Mod-01 Lec-01 Understanding Cultural Studies Part 1

Welcome to NPTEL, the National Program on
Technology Enhanced Learning, a joint venture by the Indian Institutes of Technology and
the Indian Institute of Science. We are at the beginning of a series of lectures on Cultural
Studies and I welcome you to join me in this journey of knowing, understanding ourselves
through Cultural Studies. In this first lecture, we shall be talking about several things.
I shall be telling you what methodology I shall be following when I shall be delivering
these 40 lectures. But before that, let us begin to talk about Cultural Studies, let
us begin to unpack some of the things that we are going to do, some of the things that
are going to be with us in these 40 lectures. Well, let me begin with one of my favorite
quotations from the Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates said that the unexamined life is
not worth living. And whenever I teach this course at IIT Guwahati, I begin with this
quotation from Socrates. We live lives, and when we do not examine the kind of lives that
we are living, then it is as per Socrates’ observation, it is a life that is certainly
not worth living. It is a life that is lived in a way in which we are unaware of many of
our decisions, many of our actions, at least why we take certain decisions and why we hold
certain things valuable etcetera. I would like to pose a question to you and
it goes like this: have you ever asked yourselves why do we live the kind of life that we live?
This is a question that has enormous implication, enormous importance for us. This in a way
is why is answering the question, why we do live cultural studies at all. Why do we live
the kind of lives that we live? Now, there are ways of asking this question.
So, the way that I have put it – why do we live the kind of life that we live, to which
Cultural Studies gives us answers, that is not quite the way in which we are to pose
questions when we do Cultural Studies. So, if we look at this slide, then we should say
that, in Cultural Studies, this question may be framed as how are we produced as subjects.
So, from this slide, we come to know that we are not to use a word like person when
we talk about individuals, about human beings. The word that we are to use here is subject.
Subject, subjectivity, subject positions; these are important parts of words in the
terminology of Cultural Studies. So well, with this, these preliminaries let
me go on to introduce the course to you. And first we shall be talking about pedagogy.
So, what is pedagogy? Pedagogy as we know, refers to the science and art of teaching.
So, when we say we are going to declare our pedagogy here, what we are doing is, well
I am expected to tell you how we are going to go about this course, how I am going to
go about teaching this course. So, the first thing that is to be noted particularly
in Cultural Studies is that, there may be a great of flexibility is allowed in both
syllabus and in teaching style of Cultural Studies and eventually, we will begin to understand
why Cultural Studies is flexible. Suffice it for us now, to simply say that Cultural
Studies, you may have, it is said that there may be as many ways of devising a syllabus
in Cultural Studies as there may be teachers or instructors for Cultural Studies. Why there
may be so much of flexibility is something that will come to realize when we talk about
the sheer interdisciplinarity of Cultural Studies.
So, what have we found till now that Cultural Studies pedagogically allows and sometimes
encourages a lot of flexibility in syllabus designing and the style of teaching? Second,
a variety of topics come in to Cultural Studies, if we understand and we shall see in a while
that culture is about everyday life. Culture is not in the way many people understand cultural
to be, say music or theater or high cultures or the great literary texts etcetera. Variety
of topics may come in, while we build a syllabus on Cultural Studies ranging from rituals to
ideas to intellectual products to mass media and so on.
So, these are the two points that we found that is flexibility both in style and teaching
and also flexibility in choosing and in choosing topics particularly when there are variety
of topics to choose from. Next a bit about how I am going to use source
material for this course. This is an important point and I need to declare right away that
I shall be referring to several texts in these forty lectures. Some would be seminal, and
would direct to the course, and would crop up from course to course, others may turn
up only in, may be featured in only one lecture, and other and some others few others would
be there in the background as reference material. So, for every lecture, there would be key
source texts. These key source texts would be declared in a slide in the beginning of
the lecture. And Cultural Studies are usually in the humanities. What happens is, the formulations,
the articulations made by critics, by scholars are important and those of you who are in
the humanities would understand how the way the words have been put. The language in which
the terms that have been used by scholars are immensely important for us and that is
why what I am going to do is, in every lecture, I am going to bring in extracts from the text
that I shall declare to be the source texts in this lecture. I shall be, for instance let me give you an
example here. This slide is one such example, for instance, here I am bringing an extract
from Douglas M. Kellner and Meenakshi Gigi Durham’s edited volume on media and Cultural
Studies and this is directly from their introductory essay and you see the marks on this slide.
