On "Cultural Studies": a response to Remo Ceserani.Theory travels, as Edward Said Edward Wadie Saïd, Arabic: إدوارد وديع سعيد, taught us, and where there is travel, there is an economy of loss and gain. Cultural Studies is no exception. Born in Birmingham, UK, it made its way across the Atlantic in what Georges van Den Abbeele has argued is merely the latest move in a longer itinerary in which Cultural Studies itself "chunneled" its way to the United Kingdom from France, where poststructuralism poststructuralism: see deconstruction.
Movement in literary criticism and philosophy begun in France in the late 1960s. Drawing upon the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, the anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss ( had packed its bags that, in turn, were arguably stitched together from a rereading of German philosophy in post-Nazi Europe. In his note, Remo Ceserani documents its return across the Atlantic, its delayed arrival both in Italy and, to be honest, to Italian Studies. But let us not be drawn into a rhetoric of belatedness; it is less important to note that this train "viaggia in ritardo," than to inspect the baggage it has lost or gained as a result. It is already a commonplace of discussions of Cultural Studies in the US that the term has become so amorphous and all-inclusive that attempts to define it are futile. Some of the names included in the volumes cited by Ceserani testify to the additional miles traveled: the deconstructionist Marxist feminist Spivak and the post-Marxist Lacanian Zizek, are two figures who would not huddle uncritically under the Cultural Studies umbrella in the US, indeed, Zizek has been openly critical of its lack of a coherent theoretical framework. The brand name of their umbrella instead is "Theory," by which I mean that particular form of discourse whose US birthplace was the 1966 Johns Hopkins Noun 1. Johns Hopkins - United States financier and philanthropist who left money to found the university and hospital that bear his name in Baltimore (1795-1873)
2. conference on "The Structuralist Controversy." Those who continue to claim this mantle (for example, those who belong to what Tilottama Rajan has recently referred to as the "deconstructive diaspora") are among Cultural Studies' most unrelenting critics, yet the voyage back has them all in the same boat. In fact, the entries in the Michele Cometa's Dizionario degli studi culturali range from "deconstruction" to "queer theory Queer theory is a field of Gender Studies that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of gay/lesbian studies and feminist studies. Heavily influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and other deconstructionists, queer theory builds both upon the feminist ," "ecriture feminine" to "New Historicism New Historicism is an approach to literary criticism and literary theory based on the premise that a literary work should be considered a product of the time, place, and circumstances of its composition rather than as an isolated creation. ," "Jewish Studies Jewish studies also known as Judaic studies is a subject area of study available at many colleges and universities in North America.
Traditionally, Jewish studies was part of the natural practice of Judaism by Jews. " to "Women's Studies women's studies
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
An academic curriculum focusing on the roles and contributions of women in fields such as literature, history, and the social sciences. ." One is tempted to say, as Said wrote of Foucault's conception of power, that Cultural Studies has traveled too far, and in its Italian debut, gobbled up every critical intervention of the past 40 years. Lost is the fierceness of debate and attack that has surrounded Cultural Studies, from both left and right. At the same time, of course, "Theory" also facilitated Cultural Studies' application for a green card by loosening the boundaries between disciplines in the American academy The American Academy in Berlin is a non-partisan academic institution in Berlin. It was founded in September 1994 by a group of prominent Americans and Germans, among them Richard Holbrooke, Henry Kissinger, Richard von Weizsäcker, Fritz Stern and Otto Graf Lambsdorff and opened in in the 1970s and early 1980s. Like Cultural Studies, "Theory," itself already an amalgam of philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, psychoanalysis, semiotics semiotics or semiology, discipline deriving from the American logician C. S. Peirce and the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It has come to mean generally the study of any cultural product (e.g., a text) as a formal system of signs. , Marxism, and literary criticism, crossed disciplines with agility. (Unlike Cultural Studies, however, "Theory" did not aspire to aspire to
verb aim for, desire, pursue, hope for, long for, crave, seek out, wish for, dream about, yearn for, hunger for, hanker after, be eager for, set your heart on, set your sights on, be ambitious for go beyond literature, but rather worked through it to produce some of its most enduring formulations; without Rousseau, there would be no Derridean supplement; no Jamesonian realism without Balzac, and so on.)
