyconstructingtheimageofaunifiedEuropeanculturethatneedstobe
protectedfromthesupposedthreatofexternal,alienculturalinfluences.InhisbookOrientalism,Edward
Said(1978)hasalreadyshownhowtheideaof'Europe'hasbenefitedfromthecolonialperiodonwards
fromitsclaimedsuperioritytothecultureofthe'Orient'.This'heritage'oflatentandmanifestracismstill
hastroublingeffectsonethnicrelationsinmostEuropeancountries.
More recently, Europeanists have shown obsessive concern about the supposed threat of cultural
'Americanization'asaconsequenceofthetransnationalizationofthemediasystem.Thisblatantlyignores
thefact,however,thatAmericanculturalsymbolshavebecomeanintegralpartofthewayinwhich
millionsofEuropeanconstructtheirculturalidentities.Thus,officialpoliciesbaseduponatotalizing
antagonismof'Europe'against'America'arenecessarilyoutoftouchwitheverydaylifeincontemporary
Europe. If American popular culture seems so attractive to so many in the world, how do people
incorporateitintotheiractivities,fantasies,valuesandsoon?Whatmultifariousandcontradictorymean
ingsareattachedtoimagesofthe'Americanwayoflife'inwhatspecificcircumstances?Surely,those
meaningscannotbethesameindifferentpartsandamongdifferentgroupsandpeopleslivinginEurope
or, for that matter, in Latin America or South East Asia, but we know almost nothing about such
differences.Againstthisbackground,panEuropeanistdiscourseshouldnotsimplybeseenasacounter
hegemonic response to the very real American hegemony in the field of cultural production and
distribution, but as itself a hegemonic strategy that tends to marginalize the more elusive popular
responses of ordinary Europeans. More specifi cally, I suggest that the official definition of
'Americanization'asanunambiguousthreatshouldberelativizedbylookingatthecontradictorylosses
andopportunitiesallowedbyit.AsMarcusandFischer(1986:136)suggest:
Cultureandcommunication251
theapparentincreasingglobalintegrationsuggestsnottheeliminationofculturaldiversity,butrather
opportunitiesforcounterposingdiversealternatiVesthatnonethelessshareacommonworld,sothat
eachcanbeunderstood)Jetterintheother'slightWhatIhavetriedtoconjureup,then,isthebroadrange
ofcreativebutcontradictorypracticeswhichpeoplesindifferentpartsoftheworldarejnventingtodayin
theireverydaydealingswiththechangingmediaenvirOJUI'lentthatsurroundsthem.Theoftenhazardous
andunpredictable118u.zed
turemethods:ofthesepracticesitisanethnographicmakesthemapproachdifficulttothatexaminecan
bestwithcapturetooformaand~poten;tialthemofaninethnographytheirconcreteofmulti
facetedness.audiencesthatevincesHereglobalthenliesandthehistoricalcritical
COJ15CiousnessandFischer(1986:aswell116),as'sinceattentiontheretolocaldetail.Inthewordsof
MarcusarealwaysmultiplesidesandmultipleexpressionsotherSresistantofpossibilitiestodominant
activeculturalintrendsanysituation,orinterpretations,someaccommodating,ethnographyascultural
criticismlocatesalternativesbyunearthingthesemultiplepG!SSibilitiesastheyexistinreality'.
Itsemphasisonwhatisratherthanonwhatcouldbemakesethnographyaformofculturalcritiquethatis
devoidofutopianism.Butthenweliveinparticularlynonutopian(orpostutopian)timeswhichis,of
course,preciselyLyotard,1984;oneofRoss,the1988;centralRorty,features1989).ofThethede
'postmodemfactodisseminationcondition'ofthe(d.
transnationalturallytranscended,mediaonlysystemnegotiatedisanirreversibleinconcreteprocess
culturalthatcontexts.cannotInbesuchstrucasituation,acriticalperspectivethatcombinesaradical
empiricism6withopenendedtheorizing7maybeoneofthebeststanceswecantakeupinordertostay
alerttothedeeplyconflictivenatureofcontemporaryculturalrelations.Itisaformofculturalcritique
whichisarticulatedby'painedanddisgruntledsubjects,whoarealsojoyousandinventivepractitioners'
(Morris,1988:26).
Notes
1.

'!he
clearestpleafor'culturalstudies'statusasacriticalanddeconstructive2.ThemteJlec:tualcontroversyoriginalproject
aboutversionDtdlashasofbeenthewasvoicedbookatitswasheight
byStuartpublishedHall(ininDutchGrossberg,in1982,1986).
whenthe
3.~tispreciselytheethnographictumintheanalysisofmediaconsumptionwhich
18
appealingforculturalstudies,asopposedtomoreformalandformalizingapproachestoreception.Fromananthropologicalpoint
ofview,however,thet.mediaethnographic:t.:rary
similaraudiences.variantpointmethodofhasSeereceptionbeenRadwayhasonlymadeanalysis,(1988).
beenwithbyappliedregardPrattinalimitedwayinthestudyoftoreaderresponsecriticism,the(1986).S.It
18
theplaceofpower,conflictandstruggleintheprocessofculturethatcharacterizesCareythethecentraldifferencebetween
Americanculturalstudies,ofwhichisarepresentative,andBritishculturalstudies.ThehumanistidealismofAmerican
perspectiveiscounteredbythegrimmerandmorecynical
252Whatisculturalstudies?
Europeanperspective,withitseyeneverdivertedfromthesocialcostsofanyformoforderandconsensus.6.Radicalempiricism
shouldemphaticallybedistinguishedfromvulgarempirj.cism.Whilevulgarempiricismhasabuiltintendencytowards
conservatistnbecauseittakes'realityasitis'forgranted,radicalempiricismquestionsthattakenforgrantednessprecisely
becauseitfullyengagesitselfwiththemessinessoftheworldwelivein.SeeHiggins(1986:120).7.AccordingtoHall,such
openendedtheorizingisnecessaryinorderto
~ cultural studies sensitive to historical
process.1tistheorizinginthepostmoderncontext,ifyoulike,inthesensethatitdoesnotbelieveinthefinalityofafinished
theoreticalparadigm'(Grossberg,1986:60).

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15
Feminism and cultural studies: pasts, presents, futures
SarahFranklin,CeliaLuryandJackieStacey
Thisbook[Franklinetal.,1991]isconcernedwithfonnsofknowledge,powerandpolitics.Initweare
bringing together feminism and cultural studies in a variety of contexts and at different stages of
development.1Bothfeminismandculturalstudieshavecomplicatedandcontradictoryhistories,inside
and outside the academy. It would be impossible to map out a comprehensive outline of these
developmentshere,aswellasperhapsundesirabletoconstructsuchanaccount,asifthereweresimply
onesingle,linearorunifiedhistory.However,wefeelitisimportanttohighlightwhatweconsidertobe
someofthekeyissuesinthesedevelopmentswhichrelatebothtothechaptersinthiscollectionandto
thecontextoftheproductionofthisbook.Inthefirstsectionofthisintroductionwelookatsome
parallelsbetweenfeminismandculturalstudiesintermsofthesehistories.Inthenextsection,welookat
thelackofoverlap,andexploresomemoregeneralquestionsaboutthefeministanalysisofculture.[...]