What I am going to do, is I am going to first read these extracts out and then as I do in
the classroom, I shall unpack these lectures and I shall be explaining these extracts line
by line to you. So, that is the first matter as far as references
are concerned, that is, we are going to have key source texts declared at the beginning
of every lecture. And then, we shall be using extracts and I shall be mentioning the names
of the writers and I shall be also declaring whenever I am quoting from them. I shall be
declaring that these are actually not my words these are extracts taken from certain scholars. So, then what are the key source texts in
this lecture. In the first lecture, these are: Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies: Theory
and Practice, Barker’s The Sage Dictionary of Cultural Studies, John Storey’s edited
volume: What is Cultural Studies?: A Reader, The Polity Reader in Cultural Studies published
by Polity, John sorry, Tony Bennett and John Frow’s edited volume: The Sage Handbook of
Cultural Analysis, Pramod k Nayar’s: An Introduction to Cultural Studies and Clifford Greetz’s:
The Interpretation of Cultures. Now obviously, all these books, all these titles do not feature
equally in this lecture. In all lectures, you will find that sometimes only one quotation,
short quotation is taken from a book. But if I were to point to one book that you may
use as a text in a course on Cultural Studies, an introductory course on Cultural Studies,
then it would be this first book, Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies theory and Practice.
I should also tell you before going into the main part of this lecture that these lectures
are introductory as far as a level is concerned. These lectures are as being recorded under
the of NPTEL, the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning and the students at undergraduate
levels in the IITs and in the various engineering colleges form the target audience of these
lectures. But we also hope that students at higher levels for instance, students in the
M A level or students who are just beginning their P H D to study to work for towards a
P H D and those students who are also interested in Cultural Studies, it is hoped that they
would also benefit from these lectures; however, it is wise to remind ourselves that these
lectures are being designed and these lectures are being delivered keeping in mind the undergraduates
students at engineering colleges. Second, it is not possible for us to deal
with all aspects of topics within the limits of a single lecture. Those of you who are
interested or begin to have an interest in Cultural Studies should look at some of the
books that are being mentioned in the references. So, with all these caveats, let us begin our
discussion on Cultural Studies. Well so, I shall begin with a quotation from Chris Barker’s
The Sage Dictionary of Cultural Studies. The domain of Cultural Studies can be understood
as an interdisciplinary or post-disciplinary field of inquiry that explores the production
and inculcation of culture or maps of meaning. However, ‘Cultural Studies’ has no referent
to which he can point; rather it is constituted by the language-game of Cultural Studies.
That is, the theoretical terms developed and deployed by persons calling their work Cultural
Studies constitutes that which is ‘Cultural Studies’.
Now, let us unpack this extract from Chris Barker. What is the first thing that Barker
says? Barker says that a cultural study is an interdisciplinary field. And rightly so,
Cultural Studies is a field which is perhaps, the most, it would not be wrong to say that
it is the most important field as far as interdisciplinarity is concerned. It has many kindred fields that
I am going to talk about in a while, but the first characteristic of Cultural Studies as
a domain, as a subject of study, as a discipline is that, it is by nature interdisciplinary
and some also call it post-disciplinary in the sense that, there is a willing blurring
of boundaries, where one is not only interdisciplinary, that is one is not borrowing from different
domains, but one has crossed the need to be a disciplined and also to be disciplined as
it were, as a domain of study. The second point that is made by Chris Barker
is that Cultural Studies really if you say, what Cultural Studies is and there in sense
there is no referent. There is nothing to refer to say that this is Cultural Studies.
