Relocating Cultural Studies into Curriculum Studies

By Pinar, William F. | Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Relocating Cultural Studies into Curriculum Studies


Pinar, William F., Journal of Curriculum Theorizing


In this art of study, each component of culture has a part to play, and every component of art, literature, science, and thought can be seen as educational in a rigorous sense.

--Robert McClintock (1971, 165)

The disciplinary specularity of the lynching and castration scene ... gave way (though not entirely) to other practices of surveillance and containment, and the long struggle for African-American representational inclusion in popular and political culture alike took center stage as the primary visible economy subtending the production of race.

--Robyn Wiegman (1995, 116)

The sharp shift to cultural studies during the 1990s has, perhaps, been too abrupt for a field that, just twenty years earlier, was fundamentally reconceptualized. The disciplinary throughlines from, say, the 1950 Tyler Rationale through Madeleine R. Grumet's stunning synthesis in Bitter Milk (1988) to recent scholarship in cultural studies--on subjects as varied as Disney (Giroux, 1999), Barbie (Seinberg, 1997), Macdonalds restaurants (Kincheloe, 2002), post-colonial figures such as Fanon and Basquiat (Dimitriadis & McCarthy, 2002) and hip-hop culture (Guillory, 2001, 2002; Daspit & Weaver, 2000)--need to be articulated. In this paper I hope to contribute to that articulation, already initiated (see Edgerton, 1996).

Much of contemporary cultural studies represents a post-political scholarship (see chapter 5, Pinar, et al., 1995, 283ff.). To a considerable extent, cultural studies have incorporated and replaced political curriculum theory as a major curriculum discourse. It is primarily post-Marxist scholarship (with important exceptions: see, for instance McLaren, 1997), although curricular concerns over the educational value of high and low, bourgeois and working-class, culture remain, if latent (see Wexler, 1988). While class considerations are in eclipse, racial (Mercer, 1994; Pinar, 2001) and gender analyses (Michasiw, 1994; Pinar, 1998; Miller, 2005) remain central. Subjects hitherto relegated to separate cultures (Snow, 1964)--such as science and humanities (Haraway, 1994; Weaver, Appelbaum, & Morris 2001)--are now incorporated into cultural studies.

What is the relation between cultural studies and curriculum studies? Does the former ricochet off the surface of the latter? There is a danger of that, despite efforts to link the two (see Edgerton, 1996). Over the next several years, I will argue that, like the so-called foundations of education, cultural studies should be integrated with curriculum studies. Simultaneously theoretical and practical, the interdisciplinary field of curriculum studies provides the pivotal site for scholarly efforts to understand educational experience both in and outside the school. Disciplinary traditions--among them history, philosophy, sociology, political theory--as well as interdisciplinary formations--among them cultural studies--are, in fact, already embedded in the unique history of U.S. curriculum studies (Pinar et al., 1995; Edgerton, 1996). Specifically, the interest in popular culture, so prominent in cultural studies, is evident in that history, including in my own, having worked from contemporary painting, a popular novel, and film. (1)

There are throughlines between the pre- and post-reconceptualization eras. By engaging in cultural studies we curriculum specialists are still asking: what knowledge is of most worth? (2) Studying academic knowledge and popular culture and their relations to each other and to subjectivity and society, we curriculum studies scholars can devise synoptic texts (see Pinar, 2004b) that complicate the conversation surrounding our field's central question. By so working, we might trouble the educational significance of the school curriculum for the self-reflexive individual struggling against submergence in a historical moment characterized by contradictory tendencies toward globalization, localism, ethnic nationalisms, religious fundamentalisms, post- and neocolonialism (Dimitriadis & McCarthy, 2001; Pinar, 2003a, 2004a). …

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