Introducting cultural study


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Introducting cultural study

  2. 2. What is Cultural Study?  Raymond Williams: Culture includes the organization of production, the structure of the family, the structure of institutions which express or govern social relationships, the characteristic forms through which members of the society communicate .
  3. 3. (cont.)  Clifford Geertz (social scientist): Culture is simply the ensemble of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Margaret Mead (anthropologist): Culture is the learned behaviour of a society or a subgroup.
  4. 4. (cont.)  On the basis of those definitions, culture seems to be (almost) everything.  Cultural studies is the study of (almost) everything.
  5. 5. The Subject of Cultural Study  It does not have a clearly defined subject area.  It is used to describe and study a whole range of practices.  It also lacks its own principles, theories or methods. So, how does it function?
  6. 6. (cont.)  It functions by borrowing freely from social science disciplines and all branches of humanities and the arts, e.g. anthropology, sociology, linguistics, literary criticism, philosophy, etc.
  7. 7. Characteristics of Cultural Study  It aims to examine its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power.  Its objective is to understand culture in all its complex forms and to analyse the social and political context within which it manifest itself.
  8. 8. (cont.)  It attempts to expose and reconcile the division of knowledge, to overcome the split between tacit (local) and objective (universal) knowledge.  It aims to understand and change the structures of dominance everywhere, but in industrial capitalist societies in particular.
  9. 9. How to Do Cultural Study? A major concept is sign. It has 3 basic characteristics: o o o it has a concrete form It refers to something other than itself It can be recognized by most people as a sign.
  10. 10. (cont.)  Signs are organized as codes. A signifying structure composed of sings and codes is a text that can be read for its sings and encoded meanings. Please consult to any references on structuralism, poststructuralism, and semiotics.
  11. 11. (cont.)  The process, and the products, that gives signs their particular meaning is representation. Through representation, abstract and ideological ideas are given concrete form. e.g. The idea or sign ‘Indian’ is given a specific ideological shape in the way ‘Indians’ have been represented in colonial literature.
  12. 12. (cont.)  Those concepts are neatly packaged in discourse. It often represents a structure of knowledge and power. Discursive analysis exposes these structures and locates the discourse within wider historical, cultural and social relations.
  13. 13. The Origin of Cultural Study  It derives from the CCCS (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Study) at the Univ. of Birmingham established in 1964.  The founding fathers are: Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, Stuart Hall.  They concern with the changing of English cultural life.
  14. 14. Major Issues in Cultural Study  Identity and Difference  Representation  Spaces and Places  High Culture/Popular Culture  Subject, Bodies, Selves  Consumption
  15. 15. Identity and Difference  Identity is the way we may choose to represent ourselves and act out our thoughts, beliefs and emotions in the social world.  Identity may be bestowed by others as well as chosen by ourselves.  Identity is a marker of difference.
  16. 16. (cont.)  Identities are relational and contingent rather than permanently fixed.  Identity positions are neither neutral nor equal.  There are 2 perspectives on identity: o Essentialist: there is a ‘true,’ authentic, fixed set of characteristics that belong to certain identity.
  17. 17. (cont.) o Non-essentialist: it questions whether it is possible to speak of a ‘true’ identity that is fixed for all time and in all places. Identity may also reflect power struggles. ● The increasing of globalization creates identity crisis. ●
  18. 18. Representation  • • • ● ● 3 possible senses to the word ‘represent’: To stand in To speak or act on behalf of To re-present. Meanings are represented via signifying practices. In signifying practices signs are assembled according to sets of codes in order to represent the mental conceptualizations shared by a particular grouping of people.
  19. 19. (Cont.)    • • • • Signifying practices come in material forms: speech, written word, visual images, music, body language, clothing, environments, etc.) Meanings can only be achieved by those who shared the similar systems of representation. Systems of representations are constituted in: The signs we use The categorization and classification of signs The codes that govern how we assemble the signs The signifying practices
  20. 20. (Cont.)     • • • In system of representation signs are encoded and decoded. Encoding is using signs in certain ways and in particular relations to other signs in ways that signify meaning. Readers with their own histories and understanding decode/read the signs. 3 positions of reading encoded signs: Dominant reading Negotiated reading Oppositional reading
  21. 21. (Cont.)     Discourse is when systems of representation circulate a set of meanings about a certain topic area. Discourse : the network of statements, images, stories and practices by which certain beliefs or a set of ideas about a particular topic are circulated and sustained in order to naturalize these as self-evident or common sense. Discourse is power relation. discourse is a social act which may promote or oppose the dominant ideology.
  22. 22. Footwear Ads
  23. 23. (Cont.)
  24. 24. Cosmetics Ads
  25. 25. (cont.)
  26. 26. (cont.)
  27. 27. High and Popular Culture Several definitions of popular culture (Storey 2001): Culture that is widely favoured or well liked by many people. Culture that is left over after we have decided what is high culture. Popular culture is considered as residual category that fail to meet the required standards to qualify as high culture. Popular culture as inferior.
  28. 28. (cont.)  Popular culture as “mass culture”.  Popular culture is the culture that originates from ‘the people’.  Popular culture as a site of struggle between the subordinate groups and the dominant groups.  Popular culture is postmodern culture that no longer recognize the distinction between high and popular culture.
  29. 29. (cont.) Those definitions have in common that popular culture is culture that only emerged following industrialization and urbanization.
  30. 30. (cont.) A crucial concept in the study of popular culture is ideology. There are 5 (of many) ways of understanding ideology (Storey): Ideology can refer to systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular group of people. Ideology is a certain masking, distortion, or concealment. It produces ‘false consciousness’.
  31. 31. (cont.)  Ideology is intended to draw attention to the way in which texts always present a particular image of the world.  Ideology operates mainly at the level of connotations, the secondary, often unconscious meanings that texts and practices carry, or can be made to carry.  Ideology is the practices of every day life.