He says that Cultural Studies is constituted by several ways of speaking, this is very
important for us and I want you to listen to this carefully. Cultural Studies are constituted
by what he calls language-games. These are different ways of talking and we shall see
in a while, what is meant by different ways of talking, different ways of articulating
points regarding socio-cultural issues. So, he says, it is constituted by the language-game
of Cultural Studies and mainly it is constituted by the theoretical terms, theoretical terms
developed and deployed by scholars who call their work ‘Cultural Studies’. This is what
Cultural Studies is about. Well, of course, this first sort of exploration into Cultural
Studies, you may not be able to understand exactly what it is, but this entire lecture
and the next lecture, these two lectures are devoted to understanding Cultural Studies. Next, Barker says, Cultural studies can also
be grasped as a discursive formation. You will come across the term discursive formation
a number of times in our lectures. And we need to know at this juncture, what discursive
formation is. So, discursive formation is a group of ideas, images and practices that
provide ways of talking about and conduct associated with a particular topic, social
activity or institutional site. So, discursive formation basically is something that forms
around, forms around certain ideas and images and practices that come together to throw
light on as he says, any topic, social activity or institutional site.
I can give you an example. For instance, the discourse of science when we call science
discursive formation, then we understand that there are certain ideas, formative ideas.
There are certain images and practices inherent in science as an activity and science as a
language which throws light on, throws light on different aspects of the physical universe
on different topics, on different activities and institutional sites.
Now, when you talk about a different discourse like religion for instance, religion too is
then a discursive formation. It is, it also has its constituent ideas. It has its images
and practices and it also talks about the universe. It also talks about man, but in
very different ways. So you see, Cultural Studies is then it itself also a domain, in
the sense that, it is a discursive formation which has it is own foundational ideas, its
own terminology, its own way of speaking or ways of speaking its own images and practices.
Now, what comprises these images, these ideas, this terminology, these concepts is what would
form mostly the subject matter of this video course on Cultural Studies. Then, Baker says: That is, Cultural Studies
is constituted by a regulated way of speaking about objects. Now, you may have a discursive
formation, but one of the most important aspects of discursive formations is that, any discourse
is a way of talking about something al, but it is a regulated way of talking about something.
That is, there are certain rules, regulations and norms within a discourse, within the limits
of a discourse, within the framework of a discourse that you cannot cross or you cannot
break. So therefore, Cultural Studies is constituted,
as Barker says, by a regulated way of speaking about objects. And then, look at the slide.
And Cultural Studies coheres around key concepts, sorry ideas and concerns that include articulation,
culture, discourse, ideology, identity, popular culture, power, representation and text; these
are some of the fundamental concepts in Cultural Studies. And these are the ideas, the ideas
that go on to build discursive formation called Cultural Studies. Then, I would like to draw your attention
to an essay entitled “What is Cultural Studies anyway?” And this essay is by Richard Johnson.
Here, Johnson says that ‘The text’ is no longer, in Cultural Studies, studied for it is own
sake, nor even for the social effects it may be thought to produce, but rather for the
subjective or cultural forms which it realizes and makes available. We believe in Cultural
Studies that culture, everything about culture is constructed. Culture is the result of subjective
forms. Now, by subjective forms, I do not mean only simply feelings, but by subjective,
we mean that these cultural forms practices artifacts are produced by certain conditions
are produced by certain social conditions, by certain historical conditions and by actual
people with their own historical and personal narratives. So, in that sense, it is to show
what produces, how meaning is produced for instance.
So, objectivity is something that really does not find a place in Cultural Studies so much
so that, when we look at our lecture on Science Technology and Cultural Studies in the fourth
module, you will find that even science in the idea of pure objectivity, in science is
contested by Cultural Studies. So, what is, how did Cultural Studies come
about and we should know that Cultural Studies is a relatively new area of study and it has
its precursor domains, so to speak sociology being one, but before that we should look
at what one of the most important practitioners and theorists of Cultural Studies, Stuart
Hall has to say about the history of Cultural Studies.
Stuart Hall, in his essay Cultural Studies: Two paradigms, talks about three persons.
