Friday, October 02, 2009

Michael Berube: What's the Matter With Cultural Studies?

In the Chronicle.

I have rather limited patience with that stuff, so what I'm about to say should perhaps be taken with more than the usual grain or so of salt. But I've always considered cultural studies to be a deeply unserious discipline (or quasi-discipline...or whatever). The intellectual standards over there seem about as rigorous as those for oh, say, blogging. The methods seem downright literary (note: that is not a good thing outside literature), and the goals seem largely political rather than intellectual, which means that it's not clear it even belongs in the university. Fairly lefty leftist politics just seem to be assumed.

It's not that I don't think there are interesting things to say about culture--that would be a silly thing to think. I just don't see cultural studies saying them, really. Disciplines have characters of their own, and cultural studies is simply not known for its intellectual heavyweights, nor for it's rigorous methods, nor for its interesting results, nor for its dazzling prospects. I'm not saying there's no place for it, but I am saying that it deserves less emphasis than it's gotten.

To the question "what's wrong with cultural studies?" I'm more-or-less tempted to respond "what's right with it?"


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