Inside and outside the academy: contested territories


Bothwomen'sstudiesandculturalstudieshaveincommonastronglink~oradicalpoliticsoutsidethe
academy,havingtheiracademicagendas~armedby,orlinkedtothefeministmovementandleftpolitics
respec tively.2 The interdisciplinary basis of each subject has produced consistent and important
challengestoconventionalacademicboundariesandpowerstructures.Thus,therehasbeenashared
focus on the analysis of forms of power and oppression, and on the politics of the production of
knowledgewithintheacademy,aswellaselsewhereinsociety.In~ddition,bothsubjectshaveattempted
tochallengesomeoftheconven~~ofacademicpractice,suchasintroducingcollective,ratherthan
Individualwork,encouraginggreaterstudentparticipationinsyllabusconstructionandopeningupspaces
forconnectionstobemadebetweenPersonalexperienceandtheoreticalquestions.Thesechallengeshave
256Whatisculturalstudies?
recentlycomeunderincreasingpressureinthecontextofpublicspendingcutbacksinBritainandthe
attempt to transform politically educational practice in the name of enterprise under the Thatcher
governments.
Feminismandwomen'sstudies
Despite the commonalities mentioned above, women's studies and cultural studies have developed
unevenly.Women'sstudieshasofferedfeminisrnaninstitutionalbaseinfurtherandadulteducationover
thelasttenyears;therearenowanumberofundergraduateandpostgraduatecoursesinwomen'sstudies,
andmostmajorpublishersnowhavewomen'sstudiesorgenderstudieslists,3alongsidethewiderangeof
publicationsavailablefromthefeministpresses.Manyoftheseachievementshavebeenhardwon,and
feministsinallareasofeducationhavestruggledtogetissuesofgenderinequalityontothesyllabusand
to keep them there. Struggling against tokenism, the 'add women and stir' approach, cooption and
marginalization,feministshavemanagedtoestablishaspacewithineducationalinstitutionsfromwhich
todocument,analyzeandtheorizethepositionofwomeninsociety.
Earlyinterventionsbyfeministsintheacademyofteninvolvedhighlightingtheabsenceofattention
togenderwithinexistingtheoriesanddebates.Aswellaschallengingexistingacademicknowledges,
feministshavealsointroducednewissuesintotheacademicarena.Manyoftheseemergedfromthe
women'smovementinthe1970sand1980s,whereconsciousnessraisinggroups,politicalcampaignsand
nationalandlocalconferenceswereimportantinraisingissuesbasedonwomen'sexperiences,which
were unfamiliar in mainstream political and academic con texts. Concerns such as male violence,
sexuality andreproduction wereintroducedon to academic agendas by feminists convincedthat the
'personalwaspolitical'.Thesetopics,amongstothers,becamesubjectsofstudyintheirownrightin
sociology,anthropology,historyandliterature,aswellaswithinwomen'sstudies.
Alongsidethedocumentingofwomen'soppressionwhichoccurredacrossabroadrangeofdisciplines,
feministsbegantodevelopgeneralizedtheoriestoexplainhowandwhywomenareoppressed.These
theorieshavetakenverydifferentstartingpointsandproducedahighlycomplexandoftencompetingset
ofperspectivesonthesubjectofwomen'ssubordination.Whilstitisproblematictosummarizesucha
largeareaofscholarship,becauseofthedangersofreductionismandexclusion,afewexamplesarenone
thelessillustrativeofthedevelopmentsinthisarea.Somefeministshavedrawnonalreadyexisting
socialtheorytoformulategeneralizedaccountsofwomen'soppression;so,forexample,feministshave
extendedexistingMarxisttheoriesoftheexploitationoflabourwithincapitalismtolookatwomen's
positioninpaidemployment.ThesewritersincludeBeechey(1987),Phizacklea(1983)andDex(1985).
Marxisttheoryhasalsobeenextendedtoexamineareasconventionallyoutsideitsremit,suchasthe
sexualdivisionoflabourwithinthehouseholds;so,forexample,Benston(1970),Seccombe(1974),
JamesandDallaCosta(1973)allcontributedtothedomesticlabour
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures257
debate.{.el1\el(1986)Otherandfeminists,O'Briensuch(1981),asbelieveFergusonthebasis(1989),of
Walbywomen's(1986;subordina1990),
tiOnpatriarchYtobelocatedasarelativelyoutsideseparateclassrelations,systemandofexploitation.
havedevelopedAmongsttheoriesthoseof
W'hohaveattemptedtointroduceentirelynewframeworksandconceptstoanal~
patriarchalsocietyareMacKinnon(1982;1987;1989),Daly(1978)theembeddednessandRich(1977;of
patriarchal1980).Finally,feministswhohaveemphasizedsocialrelationsinamatrixofintersecting
inequalities,suchasracism,heterosexism,imperialismandclassdivision,includeLorde(1984),Spelman
(1990),Bunch(1988)andhooks(1984;The1989).
usefulnessofthetermpatriarchyinexplanationsofwomen'soppressionB8rrett,1980;hasBeechey,itself
been1987),debatedandthiswithinintum,feminismhasencouraged(Rowbotham,agreater1981;
specificityinits use.Oneofthekeyissuesinthis debate has beenthe extenttowhichwomenare
universally subordinated. Feminists working within anthropology (Ortner, 1974; Rosaldo, 1974;
MacCormack,1980;Strathern,1980)andhistory(Leacock,1981;Lerner,1986;Riley,1988;Davidoff
andHall, 1987) havebeenparticularlysignificant inthis debate about the commonality of women's
subordination crossculturally and transhistorically. The analysis of precapitalist societies has been a
particularlyimportantsourceofinsightintothequestionoftheextenttowhichgenderinequalitycanbe
understoodasaproductofcolonization.imperialismandcapitalaccumulation{Mies,1986;Leacock,
1981;OrtnerandWhitehead,1981).
Earlyfeministtheorytendedtoemphasizethecommonalitiesofwomen'soppression,inordertoestablish
thatmaledominationwassystematicanalysesofandaffectedallareasofwomen'slives.women's
subordination,exploitationandFeministsofferedobjectificationatalllevelsofsociety.Thisemphasison
commonality,however,oftenresultedintheneglectofdifferencesbetweenwomen.Differencesbased~
ethnicidentity,nationality,classandsexualityhavebeenincreasinglyunportantwithinfeministwork,
leadingbothtothedocumentationofLOMe,~(Bryan,WithinSpeln\an,:enI!\Ore(Carby,orydiv1
988).ersityhaveasgenerally,These1984;feminism1982;oneof1990;beenbothdifferencesofWalker,
Parmar,Ramazanoglu,influencedthewherenationalbasedDadziestrengths1984),1982;between
differencesonandandbyandlimitedRiley,of1989).changesinternationalScafe,women,tothe
betweenchallenges1988;Thesemodelsfeminist1985;withinhowever,LugonesMoragachanges
politicswomenofmovement,tothethetheorieshavewomen'sandandwithin(Cole,categoryhavealso
Anzaldua,Spelman,inand1986;feministbeencometermsmovement'woman'concepts
seenBunch,to1981;1983;ofthebetoa
ca.Uhootical.b,into1984;question1989;thecollective'we'offeminism(Ramazanoglu,1989;Cliff,
1983).Thechallengeremains,atbothatheoreandpoliticallevel,forfeministstobeabletoholdonto
certainCO~onalitiesinwomen'spositioninrelationtooppressivepatriarchalSOcialstructures,without
denyingtheveryrealdifferencesbetween"'Dinenandtheresultingspecificitiesintheformsoftheir
oppression.
258Whtltisculturalstudies?
Thequestioningofthecategory'woman'withinfeministtheorywasnotonlyaresultofchangesinthe
women'smovementandchallengestothelimitsofitsinclusions.Italsodrewitsimpetusfromareasof
academictheorizingwhichhadasignificantimpactonfeministthought,namely,poststructuralismand
postmodemism(Weedon,1987;FraserandNicholson,1988;Nicholson,1990;DiamondandQuinby,
1988;Spivak,1987).Thegeneralengagementwiththesetheoriesofideology,subjectivity,discourseand
sexualdifferencewasseenbymanyfeministstoofferamorecomplexunderstandingoftheoperationsof
patriarchalpowerandthereproductionofinequality.Indeed,thescepticismabouttheunityofidentities,
character istic of these perspectives, produced a questioning of the possibility of a unified and
meaningful category 'woman', the subject of so much recent feminist analysis. The influence of
psychoanalytic theory in particular, which asserted the disruptive nature of the unconscious to any
coherent, unified identity, undermined some of the foundational assumptions of feminist analysis.
However,theseinfluencesremainrelativelymarginalwithinmanywomen'sstudiescoursesandresearch,
aswellasbeingtheoreticalperspectiveswhichmanyseeasincompatiblewithfeminism(foradiscussion
ofthisissue,seeWilson(1981),Sayers(1986),Brennan(1989),Mitchell(1975),Gallop(1982)andRose
(1986)).Thesearecontestedareaswithinfeministresearch,butwhatremainsimportantisthatfeminist
debates continue to produce more complex understandings of the different forms of women's
subordination,patriarchalsocietyandtheconditionsofitsexistenceandreproduction.
Marxisttheory,leftpoliticsandculturalstudies
Responding to changes in Marxist theory and left politics, cultural studies has been a major site of
developmentswithintheoriesofculturalproduction,andmorerecently,culturalconsumption.Like
women'sstudies,culturalstudiesisnotaunifiedbodyofwork,setofpractices,orevenaneasilydefined
academicsubjectOohnson,1983;seealsoMcNeilandFranklin,1991}.Rather,ithasofferedaplace
withinhighereducation,andelsewhereinadultandfurthereducation,fortraditionaldisciplinestobe
challenged,forthekindsofknowledgesproducedtobequestionedandforpowerrelationsineducational
practicestobetransformed.
CulturalstudieshasbeenaparticularlyimportantsiteofdevelopmentswithinMarxisttheorywhich
attemptstoleavebehindthelimitsofeconomicdeterminism,andanoveremphasisonthemodeof
productionasthekeycontradictionwithinsociety.ThisshifthastakenplaceinMarxisttheorygenerally,
butculturalstudieshasbeencentralinthedevelopmentofanalyseswhichtaketheculturaldimensionsof
power andinequality seriously. This is, inpart, because cultural studies itself emergedfrom critical
perspectiveswithinseveraldisciplines,includinghistory,literatureandsociology.Theseperspectives
challengedthetermsofprevioustheoreticalassumptionswithinthosesubjects.Forexample,inthestudy
of literature, Marxist cultural theorists challenged bourgeois notions of the literary, and the limited
understandingsof'culture'prevalentinthatacademicsubject.Thestudyofpopularculturalformswas
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures259
intrOducedontothesyllabusalongsideareevaluationoftheliterarycanon(indeed,theconceptofthe
canonitself).Culturalstudieshasrovidedsimilarchallengestotheacademicanalysisofhistory,the~tate,
educationandthemedia(CCCS,1982;Women'sStudyGroup,t978)and,inconjunctionwithMarxist
theoristsinthesefields,producedasubstantialbodyofalternativeknowledgesandapproaches.
Recentdevelopmentswithinculturalstudiescanbeattributedtovariousinfluences.Oneofthemost
important of these has been the impact of critical theory, particularly the Frankfurt School,
poststructuralism, psycho analysis and posbnodemism. Discourse theory, deriving from the work of
Foucault,hasbeenasignificantstrandinpoststructuralisttheory,challengingtraditionalunderstandings
of the relationship between knowledge, power and politics. The notion of discourse provided an
alternative to the concept of ideology which had been developed within Marxistinfluenced cultural
studiestoexploretheculturalaspectsofthereproductionofinequality.Throughanunderstandingof
discourseaspowerknowledge,dispersedinanetworkofmicrorelations,thisworkcriticizedmonolithic
andtotalizingnotionsofcausalityanddeterminationandchallengedassumptionsofalinear,progressive
history.Italsoproposedanunderstandingofthesubjectproducedthroughthediscoursesof'self'knowl
edge,developedthroughtheconstructionofsocialcategoriessuchasmadness,disciplineandsexuality.
Thecriticalelaborationofpsychoanalysisundertheinfluenceofpoststructuralism,mostnotablyby
JacquesLacan,andthesubsequentemergenceofwhathascometobeknownassexualdifference
theory,associatedwithjournalssuchasm/fandScreen,havebeenanothersourceofimportanttheoretical
influencesonculturalstudies.Inparticular,aconcernwiththeimportanceoftheunconsciousinthe
formationofidentityledtoanacknowledgementofboththefragmentednatureofsubjectivityandthe
difficultyofmaintainingstable,unifiedidentities.Takingthenotionoftheunconsciousseriouslymeant
thatthepreviouslyunifiedsubjectofculturalanalysiswascalledintoquestion;instead,socialidentities
wereseentobecomplexandheterogeneous.Inaddition,questionsabouttheroleofpleaSure,desireand
fantasybegantobeanalyzedmorefrequentlyaspartoftheprocessofculturalconstructionofsubjects,
identitiesandpractices.
Mostrecently,theemergenceofpostmodemismasaninfluentialcriticalperspective(Lyotard,1984;
Baudrillard,1988;Jameson,1984;krokerandCook,1986)haschallengedthesocalledfoundationalist
underpinningswhichhadinformedprevioustheorywithinculturalstudieS.Posbnodemismisassociated
withasetofquestionsaboutthestateofknowledgeincontemporarysociety.Itposesachallengebothto
~Ventionalunderstandingsofthestandpointoftheknowingsubject((objectivity,neutrality,distance)and
thetraditionalobjectofknowledgeaseparaterealityaboutwhichthetruthcanbediscovered).These
~odernist,foundationalist,postEnlightenmentassumptionsarechalengedbyposbnodemism,which
arguesthattheyareessentialist,falseJ.~universalistandultimatelyunsustainable.Unlike
poststructuralism,"Whichalsoraisedtheseissues,posbnodemismisassociatedbothwith
260Whatisculturalstudies?
actualcontemporaryphenomena,suchasarchitecturalstylesandotherrepresentationalpractices,and
withbroadchangesintheorganizationofWesternconsumerculture.Thesechangesareseentoinclude
thebreakdownofthehistoricaldistinctionbetweenhighandpopularculture,thedisappearanceofwhat
is variously called the depth, content, or referent of signification, and the increasing instability and
complexityofcontemporaryculturalprocesses.
Anotherofthemaininfluencestransformingculturalstudiesthroughthe1980shasbeentheimpactof
feminism.WomenTakeIssue(Women'sStudiesGroup,1978)wasanearlyexampleoffeministwork
withinculturalstudies,bothusingandattemptingtotransformMarxisttheory.Lookingatquestionsof
culturalreproductionaswellasproduction,WomenTakeIssuehighlightedtheneedforculturalstudies
toengagewiththe'personal'dimensionsofcultureinthepoliticalcontextofafeministanalysis.Since
then, the impact of feminism on cultural studies has had an increasing significance. The shift, for
example,frominterestinissuesconcerningideologyandhegemonytothoseconcerningidentityand
subjectivity can, in part, be attributed to feminist interventions, as well as to the influence of
psychoanalysisandpoststructuralism.Anotherareaofincreasinginterestwithinsomestrandsofcultural
studieswhichcanbeseenasevidenceoftheimpactoffeminismissexuality.However,whileworkon
theconstructionofsexualidentities(Mulvey,1989;Heath,1982),theanalysisofnarrativesofromance
(Modleski,1982;Radway,1987),culturalrepresentationsofAIDS(Watney,1987)andstudiesofstate
regulationofsexual'deviancy'(Weeks,1981;1985),addressessexualityaswellasgender,thewayin
whichsexualityhasbeentakenuphasbeenselective,andoftenhasnotbeenintegratedwithfeminist
analysessuchasthoseofthepatriarchalinstitutionofheterosexuality.Similarly,lesbianandgayissues
areonlyverygraduallybeginningtobetakenseriouslywithinculturalstudies.
Theoriesofethnicityandanalysesofracismhavealsomadeanimportantcontributiontoshaping
developmentswithinculturalstudies.PolicingtheCrisis(Halletal.,1978)stressedtheroleofracist
representationsofsocialproblemssuchascrimeintheemergenceofalawandordersocietyinBritainin
theearly1970s.Followingthisandotherworkontheconstructionandrepresentationofethnicityand
nationalidentity,TheEmpireStrikesBack(CCCS,1982)criticizedthepathologizationofracewithin
racerelations andsociology, andthe racism of some white femin ist analyses. It also explored the
importanceofracistideologiesinbothshapingaspectsofstateregulationinBritain,suchasimmigration
law,andtheconstructionofnotionsinBritishnessandcitizenshipinformingcontemporarydefinitionsof
nationalidentity.Anotherareainculturalstudieswhichhasbeeninfluencedbythestudyofethnicityhas
beentheanalysisofsubculturalpractices(Hebdige,1979;Gilroy,1987).Earliermodelsofsubculture
werechallengedandtransformedtoincludeanacknowledgementofboththehistoryofethnicinequality
andracism,andthestrugglesforcollectiveselfrepresentationsbyblackpeople.However,theimpactof
debatesaboutandstrugglesagainstracismonculturalstudiescontinuestoberatheruneven.
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures261
Changeswithinleftpoliticshavealsohadaneffectonthekindsofpoliticalseen
asaquestionscrisisinlefttakenpoliticsseriouslyhadledwithintoarethinkingculturalstudies.of
politicalWhatstrategies,hasbeen
allegiancesandagendasbysomeontheleft.Insomecircles,thishascontributedtoabroadeningof
agendas and a desire for stronger political alliances with other radical forces such as the women's
movement, black P olitics, These, the then, green are movement some of the and principal lesbian
influencesandgayliberation.
inthedevelopmentofculturalmakesclear,studiesthereandarefeminismanumberinofpointsthelast
decadeorso.ofoverlapbetweenAsthisaccountfeminismandculturalandoperationsstudies.of
Theoreticallypowerandinequality,bothareconcernedandtakeaswithanintegralanalyzingparttheof
formssuchoperationstheproductionofknowledgeitself.Tosomeextent,eachhasdrawnoncritical
insightsfromdiscoursetheory,poststructuralism,psychoanalysis,semiologyanddeconstructionism.
Bothhavedrawnonstrandsofaiticaltheorywhichareseentooffermoresophisticatedtoolsforanalyz
ingthereproductionofsocialinequality,andrelationsofdominanceandsubordinationataculturallevel.
Theanalyticpossibilitiesopenedupbytheseapproacheswereseentostrengthenexistingtheoriesof
powerandresistancewithinbothculturalstudiesandfeminism.Tosomedegree,then,overlapsinboth
areashaveproducedpossiblepointsofconvergencebetweenfeminismandculturalstudies.
The lack of overlap: feminism and cultural analysis