Three very important scholars whose works were sort of, whose works were instrumental
in giving birth so to speak to the domain or discipline Cultural Studies and they are
Raymond Williams and particularly his book Culture and Society, Richard Hoggart, his
work Uses of Literacy and EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class. Now, why these books are important is that
they form a break from previous ways of theorizing. Essentially, this break is characterized by
three things. These are: please look at the slide; these are Culturalism, Materialism
and a Marxist approach to things. Now, you could use one term for all of these and that
is, that term is materialism, in the sense that all our cultural practices, all our ideas,
all our institutions are the result of a materialist, are the result of matter really. How matter
in the sense that, it is from actual practices, it is from the material world. It is from
these that culture emerges that even ideas emerge and in our lecture on Marxism, we are
going to understand it better. Suffices us to say here that, the works of Hoggart, Williams
and EP Thompson; they constitute or give a new push to the humanities and social sciences
in that they bring in these these orientations which are called Culturalism, Materialism
and Marxism. So; obviously, when we begin to talk about
Cultural Studies, the first question that should come to our mind is ‘what is culture.’
We all of us have an idea of what culture is, but those ideas of culture need not be
the way in which culture is understood in the domain, Cultural Studies. In Cultural
Studies, we consider culture to be ordinary. We do not make a distinction between high
culture and low culture. Culture is everyday practices of people. Culture is, ordinary
culture is also defined and this comes from Raymond Williams as a way of life. Culture
is also understood further as democratized and finally culture is understood as something
that gives us meaning or something where meaning is generated where significance is generated.So,
what are the ways in which culture is seen in the discipline- cultural studies? The culture
is ordinary. It is to do with ordinary everyday practices of human beings.
Culture is a way of life. Culture is democratized and culture is to do with meaning creation
or meaning generation. All this would be clear as we look at these separately in our lectures. Therefore, it is not that you simply look,
you simply study culture or that you study cultural practices in isolation. One of the
goals of Cultural Studies is to look at the ideas that human beings have produced which
gave rise to cultural practices which are behind which are the foundation of cultural
practices. And secondly we are going to also look at the patterns that these practices
show. So, we find that both ideas and practices in different times in different spaces begin
to show certain patterns and these patterns are what is targeted by Cultural Studies and
we are supposed to find these patterns in our everyday practices and in our cultural
forms. Now, what is, how do we characterize Cultural
Studies as a methodology. I had already said a while ago that Cultural Studies does not
believe in pure objectivity. Cultural studies rather would look at the subjective elements
in cultural formations; be these individual subjectivity or a collective subjectivity. So, if you look at the slide we find that,
Cultural Studies is basically anti-positivist in its orientation. Now, what do we mean by
anti-positivist. Anti-positivism is philosophy you could say, that considers all knowledge
as uncertain, as characterized by uncertainty by provisionality. It sees every way of speaking
as a discourse with it is own regulations, with its one norms and it is in and it is
own sorry and it is own epistemology and it considers indeterminacy to be a crucial part
of all knowledge and finally, it believes that phenomena whether they are cultural or
scientific are always over determined. Over determined or over determination means that
however much we may try and again succeed in finding out the causes of events, over
determination would say that there is there would always be causes that we cannot identify
given our cognitive and our technological limitations.
It means the theory of over determination therefore, means that phenomena are over determined
that is, determined by causes over and above those that we can identify. So, uncertainty,
provisionality, discourse, indeterminacy and over determination; these are aspects of a
branch of philosophy that is called epistemology. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that
studies it; is also known as the theory of knowledge, it studies the origin, scope and
the limits of knowledge. The limits of knowledge in the sense of how under what conditions
is knowledge at all possible. So, epistemologically speaking, then anti-positivism
would accept the fact that knowledge is created alright. The knowledge has it is origins,
but knowledge also has its limiting conditions. So, under those limiting conditions, we eventually
should arrive at a proposition like this that, all knowledge is always provisional because
by it is inception or by the conditions of it is inception, it is already limited. So,
this is what Cultural Studies believes in that all knowledge is provisional and all
knowledge may work, but at the same time it is prone to change. So, let me introduce the four modules in this
video course. There are various lectures that comprise these modules. The first module is
introductory by nature and lecture one is entitled ‘Cultural Studies and introduction’.
