Critical Theory and Cultural Studies
Preparation Guide 2014
There are three progenitors of the cultural studies movement. The first path
traces through Europe, beginning in orthodox Marxism. (Later critical theorists
point out that orthodox Marxism is like neo-Aristotelianism: it is not Marx,
it is interpreters of Marx.) Orthodox Marxism, a mechanistic theory of
society, distrusted rhetoric, believing it was the source of ideology that masked
the reality of historical materialism, thus keeping the working class in chains.
In Western Europe during and after World War II, that notion was critiqued.
Instead, the problems in the Soviet Union taught that even Communism, steeped
as it was in Marxist-Stalinist ideology, was based in ideology. Thus, Neo-Marxism
came into vogue. Reinterpreting historical materialism into a contextualist
theory of society, the developments we today know as "continental philosophy"
took hold of social inquiry. Critical theory was hatched in the Frankfurt
school including Horkeimer, Adorno, and their student Habermas. In France,
a series of sociologists and philosophers developed social theory. In Birmingham,
England, this developed into Stuart Hall's version of cultural studies. Critical
Studies had come to the United States with the exiles from Germany. But in the
oppressive environment of the Cold War, anything hinting at Marxism was dangerous.
Instead, the ideas were worked subtley into media studies, particularly by James
But there evolved another strain in the United States within Communication
Studies. It began in the cultural strains in the work of Kenneth Burke. During
the 1930s Burke had proposed cultural analyses of the symbolic action within
social ritual. His work with such cultural symbols as "the monetary synthesis"
initially influenced scholars in in Sociology and Anthropology, in the work
of Hugh Dalziel Duncan and Clifford Geertz. Within the linguistic turn, these
ideas emphasized the use of rhetoric in ordinary everyday discourse and in rituals
of social order that created the character of culture. Late in the century,
those following this lead in communication picked up the thought of the continental
philosophers, critical theory, and British cultural studies and cultural studies
within communication developed.
We want to understand the theoretical moves that underlay this work.
Clusters: critical theory, cultural studies, rhetoric and ritual,
Preparation for discussion
Week 1: (December 2)
Read the material indicated below. Come prepared with either (1) concepts you did not understand tied to page numbers, or (2) what you take to be key concepts. We will organize discussions around this.
Week 2: (December 9)
- Based on your reading, what is the difference between critical theory and cultural studies?
- How do these theories build on one another? Pay attention to chronological order and references as you work out how each author extends or revises the theories we read in the introduction week.
- How is power constructed in each of these theories? Is power always a negative thing? Or, like Foucault, is there a positive notion of power?
- How is culture variously defined by these authors? What role does rhetoric play in culture for them? Similarly, does language create culture, or culture create language?
- What is rhetoric’s contribution to critical theory? Cultural studies?
- Where are the edges of the critical/cultural theory move? Where are the places of overlap and difference from earlier moves? As you read, consider how the critical/cultural move is different from and similar to the freedom/domination move and the identity/subjectivity move. What other moves does this overlap with?
- Cultural Studies in a Post-Mass Media Age
- Althusser observes that the press, television and radio function as “Ideological State Apparatuses.” How is that similar or different from today?
- Some would argue that we are in a “post-mass media age,” that is, we don’t study traditional forms of media as much as “new media.” Does this change the field of cultural studies?
- Horkheimer and Adorno talk about enlightenment as mass deception. How does Hall define the project of cultural studies?
- How does the study of propaganda inform the Dave Tell piece on Walter Lippman?
- What is the think-tank culture, how do we study it and is democracy enhanced by it?
- Recent Works: Materiality, Post-Modernity, Travelers Metaphor
- How do Greene and Kuswa define the post-modernism and late capitalism?
- Is the post-modern move a material move or a theoretical move?
- Foss and Foss describe theorists are two types of travelers, what kind of traveler are you?
- Conversation in Communication Field
- How do the different scholarly voices in the field of communication talk about the role of cultural studies/critical theory in our scholarship?
- Does this interdisciplinary work hinder or problematize the identity of the field?
- How can we reconcile these problems? How do we make sure we don’t lose our identity?
* = Reading for December 2
# = Reading for December 9
- Carey, James W. Communication as Culture. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
- Conquergood, D. Rethinking ethnography: Towards a critical cultural politics. Communication Monographs 58, (1991): 179–194
- * Durham and Kellner, pp. 1-36; 53-74; 80-86; 115-23; 249-52; 388-432.
- Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic, 1973.
- # Grossberg, Lawrence,"The Conversation of Cultural Studies." Cultural Studies 23, no. 2 (2009): 177-182. (CMMC)
- # Hall, Stuart, "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms." Media, Culture, and Society 2, (1980): 57-72.
- Hall, Stuart. Critical dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge, 1996.
- Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder and Herder, 1972.
