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Cultural Studies Is...


By Bruno Cornellier and Amy-Leigh Gray

July 26, 2018

These blog posts are written by five graduate students from the 2017-18 cohort of the University of Winnipeg M.A. in Cultural Studies. Each student, from their particular location and set of experiences, offers their own retrospective reflections on the theoretical and political history of Cultural Studies, on its genealogy as well as its future. Or to be more precise, they were invited to write about the ellipsis (the “…”) in the statement Cultural Studies is… They wrote a first draft of their blog post at the end of the Fall term (2017) and then spent the following months revising their essays and exchanging their drafts as part of a constant conversation and collaboration with each other, mediated by Prof. Bruno Cornellier and Amy-Leigh Gray.

In his essay “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacy,” Stuart Hall famously explains that Cultural Studies resists strict definition. Rather, as he was fond of saying, Cultural Studies is a response to a moment that is still unfolding, and which therefore demands that we constantly wrestle with available critical methods and disciplinary paradigms. As a key witness to the birth of Cultural Studies in 1960s England, Hall insists that we must resist conferring him and his contemporaries with “the authority of an origin.”[1] In other words, if Cultural Studies does have a history and if it did first emerged somewhere, what it was and what it was doing then was deeply informed by this when, this where, and perhaps most importantly the why of its birth in a particular historical and geopolitical juncture. Hence, if we can—and do—continue to learn quite a lot by re-reading here and now the groundbreaking work of Hall and his contemporaries, what we do with these texts and concepts, how we read them, rearticulate them, and rework them, remains first and foremost an act of engaging politically with our lived conjuncture, of responding to yet another moment in which Cultural Studies is being remade, reinvented, constantly and endlessly.   

This collection of blog posts thus represents five such encounters with the history of Cultural Studies thought in the present and future tense, not as attempts to subject the field to unyielding definitions or to “the authority of an origin,” but rather as invitations for students to contribute to that something—an indefinable Cultural Studies project, always followed by ellipses—in light of who they are: when, where, and with whom.


[1]Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacy,” Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, edited by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen, (London: Routledge, 1996) p. 262.