Thereare,however,alsoconsiderabledivergencesininterestwhichsuggestaratherdifferentorderingof
prioritieswithinfeminismandculturalstudies.Justasmanyfeministsearlierposedcriticalquestions
aboutconceptssuchasideologyandhegemony,drawingattentiontothewaysinwhichtheyandthe
traditionsofthoughtwhichproducedthemweregenderblind,thereisnowcautionabouttheuseof
conceptssuchashasdiscourse,influenceddeconstructionculturalstudies,anddifference.therearelimits
Inaddition,tothisinfluencealthoughwhichfeminismareimportantforwhattheyrevealaboutthe
uneveninteractionbetweenthe~ofields.Perhapsoneoftheclearestindicatorsofthelimitstothis
influenceisprovidedbythelackofinterestwithinculturalstudiesinthedevelopmentsinfeminist
theoriesofgenderinequalitydiscussedearlier;forexample,themodelsofcultureemployedwithin
culturalstudiesarchy.Thishavehasremainedproducedlargelyanumberuninformedofproblemsby
feministforfeministstheoriesworkingofpatriinculturalstudies.hasstandings:ses~odelsdiscussed
Manybeenaofproductoflimitedofearlier,culturetheculturereasonsof,canculturalderiveda
employedbemajorwhytracedstudiesfromsetthewithinofbackinfluencecertainwasshiftstocultural
itselfsomewithinstrandsofbothfeminismofMarxiststudies.theofcentralMarxistmoreon
perspectivesTheseto,culturalgeneralandthought.includeinstudiesunder
awaysometheAs
In