- Williams, Raymond, "Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,"
in Durham and Kellner. pp. 115-23.
- Best, Steven and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure. New York: Guilford, 2001.
- Boyd, Robert & Peter J. Richerson. The Origin and Evolution of Cultures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
- Butler, Judith, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek. Contingency, Hegemony, Universality. London: Verso, 2000.
- # Delgado, R., & J. Stefancic. Critical race theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2001. Read pp. 1-4.
- Duncan, Hugh Dalziel, Communication and Social Order. New York: Bedminster Press, 1962.
- Duncan, Hugh Dalziel, Symbols in Society. New York: Oxford, 1968.
- Fuchs, Christian. Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies. New York: Routledge, 2011.
- Garnham, Nicholas. “Political Economy and Cultural Studies: Reconciliation or Divorce?” In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, edited by John Storey, 600-612. Harlow: Pearson, 1998.
- Grossberg Lawrence. “Identity and Cultural Studies: Is that all there is?” In Questions of Cultural Identity, Eds. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay. London: Sage, 1996.
- Hall, Stuart. “Culture, community, nation.” Cultural Studies 7, No. 3 (1993): 349-363
- # Hall, Stuart. "Cultural studies and its theoretical legacies." In Critical dialogues in cultural studies (1996): 262-275.
- Kellner, Douglas. Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
- Kellner, Douglas. Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern. New York: Routledge, 1995.
- Kellner, Douglas. “Toward a Critical Media/Cultural Studies.” In Media/Cultural Studies: Critical Approaches, edited by Rhonda Hammer and Douglas Kellner, 5-24. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.
- Kincheloe, Joe L., and Peter McLaren. "Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research." Key Works in Critical Pedagogy (2011): 285-326.
- # McGee, Michael Calvin. “Text, Context, and the Fragmentation of Contemporary Culture.” Western Journal of Communication 54, (1990): 274–289. (CMMC)
- McGuigan, Jim. "The cultural public sphere–a critical measure of public culture?." Festivals and the Cultural Public Sphere (2011): 79.
- Mignolo, Walter D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.
- Morley, Dave. Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies. Routledge, 1996.
- # Ono, Kent A. “Critical: A Finer Edge.” Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies 8, no. 1 (Mar 2011): 93-96. (CMMC)
- Peck, Janice. “Why We Shouldn’t Be Bored with the Political Economy Versus Cultural Studies Debate.” Cultural Critique 64, (2006): 92-126.
- Turner, Graeme. British Cultural Studies. London: Routledge, 2003.
- White, Hayden. Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Recent Work: (Selected by Rebecca Alt and Winnie Obike)
- Azmanova, Albena. “Crisis? Capitalism is Doing Very Well. How is Critical Theory?” Constellations 21, No. 3 (2014): 351-365.
- Bohman, James. “Critical Theory, Republicanism, and the Priority of Injustice: Transnational Republicanism as a Nonideal Theory.” Journal of Social Philosophy 43, No. 2 (Summer 2012): 97-112.
- Bro, Peter. "Journalistic Communication." Journalism Studies 14, No. 6 (December 2013): 805-818.
- Brown, Bill, "[Concept / Object] [Text / Event]". ELH 81, No. 2 (2014): 521-552.
- Brummett, Barry and Andrew W. Ishak. Sports and Identity: New Agendas in Communication. New York: Routledge, 2014.
- Bruun, Hanne. "Conceptualizations of the audience in political talk show production." European Journal Of Communication 29, No. 1 (February 2014): 3-16
- Burwell, Catherine. "Contestation in the Colbert Nation: Participants, producers and the struggle over digital dialogue." International Journal Of Cultural Studies 17, No. 2 (March 2014): 143-158.
- Butterworth, Michael L. "Militarism and Memorializing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame." Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies 9, No. 3 (September 2012): 241-258.
- Case, Judd A. "Logistical Media: Fragments from Radar's Prehistory." Canadian Journal Of Communication 38, No. 3 (September 2013): 379-395.
- Edgar, Amanda Nell. “R&B Rhetoric and Victim-Blaming Discourses: Exploring the Popular Press’s Revision of Rihanna’s Contextual Agency,” Women’s Studies in Communication 37 (2014): 138-158.
- Fornäs, Johan. "Culturalizing mediatization." in Mediatized Worlds: Culture and Society in a Media Age, Edsby Andreas Hepp and Friedrich Krotz (2014): 38 - 53.
- # Foss, Karen A. and Sonja K. Foss. “A Tale of Two Travelers: The Divergent Journeys of Critical Scholars and Rhetorical Theorists.” Western Journal of Communication 77, No. 5 (2013): 529-532. (CMMC)
- Greene, Ronald Walter, and Heather Ashley Hayes. "Rhetorical Materialism: The Cognitive Division of Labor and the Social Dimensions of Argument." Argumentation & Advocacy 48, No. 3 (Winter 2012): 190-193.