The second, in the second lecture, we continue our deliberations on Cultural Studies and
we call it entitle it ‘understanding Cultural Studies’. The third lecture is the beginning
of a cluster of lectures really where we begin to talk about what science has to tell us
about our origins because culture is not contrary to what might be, culture is not a recent
phenomenon. Even pre-historic man had culture. And we shall see in these three or four lectures
on the scientific view of culture. We shall see how evolution has given us certain propensities
and finally given rise to the mind that creates modern culture. So, lecture three is on evolution and culture,
lecture four in module one is entitled ‘Evolutionary psychology’ in which we will look at the principles
of evolutionary psychology. Lecture five, the modern mind and it is origins. The sixth
lecture is entitled ‘Memetics’. The seventh lecture, from the seventh lecture, we have
another cluster of lectures really which are to do with theories in Cultural Studies. We
would not have time to look at all theories and so, we shall be looking at three most
important theories if I may say and these are Structuralism which is the seventh lecture.
Lectures eight and nine are devoted to Marxism and the tenth lecture in module one is devoted
to post structuralism. So, we will find that the first module introduces
Cultural Studies; talks about it is scope in the first two lectures and followed by
lectures that are devoted to the science to what science has to say about culture. And
then we have lectures that are, four lectures devoted to theories in Cultural Studies. In the second module, you will find that all
the lectures are devoted to key concepts. You found a while ago that Cultural Studies
is constituted by certain terms. Without these terms, without these key concepts, we would
fail to make any sophisticated articulations or formulations on culture. These are the
constitutive and these are and this form the repertoire of the terminology of Cultural
Studies. Therefore module two which is devoted onto Cultural Studies begins with one of the
most important concepts which is subjectivity and we had just touched upon subjectivity
a while ago. More about it in the lecture on subjectivity. Then, the next lecture is devoted to identity.
Lectures three and four are devoted to another important term ideology. Lectures five and
six are these lectures talk about representation. The seventh lecture in the second module is
devoted to power, module sorry lecture eight is on discourse and lectures nine and ten
are on gender. Now even; obviously, feminism is an important part of Cultural Studies,
but when I am talking about gender, I hope to bring that in. So, I am not devoting a
lecture separately to feminism. Now, in the third module, we include certain
terms like body, space etcetera. These are also theoretical terms, but I am bringing
them under another group break; that is, sites of Cultural Studies. In a bid to, in a bid
to discuss these terms and topics, as with a view to understanding where culture happens,
where cultural practices happen, we understood culture. By now, the definition we have is
of culture is something ordinary, culture as having to do with our everyday practices.
Culture as democratized and as meaning formation and meaning creation somewhere the meaning
is created and formed. So, if meaning is created and formed, if culture is if culture is ordinary,
if it is to do with everyday practices then, where does it happened? So, keeping that in
view, the lectures in this module are one- the body then space, time, development, language,
ethnicity race and nation, globalization, consumption and biology. Module four is the last module and it is devoted
to cultural industries and cultural forms. We begin by talking about cultural industry
and then we move on to talking to talk about the basic unit of cultural forms which is
the commodity. This lecture is followed by the third lecture entitled ‘media’, the fourth
lecture is devoted to television, lecture five is entitled ‘new media’ and the sixth
lecture is on science, technology and culture. Lecture seven talks about cyber culture and
virtual reality, lecture eight is on cultural policy and the ninth lecture is devoted to
a critique of Cultural Studies. If Cultural Studies, you will understand as you move on
with our lectures that Cultural Studies, one of the most important functions of Cultural
Studies is to critique, is to scrutinize. So, to speak of cultural forms and practices.