theassumptionofamechanisticeconomicdeterminism.Indeed,the
262Whatisculturalstudies?
influenceoffeminismhasbeenparticularlysignificantwithinculturalstudiesaroundthisissue.Onthe
onehand,forexample,theAlthusserianframeworkofferedgreaterattentiontotheculturalwithin(or,
relativetoother)Marxistframeworks,andhasinformedsomeofthemostinfluentialfeministworkin
culturalstudies(Williamson,1978;Barrett,1980;Winship,1987;Women'sStudiesGroup,1978).Yet
ontheotherhand,theappropriationanddevelopmentofthesemodelswithinculturalstudiesdidlittleto
counterthemarginalizationofissuesofimportancetofeminism.
Indeed,thesetheoreticalframeworks,whicharelargelyunabletoaccountforsexuality,reproduction
andviolence,arecharacterizedbyquitefundamentalconceptuallimitationsfromsomefeministpointsof
view. Within the Althusserian framework, for example, the social field is seen to be composed of
economic,politicalandideologicallevels.But,theeconomiclevel,conceptualizedintermsoftheforces
andrelationsofproduction,isseentodetermineallotherlevelsinthelastinstance,andthusretainsa
privileged significance in the construction of inequality. This limited move away from economic
determinismisinadequateformanyunderstandingsofgenderinequality.Somefeminists,forexample,
havedisputedtheMarxistconceptionoftheeconomic,insofarasitisseentobebasedontheindustrial
modeofproductionassociatedwithcapitalism,andtonaturalizethesexualdivisionoflabour(Firestone,
1974;Delphy,1984;Mies,1986).Otherfeminists(Daly,1978;MacKinnon,1987,1989)havesuggested
thatnotonlyissuchanorderingofdeterminationopentoquestion,butthatthedivisionoflevelsis
unhelpfulforananalysisofgenderinequality:howissexuality,forexample,tobeunderstoodinrelation
tothesediscretelevelsofpower?
Anotherpowerfulmodelofculturewhichhasbeendevelopedinculturalstudieshasitsoriginsin
structuralism.Thismodelhastwoprincipalstrands,derivingfromsocialanthropologyandlinguistics.
ThefirstofthesewasintroducedintoculturalstudiesthroughtheworkofClaudeLeviStrauss.This
versionofstructuralismtakestheexchangeofwomenastheoriginalorfoundingculturalmoment,thus
creatinganessentialisttautologyfromafeministpointofview,andprovidinglittlehopeofeverchanging
patriarchalsociety.Ashasbeenpointedout(RubininReiter,1975),byconstructingthesexualdivision
oflabourandsexualdifferenceasaprioriconstants,structuralismreifiespatriarchaldominanceasa
'naturalfact'.Theproblemforfeminists,therefore,isthatthismodelofculturetakesforgrantedprecisely
whatfeminismismostconcernedtoexplain.
Thesecondbroadstrandofstructuralistthoughtthathasbeeninfluentialwithinculturalstudiesis
basedontheworkofFerdinanddeSaussure,whoproposedastructuralanalysisoflanguageasasystem
ofsigns.Thishassincebeenextendedinsemiotic,poststructuralistandsexualdifferencetheoriestothe
analysisofotherculturalsystems,including,forexample,fineart(ParkerandPollock,1981),advertising
(Williamson, 1978) and film (Cowie, 1978). From this perspective, mean ing is understood to be
producedthroughtheplayofdifferenceandisrelational(producedinrelationtoothersigns)ratherthan
referential
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures263
(producedbyreferencetoobjectsexistingintheworld).ThedevelopbreaktnentastnUchaofthese
interpretivetechniques,inwhichtheanalogyoflanguagesystemisextendedtocultureasawhole,
markedasubstantialpreviousfromtheculturalpositivisttheory.andHowever,empiricalwhiletraditions
structuralismwhichhadandlimitedpoststrUcturalismhavebeenimportantforfeministsinsofaras
theyprovidedimportantcritiquesofsomekindsofreductionismandessentialism,andfacilitatedthe
analysisofcontradictorymeaningsandidentities,theirusehasoftenobscuredthesignificanceofpower
relationsintheconstitutionofdifference,suchaspatriarchalformsofdominationHowever,oneand
strandsubordination.
ofpoststructuralism,developedbyfeministsworkingwithinculturalstudies,
which has addressed the reproduction of such pai:riarchal relations, is that which draws upon
psychoanalysisinordertoprovideanaccountofhowdifferenceisfixedasinequalitythroughthea~tion
ofagenderedidentity(Mitchell,1975;Rose,1986;Mulvey,1989).This,inturn,hasbeen
challenged by others, who argue that sexual difference is so fundamental to the very terms of
psychoanalyticthought(asinthestrandofstructuralismwhichderivesfromLeviStrauss},thatitsuse
invariablycontributestothenaturalizationofgenderinequality(RubininReiter,1975).
Thepoststructuralisttendencyinculturalstudiesoutlinedabovehasalsobeensupplementedbytheuseof
literarymethodsofanalysis,suchasdeconstructionism(Derrida,1981;Ricoeur,1986;DeMan,1979},in
whichculturalbridgeof'thestructuralistbetweenprocessesliteraryarechallenge'analyzedanalysisare
asandclearlytexts.socialTheapparent.scienceadvantagesconstructedTheability,forfeministsforin
theexample,ofwakethe
tolocatetheproduction,criticismandconsumptionofliterarytextsinthecontextofthenonliterary
'texts'ofpatriarchalsocialrelationsopenedupanobviousspaceformorepoliticizedreadingsofboththe
literarycanonandwhathadbeenexcludedfromit.Likewise,theemphasisonhowmeaningsareencoded
intopracticesofculturalproductionandconsumpbothtionopenedthehumanitiesupawholeandrange
thesocialofradicalsciences.
rereadingsoftraditionalsubjectsin
theNevertheless,specificityandthissignificanceunderstandingofdifferentofculturalkindsprocessesof
practicesastextsandresultsobscuresinaforreductionismfeminists,suchwhichastheraisescontrol
problemsofwomenforfeministthroughanalysis.theirbodies,Centralpresentissues
problems for this textual analogy; some feminists would suggest that the fenwe body cannot be
consideredsimplyasatext.Furthermore,sucha~odmaycontributetotheproblemofobjectification,
wherebythe&~e
bodybecomesanobjectofscrutinyandinvestigation,devoidof~vity~ghtedo..,Ject)asa
language',withinorthelanguagepersonhood.objectifyingthen,presentsitself.
Analyzingpracticesspecific(or,genderproblemsthewithinthemodelofcultureforfeministswhohave
constructionofwomanas
WithinCUlture~~reasculturalhave'waysbeenstudies,ofotherinfluentialframeworksforthestudy
including,forexample,theunderstandinglife'and'waysofstruggle'asdevelopedinofcultureofthe
work
264Whatisculturalstudies?
ofWilliams(1961,1965,1981),Thompson(1968,1978),Hoggart(1958)andSeabrook(1985,1988).
Thesehavesoughttoconstructnewunderstandingsofculturebasedonworkingclassexperiencesand
positions.Howeverwhilsttheyhaveofferedalternativemodelsofculturetothedominantversions,based
onbourgeois life and values, they have oftenexcludedthe gendered dimensions and specificities of
workingclassexperience(Steedman,1986).
Ethnographicworkwithinculturalstudies,drawingonperspectivesfromanthropology,hasprovided
oneofthemainsourcesofexplorationof'livedcultures'.Workingclassculturehasbeenaparticular
focusofthisworkwithinculturalstudies,whereethnographicmaterialhasbeenusedasevidenceofthe
relationshipbetweendominantcultureandsubordinategroups.Inparticular,formsofresistance(Willis,
1978)andtheformationsofsubcultures(Hebdige,1979;1988)havebeenexploredinthiscontextThese
havealsobeenchallengedbyfeministswithinculturalstudies,notonlyfortheirgenderspecificity,but
alsofortheirlackofacknowledgementofthepatriarchalelementsoftheseformsofresistance(Griffin,
1985;McRobbie,1980).
Inthissection,then,someoftheimportantmodelsofcultureemployedwithinculturalstudieshave
beendiscussedintermsofthelimits,aswellasthepossibilities,theyposeforfeministanalysis.Theaim
has been to show the way in which the frameworks outlined above pose substantial pro blems for
feministsconcernedwithpatriarchalculture,andlimitthepotentialinfluenceoffeminismuponcultural
studies,aswellasofculturalstudiesuponfeminism.Thus,whilefeministshaveturnedtodisciplines
suchasculturalstudiesfor frameworks toanalyzethecultural dimensionsof genderinequality,and
whilsttheworkoffeministshasbeeninfluentialinbothchallengingandreworkingtheseframeworks,
there remain sub stantial difficulties in defining what might be meant by specifically feminist
understandingsofculture.
Ironically,thisistrueatatimewhenculturalissuesareseentobeofgrowingimportancetofeminism.
Thepowerrelationsofpornography,abortion,maleviolence,technologyandsciencehaveincreasingly
cometobeseennotonlyintermsofsocialinstitutionsandpractices,butalsoofsymbolicmeanings,the
formationofidentitiesanddeeplyrootedbeliefsystems.Eveninthoseareasthatappeartobemosteasily
understood in conventional social and economic terms, such as paid work, feminists have begun to
uncoverthewaysinwhichtheconstructionofgenderappropriateidentitiesandsubcultureshelpsto
organize,forexample,thehierarchiesininternallabourmarketsandthenatureofworkplaceactivities
(Cockburn,1983,1985;GameandPringle,1984;Beechey,1988;PhillipsandTaylor,1980).Indeed,
culturalissuesaresocentraltoawidevarietyofanalysesofwomen'ssubordinationthatitmightseem
surprisingthatfeministshavenotdevelopedgeneralframeworkswithinwhichthesignificanceofcul
turalprocessesmightbemorefullyrealized.
However,totheextentthatfeminismhaslongreliedonaneclecticcombinationofframeworksand
methods,oftenextractedfromtraditionaldisciplinesandreworkedtotakeaccountofgender,thismay
requirelessexplanation.Moreover,thefactthatsomefeministshave
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures265
eXPlicitlyresistedoverarchingmodelsand'grand'theories,whichbelongtowhathasbeenseenasa
masculinetradition,inpartexplainsthelackIJUilysesofattentionofculture.toaclearerNevertheless,
definitionthisofthelackelementsofclarityofaboutspecificallywhatisfeministmeantbycUltural
analysisinthecontextoffeminismhasledtosomeconfusioninuseanaJysesrecentofmodelsasdebates.
cultural.
ofThiscultureresultsandboththefromtheimplicitorunacknowledgedexplicitnamingofadisparate
setof
Oneexampleoftheconfusionwhichresultsfromtheimplicituseofdifferentunderstandingsofcultureis
providedbythecurrentdebateaboutpornography.Somefeminists(Coward,inBetterton,1987iMerck,
inBetterton,1987)seepornographyasaprocessofsignificationorrepresentation,ultimatelyirreducible
to,and,tosomeextent,separatefrosn,socialandeconomicrelations.Theyattempttodemonstratethe
continuumbetweenpornographicandotherimagesofwomencirculatingincontemporaryculture,
arguingfortheimpossibilityofdrawingafixedlinebetweenoffensiveandacceptableimages.
Pornographicimagesofwomen,then,areunderstoodastheextremearticulationoftheobjectificationof
womenattherepresentati0111lllevel.Themodelofculturebeingdrawnuponhereisonewhichassumes
thatrepresentationshavearelativeOtherfeministsautonomy(Dworkin,andareamediatedarticulatonof
socialpractices.1981iGriffin,1978iMaci<inno,1979)proposeanunderstandingofpornographynotasa
representationalformofpatriarchalculture,butasitsexemplarymomentofexpression:pornography
revealstousthetruthaboutwhatmenreallythinkaboutwomen.Itisseenasanexpressionofmale
sexualviolenceandasanintegralpartofviolentpracticesagainstwomen.Here,cultureisseentoparallel
directlythesocial,andisderivativeofthemisogynydeeplyembeddedinpatriarchalsociety.Thus,an
analysisofpornographyforcesustofaceandtochallengethefullextentofmisogynyinthissociety.
Whatisatstake,then,indiscussionsaboutwhetheritispossibletodistinguishbetweenpornographyand
erotica,orindisagreementsabouttheroleandrelevanceofcensorship,arenotonlydifferent
understandingsof~aphy,
butalsoimplicitmodelsofculturewhicharerarelyaddreSsedinthesedebates.
Anotherimportantexampleoffeministworkwherethemodelsofculturehavenotbeenforegroundedis
theanalysisofgenderandobjectification.termsofFeministscommoditywhofetishismhave
emphasizedandthethecirculationobjectificationofobjectsofwomenwithinin
capitalistrelationsofexchangeoftendrawheavilyonMarxistmodelsofculture(Gaines,1982).Another
perspectivecriticizesthevoyeuristicandfetishisticconstructionofwomaninvisualimages,andusesa
Psychoanalytictocesses
explainofobjectificationandaccountchallengeof(Mulvey,thethepatriarchalcultural1989).
constructionApleasuresthirdapproachofofferedgenderedbydevelopssuchidentitiesproananalysis
oftheformsoffemaleobjectificationthroughtheconstructionoffemalesexualityinpatriarchalculture,
andpointstowardsafeminist11\ethodologywhichwouldchallengesuchobjectification(Maci<innon,
1979,1982,1987,1989).
266Whatisculturalstudies?
Asthesedebatesmakeclear,attentiontotheculturaldimensionsofgenderinequalityisnotsimply
aboutarrivingatasharperunderstanding,oramoreencompassingsetofexplanations.Theyarealso
aboutthestrategiesforchangeandtransformationwhichareatthecoreoffeministpolitics.Howone
definesthepowerofpornographydependsinlargePartonhowoneunderstandsmuchmoregeneral
processesinvolvedintheculturalconstructionofmeanings,imagesandidentities.This,inturnhasdirect
implicationsforhowtochallengepornography.Similarly,d~cussionsaboutthequestionofwhetherthe
processesofobjectificationimplyconsentorcoercionleadtoverydifferentstrategiesforchangeor
resistance.
Inadditiontotheproblemofunderstandingsofculturebeingpresentbutsubmerged,asinthecurrent
debates over pornographyorobjecti.ficatonthere is anotherset of questions whicharisesoutofthe
explicituseofradicallyheterogeneousunderstandingsofthecultural.Again,bespeakingthedivergent
rootsandresourcesoffeministscholarshipacrossawiderangeofdisciplines,culturalcriticismhascome
tomeanaverywidevarietyofthingswithinfeminism.Theresultingconfusionisperhapsmostevidentin
the description of some American radical feminist work as cultural feminism.4 The proliferation of
understandingsoftheculturalfurthercontributestotheneedtodefinemoreclearlytheassumptions
underpinningframeworksintheanalysisofculture,andraisesthequestionofwhetherthereareany
commonalitiesthatrunthroughthevarioususesof'cultural'asamodifier.
Somefeministsworkingwithinwomen'sstudieshaveusedmoreexplicitmodelsofculturedrawnfrom
thedisciplinesinwhichtheyarebased.Forexample,feministsociologicaltheorytendstoanalyzethe
cultural as something distinct from the social, a differentiated sphere which is struc tured through
specificinstitutions,suchasthemedia,educationandreligion,andhasdrawnonarangeofmethodsof
analysistoconceptualizethespecificityoftheculturalinthissense.Alternatively,feministsworking
withinanthropology,inwhichcultureisthetraditionalobjectofstudy,havedrawnuponadiversesetof
frameworks and methods for cultural analysis. These include detailed ethnographic accounts,
crossculturalcomparisons,evolutionaryandarchaeologicalapproaches,andlinguisticstudies.Culture
isalsostudiedwithinotherdisciplines,suchaspsychology,linguistics,literarycriticismandhistory,
throughframeworkswhichareformulatedinvariouswaysinrelationtotheprimaryobjectiveofstudy.
Manyoftheseapproachestothestudyofculturefromthetraditionaldisciplineshavebeenborrowedby
feministsinordertoinvestigatetheculturaldimensionsofgenderrelations.
Theimportanceoftheoriesofculturetofeminism,then,arisesfrommanydifferentsourcesandfor
manydifferentreasons.Beitdueto~elimitsofexistingmodelswithinculturalstudiesandconventional
disct plines, the increasing importance of cultural issues within feminist theory and politics, or the
confusionarisingoutoftheuseofdivergentmodelsofculturewithinfeministanalysis,theneedtoclarify
whatmightbemeantbyfeministanalysesofculturebecomesincreasinglyimportant.Thisconcernarises
bothfromtherecognitionoftheseproblemsandthedesiretoprovide
Feminismandculturalstudies:pasts,presents,futures267
asetoftermsforananalysisofculturewhichaddressesthespecificityofP8
However,triafebalpowerthequestionandsuggestsofwhatwaystheseintermswhichmighttochallenge
consistit.
ofisonlyjust~g
tobeasked.Itmight,forexample,bepossibletoarguethata~t
culturalanalysiswould,giventheintimatenatureofwomen'ssubOrdination,theedgedgendered
problemsbodybewithshapedandreinforcingthebyrealmaninterestoflinkssubjectivity.inbetween
theconstructionYettheofsexuality,thereareacknowlpersonalandthe{elnininewhichwouldrequire
theissueofessentialismtobeaddressed.l)ebatesabouttheimplicationsoftheconceptualdistinctions
betweenlivedexperience,thesubjectiveandsubjection,lieattheheartofmanycurrentdebateswithin
feminism,nottheleastofwhichisthatconcerningthestrategicvalueofthecategory'woman',andallof
whichareconcernedtotransformthesignificanceofwhatitistobeawoman.
Oneoftheprimaryaimsinbringingtogetherfeminismandculturalstudies,istoconsiderthesignificance
withinfeministtheoryandpoliticsofquestionsconcerningtheculturaldimensionsofgenderinequality
andpatiiarchalpower.1bisintroductionhassuggestedthattherearetwowaysofexploringthis
significance:toinvestigatetheroleofcultureinthereproductionofgenderinequality;andtoaskhowan
analysisofgendercancontributetoanunderstandingofculture.However,itseemsthatwhilstfeminists
havegraduallybuiltupacomplexpictureoftheoperationsofpatriarchalculture,therehasbeenlessof
anattempttosystematizesomegeneralizedofthereasonstheoriesforofthis,theseincludingpower
relations.boththelimitsWehavetofeministtriedtoinfluencesuggest
withinculturalstudiesandthedifficultiesofaskingwhataspecificallyfeministculturalanalysiswould
looklike.analysesHowever,ofculturethediversityandheterogeneityofcontemporaryfeministwould
suggestthatsuchaproject,whilefocusedonacommonitseHindicativesetofthemes,ofthestrengthis
not,andandisdiversityunlikelyofevercontemporarytobe,unified.academic1bisis
andInpoliticalbringingfeminism.
togetherfeminismandculturalstudieswehavetriedto~pproach
thequestionofhowtodevelopfeministculturalanalysis.lbisunportantprojectcandrawmuchthatisof
valuefromworkwithinC:Wturalstudies.Yet,itmustalsotakeaccountoftheshortcomingsand
limitationsofthemodelsofculturalanalysisonofferwithinculturalstudies.sharedasbothprojectIna
resourcetum,toaschallengeandithasastimulusalreadythedone,feministanalysiswilllikelyserveto
culturalstudies,intheircontinuingexistingconventionsofproducingand
sharinfo r change.

