where are we now?

A recent post at homecooked theory asks some interesting questions about the state of contemporary cultural studies. One that particularly caught my attention inquired after the whereabouts of the many students who had taken cultural studies courses in the last twenty years or so. This was part of a broader musing as to who the next generation are – those who will take over the work of the some of the “elder statesmen” of the discipline. For me this issue speaks to the difficulty of networking and discipline building. Speaking I suppose from a particularly regional perspective (where if you are looking for a coherent discipline you will be sadly disappointed) I find this discussion can really go begging. My attempts at becoming part of what we might optimistically call “cultural studies” at conferences etc have been right old failures. I think I just don’t have the knack for this aspect of academia. What I have found in my own location is that it is the unexpected connections with people in other disciplines that have proved the most engaging academic encounters…often forcing me outside my academic comfort zone and asking me to look at my own work with fresh eyes.

The post at homecooked theory also notes that the political potential of cultural studies is that it provides a set of tools with which to critically engage with the world in which we live. I don’t disagree, but I often find myself questioning the value of this kind of work. Sure, my research is interesting and valuable to me…but the real challenge is to find a way that it can resonate with the lives and concerns of people outside the academic institution. This is much more of a challenge…and sometimes the skeptic in me wonders whether it’s actually necessary to even worry about it.


2 Responses to “where are we now?”

  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Wendy,

    Nice to find you! I had a funny conversation last night with a colleague who was trying to explain why I am perfectly suited to cultural studies.

    He was saying that academics find the discipline they belong in as an answer to a personal problem: e.g. he became a sociologist because he had trouble working out how to be social; and I am in CS because I struggle to fit in with ordinary culture. I find what’s ‘normal’ fascinating and kind of miraculous.

    Maybe the political comes in to it when you start to think about how much gets done in the name of what’s normal…

    Thanks for reading!

  2. Wendy says:

    Hi Melissa
    Yes i think you might be right …maybe the real job of cultural studies is question the “normal” through exposing those normalising processes in which society has so much invested. Perhaps this is why some find it threatening (think the ongoing debate over the so called infiltration of postmodern theory into schools).

    Interesting to consider why we are drawn to various disciplines and areas of research.

    i love television comedy at a very basic level because if it is done well it makes me laugh. But really, good comedy can do what you just described as the political task of cultural studies…expose and critique social norms. maybe that’s why I am drawn to both these things.

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