- # Greene, Ronald Walter, and Kevin Douglas Kuswa. "“From the Arab Spring to Athens, From Occupy Wall Street to Moscow”: Regional Accents and the Rhetorical Cartography of Power." RSQ: Rhetoric Society Quarterly 42, No. 3 (May 2012): 271-288. (CMMC)
- Greene, Ronald Walter. "Rhetoric (Dis)Appearing." Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies 10, No. 2/3 (September 2013): 259-264.
- Griffin, Rachel Alicia and Joshua Daniel Phillips. “LeBron James as Cybercolonized Spectacle: A Critical Race Reading of Whiteness in Sport.” In Sports and Identity Eds. Barry Brummett and Andrew W. Ishak. New York: Routledge (2014): 60-82.
- Grondin, David. "Understanding Culture Wars through Satirical/Political Infotainment TV: Jon Stewart and The Daily Show's Critique as Mediated Re-enactement of the Culture War." Canadian Review Of American Studies 42, no. 3 (October 2012): 347-370.
- Hardin, Marie. “Family (Sports) Television: Exploring Cultural Power, Domestic Leisure, and Fandom in the Modern Context,” In Sports and Identity: New Agendas in Communication, Eds. Barry Brummett and Andrew W. Ishak (New York: Routledge, 2014), 262-280.
- Hay, James, et al. "Interview with Armand Mattelart." Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies 10, No. 1 (March 2013): 34-49.
- Hesmondhalgh, David. “What Cultural, Critical, and Communication Might Mean: Why Cultural Studies is a Bit Like Rave Culture.” Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies 10, Nos 2/3 (September 2013): 280-284.
- Hess, Aaron, and Art Herbig. "Recalling the Ghosts of 9/11: Convergent Memorializing at the Opening of the National 9/11 Memorial." International Journal Of Communication 19328036, No. 7 (January 2013): 2207-2230.
- Hossain, Dewan Mahboob and MM Shariful Karim. “Postmodernism: Issues and Problems.” Asian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities 2, No. 2 (2013): 173-181.
- Kompridis, Nikolas. “Re-Envisioning Critical Theory: Amy Allen’s The Politics of Our Selves.” Critical Horizons 15, No. 1 (2014): 1-13.
- McCarty, Teresa L., Sheilah E. Nicholas, and Leisy T. Wyman. “Re-emplacing Place in the ‘Global Here and Now’—Critical Ethnographic Case Studies of Native American Language Planning and Policy.” International Multilingual Research Journal 6 (2012): 50-63.
- Oates, Thomas Patrick. “Constructing Replay, Consuming Bodies: Sport Media and Neoliberal Citizenship,” In Sports and Identity: New Agendas in Communication, Eds. Barry Brummett and Andrew W. Ishak (New York: Routledge, 2014), 148-164.
- Offord, Baden, Booke, Grayson and Rob Garbutt. “A scholarly affair: Activating cultural studies in the wilds of the knowledge economy.” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 26, No. 2 (April 2012): 187-190.
- Prentice, Chris. “Reorienting culture for decolonization.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 27, No. 1 (2013): 4-17
- # Rasmussen, David. "Critical Theory: Then and Now." The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 26, No. 2 (2012): 291-298. (Academic Search Premier)
- # Renager, Valerie. “Critical/Cultural Scholarship and the Responsibility for Building Theory: Enduring Criticism Revisited,” Western Journal of Communication 77, No. 5 (2013): 509-513. (CMMC)
- Rich, Craig. "Object Pleasures and Job Segregation: Barbers, hairstylists, and the material (be) longings of work." Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry 12, No. 2 (2014).
- Roessner, Amber, et al. "A Measure of Theory?": Considering the Role of Theory in Media History." American Journalism 30, No. 2 (Spring 2013): 260-278.
- Sonderling, S. "To speak is to fight: war as structure of thought in Lyotard’s postmodern condition." Communicare 32, No. 2 (2013): 1 - 19.
- Sparks, Colin. "Global media studies: its development and dilemmas." Media, Culture & Society 35, No. 1 (January 2013): 121-131.
- # Tell, Dave. “Reinventing Walter Lippmann: Communication and Cultural Studies.” The Review of Communication 13, No. 2 (April 2013): 108-126. (CMMC)
- Turner, Graeme. “The Mark of Cultural Studies on Communication Research.” Cultural Studies 29, No. 1 (2015): 51-54.
- Vos, Tim P. 2013. "Historical Mechanisms and Journalistic Change." American Journalism 30, No. 1: 36-43.
- Warren, John T. Communication. A critical/cultural introduction. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, 2015.
- Weber, Martin. “Between ‘isses’ and ‘oughts’: IR constructivism, Critical Theory, and the challenge of political philosophy.” European Journal of International Relations 20, No. 2 (2014): 516-543.
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