gknowledge,andtocombinetheoreticaldebatewithstrategies

Notes

We"ersion
WouldofthislikeIntroduction.
tothankMaureenMcNeilforherdetailedcommentsonanearlier
268Wlwtisculturalstudies?
1.Whilst'women'sstudies'and'culturalstudies'mightseemtobemoreobviouslyanalagousterms,wehavechosentouse
'feminism'and'culturalstudies'inordertoincludedevelopmentsinfeministtheoryandpoliticswhichhaveocc\lrredoutsidethe
institutionalboundariesofwomen'sstudies.2.However,women'sstudiesandculturalstudieshaveratherdifferentrelationships
toradicalpolitics,giventhatwomen'sstudiesemergedasadirectresultofthewomen'smovement.Culturalstudies,ontheother
hand,hashadamoretenuousandunevenrelationshiptoleftpolitics.3.Therecentshiftfromwomen'sstudiestogenderstudies
hasproducedconsiderabledebateandcontroversy.MaryEvansofferedascepticalanalysisofthepoliticalsignificanceofthis
shiftinherkeynotepaperattheWomen'sStudiesNetworkConference,CoventryPolytechnic,18March1989.4.Therangeof
Americanradicalfeministworklabelled'culturalfeminist'isverybroadandthusthetermisoftenconfusing.Itincludeswork
whichattemptstoreclaima'womancentred'culture,exemplifiedinthefilmsofBarbaraHammer,aswellascritiquesof
patriarchalcultureandknowledge,suchasthosedevelopedbyMaryDaly.

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16
Always already cultural studies: academic conferences and a
manifesto
CaryNelson
The Americanization of cultural studies

