What is Cultural Studies?

Cultural studies is an innovative interdisciplinary field of research and teaching that investigates the ways in which “culture” creates and transforms individual experiences, everyday life, social relations and power. Research and teaching in the field explores the relations between culture understood as human expressive and symbolic activities, and cultures understood as distinctive ways of life. Combining the strengths of the social sciences and the humanities, cultural studies draws on methods and theories from literary studies, sociology, communications studies, history, cultural anthropology, and economics. By working across the boundaries among these fields, cultural studies addresses new questions and problems of today’s world. Rather than seeking answers that will hold for all time, cultural studies develops flexible tools that adapt to this rapidly changing world.

Cultural life is not only concerned with symbolic communication, it is also the domain in which we set collective tasks for ourselves and begin to grapple with them as changing communities. Cultural studies is devoted to understanding the processes through which societies and the diverse groups within them come to terms with history, community life, and the challenges of the future.

For a more nuanced understanding of the histories of cultural sudies read:

  • Bennett, Tony, Lawrence Grossberg, Meaghan Morris, and Raymond Williams. New Keywords : A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005.
  • Grossberg, Lawrence. Bringing it all Back Home : Essays on Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.
  • Grossberg, Lawrence. Cultural Studies in the Future Tense. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler. Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • Storey, John. What is Cultural Studies?: A Reader. London; New York: Arnold, 1996.