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Disturbing the peace: writing in the cultural studies classroom.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to assess what Cultural Studies is either as a political project or as a postdisciplinary practice.(1) For some theorists, it is precisely the emergence of Cultural Studies outside of the university and its articulation with various social movements such as feminism, rather than its academic location, that have helped to prevent it from being incorporated into the university as merely an additive to the established canon.(2) For others, Cultural Studies must be developed with regard not only to the changing nature and specificity of the problems and conflicts it addresses, but also to the legacy of its history as a preeminently political and oppositional practice.(3)

It is not my intention here to replay the debate regarding the real history of Cultural Studies, though this is an important issue. Instead, I want to analyze how certain features of the history of Cultural Studies might inform its present and future politics. More specifically, I want to focus on the importance of pedagogy as a central aspect of Cultural Studies and writing as a pedagogical practice. In doing so, I want to develop a notion of border writing as a form of cultural production forged among the shifting borderlands of a politics of representation, identity, and struggle. In part, I am concerned with a notion of cultural recovery in which the production of knowledge, subjectivity, and agency can be addressed as ethical, political, and pedagogical issues. In part, this suggests critically appropriating from Cultural Studies the insights it has accrued as it has moved historically from its narrow concerns with class and language to its more recent analysis of the politics of race, gender, and colonialism. This is not meant to suggest that the history of Cultural Studies needs to be laid out in great detail as some sort of foundational exegesis. On the contrary, Cultural Studies needs to be approached historically as a mix of founding moments, transformative challenges, and self-critical interrogations (Nelson 32). It is precisely the rupturing spirit informing elements of its postdisciplinary practice, social activism, and historical awareness that prompts my concern for the current lacunae in Cultural Studies regarding the theoretical and political importance of pedagogy as a founding moment in its legacy. At the same time, it is important to stress that the general indifference of many theorists to pedagogy as a form of cultural practice does an injustice to the politically charged legacy of Cultural Studies, one that points to the necessity for combining self-criticism with a commitment to transforming existing social and political problems.

Neither critical educators nor Cultural Studies theorists can ignore the relationship of pedagogy to Cultural Studies in the current historical juncture. Indeed, such indifference warrants a deep suspicion of the viability of the political project that informs such a view of Cultural Studies. Central to my analysis as well as to the politics of my own location as a teacher and cultural worker is the assumption that Cultural Studies must be grounded, in part, in a project that deepens and expands the possibilities for radical democracy both in the United States and abroad. Democracy in this sense is the discursive face and lived experiences of struggling to expand the conditions for social justice, freedom, and equality across all the major political and economic spheres that shape, position, and locate people in everyday life. It is within this project that I want to address the importance of writing and pedagogy as central elements of an insurgent Cultural Studies.

In what follows, I want to argue that while Cultural Studies represents an ensemble of diverse discourses, it is an important historical, political, and cultural formation that points to a number of issues that need to be addressed in pedagogical terms. I then want to provide a rationale for re-inserting the language of pedagogy and politics back into the discourse of Cultural Studies as part of a broader attempt to expand and deepen what I will call a pedagogy of Cultural Studies. Finally, I will explore how I take up the issue of pedagogy as a cultural practice through the use of writing in my class. In part, this section not only discusses border writing as a form of pedagogical practice, but also suggests a connection between some of the central themes of Cultural Studies and writing as a cultural practice.


It is generally argued that Cultural Studies is largely defined through its analysis of the interrelationship between culture and power, particularly with regard to the production, reception, and diverse use of texts. Texts in this case constitute a wide range of aural, visual, and printed signifiers. These are often taken up as part of a broader attempt to analyze how individual and social identities are mobilized, engaged, and transformed within circuits of power informed by issues of race, gender, class, ethnicity, and other social formations. All of these concerns point to the intellectual and institutional borders that police, contain, and engage meaning as a site of social struggle. Moreover, one of the emerging theoretical features of Cultural Studies is to refute the notion that the struggle over meaning is primarily about the struggle over language and textuality.(4) On the contrary, a number of Cultural Studies theorists have named terror and oppression in concrete terms and have addressed how domination is manifested in a variety of sites, on a number of different levels, and how it can be understood in historical and relational terms through a variety of articulations and categories.(5) In fact, Cultural Studies draws its theoretical inspiration from feminism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and a host of other areas. Lawrence Grossberg claims that Cultural Studies as a strategic practice performs two functions: first, it keeps alive the importance of political work in an "age of diminishing possibilities." That is, it radicalizes the notion of hope by politicizing rather than romanticizing it. Second, it refuses to immobilize a commitment to political work in the frozen theoretical winter of orthodoxy. By responding to the specificity of history it leaves open the political cartography that informs how it names both its own strategies and the "world of political struggle" (We Gotta Get Out 18). For Grossberg, the notion that Cultural Studies is unstable, open, and always contested becomes the basis for its rewriting as both the condition for ideological self-criticism and constructing social agents within rather than outside historical struggles. Grossberg writes:

|C~ultural studies assumes that history -- its shape, its seams, its outcomes -- is never guaranteed. As a result, doing cultural studies takes work, including the kind of work deciding what cultural studies is, of making cultural studies over again and again. Cultural studies constructs itself as it faces new questions and takes up new positions. In that sense, doing cultural studies is always risky and never totally comfortable. It is fraught with inescapable tensions (as well as with real pleasures). In the U.S., the rapid institutional success of cultural studies has made it all a bit too easy. Cultural studies has to be wary of anything that makes its work too easy, that erases the real battles, both theoretical and political, that have to be waged, that defines the answers before it even begins. (18-19)

I want to take Grossberg at his word and argue that Cultural Studies is still too rigidly tied to the modernist, academic disciplinary structures that it often criticizes. This is not to suggest that it does not adequately engage the issue of academic disciplines. In fact, this is one of its most salient characteristics.(6) What it fails to do is critically address a major prop of disciplinarity, which is the notion of pedagogy as an unproblematic vehicle for transmitting knowledge. Lost here is the attempt to understand pedagogy as a mode of cultural criticism for questioning the very conditions under which knowledge and identities are produced. Of course, theorists such as Larry Grossberg, Stanley Aronowitz, and others do engage the relationship between Cultural Studies and pedagogy, but they constitute a small minority.(7) The haunting issue here is, what is it about pedagogy that allows Cultural Studies theorists to ignore it?

One answer may lie in the refusal of Cultural Studies theorists either to take schooling seriously as a site of struggle or to probe how traditional pedagogy produces particular forms of subjectification, how it constructs students through a range of subject positions. Of course, within radical educational theory, there is a long history of developing critical discourses of the subject around pedagogical issues.(8)

Another reason Cultural Studies theorists have devoted little attention to pedagogy may be the disciplinary terrorism that leaves the marks of its legacy on all areas of the humanities and liberal arts. Pedagogy is often deemed unworthy of being taken up as a serious subject. Even popular culture has more credibility than pedagogy. This can be seen not only in the general absence of any discussion of pedagogy in Cultural Studies texts, but also in those studies in the humanities that have begun to engage pedagogical issues. Even in these works there is a willful refusal to acknowledge some of the important theoretical gains in pedagogy that have been made in the last twenty years.(9) Within this silence lurk the imperatives of a disciplinary policing, a refusal to cross academic borders, and a shoring up of the imperatives of originality, competitiveness, and elitism. Of course, composition studies, one of the few fields in the humanities that does take pedagogy seriously, occupies a status as disparaged as the field of education.(10) The legacy of academic elitism and professionalism still exercises a strong influence in the field of Cultural Studies, in spite of its alleged democratization of social knowledge.


In making my case for the importance of pedagogy as a central aspect of Cultural Studies, I first want to analyze the role that pedagogy played in the early founding stages of the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies. I then want to define more specifically the central dimensions of pedagogy as a cultural practice. But before I address these two important moments of critical pedagogy as a form of cultural politics, I think it is important to stress that the concept of pedagogy must be used with respectful caution. Not only are there different versions of what constitutes critical pedagogy, but there is no generic definition that can be applied to the term. At the same time, there are important theoretical insights and practices that weave through various approaches to critical pedagogy. It is precisely these insights, which often define a common set of problems, that serve to delineate critical pedagogy as a set of conditions articulated within the context of a particular political project -- a project that takes up these problems differently within the specificity of particular contexts. These problems include but are not limited to the relationships between knowledge and power, language and experience, ethics and authority, student agency and transformative politics, and teacher location and student formations.