TherapidlyincreasingvisibilityofculturalstudiesintheUnitedStatesgivesusanopportunitytoreflect
onanddebateitsarticulationtoexistinginstitutionsinmediasres,beforethosearticulationsarefixedfor
anyperiodoftime.Aspartofthatdebate,Ihavearguedforsometimethatpeoplewhocommentonor
claimtobe'doing'culturalstudiesoughtatleasttofamiliarizethemselveswiththeBritishculturalstudies
tradition,beginningwithRaymondWilliamsandRichardHoggartandmovingthroughBirmingham
andbeyond.Almostnothinginthistradition,onemustnoteattheoutset,issimplyandunproblematically
transferabletotheUnitedStates.WilliamswaspartlyconcernedwithdefiningadistinctlyBritish
heritage.Britishsubculturaltheory,oftenfocusedonentirewaysoflife,isnotwellsuitedtodescribing
quitepartialidentitiesormereleisureactivitiesintheUnitedStates.TherecentantiessentialistBritish
workonracemustinthiscountryconfrontanoftenessentialistidentitypolitics.Thus,whileanti
essentialisttheoriesofracehavethepotentialtobequite~lingIcansofdifferenthere,weracescannot
havesimplygainedadoptandthemlostfromwithoutessentialism.askingwhatTheAmerinter
disciplinaryworkatBirminghamwasoftendeeplycollaborative,astylethathaslittlechanceof
succeedinginAmericandepartmentsandofsurvivingtheAmericanacademicsystemofrewards.Yetthe
struggletoshapethefieldinBritainhaslessonswecanlearnmuchfrom,andBritishculturalan
Americanstudiescontext.
acheivedtheoreticaladvancesthatareimmenselyusefulin
!batwouldbepartofmyanswertoaquestionJonathanCullerposed,Wi0.thanairofwhimsical
hopelessness,atanOctober1990,Universityofklahomaconferencecalled'CrossingtheDisciplines:
CulturalStudies~the1990s':'Whatisaprofessorofculturalstudiessupposedto.now?'Aprofessorof
culturalstudiesmight,inotherwords,beexpectedtoknowthehistoryofthefield.Professorsofcultural
studies~notagreewithoremulatealltheimperativesofBritishculturalstudies,buttheydohavea
responsibilitytotakeapositionona
274Whtltisculturalstudies?
traditionwhosenametheyareborrowing.Moreover,peoplewithstrongdisciplinarytrainingwhoare
nowfeelingtheirwaytowardculturalstudieshavesomethingtogainfromencounterswithotherswho
havealreadymadesuchjourneys.LeavingopenwhatitwillmeantorealizeculturalstudiesinAmerica,
Britishculturalstudiesnonethelessestab..lishessomeofwhatisatstakeintheorizingcultureinany
historicalmoment.
AfterImadeasimilarargumentataregionalModemLanguageAssociationconferencein1988,my
friendVincentLeitch,whooughttoknowbetter,stoodupintheaudience,wavinghisarmsashescaled
someBunkerHilloftheimagination,anddeclaredthathe'thoughtwehadthrownofftheyokeofthe
British200yearsago'.Morerecentlyagain,atanIndianaUniversityofPennsylvaniaconferenceon
theory and pedagogy in September of 1990 ('The Role of Theory in the Under graduate literature
Classroom:Curriculum,Pedagogy,Politics'),IheardJamesBerlinprophesy,withasolemnitynowhere
cognizantthathewaspredictingcoalswouldbebroughttoNewcastle,thathewassimplygivingcritical
theoryanewname,thatculturalstudieswouldmiraculouslytumourattentiontoward'textualityinall
itsforms'.Theclaimwashardlynew;indeed,thisheraldedrevolutionhadalreadytakenplaceunder
anothername.InNovember1990,apanelonculturalstudiesatthePacificCoastPhilologicalAssociation
unselfconsciously offered two models of cultural studies: as an opportunistic umbrella for English
professorswhowanttostudyfilmorthegraphicarts,andasaterrainofvague,metonymicslidingamong
allthecompetingtheoriesonthecontemporaryscene.Culturalstudiesinthatcontextwasconsidered
interchangeable with semiotics, the New Historicism, and other recent bodies of theory. And at an
October 1990, University of Dlinois panel on 'The Frontiers of EighteenthCentury Studies', John
Richetti,preeninghimselfinthemannerofadisciplinarycockatoo,announcedwithsatisfactionthat
'eighteenthcenturypeoplehadbeendoingculturalstudiesallalong'.
Icouldaddotheranecdotes.ButtheseareenoughtointroducethefirstpointsIwanttomake:Ofallthe
intellectualmovementsthathavesweptthehumanitiesinAmericasincethe1970s,nonewillbetakenup
so shallowly, so opportunistically, so unreflectively, and so ahistorically as cultural studies. It is
becomingtheperfectparadigmforapeoplewithnosenseofhistorybornyesterdayandbornonthe
make.Aconceptwithalonghistoryofstruggleoveritsdefinition,aconceptborninclassconsciousness
andincritiqueoftheacademy,aconceptwithaskepticalrelationshiptoitsowntheoreticaladvances,
culturalstudiesisoftenforEnglishstudiesintheUnitedStateslittlemorethanawayofrepackaging
whatwewerealreadydoing.Atitsworst,anyonewhoanalyzespopularcultureinanywaywhatsoever
ormakestheslightestgesturetowardcontextualizinghighculturaltextscanclaimtobedoingcultural
studies.Ofcourse,nothingcanpreventthetermculturalstudiesfroJl\comingtomeansomethingvery
differentinanothertimeandplace.Butthecasualdismissalofitshistoryneedstobeseenforwhatitis
aninterestedefforttodepoliticizeaconceptwhosewholepriorhistory
Alwaysalreadyculturalstudies275!;;tural
beenstudiespreeminentlywillnodoubtpoliticalpayandoff,oppositional.makingitmoreThe
palatabledepoliticizingatonceofto..rantingagenciesandtoconservativecolleagues,administrators,and
~ticianS,attYcriticalbutpurchaseonlyatonthethiscostnation'sofblockingsociallife.
culturalstudiesfromhaving
tadlepeopleopportunism.interestedinButtheorythehaveoftenbeenaccusedbytherightofhistorical
recordactuallysuggestsaverydif{erentandmuchmoredifficultpatternofstruggleandmutualtrans
fot1118tionforthoseinvestedinthemajorbodiesofinterpretivetheory.ConSiderthedeeppersonal
transformation,theinstitutionalchanges,thewholesalereorientationofsocialunderstandingthat
accompaniedthe{eadnistserieSofrevolutionanditsextensionintotheacademy.Comparethetimesin
thiscenturywhentakingupMarxismhasmeantaCOJDParablereorientationofone'swhole
understandingofsociety.Even
1haSbodyavoidedoftheorymanylikeofpsychoanalysis,itswhichinitsacademicincarnations
imperativestowardpersonalandinstitutionalchange,hasentailedagooddealmorethanadoptinga
specialvocabuJiry.humanEvenagencyforacademics,thatpsychoanalysishasmeantacceptingaview
ofisolatesthemfromtheirtraditionallyrationalistcolleagues.InBritainandAustralia,takingupcultural
studieshasfollowedthemoreradicalpatternamongthesealternatives.ButnotformostcUsciplinesin
theUnitedStates.franklyThus,aboutoneregularly'repackaging'hearsgraduatethemselvesstudentsas
culturalandfacultystudiesmemberspeople.talkThedisastrousacademicjobmarket,tobesure,along
withmostofthedailymessagesconsumercapitalismsendsout,encouragesthatsortofanxiouscynicism
abouthowone'markets'one'sself.Indeed,thejobmarketintheculturaldisciplinestudiesisgoingat
leasttointakeEnglishupgivesaprettygoodindicationofhowthisnewparadigm.In1989agraduate
studentatDlinoiswhoisaspecialistinfeministculturalstudiesandhasadegzeetheModemin
communicationsLanguageAssociationinterviewedforculturalstudiespositionsatconvention.Itwas
quiteclearthatmanydepartmentshadnotthefaintestideawhatculturalstudiesis.Itwasseenuawayto
askthedeanfornewmoneybypointingoutanareawhere~artmentsneededtocatchupandawayfor
interviewerstomakeactilplayc:ulturaiofstudiesignorancestuffaboutlooklikeanyway?'cannyWhat
interrogation:betterway'Sotowhatisallthisaskuninformedcplestionsthanintheroleofjob
interviewer?Whocareswhatseriousc:ulturaiorslightlystudiesthreatening,jobcandidatesthecandidate
mightwillthink?beoutIftheoftheanswersroomareconfusingin20minutes~ay.atudiei
searchesSomedepartmentsasalazywayineffectoffindingconductedoutbetweenfake,exploratory
cocktailsalittleculturalbitaboutfound
whatout,ittheallyoungpeopleareuptothesedays.AstheIllinoisstudentcomesdowntothefinal
question:'Butcanyoufillinwhen~~~someonetodotheMiltoncourse?'Meanwhile,theOctober
1993;.~JobInformationListincludessuchpotentiallydisingenuousadsashtauae'literaryseekinganda
cultural'medievalstudiesliterature/culturalbefore1800'.Somehowstudies'specialistIsuspector
familiaritysomeone
276Whatisculturalstudies?
withStuartHall'sworkwillnotberequiredofcandidatesfortheSepositions.
AttheOklahomaconference,surprisinglyenough,theonly
ple~speakerwhomadeafulleffort
todefinetheprojectofculturalstudieswasJ.HillisMiller.YetMiller,unfortunately,gavenoevidenceof
having read any previous cultural studies work. The field thus presented no challenges, only
opportunities. Apparently, the spreadof American power andculture across the globe has led some
AmericanstobelieveDisneylandistheoriginoftheworld.Assomeonewhorespectsandadmiresmuch
ofMiller'searlywork,especiallyhiselegantphenomenologicalreadingsofliterarytexts,Imustinthis
contextsaythatIjustdonotseeitsproductiverelationtotheculturalstudiestradition.Aconcernwith
ethics,centralinhisrecentpublications,isnotthesameasthelongculturalstudiesengagementwithleft
politics.Andtheinternationalizationoftechnology,whichwasatthecenterofhisOklahomatalk,'The
workofculturalcriticismintheageofdigitalreproduction',infactpointstotheimportanceofglobal
politicsandeconomics,theglobaldisseminationandlocalizationofculturalpowerissuesMillerthinks
willbesweptasideinaMcLuhanesquespreadoftechnologycreatingacommonglobalculture.Indeed,it
isonlyblindnesstoeconomics,power,andculturaldifferencesthatmadeitpossibleforMillertopresent
asanargumenthisoffensivefantasythateveryoneintheworldwillhaveapersonalcomputerwithina
fewyears.HashenosenseofwhatlifeislikeinSouthCentralLosAngeles,letaloneinBangladeshor
Somalia?Itakethisasthelimitcase,falseculturalstudiesasitsmostuglyawarrantforprivileged
Americanacademicswhoareusedtojugglingtheoriestobeginmakingclaimsaboutthematerialworld
aswell,withouteverlookingatit.
TheeffectofMiller'sappearanceatthefirstplenarysessionatOklahomawastogivetheprograman
openingbenediction,abenedictionwarrantingahumanized,'transnational',confidentlydemocratizedver
sionofculturalstudiesasthenewAmericanworldorder.Hiskeyroleindepoliticizingdeconstruction
wasapparentlytoberepeatedforculturalstudies.IthinkitisrelevanttorecallthatMilleroncecosigned
a letter (published in the MLA Newsletter) warning that an official Modem Language Association
positionagainsttheundeclaredVietnamwarmightmakeallthirtythousandMLAmembersliabletoa
chargeoftreason.IbringthisupnottoquestionMiller'spositiononthewar,butbecausetheletter
pointedspecificallytohisinsistenceontheseparationbetweenacademicandpoliticallife,aseparation
thatculturalstudieshassoughttoovercome.Whatisatstakehereisadefinitionofthenature.limits,and
missionofculturalstudies.Bothintheletterandinhiseffortstolimitdeconstructiontoadepoliticized
versionoftextualanalysis,Millerhasmorethanoncehadsomethingtosayabouttheculturalroleof
Englishstudies.Thoseviewsareverymuchatoddswiththeheritageofculturalstudies.Theymaywell
cometodominatetheAmericanizationofculturalstudies,butthisisnotaprocessthatshouldproceed
unremarked.
Inthiscontext,Idonotthinkanuncriticalargumentforliberaldiversityhasmuchvalue.Welcoming
theopeningoftheculturalstudies
Alwaysalreadyculturalstudies271
seldneednotnecessitateabandoningadebateaboutwhichenterprisesdo~tmentsBritish,j;arnedanddo
notculturaldeservetousetheculturalstudiesname,aboutwhatstudiesentails.ThatisnottosayIthink
orfromthethem,AmericanscanpoliceandtheAustraliansfield.Inandfact,CanadiansIthinkaeither
themorewhoopen,have

ThiS~us,
muchdemocraticmorebutlesscriticalmodelwilllikelywintheday.inclusivevisionprobablyisthe
futureofculturalstUcfiesintheUnitedStates.Iammerelytryingtoofferachallengetothatenterprise,
evenifitisachallengelikelytobesweptasidebyevents.
AtapaperpresentedattheannualModemLanguageAssociationconventioninDecember1991,Janice
Radwayarguedthatattemptstodefineculturalstudiesandpoliceitsbordersriskturningitintoa'ghostly
discipline'.Iwouldarguethatculturalstudieshasalwaysbeen.,cactlythataghostlydisciplinewith
shiftingbordersandunstablecontentsandthatitneedstocontinuebeingso.Itisanongoingsetof
traditions,abodyofworkwhosecontributorsareindialogueanddebatewithoneanother.Attemptsto
defineitsaimsandlimits,regularlyoverthrown,havebeenpartofitshistoryfromtheoutset.Itisalsoin
significantwaysantidisciplinary;thatis,itrespondscriticallytotheeXclusiveparcellingoutofobjectsof
studytoindividualdisciplines,tothesocialwayimpactacademicofmuchdisciplinesacademicdivide
work.upTothesomefielddegree,ofknowledge,itputsforwardandtotheitsowncontradisciplinary
formsofknowledge.Yetnoneofthesestancescomesintobeinginauniversefreeofdisciplinary
historiesandconstraints.Culturalstudiesdefinesitsenterpriseinpartbypositioningitselfinrelationto
moretraditionaldisciplines;intheprocess,itbecomessomethinglikeaclusterofdisciplinesunder
erasure.Itsownghostlydisdplinarityunsettlesallotherhumanitiesandsocialsciencedisciplines;that
ghostlydisciplinarityis,thus,aconditiontobewelcomedratherthanfeared.
TheresistancetoanyefforttodefineculturalstudiesaresistanceuniquetoitsAmericanizationreflects
awidespreadandquitewarranteddissatisfactionwiththeconstraintsofdisciplinaryknowledge.studies
Especiallyseemsforstudentstoandfacultyinreactionarydepartments,offertheonlyrealisticsolutionto
aculturalrepressiveworkenvironmentliterallyoverthrowingdisciplinaryknowledge.Thatcultural
studieswouldthenitselfbeoccupiedwithdefiningitsboundaries~tsumbrelladecidingseemswhicha
activitiesshouldandshouldnotbeincludedunderbetrayaloftheemotionalneedsculturalstudieswas
~ted~ofpolymorphouslyontomeet.Forsomepeople,culturalstudiesisimaginedasafreezoneforany
andallintellectualinvestments.uatsomeindividualorcollaborativeculturalstudiesworkcomestobe
11\orecontextstudieswidelywasarecognizedorvaluedthanotherprojectsseemsinthatviolationofthe
undifferentiatedzoneofpermissionculturalimaginedtobe.Thatsomepeopledefendtheirparticular
Practices&enceOneofcanculturalpassionatelybeginstudiestoseeseems'stars'whyequallysomein
thestudentssuspect.
field.Itsuggestsaredistressedafieldattheemerhierarchized
278Whatisculturalstudies?
byreputationandachievementinmuchthewaytraditionaldisciplinesare.Butisthereanyalternative?
Actually,thereis,butonlyone:wholesaleantiintellectualism.Someordinarilycannyculturalstudies
scholarsareinfactwillingtoappealtojustthatantiintellectualstraininAmericanculturalstudies.Thus
Gayatri Spivak was cheered when she opened her Oklahoma talk by disingenuously declaring how
relievedshewastobepresentingalecturethatwasnotdestinedtobeimmortalizedinabook.Wouldshe
beevenmorerelievedtohavethatstateofaffairspersistforafewyears?Similarly,Radwaymetwith
applause when she declared at the Modem Language Association convention that the definition of
culturalstudiesshouldbeexpandedtoincludeawholerangeofpoliticalactivities.Presumablyonecould
be'in'culturalstudiesbyvirtueofjoiningcampusdemonstrations.Obviously,culturalstudiesalliesitself
withandhelpstotheorizepoliticalaction.Culturalstudieswritersbothinsideandoutsidetheacademy
areofteninvolvedinpoliticsandconcernedwiththecontributiontheirworkmakestopoliticalaction.
Butpoliticalactionandculturalstudiesarenotinterchangeable.Itshouldnotbenecessarytosaythis,but
apparentlyitis:Culturalstudiesisasetofwritingpractices;itisadiscursive,analytic,interpretive
tradition.
AlthoughnoneoftheabovewasacknowledgedopenlyatOklahoma,thesevalueschurnedunderthe
surface.Thishelpsexplaintheabsenceofreferencestothehistoryofculturalstudiesfrommorethana
fewofthetalks.Actually,theOklahomaconferencedidhaveanimplicitbutunstatedmission.Although
somepeoplewereinvitedtoparticipate,mostofthepapersweregivenbypeoplewhoansweredanopen
invitation to submit topics. Essentially everyone who volunteered to give a talk was placed on the
program.Theresultwasabout350papersgiveninahundredsessionsoverthreedays.Sotheconference,
ineffect,said,'HereisaselfselectedgroupofNorthAmericanswhodeclarethemselvestobedoing
culturalstudies.Let'sseewheretheystand'.Thatisaninterestingandpotentiallyimportantmission,
althoughitsvaluewaslimitedbybeingundeclaredand,thus,neveranexplicitsubjectofdiscussion
duringtheconferenceitself.
A cultural studies manifesto

