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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies
Alison Hearn on 10 Feb 2001 00:00:14 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies

>From: McKenzie Wark <mw35 {AT} nyu.edu>
>To: nettime-l {AT} bbs.thing.net
>Subject: <nettime> In Defence of Cultural Studies
>Date: Thu, Feb 8, 2001, 4:19 PM

> There is, in short,
> a democratic impulse in cultural studies that
> is totally absent in a lot of radical/avant
> garde culture, which rests more often than not
> on an aristocratic disdain for the 'masses'.
> The capacity for 'reading', for making many
> and different kinds of sense, is not something
> all that 'special',

I teach in the only free-standing 'Cultural Studies' undergraduate program
in Canada at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
The department itself is notoriously odd - founded twenty years ago by
English scholars, sociologists and political theorists. These scholars -
while influenced by the CCCS in Birmingham, German aesthetic Marxism, French
social theory, and Canadian communication theory, have never worked to
formalize or insist on the 'rightness' of any one academic line.
The department is constantly morphing - embodying the idea of
'heterogeneity' more elegantly than any other academic arena I have known.
It can be infuriating - (departmental meetings can be hell) - as we
constantly work on what we 'are' in order to reassure the institutional
authorities around us. Of course, we never can agree.
The department houses cultural theorists, filmmakers, theatre specialists,
musicians, media and communications critics, and writers, among others.

I am struck by how this discussion on nettime understands 'cultural studies'
so narrowly - as solely the 'reading' (politicized or not) of cultural
texts. What about practice, production, intervention, transformation,
intepretation, mapping, innovative re-iterations, pedagogical
challenges....and all the combinations in-between?
It strikes me that the 'democratic impulse' cited above must apply to the
'doing' of cultural studies - not just to authorized types of cultural
The political content of Cultural Studies is not only in the theoretical
approaches taken in the production of texts for Routledge to publish.
The politics of cultural studies lies in the doing - the teaching, making,
reading, writing, performing, acting up, dressing down, and general shit
disturbing -  in the cultural world at large.
I'm not interested in the latest reading of 'Survivor' in the Journal of
Popular Culture - it generally tells me nothing. But I suspect the
'nothingness' of the experience comes more from the rigid context of
institutionalized cultstud, than the content of the article itself.

In this day and age, any activity that works to challenge the real material
(institutional) parameters of the 'already given' is political, and in this
sense is 'all that special.'


Alison Hearn
Asst. Professor
Cultural Studies Program
Trent University
Peterborough, Ontario
K9J 7B8  

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