This is precisely how Raymond Williams addressed the issue of pedagogy in his discussion of the emergence of Cultural Studies in Britain. For Williams, pedagogy offered the opportunity to link cultural practice with the development of radical cultural theories. Not only did pedagogy connect questions of form and content, it also introduced a sense of how teaching, learning, textual studies, and knowledge could be addressed as a political issue that foregrounded considerations of power and social agency. According to Williams, Cultural Studies in the 1930s and 1940s emerged directly from the pedagogical work that was going on in Adult Education. The specificity of the content and context of adult education provided Cultural Studies with a number of issues that were to direct its subsequent developments in Birmingham. These included the refusal to accept the limitations of established academic boundaries and power structures, the demand for linking literature to the life situations of the adult learners, and the call that schooling be empowering rather than merely humanizing. Williams is quite adamant in refuting "encyclopedia articles dating the birth of Cultural Studies from this or that book in the late 'fifties." He goes on to say that:

the shift of perspective about the teaching of art and literature and their relation to history and to contemporary society began in Adult Education, it didn't happen anywhere else. It was when it was taken across by people with that experience to the Universities that it was suddenly recognized as a subject. It is in these and other similar ways that the contribution of the process itself to social change itself, and specifically to learning, has happened. ("Adult Education"; see also "Future" 151-62)

For Williams there is more at stake here than reclaiming the history of Cultural Studies. He is most adamant in making clear that the "deepest impulse |informing Cultural Studies~ was the desire to make learning part of the process of social change itself" ("Future" 158). It is precisely this attempt to broaden the notion of the political by making it more pedagogical that reminds us of the importance of pedagogy as a cultural practice. In this context, pedagogy deepens and extends the study of culture and power by addressing not only how culture is shaped, produced, circulated, and transformed, but also how it is actually taken up by human beings within specific settings and circumstances. It becomes an act of cultural production, a form of "writing" in which the process by which power is inscribed on the body and implicated in the production of desire, knowledge, and values begins not with a particular claim to postdisciplinary knowledge but with real people articulating and rewriting their lived experiences within, rather than outside, history.

The importance of pedagogy to the content and context of Cultural Studies lies in the relevance it has for illuminating how knowledge and subjectivities are produced in a variety of sites including schools. Pedagogy, in this sense, offers an articulatory concept for understanding how power and knowledge configure in the production, reception, and transformation of subject positions, forms of ethical address, and "desired versions of a future human community" (Simon 15). By refuting the objectivity of knowledge and asserting the partiality of all forms of pedagogical authority, critical pedagogy initiates an inquiry into the relationship between cultural work, authority, and the securing of particular cultural practices, and as a mode of cultural politics takes as an object of study the relationship between the possibilities for social agency expressed in a range of human capacities and the social forms that often constrain or enable them.

The politics of critical pedagogy are radical but not doctrinaire. That is, critical pedagogy self-consciously operates from a perspective in which teaching and learning are committed to expanding rather than restricting the opportunities for students and others to be social, political, and economic agents. As agents, students and others need to learn how to take risks, to understand how power works differently as both a productive and dominating force, to be able to "read" the world from a variety of perspectives, and to be willing to think beyond the commonsense assumptions that govern everyday existence. Critical pedagogy engages experience in order to inquire into the conditions of its production, authorization, and effects. What is radical about the relationship between pedagogy and the issue of experience is that it addresses the inner workings of experience, how it functions to produce knowledge, and how it might be implicated in the construction of forms of subjectification. Politicizing the relationship between thought and experience points to a pedagogical practice in which cultural workers can offer "questions, analyses, visions and practical options that people can pursue in their attempts to participate in the determination of various aspects of their lives. . . . Required is a practice rooted in an ethical-political vision that attempts to take people beyond the world they already know but in a way that does not insist on a fixed set of altered meanings" (Simon 46-47).

Defined as an attempt to alter experience in the interest of expanding the possibilities for human agency and social justice, critical pedagogy makes visible the need for social relations that inform a number of considerations that cut across the diverse terrain of Cultural Studies.


