Reading into Cultural Studies

Reading into Cultural Studies

Reading into Cultural Studies

Reading into Cultural Studies


Reading Into Cultural Studies revisits a selection of key texts central to the formation of cultural studies as a discipline and as a project. These texts address questions of power, ideology and the possibilities and limits of resistance. Each of the eleven essays in the collection renews an early study in one area of cultural investigation, bringing such seminal texts as Subculture by Dick Hebdige, Loving With a Vengeance by Tania Modleski and Bond and Beyond by Tony Bennett back to the centre of attention, However the essays are not purely celebratory. Each study is critically examined in a number of ways - for its research strategy, its implicit theories of power and ideology, for the empirical evidence it draws on and its conceptual framework. Together, the essays provide an introduction to some of the central debates and issues in cultural studies.


Learning about cultural studies in the 1990s is a very different enterprise from what it was to learn about it in the 1970s when the bulk of its current lecturers took it up, often with a touch of missionary enthusiasm. This may sound a terribly obvious thing to say, but it is worth charting some of the differences between now and then—because perhaps they are not all as obvious as might seem. In no particular order, we offer some of the changes that strike us as significant.

First, there was a sheer sense of being explorers. Whole new areas and arenas of popular culture and the mass media were being opened up, and methods of exploring them tried out. Who would be the first to have a go at, say, soap operas, or sitcoms, or music papers, or fashions? What would they draw on? What connections would they suggest?

It wasn't that we were the first to take popular culture seriously—the critics and moralists had done that for years. It wasn't being celebratory, either—there were deep suspicions of the ideological role and implications of most kinds of popular culture. It was, more, believing that they deserved systematic scrutiny, that we could only understand their political significance if we had systematic ways of looking at them.

Inevitably that sense of newness has declined. Of course there are many phenomena and kinds of culture still unstudied, but for most things there are now good precedents. Students coming into cultural studies now will always find dauntingly large reading lists awaiting them, and they are proliferating amazingly fast at the moment. But what about that sense of 'systems of looking'—what has happened to that? The answer to that, we think, is more complicated.

Second, in those tentative early days, in most places cultural studies

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