Cultural Studies, Australian
Studies and Cultural Sociology
Philip Smith and Brad West
Over recent years social science has developed leaky boundaries. Nowhere is this permeability more developed than in the study of culture. Ideas that traditionally belonged in arts faculties have seeped into the analysis of social life in decisive ways. This chapter follows one thematic current in this broader stream. It navigates the distinctive intellectual traditions of Australian studies, cultural studies and cultural sociology as these have interpreted Australia. By this we refer to their efforts at the cultural mapping and diagnosis of the Australian way of life, Australian nationalism and national identity, and Australian beliefs, values, priorities, national narratives and cultural codes. We review their historical and theoretical evolution, points of commonality and divergence, and efforts that reflect upon and critique such activities.
The origins of life are to be found in the double helix of DNA, two strands of information held, both together and apart, by interlocking ties. It is useful to think of our three traditions in an analogous way. They are intellectual codes that circle around each other in a dance of similarity and difference. Expressed in the temporal dimension, the result is a pattern of Hegelian familiarity in which progress is marked by a dialectical movement of critique and affirmation from Australian studies, to cultural studies and, most recently, cultural sociology, as these have successively encountered each other and 'the Australian'.
We commence the task of this chapter in a distant time and place – 1950s Britain. The birth of British cultural studies is popularly dated to the writings of Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams and their involvement in adult education. In The Uses of Literacy (1957), Hoggart provided an account of working-class life and culture that bordered on the ethnographic. A sometimes nostalgic account of pigeon-fancying, darts and brass bands, this had the merit of placing popular and working-class culture on the map as a legitimate topic of intellectual inquiry. Williams (1958, 1977) offered some theoretical gravitas to this intellectual activity. In a series of books written during the 1960s and 1970s, he engaged in a neo-Marxist literary and historical critique that established a