In what follows, I want to describe how I use writing as a pedagogical practice to transgress certain dominant assumptions about the meaning of schooling, the discourse of authority, the relationship between language and experience, and the role of social responsibility within the politics of my own location as a university teacher. Most of the classes I teach at Penn State University are graduate courses in education and Cultural Studies. The students who take my courses are mostly working-class males and females, generally between the ages of 25 and 60. Very few of the students are familiar with the theoretical discourses of Cultural Studies and critical pedagogy. In the past, I have tried to organize my courses around selected critical texts, combining introductory lectures with a seminar format in which students were asked to engage the texts actively by reading them oppositionally. Though this approach attempted to make the class more democratic, it failed to unsettle the kinds of social relations that characterize teacher-centered environments. The reasons are numerous and they include the following. First, many students felt intimidated by the language of theory. They often noted at some point in the class that the assigned texts were too difficult to read, they didn't understand their practical application to education, or they simply did not feel comfortable speaking through a discourse that seemed foreign to them. Second, many students have not problematized the ways in which traditional schooling has shaped their perceptions of power, learning, and identity. Many of the students in my classes believed that either their own voices did not count for much or that the only role for students in the class was to accept what was dispensed to them as knowledge rather than either raise questions about taking control over the conditions of the production of knowledge or engage the classroom texts critically in light of their own experiences, histories, and concerns. Thirdly, whenever class discussion did occur it was more often than not dominated by males, especially white males, in spite of the fact that women often constituted over 50% of my classes. Moreover, when students did speak they often looked at me rather than direct their remarks to other students. In this instance, they were positioning me as the authorizing agent for their discourse and for some feedback.

It became clear to me very quickly that in spite of my use of oppositional material and the seminar format of the class, I was reproducing a set of pedagogical relations that did not decenter authority, that, on the contrary, undermined my efforts both to provide students with the opportunity to speak in a safe space and to appropriate power in the class in order to deconstruct the texts and engage in collective self-criticism and a critique of the politics of my location as a teacher.

In the first semester of the 1992-1993 school year, I taught a new course called Postcolonialism, Race, and Critical Pedagogy. In this course, I attempted to address some of the above problems by organizing a series of pedagogical practices around particular writing assignments that helped to create what can be called, to use Homi Bhabha's phrase, a "third space" in the classroom. But before I articulate the specifics of the pedagogical practices that I employed, I want to mention a specific tension that I had to address in the classroom and in my own teaching.

Like many teachers, academics, and other cultural workers, I felt that the most substantive aspect of my pedagogy centered on defining my own goals for education along with the politics of my own location as a teacher. For example, my overriding pedagogical project was rooted in an attempt at majority democratic education, that is, an education whose aim was to advance the ideological and lived relations necessary for students at least to interrogate the possibility of addressing schooling as a site of ongoing struggle over the "social and political task of transformation, resistance, and radical democratization" (Butler 13). This is a project that has continually driven my own politics and pedagogy regardless of the specific courses I have taught in the university. In looking back at this project, I have fewer reservations about its political importance than I do about the pedagogical practice of removing it from the actual social formations that shaped students' histories and lived experiences, which served to undo its most promising possibilities. In other words, by not paying more attention to what it meant to give students more control over the conditions of their own knowledge production, I reproduced the binarism of being politically enlightened in my theorizing and pedagogically wrong in my organization of concrete class relations. Overcoming this binarism was a major goal behind the reorganization of my pedagogy in the Postcolonialism, Race, and Critical Pedagogy class. Developing a series of reading and writing activities as the basis of the new course helped me to work through and resist the negative effects of my own authority as a teacher. In what follows, I want to spell out how I used border writing less as technical exercise in skill development than as a form of cultural production that more closely articulated the relationship between my political project as a progressive teacher and the underlying principles and practices that informed the organization and character of my class.

My use of writing assignments was closely linked to getting students to theorize their own experiences rather than articulate the meaning of other peoples' theories. The assignments were designed to get students to examine how representations signify and position students through the institutional and ideological authority they carry in the dominant culture. Moreover, the writing assignments were constructed so as to give students the opportunity to acknowledge their own emotional and affective investments in issues regarding race, colonialism, and the politics of representation. In addition, writing was used not merely as an ideological marker for locating specific biographical interests and forms of identification; it was also viewed as a rupturing practice, as an oppositional pedagogy in which one pushes against the grain of traditional history, disciplinary structures, dominant readings, and existing relations of power.

