TOPIC : *CULTURAL STUDIES*
Discussion on Cultural Studies have gained currency with the publication of Richard Hoggart‘s Use of Literacy (1957) and Raymond Williams‘Culture and Society (1958), and with the establishment of Birmingham Centre for is Contemporary Cultural Studies in England in 1968.
Since culture is now considered as the source of art and literature, cultural criticism has gained ground, and therefore, Raymond Williams’ term “cultural materialism”, Stephen Greenblatt‘s “cultural poetics” andBakhtin‘s term “cultural prosaic”, have become significant in the field of Cultural Studies and cultural criticism.
The works of Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart with the Birmingham Centre, later expanded through the writings of David Morley, Tony Bennett and others. Cultural Studies is interested in the process by which power relations organize cultural artefacts (food habits, music, cinema, sport events etc.). It looks at popular culture and everyday life, which had hitherto been dismissed as “inferior” and unworthy of academic study.
Cultural Studies’ approaches :
1) transcend the confines of a particular discipline such as literary criticism or history
2) are politically engaged
3) reject the distinction between “high” and “low” art or “elite” and “popular” culture
4) analyse not only the cultural works but also the means of production.
In order to understand the changing political circumstances of class, politics and culture in the UK, scholars at the CCCS turned to the work of Antonio Gramsci who modified classical Marxism in seeing culture as a key instrument of political and social control. In his view, capitalists are not only brute force (police, prison, military) to maintain control, but also penetrate the everyday culture of working people. Thus the key rubric for Gramsci and for cultural studies is that of cultural hegemony. Edgar and Sedgwick point out that the theory of hegemony was pivotal to the development of British Cultural Studies. It facilitated analysis of the ways in which subaltern groups actively resist and respond to political and economic domination.
The approach of Raymond Williams and CCCS was clearly marxIst and poststructuralist, and held subject identities and relationships as textual, constructed out of discourse. Cultural Studies believes that we cannot “read” cultural artefacts only within the aesthetic realm, rather they must be studied within the social and material perspectives; i.e., a novel must be read not only within the generic conventions and history of the novel, but also in terms of the publishing industry and its profit, its reviewers, its academic field of criticism, the politics of awards and the hype of publicity machinery that sells the book. Cultural Studies regards the cultural artefact like the tricolour or Gandhi Jayanti as a political sign, that is part of the “disourse” of India, as reinforcing certain ideological values, and concealing oppressive conditions of patriarchal ideas of the nation, nationalism and national identity
In Cultural Studies, representation is a key concept and denotes a language in which all objects and relationships get defined, a language related to issues of class, power and ideology, and situated within the context of “discourse”. The cultural practice of giving dolls to girls can be read within the patriarchal discourse of femininity that girls are weaker and delicate and need to be given soft things, and that grooming, care etc. are feminine duties which dolls will help them learn. This discourse of femininity is itself related to the discourse of masculinity and the larger context of power relations in culture. Identity, for Culture Studies, is constituted through experience, which involves representation – the consumption of signs, the making of meaning from signs and the knowledge of meaning.
Cultural Studies views everyday life as fragmented, multiple, where meanings are hybridized and contested; i.e., identities that were more or less homogeneous in terms of ethnicities and patterns of consumption, are now completely hybrid, especially in the metropol is. With the globalization of urban spaces, local cultures are linked to global economies, markets and needs, and hence any study of contemporary culture has to examine the role of a non-local market/ money which requires a postcolonial awareness of the exploitative relationship between the First World and the Third World even today.
Cultural Studies is interested in lifestyle because lifestyle :
1) is about everyday life
2) defines identity
3) influences social relations
4) bestows meaning and value to artefacts in a culture.
In India, after economic liberalization, consumption has been seen as a marker of identity. Commodities are signs of identity and lifestyle and consumption begins before the actual act of shopping; it begins with the consumption of the signs of the commodity.