And by that token, Cultural Studies itself must be self-reflexive enough to critique
itself. So, we shall be looking at the critique of Cultural Studies as given to us by many
scholars and in the end we shall be also defending the domain of Cultural Studies. The last lecture
in this course is a summing up of all that brief summing up of all that we have done
in all that, we are going to look at in these series of lectures. So well, now, let us go back to the point
that, first point that Chris Barker had given us and that is the interdisciplinary mode
orientation of Cultural Studies. So, in that case, what are the disciplines from which
Cultural Studies borrows? So, the four main disciplines and this is not; obviously, an
exhaustive list. There are several other disciplines that are increasingly playing a part in the
interdisciplinary enterprise of Cultural Studies; however, we may point to four core areas really
and these are Anthropology, Sociology, Literary theory and Political economy particularly
Marxism. So, about the interdisciplinary scope of Cultural
Studies and if we really extended it, we can begin by asking ourselves this question; in
how many different ways can you study yourself as a cultural being? You are, we are beings
in cultural, we are all particles of culture, we have our everyday practices, then in how
many different ways you can study yourself as a cultural being. I am asking or I am posing
this question to you in a bid to show you that there are many domains and many disciplines
from which we can answer these questions and that is why Cultural Studies is and has to
be interdisciplinary in nature. Now, let us look at sociology. Now from sociology,
when you talk about culture, you can ask questions like these; why do we have the social systems
and arrangements that we do? From psychology, we can ask questions like why do we think
in certain ways, what does it mean to be a cognitive agent? We can talk about evolution,
brain systems, cognition, the self-other dichotomy, self-esteem; these are all if you realize,
part and parcel of what it means for us to be cultural beings with beings living in society,
to be beings that engage in cultural practices. Then science and technology for instance,
we can ask a question like how does technology affect our way of life. Now, we saw that the
way of life is nothing but culture. So, how does technology affect our culture and here,
let me bring a quotation from Winston Churchill. He says it is so beautifully. We design our
buildings and then our buildings design us. The science mostly is what is meant by technology
affecting our way of life, we design our buildings and then our building designers. Next, literature and media. Literature particularly
literary theory is very closely related to Cultural Studies. In that, many do not even
want to make a difference, a differentiation or distinction between literary studies and
Cultural Studies or literary theory and culture theory; however, from literature and media,
we may ask questions like why are the media and literature so powerful as cultural products?
Are we constructed by the media if so, how far?
Then history; how has culture involved, evolved and changed through different times, that
is here by cultural; obviously, mean how have our ways of living evolved and changed through
different times and how should we look at history how should we study history. Then, philosophy is also another domain that
is very important from cultural for Cultural Studies particularly, I would say epistemology.
In philosophy, we find questions like which are important for Cultural Studies questions,
like how do we attribute meaning to our existence through our value and belief systems. Then,
language. From language, we have questions like how does language construct culture and
can cultural be read as a language. We have indeed whole lecture in this third module
that is devoted to language and more about it in that lecture.
Economics; how does wealth and it is distribution determine our way of life. This is taken up
by the two lectures or in the two lectures on Marxism. So, you see that there are several
domains that from which we can borrow or we can borrow some formulations from which we
can oppose certain questions and also look for answers. Now, if you recall, Cultural
Studies has no referent really as Barker had said, Cultural Studies is all about talking
in a certain way and so, when we sort of a language-games as it were, and when we begin
to talk in certain ways, we need the help or we need to be interdisciplinary because
the questions and their answers cannot come only from language-games. We need certain
areas from which these formulations would have to be made. So, the key concepts that are, which are the
guiding statements for our course are those that have been articulated again by Chris
Barker in Cultural Studies. That is, culture is not given that, I said a while ago, culture
is always constructed. Culture is never natural. It is constructed by human beings; meanings
are generated and constructed by us. So, culture is not a given, it is constructed and hence
can be studied systematically. Then, the second point made by Barker is that,
culture is not absolute or static, but changing and dynamic. Followed by this statement, there
are reasons and forces; example, political economy behind cultural changes. And power
is the chief arbiter of the kind of lives that we live. So, as I said, there are many
ways in which you can talk about Cultural Studies, many ways in which the syllabus can
be devised, but for our course, it is important for us to delimit the area within which we
are talking and in this sense, Chris Barker’s formulations on culture and Cultural Studies
are important for us. We need to make a very important differentiation
or distinction at this juncture, between Cultural Studies and the study of culture. Many would
say, this is a distinction between Cultural Studies and anthropology. Now, in Cultural
Studies, it is very important to remember that, even though we do not, even though we
talk about cultural practices, even though our data are they are still practices that
we do, that are not all about Cultural Studies these are the study of culture.