Raymond Williams has rightly pointed out the need for cultural workers to be attentive to the formations out of which specific projects arise. As part of an attempt not to reproduce the legacy of those pedagogical practices that positioned students as objects rather than as subjects of learning, I attempted to organize the writing assignments in my seminar around a number of structuring principles necessary for the success of my own political and pedagogical project. For instance, I introduced the course by talking about power in the classroom and how it was implicated in all aspects of classroom teaching, including the development of a syllabus, the organization of classroom relations, and the method of evaluation. I also made clear the rationale for the authority I exercised in the course and how that authority was intended to be used to expand rather than restrict the possibility for student agency. In part, I made the form and content of my authority as a teacher visible in order to problematize and debate the moral vision and social ethic I used to justify my organization of the syllabus and the pedagogical practices that informed my class.

In doing so, I relinquished all claims to objectivity, and I attempted to refute the traditional notion that teachers were disinterested, that knowledge was unproblematic, and that teaching was merely a methodology for transmitting information to students. I argued that the latter positions were often used to obscure the ideological and political interests that regulated dominant versions of schooling and the role that teachers play in actively regulating the production of knowledge and values. By presenting a view of schools as a site of conflict and contestation, I attempted to open a space for students to engage political, social, and cultural differences in ways that highlighted pedagogy as an oppositional rather than merely a dominating practice.

In addition, I stressed the need for social relations in the class that would give students the opportunity to produce and appropriate knowledge as part of an ongoing struggle to represent themselves in terms of their interests, lived experiences, and wider political concerns. Two issues derived from the more political and emancipatory theoretical insights of Cultural Studies guided my pedagogical concerns. First, I wanted to make clear that no pedagogical process could be located outside of the intellectual and affective investments I brought to the class. Hence, the politics of my own location had to be subjected to extensive critique and dialogue in the written assignment and class debates. Second, the class had to become a site where writing offered the opportunity to "engage rather than displace the voices of aggressive, theorizing subjects |students~."(11) I further suggested that some of the major elements structuring teacher-student relations in the class would be taken up around some of the following considerations: How do language and experience intersect? That is, how do different discourses shape, engage, and deconstruct the experiences and stories told by ourselves and others? Second, what conditions are necessary to develop a sense of political, moral, and social agency in the class? For example, what pedagogical practices might be necessary to promote collaborative work? To engage dominant and subordinate traditions critically? To get students to question the partiality of both their own knowledge and the knowledge presented by the teacher? Third, how might teacher authority be manifested without being inimical to the issue and practice of student freedom?

By making my own theoretical and pedagogical concerns visible at the beginning of the course, I attempt to be up front about the parameters of the course, especially in a school of education where students often believe that they will not have to read intellectually challenging work or that educational theory is mainly about learning methodologies. But there is more at stake here than exercising authority in the spirit of promoting rigorous intellectual work and providing a call for self-discipline. I also posit the goals and project of the course as an invitation for the students to rethink how they might want to take up and transform certain aspects of their own learning. For instance, in an effort not to remove all traces of their own socially constructed voices, I asked students to form groups after my introductory remarks in order to respond to the issues I raised. I was particularly interested in whether the principles and rationale I offered for the course were suitable to their own perception of the course. I also invited the students to suggest specific readings outside of the assigned texts that we might take up in the class.

Within an hour the students convened their respective groups and a debate took place over the shape and format of the class. It became instantly clear to me that the students also wanted the class to be participatory, critical, and attentive to immediate and global concerns regarding racial politics, and that they wanted both to provide their own list of readings for the course and to evaluate their own performance for a course grade. Gently exercising my own authority I mediated their concerns with three qualifications. First, I suggested that the course had to be organized around a series of writing assignments that reproduced the principles they had articulated in the discussion. Second, in order to relieve the immediate fear that students often express about writing in a class, I suggested that as a major precondition for discussing the student writing presented to the class it was imperative for all of us to create the conditions for a "safe space" for each other. This means that since students often feel that their identities are on trial when they either speak from their writing or share it with the rest of the class, it is imperative that each student be given every opportunity to speak, argue, take risks, and position him/herself without fear of intimidation, humiliation, or outright pedagogical terrorism from either the teacher or other students. In this case, issues of trust and respect for difference become paramount in structuring classroom relations. In addition, it was suggested that every attempt be made to use student writing as a pedagogical tool to present one's theoretical position, to promote class discussions, to engage other texts, and to work collaboratively with others. Third, while they would be given the opportunity to evaluate their own final projects, the projects should be organized around an attempt to integrate the theoretical discourses taken up in the class with an analysis of some aspect of popular culture. For example, an individual or a group might decide to write about how the legacy of colonialism frames much of the racial discourse in a film like Grand Canyon. Students might also want to mix media in compiling a critical commentary on racism in the university, town, or in the national media. They might also want to focus on popular magazines as a source of social knowledge, use ethnographic approaches to conducting oral histories, or construct their own video, etc.