Ceserani is certainly not alone in suggesting that Cultural Studies is a marketing ploy. As we have all seen, academic publishers have seized upon it like a life jacket on that sinking ship sinking ship
A mutual fund that has a substantial outflow of funds because of its weak investment performance. called the Humanities, and shoehorned all manner of "studies" into its plump folds. An ambiguous success, to be sure, since it is itself the symptom of the continued crisis in the humanities in the US, and their position as site of the "culture wars." Is the move to Cultural Studies purely pragmatic and driven by the logic of capital itself? On the one hand, one is tempted to say yes; institutions have not been blind to the cost-cutting benefits of amalgamating departments and the disciplines they represent, and one suspects a cynical adoption on the part of administrators who dangle dangle Nursing A popular term for the first movement a Pt is allowed, either after surgery under general anesthesia, or 'under local', where the recuperee allows his/her feet to dangle over the side of the bed "interdisciplinarity" before us as the key to gaining access to diminishing resources. What's more, a devil's advocate devil's advocate: see canonization. might argue that US Cultural Studies is generated by the very thing it posits as its object, that it is less a critique of globalization globalization
Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world. Factors that have contributed to globalization include increasingly sophisticated communications and transportation than its product. In fact, Fredric Jameson Fredric Jameson (born April 14, 1934) is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for the analysis of contemporary cultural trends; he described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism. , in his extensive review of the biblical Cultural Studies edited by Lawrence Grossberg et. al. (Routledge 1992), notes the lack of commodity analysis in the volume, as though it were the repressed re·pressed
Being subjected to or characterized by repression. of the new field itself.
But on the other hand, one would say no; in the US context, the arrival of Cultural Studies was preceded by the founding of departments and programs of African American Studies African American studies (also known as Black studies and/or Africana studies) is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans. , Women's Studies, Latin American Studies Latin American Studies (sometimes abbreviated LAS) is an academic discipline which studies the history and experience of peoples and cultures in the Americas. Definition , Asian Studies, Film Studies, and Communications. Themselves a mixture of fields fought for by social movements, such as Women's Studies and African American Studies, or fostered by the state, such as international area studies, these programs had placed gender and race, the dynamics of oppression and resistance, and a questioning of canonical high culture on the agenda. The ground, both intellectual and institutional, was laid for the reception of what was in Britain a pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner. practice committed to radical social change. When transplanted to this US context, British Cultural Studies, with its own emphasis on identities as formed through the articulation of contradictory interpellations, provided an important methodological tool at the same rime as its "presentist Noun 1. presentist - a theologian who believes that the Scripture prophecies of the Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) are being fulfilled at the present time " political concerns appealed to those for whom Theory's claim to offer a political critique appeared too mediated and too oblivious of historical context, when not utterly compromised by the so-called revelations about Paul de Man Paul de Man (December 6, 1919 – December 21, 1983) was a Belgian-born deconstructionist literary critic and theorist.
He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard in the late 1950s. .