Frommyperspective,agooddealofwhatwaspresentedatOklahomasimplydidnotqualifyascultural
studies.Indeed,Ifeltitreflectedthewidespreaddissolutionanddepoliticizationofculturalstudiesinthe
UnitedStates.MyexperienceattheOklahomaandotherconferences,myexperienceincoorganizing
'CulturalStudiesNowandintheFuture',aconferenceheldattheUniversityofIllinoisinAprilof1990,
andmy experiencein coediting Cultural Studies, a collectionthat grewout of that conference (see
Grossbergetal.1992)togetherwithteachingseminarsinculturalstudiesandwritingabookthattriedto
mapoutaculturalstudiesmodelofaliterarygenreleadsmetobelievesomegeneralizationsaboutthe
culturalstudiesenterprisecanandmustbeput
Alwaysalrtlldyculturalstudies279
ard.Ithinkitisimportanttotrytosaybothwhatculturalstudiesis::;8,rticleSwhatwrittenitisnot.
throughoutKeepingtheinmindthewellknownseriesofdefinitionalhistoryofculturalstudies,Iwould
liketod..,~on50
inoftheaculturalformofaseriesofnumberedpoints,studiesmanifesto.
afirstdraftofone
1
Culturalstudiesisliterarytexts.SomenotsimplythecloseanalysisofobjectsotherthanEnglish
departmentswouldliketobelievethattheirtranSPortablemethodsofclosereadingcanmakethem
culturalstudiesdepartmentsassoonastheyexpandtherangeofculturalobjectstheyhabituallystudy.
Indeed,culturalstudiesisusuallysoldtoEnglishdepartmentsatargued.culturesClosereadinglestorthe
theseasneedpartimprecisedomainsoftothemanifestdestinyofthediscipline.Ourskillsbeextendedto
otherculturaldomains,itisoftenbelefttothedubiouscareofstudentsubattentionoflesserdisciplines
likespeechcommunication.Similarly,somescholarslikethesenseoftheoretical~tige
thatanunspecifiedculturalstudiesumbrellagivestheirclosereadingsofnontraditionalobjects.Indeed,
culturalstudiesoftenarrivesinEnglishdepartmentsintheformofaneasyalliancebetweendebased
textualityandrecenttheory.Buttheimmanentformal,thematic,orsemioticanalysisoffilms,paintings,
songs,romancenovels,comicbooks,orclothingstylesdoesnot,initself,constituteculturalstudies.
Perhapsthatiswhyonedepartmentin1993advertisedforaculturalstudiesspecialistin'theoryand
practice'toavoidbeingdelugedbywritingsamplesconsistingofdecontextualizedreadingsoffilmsand
popularnovels.Ofcourse,itisonlyinAmericathatculturalstudiestheoryandpracticeareindangerof
beingseveredfromoneanother.2.Culturalstudiesdoesnot,assomepeoplebelieve,requirethatevery
projecthand,peopleinvolvewiththestudyingrainedofartifactscontemptofforpopularpopularculture.
cultureOncantheneverother
fullyunderstandtheculturalstudiesproject.Inpartthatisbecauseculturalstudieshastraditionallybeen
deeplyconcernedwithhowallculturalproductionissustainedanddeterminedby(andintuminflu~)
thebroadterrainofpopularcommonsense.Thus,noproperlyhistoricizedpopular'.
culturalstudiescancutitselfofffromthatsenseof'the
3.Culturalstudiesalsodoesnotmeanthatwehavetoabandonthestudyofwhathavebeenhistorically
identifiedasthedomainsofhighculture,althoughitdoeschallengeustostudytheminradicallynew
Ways.011\y,torecognizeeveryBecauseculturalthateveryautonomypracticeculturalpotentiallyis
practicenothasadegreeofrelativeautonmeritsattention.Butweneedafunctionofintrinsicmeritand
thatitisneverfixedandnevermorethanrelative.Thenotionofrelat_iveautonomy,ofcourse,makesit
properlyimpossibletorepeat4.traditionalclaimsthatsomeculturalproductiontranscendshistory.
Culturalstudiesisnotsimplytheneutralstudyofsemioticsystems,~matterhowmobileandflexible
thosesystemsaremadetobe.&&~
canbeasemioticcomponenttoculturalstudies,butculturalstudiesandsemioticsarenot
interchangeable.Culturalstudiesisnot
280WMtisculturalstudies?
satisfiedwithmappingsignsystems.Itisconcernedwiththestrug.glesovermeaningthatreshapeand
definetheterrainofculture.Itis5.Culturaldevoted,studiesamongisothercommittedthings,toto
studyingstudyingthetheproduction,politicsofreception,
significationandvarieduseoftexts,notmerelytheirinternalcharacteristics.Thisisoneofthethen;aso~
histoncalthatrecord
cul~alIS

either.studiesfragmentaryworkismoreorhighly~ifficultrestrictiveinpe~ods
inwhenclassterms.Solongasthedifficultiesareforegrounded,however,limitedbutambitiousand
importantculturalstudiesprojectscanbecarriedoutforearlierperiodsofhistory.6.Culturalstudies
conceivesculturerelationally.Thus,theanalysisofanindividualtext,discourse,behavior,ritual,style,
genre,orsubculturedoesnotconstituteculturalstudiesunlessthethinganalyzedisconsideredintermsof
itscompetitive,reinforcing,anddeterminingrelationswithotherobjectsandculturalforces.Thistaskis
also,itshouldbenoted,animpossibleonetocompleteinanygiveninstance.Butunlesstheconstitutive
anddissolvingculturalrelationsaretakenasaprimaryconcern,theworkisnot,properlyconsidered,
culturalstudies.
Thisrelationalunderstandingofculturewasoneofculturalstudies'earliestdefininggoals.Yetjustwhat
ismeantbytherelationalstudyofculturehaschangedandevolvedandabruptlyshiftedthroughoutthe
historyofculturalstudies,fromWilliams'seffortstodescribecultureasawholewayoflifetotheeffort
byHallandotherstoadaptAntonioGramsci'snotionofawarofpositiontodiscursiveandpolitical
analysesofcontemporaryBritain.Onecould,infact,writethehistoryofculturalstudiesintermsofhow
itconceivesrelationalityandputsit7.intopractice.
Culturalstudiesisnotafixed,repeatablemethodologythatcanbelearnedandthereafterappliedtoany
givenculturaldomain.Itisthesocialandtextualhistoryofvaryingeffortstotakeuptheproblematicof
thepoliticsandmeaningofculture.Itshistorymixesfoundingmomentswithtransformativechallenges
anddisputations.Todoculturalstudiesistotakeaplacewithinthathistory.8.Takingaplacewithinthat
historymeansthinkingofone'sworkinrelationtoculturalstudiesworkonthepoliticsofrace.Itmeans
takingseriouslythewayfeminismradicallytransformedculturalstudiesinthe1980s.Anditmeans
positioningone'sworkinrelationtothelong,complex,andoftencontentioushistoryofculturalstudies'
engagementswithMarxism,&omWilliamstoHall.TotreatthathistoryofengagementswithMarxism
asirrelevant,asmanyAmericansdo,istoabandonculturalstudiesforafakepracticethatmerelyborrows
itsname.9.Culturaleffectsofstudiesitsownisanalyses.concernedItwithassumesthesocialthat
scholarlyandpoliticalwritingmeaningcanandanddoesdomeaningfulculturalwork.Toavoidfacing
thischallengean~retreatintoacademicmodesty(assertingthatinterpretivewriting
.ISimpotentorirrelevant)orinto
claimsofdisinterestedscholarship(protestingthatpoliticalcommitmentsvitiatescholarlyobjectivity)
IS
Always
alre~~dy