As part of an attempt to pay close attention to the political and pedagogical dynamics that structured the class, three major writing assignments were used to organize how texts were to be taken up and rewritten as part of a larger attempt to register differences, analyze diverse arguments, and cross disciplinary borders.

The writing assignments were organized in the following ways. The initial three weeks of the course were developed around analyzing the reading material largely selected by the class. The readings were taken up through the thematics of "Orientalism, Difference, and Multiculturalism," "Postcolonialism, Race, and Feminism," and "Nationalism and the Politics of Speaking for Others." The class was divided into three groups. Each group was assigned the task of developing position paper(s) on the readings for one of the three themes. The papers would then be duplicated for the rest of the class and used as a basis for class discussion.

Each group worked collaboratively to produce a paper that was duplicated and read by the rest of the class the evening their respective reading assignment was due. The group assigned to present a paper for that class first talked about how they came to address a particular aspect of the assignment, how they worked out the collaborative process, and why they thought the issues they addressed were important to them in terms of their own experiences. For example, the first group developed a paper that was a transcript of a dialogue they collectively held in analyzing certain aspects of the readings on Orientalism and the politics of multiculturalism. The paper clearly demonstrated those issues over which individual members of the group disagreed, what concerns they shared, and what questions they wanted to take up with the rest of the class. It is important to note that students who did not present a group paper during any one class meeting had to prepare journal entries on the readings assigned, and in doing so worked from their own notes in responding to both the group paper and other questions that arose from the readings. Since the readings ranged from sources as diverse as Cornel West's "The New Politics of Difference" to Diane Ravitich's "Multiculturalism," there was a range of ideological positions to engage and make for a lively discussion.

But in discussing the papers the emphasis was not merely on taking up conflicting positions. Students had to insert themselves into the texts by taking a position on the readings, talking about the consequences of their positions in terms of how they addressed questions of race, freedom, justice, and so on. Moreover, the group constantly talked about how the university itself was implicated in reproducing some of the racial problems they discussed and how the racial problems in the school articulated with and mutually reinforced larger societal problems.

During the second part of the course, students paired up in groups of two and for the remainder of the course each group taught a particular text that was assigned for any one particular week. Books discussed ranged from There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack by Paul Gilroy to Black Looks by bell hooks and Learning to Question by Paulo Freire and Antonio Faundez. In this assignment, students had to "write" the book; that is, they had to present a paper that provided an exegesis, offer a critical reading of the text's major assumptions, and analyze the relevance of the text to their own experiences as future educators. Moreover, they could present the analysis in a variety of mixed formats but had to use a substantial portion of their time for dialogue with the rest of the class. The presentations were on the whole amazingly imaginative. Most students combined a short lecture with some other form of media to illustrate their analysis of the texts. Most prepared open questions to partly structure the debates, and in some cases provided the rest of the class with alternative or supplementary readings.

The third writing assignment was organized around a collaborative position paper based on applying some aspect of what they learned about race and pedagogy in the class to a particular problem in the wider university community. The activities undertaken ranged from an analysis of the textbooks used in the local secondary school to an interrogation of the racial sensitivity seminars conducted by some faculty in the university. In each case, the students had little trouble in applying some of the theoretical issues they addressed in the class to wider practical and pedagogical concerns.

The final writing project in the class engaged writing as a pedagogical practice by getting students not only to analyze popular texts that extend the range of what constitutes social knowledge but also to be self-reflective about their own engagement with the course and what its implications were for rethinking the ways in which power works through diverse regimes of representation, institutional structures, and the larger spaces of social power.