We talk about the culture practices and forms importantly in terms of they being symbolic
forms and they being signifying practices. These are forms that are symbolic in nature.
These are forms that signify something. Now, the symbolic aspect of Cultural Studies and
the signifying practices aspect would be talked about in our lectures on structuralism and
post structuralism. Suffice it at this juncture too, for us to simply understand that Cultural
Studies is not exactly the study of culture, in the sense, cultural artifacts and forms
are our target all right, but we talk about how meaning is formed through symbolic forms
and signifying practices. And how they how they affect or how they impact our subjectivity
or will create our subjectivity and our identities. So, if we are asked, where, when Cultural
Studies, as a discipline actually began. We said a while ago that Cultural Studies, as
a discipline is relatively new discipline and those they were sort of precursor disciplines
which gave rise to this interdisciplinary enterprise. For instance, we saw anthropology,
sociology and literature and language, but we can in fact, point to specific date as
far as Cultural Studies or rather the birth of Cultural Studies is concerned. And this
is the establishment of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1964 at the University
of Birmingham. And its first director was Richard Hoggart and followed by Stuart Hall.
So, Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall are the two most important persons. They both of them
where directors of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies and as we saw a while ago,
Richard Hoggart along with Raymond Williams and EP Thompson, they constituted break in
previous ways of thinking and orientations of thinking in the sense, that it was a materialist
understanding of ourselves as cultural beings, as social beings that was the chief orientation
and the chief methodology. Contemporary Cultural Studies; however, is
slightly different. It has taken on different hues and colors. In that, there are
three important orientations or three important,
three important ways in which we talk about culture today and these are the semiological
that is to do with signs. Second is the importance of power and politics in our cultural lives
and third policy or policy making or decisions regarding the production, distribution and
consumption of cultural products. So, contemporary Cultural Studies does not do away with the
materialist approach, but there has been a change over the years, particularly with coming
in of post structuralism and there is, we have a lecture, separate lecture on post structuralism
where we talk about certain break again with previous ways of thinking. So, semiology,
politics and policy; this is what characterizes contemporary Cultural Studies. So, I would like to end by talking about this
cultural term as given to us by Bennett and Frow and I am quoting from Bennett and Frow:
“On the one hand there has been a clear shift in the social sciences over the last twenty
or so years from a primary focus on social, political and economic structures, understood
as distinct from and in some sense prior to their ‘cultural’ embedding, to an understanding
that the particularities of this embedding- the ways of life, the patterns of everyday
interaction, the systems of meaning- making- are in crucial ways formative of social institution.”