culturalstudies281
tohidefromculturalstudies'historicalmission.Apoststructuralistacademiceffectsofliberalism
discoursearemightindeterminateleadonetoargueandunpredictable,that,becausethescholarship
political
andpoliticsarebestkeptseparate.Culturalstudiesmightcounterbyarguingthatsuchargumentsdonot
freeusfromresponsibilityforthepoliticalmeaningofscholarlywork.Culturalstudiestypicallyaccepts
thenotionthatscholarshipentailsanengagementwithandcommitsnenttoone'sownhistoricalcontext.
Thechoiceofwhatscholarlywritingtodoinvolvesadecisionaboutwhatone'smosteffectivetO.
culturalInmuchandthepoliticalsameway,interventionitmustbecanemphasizedbe.
thatculturalstudiesdoesnotsimplyofferstudentsaliberalcornucopiaoffreechoices.Culturalandurges
politicalthemstudiestomeaningreflectseeksonoftothewhatempowersocialtheymeaninglearn
studentsthroughoutoftodisciplinaryunderstandtheuniversity.worktheandsocialtoIt
decidewhatkindsofprojectsthecultureneedsmost.Aculturalstudiespeciagogy,thus,encouragesa
morecriticalrelationshiptoculturalandpoliticallife.Onesmallbutnecessaryimplicationisthatcurrent
debatesandsocialpracticesneedtobefarmorepervasiveelementsofmanymorecoursesthanisnowthe
case.Fieldslikehistoryandliteraturethatoftenteachpureperiodcoursesneedtomakedetailedand
specificanalogiestopresentconditions.Itisnotenoughtoestablishcontextsforandrelationships
betweendiscoursesinearlierperiodsontheassumptionthatstudentswillmakethecontemporaryconnec
tionsandworkoutthecontemporarydifferencesontheirown.TheTaylorizedcurriculumneedstobe
thoroughlyunderminedwiththeaimofgainingcriticalpurchaseoncontemporarylife.11.Cultural
studieshasaresponsibilitytocontinueinterrogatingandreflectingonitsowncommitments.Infulfilling
thistask,however,culturalstudieshasinevitablyhadahistorythatisfarfromperfect.Itneedsnowto
critiqueitsinvestmentinwhathasbeencalledtheleft's'mantraofrace,class,andgender',categoriesthat
areproperlyconsideredbothinrelationtooneanotherandtothecultureasawhole.Itneedsaswellto
questionitsrecentfetishizingof'fandom'.Aritualized,unreflectiveconfessionoffandomhasbecome
almostarequirementinsomeAmericanculturalstudiescircles.Beingafanisnotaprerequisitefordoing
culturalanalysis.Invokingfandomwithoutdescribingorspecifyingitsconditionsanditscultural
constructionhaslittleintellectualvalue.Beingafangivespotentialaccesstoimportantinsights;the
challengeistoreflectonfandomandarticulatewhatonelearnsfromit.12.Culturalstudiesisnot
requiredtoapproveastrugglefordominanceamongthedisenfranchised.MulticulturalisminAmerica
sometimesdegeneratesintoacompetitiveformofidentiypoliticsinwhich?J>pressed11\toahierarchy
andmarginalizedgroupsworktosortthemselvesoutbasedontheirrecordofhistoricalsuffering.
Culturalstudiesisnot,however,simplyaneutralfieldinwhichpeoplecangivefreereigntotheir
inclinationstoplayidentitypolitics.Culturalstudiesisproperlyanenterpriseinwhichpeoplecanexplore
their
282Whatisculturalstudies?
race,culture.ethnicity,Aproperlyorgenderrelationalandandarticulatehistoricalitsanalysisrelations
suggestswiththethatlargn
er
onegroupcanclaimtheultimatesiteofoppression.Theprogressiv0alliancesalizedidentitieswenowto
needsuppressrequiredebateustoandavoidcriticism.usingAtpreviouslytheotherInargine
end
ofthespectrum,multiculturalismrestrictsitselftoanunrealistic,Uberalidealofdiversityandmaythus
establishalliancesbeingabsorbedbyit.differencewithoutconflict.Culturalwithmulticulturalismbut
shouldSimilarly,ifmulticulturalworkistoclaimstudiesresistaplaceotherwithinculturalcultural
studiesstudies,scholarsithavecannotdoneignoreonrace,allthegender,innovativeandethniwork
city.13.Thehistoricizingimpulseinculturalstudiesisproperlyindialoguewithanawareness
contexts,andsocialofpractices.thecontemporaryInliterarystudies,rearticulationNewHistoricism
ofearliertextsmaysometimessuccumbtoanillusionofbeingabletoaddressonlytheearlierhistorical
periodbeinganalyzed,butculturalstudiesproperlydoesnot.Beinghistoricallyandpoliticallyhereand
therethenandnowispartofthecontinuing,andthusnecessarilynewlytheorized,burdenofcultural
studies.Nothingwerescuefromforgetfulnessordistortionstaysthesame.Tostudythepresentorthe
pastisinevitablytorearticulateittocurrentinterests;thatisaproblemandanopportunitytotakeup
consciously,nottorepressorregret.Culturalstudiescanneverbeasimpleprogramofrecovery;properly
speaking,suchprogramsarenotculturalstudies.Indeed,aconservativetendencytocategorizeevery
limitedprojectofculturalrecoveryasculturalstudiesusuallysignalsahighculturalcontemptforthe
thingsbeingrecovered.Thetendency,forexample,toclassifyeffortstorecoverminorityliteraturesas
culturalstudiessometimesreflectsanassumptionthattheseliteraturesareinherentlyinferiororthatthey
lacktheaestheticimportanceofthetraditionalcanon.14.Initsprojectsofhistoricalandcontemporary
analysis,culturalstudiesisoftenconcernedaswellwithinterveninginthepresentandencouraging
certainpossiblefuturesratherthanothers.Thus,aswithculturalstudiespeoplereflectonthe
simultaneouslyunderminedandreinforcedstatusofthenationstateindifferentpartsoftheworld,they
areoftenalsoconcernedwiththefuturestatusofnationhoodAninterestinhowhightechnologyhas
changedourlivesmaybecombinedwithanefforttoshapeitsfutureimpact.Theopportunitiesthat
fragmentedpostmodernidentitiesofferarenotonlytobestudi~,butalsotobeexploited.Astudyofthe
multiplemeaningsofgender
11\agivenmomentmayleadto
reflectiononhowourlivesmaybegenderedinthefuture.Formanyscholarsoutsideculturalstudies,
suchdoubleinvestmentsaretobeavoided.Inculturalstudiestheycanbeatthecenteroftheenterprise.
15.Culturalenterprisestudiesisinescapablyacceptsthegroundednotioninthatcontemporarythework
oflifetheorizingand

currentits
politics.Newsocialandpoliticalrealitiesrequirefreshreflectionanddebateontheculturalstudies
enterprise,nomatterwhathistorical
AlwaysalreDdyculturalstudies283
~od

oneisstudying.Althoughitispossibletooverstatethephenomenonofalocaltheorizinggroundedin
currentsocialrealitiesbeCausesuchaprocessinvolvesarearticulationofpreviouslyexistingttteories,it
isnonethelesstruethatmajorchangesinculturalstudieshavenewoneneverhistoricalregularlyimagines
conditions.comethatfromitFromanisefforttounderstandandinterveneinaculturalstudies
perspective,then,possibletotheorizeforalltimesandplaces.Notonlyourinterpretationsbutalsoour
theoriesareproducedfortheworldinwhichwelive.t6.Culturalandcriticalstudiesofthewithin
politicstheofacademyisinescapablydisciplinaryknowledge.concernedwithItisnotsimply
interdisciplinaryinthemodelofliberaldiversityandidealizedcommunication.culturalstudiesThis
withinmeanstraditionalthattheacademicnontrivialdisciplinesinstitutionalizationisimpossibleof
unlessthosedisciplinesdismantlethemselves.Afirststep,foramembersdisciplinewholikedoEnglish,
nothaveistomakeacommitmenttohiringfacultydegreesfromEnglishdepartments.Otherwisethere
islittlechancethatEnglishdepartmentswillevenadmitthatliteraturedoesnotacquireitsmeaning
primarilyfromitsownautonomoustraditions,letalonetakeupthegeneralproblematicsofculture.Yet
whileEnglishdepartmentshavemuchtogainfromexpandingtheirenterprisestoincludeculturalstudies,
itislessclearwhatculturalstudieshastogainfrombeinginstitutionalizedinEnglishdepartments.Ifitis
tobeinstitutionalizedatall,culturalstudiesmightbebetterservedbyavarietyofprogramsoutside
traditionaldepartments.
Noteveryindividualculturalstudiesbookoressaycanfulfillalltheconditionsinthese16points.Buta
successfulculturalstudiesprojectshouldterms,aimspointstakethemandareandpositionimperatives
effectivelyonreferences.directly,itselfpartinThese,growingtheyofrelationtheshoulditculturalout
seemstobeoftheseto30implicitstudiesme,yearsconcerns.representparadigminoftheculturalWhen
project'ssomeandwork.itofpartdoesinterests,theTheseofnotkey
theculturalfocusedstudiesonthechallengetothecontemporarywaysculturalstudieshasandworld.
Becausetheyareislikelytocontinuetochangeanddevelop,theyarelessrigidthantheformofa
numbered~toII
toWritemayinsuchleadasomereaderstothink.Indeed,totakeupthesepointswayastoengageina
continualinterrogationofwhatculturallevelstudiesisandcanbe.Thus,Ihavearticulatedoftheoretical
generalitythatdoesnottotalizethismanifestoataandsynthesizeallCUlturalstudiesprojects.These
principlesdonotattempttoanticipatetheBpedficworkoflocaltheorizing.Toplaceoneselfinrelationto
thehistorystudiesofculturalarestudiesispreciselytorecognizethatthepracticesnotgiveninadvance.
Theyarealwaystobeofculturalrethought,politicall'earticulatedrenewaltocontemporaryandstruggle
conditions.ispartThatimperativetocontinuingofwhatculturalstudieshasbequeathedtous.
284Whatisculturalstudies?

Cultural studies now and in the future

Suchaprocessofnegotiationanddebateoverwhatisandisnotculturalstudieshastotakeplaceif
culturalstudiesistohaveanyintellectualpowerandpoliticaleffectiveness.Wideralliancesneedtobe
formed,butnoteveryallianceisworththepotentialpriceindissolutionandcompromise.PerhapsI
soundlikeaThirdPeriodStalinistwhoisnotreadytoacceptthePopularFrontcoalitionofthelate
1930s.Butweneedtorememberthatthebroad,inclusiveallianceofthePopularFronthadapolitical
missionandapoliticalreasonforthecompromisesitmadethestruggleagainstfascism.Thoseonthe
leftinAmericaandthosecommittedtoprogressiveprojectsinhumanitiesdepartmentsinuniversities
havearelatedmissionthestruggleagainsttheglobalinequitiesinheritedfromtheReaganBushera,
thestruggleagainsttheNewRight'sviewsofAmericaneducationandAmericanculture,thegrowing
articulation of discomfort and anger over racism andsexism as universities' efforts to become more
'culturallydiverse'takehold.ItisourtasktomakeAmericaninstitutionsnervousaboutculturalstudies.
Oneboundaryworthdrawingaroundtheculturalstudiesallianceisbetwee