All of these writing assignments positioned students as cultural producers and enabled them to rewrite their own experiences and perceptions through an engagement with various texts, ideological positions, and theories. In all cases, there was an ongoing attempt to get the students to learn from each other, to decenter the power in the classroom, to challenge disciplinary borders, to create a borderland where new hybridized identities might emerge, to take up in a problematic way the relationship between language and experience, and to appropriate knowledge as part of a broader effort at self-definition and ethical responsibility. Border writing in this case became a type of hybridized, border literacy, a form of cultural production and pedagogical practice where otherness becomes comprehensible, collective memory rewrites the narratives of insurgent social movements, and students travel between diverse theoretical and cultural zones of difference, and, in doing so, generate a space where new intersections between identity and culture emerge. It is precisely in this space informed by the critical imperatives of Cultural Studies, the ongoing demands of a restless critical pedagogy, and faith in a project of possibility that teachers and students can rewrite, reaffirm, and struggle over the assumption that the goal of achieving a multicultural, multiracial democracy in the United States remains the critical issue of modern politics and life.


1 One of the most important critiques of Cultural Studies treating this issue of purpose and meaning has been made by Meaghan Morris.

2 This issue is taken up in Franklin, Lury, and Stacey; see also Clarke, esp. chapt. 2; Parry; and Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies."

3 See, for example, Nelson, "Always Already"; Nelson et al., "Cultural Studies: An Introduction"; and Bennett.

4 For expressions of this position see Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out; Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies"; and Grossberg, "The Formation."

5 A number of writers in the Grossberg et al. anthology take this position.

6 As a representative of this type of critique, see any of the major theoretical sources of Cultural Studies, especially the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham. See Hall, "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms" and "Cultural Studies and the Centre"; Richard Johnson; and Morris.

7 See Grossberg et al. for examples; also, various issues of College Literature under the editorship of Kostas Myrsiades. It is quite revealing to look into some of the latest books on Cultural Studies and see no serious engagement of pedagogy as a site of theoretical and practical struggle. For example see Brantlinger; Turner; Clarke; Franklin et al. In Punter there is one chapter on identifying racism in textbooks.

8 While there are too many sources to cite here, see Connell et al.; Henriques et al.; Sears; Fine; Simon; and Donald.

9 For instance, while theorists such as Jane Tompkins, Gerald Graff, Gregory Ulmer, and others address pedagogical issues, they do it solely within the referenced terrain of literary studies. Moreover, even those theorists in literary studies who insist on the political nature of pedagogy generally ignore, with few exceptions, the work that has gone on in the field for twenty years. See, for example, Felman and Lamb; Henricksen and Morgan; Donahue and Quahndahl; Ulmer; and Barbara Johnson.

10 One interesting example of this occured when Gary Olson, the editor of the Journal of Advanced Composition, interviewed Jacques Derrida. He asked Derrida, in the context of a discussion about pedagogy and teaching, if he knew of the work of Paulo Freire. Derrida responded, "This is the first time I've heard his name" (Olson 133). It is hard to imagine that a figure of Freire's international stature would not be known to someone in literary studies who is one of the major proponents of deconstruction. So much for crossing boundaries. Clearly, Derrida does not read the radical literature in composition studies, because if he did he could not miss the numerous references to the work of Freire and other critical educators. See, for instance, Atkins and Johnson; Brodkey; and Hurlbert and Blitz.

11 The two considerations and quotation come from Morris (20).


Aronowitz, Stanley. Roll Over Beethoven: Return of Cultural Strife. Hanover: UP of New England, 1993.

Atkins, C. Douglas, and Michael L. Johnson. Writing and Reading Differently: Deconstruction and the Teaching of Composition and Literature. Lawrence: U of Kansas P, 1985.

Bennett, Tony. "Putting Policy into Cultural Studies." Grossberg, Nelson, and Treichler, Cultural Studies 23-34.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Brodkey, Linda. Academic Writing as a Social Practice. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1987.

Butler, Judith. "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of Postmodernism." Feminists Theorizing the Political. Ed. Judith Butler and Joan Scott. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Clarke, John. New Times and Old Enemies: Essays on Cultural Studies and America. London: Harper Collins, 1991.

Connell, R. W., D. J. Ashenden, S. Kessler, and G. W. Dowsett. Making the Difference. Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1982.

Donahue, Patricia, and Ellen Quahndahl, eds. Reclaiming Pedagogy: The Rhetoric of the Classroom. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989.

Donald, James. Sentimental Education. London: Verso, 1992.

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Giroux, professor of education at The Pennsylvania State University, writes about critical pedagogy, cultural studies, and the sociology of education. His latest book, published by Routledge, is Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education.
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Author:Giroux, Henry A.
Publication:College Literature
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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