So, what we talked just a while ago, in the previous slide about this change that has
been brought in by the cultural turn is articulated by Bennett and Frow, in their introductory
essay on The Sage Handbook of Cultural Analysis. Further, they go on to say “this shift in
the social sciences has entailed a breaking-down of the dichotomy between institutional and
symbolic structures and practices, a recognition that economic processes or technological systems
or political frameworks or kinship structures are always made up, among things, among other
things, of discourses, of the beliefs, of negotiations amongst social actors, of the
indeterminacies of action occurring in time. So, here we see that scholars like Bennett
and Frow and many others have so identified that, yes there is a break from talking only
about institutions and economic structures to talking about discourses to talking about
negotiations and to talking about as we see in the previous slide, the systems of meaning-making,
that is of semiology. You will come to understand more of this,
all this may seem to be rather alien to you as perhaps as students of engineering and
sciences and technology, you are not used to this way of talking about culture. Many
of the things may have been taken for us, by us for granted. So, I hope, as the lectures
unfold, you will be able to understand because we will be able to spend time on so many of
the key concepts that have just come up here today, it seems out of nowhere. So, slowly
as you begin, as you stay with me and you we begin we begin to discuss these thing,
then all of these would seem, by the end of these lectures, all of these would be very
clear to you. So, we shall now move on to what we call the
discussion. The discussion really comprises a couple of questions that may be put to you
in exams or questions that you may pose to yourselves also, to find out how much you
have understood. So, if we ask a question like this, delineate
the domain of Cultural Studies, then you would say that we may talk about Cultural Studies
and delineate it is domain through the words of Chris Barker and we will take help from
Barker’s definitions to delineate domain of Cultural Studies and we shall say, then that
Cultural Studies first is an interdisciplinary field, in that it borrows from several kindred
domains like anthropology, sociology, literature, language etcetera or political economy and
that because of the shear interdisciplinarity Cultural Studies itself does not have disciplinary
boundaries so much so that, many do not want to call it a discipline and hence it is also
a post-disciplinary one. That cultural studies have no referent really
what is Cultural Studies is. We are not really referring to anything other than the very
language-games. The way or different ways of talking about culture, about cultural practices,
about knowledge and that it is, as Barker says, it is constituted by language-games
and the theoretical terms, it is constituted by theoretical terms that have been constructed
in a bid to talk in different ways about culture. Now, the fact the important fact here is that,
we will be talking about this later in one of the lectures is that the theoretical terms
help us to talk about things in different ways; in ways that have not been really used
before and even as we talk about things in different ways, we re-describe and re-signify
things. What happens is, all the habits and patterns of thinking, these subside and we
begin to see things in a new way. This itself is a beginning of political practice where
we show the working of politics and power in our culture lives. Then, we can also say that Cultural Studies
is a discursive formation. And by discursive formation, we understand that it is a formation
from made by a group of ideas, images and practices. It is a way of talking and if you
remember, we talked about science being a discursive formation, religion being a discursive
formation that and both have different ideas and different images and practices. So, also
all other domains are different ways and discursive formations. So, Cultural Studies is also regulated way
of talking. It is not that you can say anything and everything within Cultural Studies because
it is interdisciplinary. There are also rules, regulations and norms within which you can
talk or you can build this course in Cultural Studies. And these ways of speaking, they
also cohere as Barker says, around concepts, ideas that concerns, which include words like
power, identity, representation, discourse; all these are part of our lectures on Cultural
Studies. Then, who are considered the progenitors of
Cultural Studies? Then the answer here is the one given by Stuart Hall that scholars
like Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart who are known as cultural materialists, who
argued from the point of view of materialism and not of idealism or not from metaphysical
point of view here, matter is paramount. So, Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart and E P
Thompson are the scholars who are identified by critics like Stuart Hall and others to
be the most important precursors. So, to speak of Cultural Studies as a discipline Then, how is culture defined in Cultural Studies?
Culture is not defined in the sort of common sensical way of culture as referring to cultural
products like the theater, like dance, music, high forms like classical music etcetera.
Culture is ordinary culture is a way of life. In Cultural Studies, it is understood as democratized
and importantly culture is where meaning happens; where meaning and signification are generated.
So it is in this sense that, we have to understand culture in Cultural Studies and this is what
is going to guide us in our understanding of culture.
Well so, we come to the end of the first lecture and yes I understand so many terms being thrown
around. So, many new things being talked about by, but I will assure you that, as we begin
to take each of these up one by one in the lectures, these would definitely be easy for
you and you would also, after these lectures, find that we have all we have grown. Cultural
Studies is an area that allows you to grow, why because it talks about it is, about you,
it is about us, it talks about us as cultural beings and remember what is the question that
we had posed in the beginning; why do we live the kind of lives that we live? And we had
said, after Socrates the Greek philosopher that the unexamined life is not worth living.
So, I invite you to examine life, to examine the kind of lives that we are living and to
find out the reasons behind why we live the kind of lives that we live.
Thank you so much.

  1. Thank you Doctor. for your authoritative and comprehensive opinions . This lecture really helped me to grab the fundamentals of this exciting and happening field

  2. i really want to go to study in india but the major problem for me is the indian accent it's very hard to understand

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