Tuesday, September 15, 2009
posted under Chronicle of Higher Education , cultural studies , Michael Berube , Robert McChesney by Unit for Criticism
From yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education, a thought-provoking analysis, "What's the Matter with Cultural Studies?," from a former University of Illinois colleague, Michael Berube.
Here are two excerpts:
In 1990, my first year as an assistant professor there, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a conference on "Cultural Studies Now and in the Future." The program included historians, media theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and AIDS activists; and the theoretical terrain—over which cultural studies had held earlier skirmishes with deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, and, of course, in an epochal struggle, with Althusserians and neo-Gramscians—had lately been enriched by the arrival of Foucauldian historicism and queer theory. It really did seem plausible that cultural studies could be the start of something big.
And, from later in the piece, as Berube contemplates the relatively limited achievements of cultural studies to date,
...How often do we find ourselves ascribing disparate political events and cultural phenomena solely to neoliberalism—that is, to the evisceration of the social-welfare state and the privatization of social goods? That is not to say that neoliberalism is immaterial; it has dominated the political and economic landscape for 30 years, and its effects on higher education are palpable, baleful, and undeniable—the corporatization of administration and research, the withdrawal of state financing for public universities, the enrichment of the student-loan industry...
But I want to ask, in a general way, whether cultural-studies theorists are starting from the fact of neoliberalism and then proceeding to the analysis, or whether the analysis simply concludes where it begins, with "It's the neoliberalism, stupid."
A discussion is just starting on the Chronicle's website but the topic, with its references to Illinois's long institutional investment in cultural studies and to colleagues such as Robert McChesney, might also warrant discussion here on Kritik.