Is there an "Italian" specificity to Cultural Studies? Here we can differentiate between an analysis of the consequences of its traveling to Italy, and a reflection on the possibilities it might offer to those of us who work in Italian Studies (itself an innovation ambiguously positioned between a survival strategy in tough rimes for "small" languages" in the American academy, and a genuine attempt to work across disciplines, legacy of Theory's interdisciplinary impulse) in the US. In the former case, "Italy" names a particular social, political, economic, intellectual, and institutional configuration that constitutes a context that will shape the reception and further transformation of Cultural Studies. From that point of view, it does not come as a surprise that the arrival of "Cultural Studies" on Italian soil should produce resistance in the form of anxiety about the centrality of literature and literariness. Ceserani's concern about literature's continuing "cultural" (in the old sense of the cultivation of educated minds and citizens) role will resonate with Italian intellectuals in a context in which "literary history" remains the dominant mode, and the university has recently undergone the shock of a much-discussed reform. (Italianists in the US who have resisted the changes wrought by Theory may share this anxiety; from this perspective, they might be said to constitute a transnation, in Arjun Appadurai's sense, holding on to an ideological link to a putative point of origin.) At the same time, one would have to calculate into the picture the survival of semiotics in Italy (long after its demise in France and the US) as the established domain of reflection on popular culture, and the relative rigidity of disciplinary boundaries in the academy. Geography is still the province of geographers, Derrida remains in the hands of philosophers, Freud and his legacy remain marginal, and feminism a social movement whose foothold in the academy is shaky at best. The publishing house Meltemi, whose website proclaims the "necessita insopprimibile di scardinare ottuse barriere disciplinari, asfissianti specialismi" is bringing into the picture a number of postcolonial theorists, especially in the "Biblioteca" series edited by Armando Gnisci. Here Italian readers can find Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Edouard Glissant, Zizek, as well as Judith Butler. A quick search on the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico website, however, suggests that only one work by Stuart Hall (arguably the most authoritative voice of Cultural Studies) has ever been translated into Italian, nothing by Simon During, including the Cultural Studies Reader brought out by Routledge in 1993, nor has the Cultural Studies volume edited by Lawrence Grossberg, et. al. appeared in Italian. All of these factors will contribute to the morphing yet again of Cultural Studies as it travels.
But if we look toward future work in the US, the "Italian" specificity is even more difficult to name, if it should be named at all. Indeed, Cultural Studies defender Cary Nelson has declared that no one who works entirely within the confines of one nation state can do Cultural Studies. (And in this one sees a marked difference from New Historicism, a critical method arguably wedded to early modern England). With its eye trained on the world system, globalization, popular culture, mediality, and above all nodes of articulation, Cultural Studies at its best constructs an object for which national borders are not checkpoints but contact zones. This is not to say that borders are not rigidly enforced in worlds past or present, but rather that the Cultural Studies scholar thinks across them, relationally. From this point of view, attempts to claim an "Italian" genealogy for Cultural Studies appear wrong-headed reinforcements of national identity, whether they be attempts to wrest wrest
tr.v. wrest·ed, wrest·ing, wrests
1. To obtain by or as if by pulling with violent twisting movements: wrested the book out of his hands; wrested the islands from the settlers. Gramsci from Stuart Hall, resurrect Croce, or celebrate Umberto Eco as precursor. The point instead would be to take up the fundamental methodological concept of articulation, and work the contingency and contradictoriness of all identifies, national and otherwise. The "Italian culture" that we construct may well not be recognizable to those "inside" it; after all, as Jameson writes, "culture is the nimbus nimbus, in art
nimbus (nĭm`bəs), in art, the luminous disk or circle or other indication of light around the head of a sacred personage. perceived by one group when it comes into contact with and observes another one" (271). The questions we pose are necessarily bound in part to our own intellectual, political, social, and institutional context in the US. But a loss of "authenticity" does not concern me. What does, instead, is that, in traveling, Cultural Studies might have lost its oppositional edge, or worse, might content itself with celebrating its own radicality.
Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.
Jameson, Fredric. "On Cultural Studies." The Identity in Question. Ed. John Rajchman. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Routledge. 1995. 251-95.
Lawton, Ben, and Oraziella Parati, eds. Italian Cultural Studies. Boca Raton, FL: Bordighera, 2001.
Nelson, Cary. "Literature as Cultural Studies." Cultural Studies and the Politics of Disciplinarity. Ed. Cary Nelson and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar. New York: Routledge, 1996. 63-102.
Rajan, Tilottama. "In the Wake of Cultural Studies: Globalization, Theory, and the University." Diacritics This article is about the academic journal. For the accent mark, see Diacritic.
diacritics is an academic journal founded in 1971 at Cornell University. 31.3 (Fall 2001): 67-88.
Said, Edward. "Traveling Theory." The Edward Said Reader. Ed. Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. 195-217.
Van Den Abbeele, Georges. "Theory and the 'Chunnel': Cultural Studies and the Retreat of Ideology." Symploke 11.1-2 (2003): 77-95.
Meltemi Editore http://www.meltemieditore.it
Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico http://opac.sbn.it/
University of California, Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in Berkeley, California, United States. Commonly referred to as UC Berkeley, Berkeley and Cal