Inside Culture: Re-Imagining the Method of Cultural Studies
Some authors have recognised that the continuing practices of tradition continually re-invent those traditions for the future Cang, The collection we discuss in this article is not made of pre-existing tangibles rehoused into a discrete space. Our nascent collection is made of film, photographic and audio productions in which people from different demographic groups explore their relations with a historic site and its environs.
They can be sited ex-situ in a museum building, like a conventional museum collection i. We see the potential for a living collection that acknowledges the future-orientation of producing perspectives on the past. It is the past as experienced in the present and told and re-told for the future. How though would such a collection come to be? What circumstances would provoke its inauguration and what methods would help it form? We present one possible answer to these questions. We will focus not on the construction of the collection itself, which remains in the future of our project, but on the way that we have laid groundwork.
We describe how now quite established exploratory design research methods allowed the establishment of orientation points for the collection and our plans for carrying them forward into its future production. Our use of cultural probes during our work with participants led to a number of creative and practical ideas for the future co-production of heritage interpretation materials within our project. Here, we describe these while noting their concordance with key themes in critical heritage.
Other work describes the co-production of exhibition materials based on the contribution of local participants. Mason et al. This work we bracket separately to the research above because the newly produced items, in our analysis, occupy a kind of ontological duality. They stand both as a form of creative interpretation of and in response to an existing, curated institutional collection but also, crucially, constitute a new collection in their own right. In this sense, the work of Mason et al.
Our work takes a step further still. In the early stages of our project, we conceived of the grounds for the creation of a new collection independent of a museum setting and broadly independent of direct relationships to existing interpretation. Instead, our work exists in relationship to a heritage site and the people who, in various ways, invest it with meanings. Critically, these are not powerful heritage actors such as local politicians, heritage professionals and scholars, but rather people who live, or have lived, with the site, or in whose lives and—sometimes—identities, the Walls play an important part.
Our particular contribution is to discuss the application of creative co-design methods to conceptualising, producing and organising the foundation of such a new collection. The Land Walls extend around six kilometres across the peninsula defining the ancient rear perimeter of Constantinople and now cut through the contemporary metropolis. Their significant length and imposing physical size cause them to occupy a complex and contradictory space in the life of the city.
As is often the case with the ubiquitous, for many they simply drop out of view. Also significant is the wide variety of city districts around the Walls and the diverse and sometimes diasporic make-up of their inhabitants. In addition to the picture of current communities, forced displacement has a long and troubling recent history in the city and in communities adjacent to the Walls. Pogroms against the Greek residents of the city in and intergroup tensions following the invasion of Cyprus in caused many Greek and Armenian residents of Istanbul to flee their homes.
More recently, the forced displacement of Roma communities in provoked organised responses from local inhabitants, which ultimately failed in their fight against a local gentrification which had ethnic undertones, as described vividly by Uysal To outline adequately the main complexities of contemporary Turkish politics is obviously far beyond the scope of this article.
Many, however, will recognise how the conflict between secular and religious identities, between social classes and between ethnicities reaches into many facets of contemporary Turkish social and political life and in many ways is at its most visible in Istanbul because of its demographic, historical and spatial complexities.
Given the complex demographic with a concern in the site briefly and partially alluded to above, it is all the more troubling that a more considered participatory exercise was not undertaken.
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The main sections of the Land Walls themselves were constructed on pre-existing structures in the reign of the emperor Theodosius II in the 5th-century CE and further developed over the subsequent centuries Kuban, 49— Despite the long and eventful history of the Walls, it is this event that dominates the heritage narrative as deployed in interpretation along the Walls Figure 1 and in a major new municipal museum opened in , the Panorama museum, not far from a section of the Walls.
Thus the Walls are memorialised at the moment of their failure and, perhaps more significantly, at the moment when the historical forebears of some minority groups in the city sustained a catastrophic loss to the attacking forces as Constantinople fell. For some, the triumphalist narrative of this victory is an inspiring tale of technical and tactical ingenuity and resourcefulness. The structure is introduced through the context of the conquest in preference to its structural, strategic, geographical or otherwise historical importance.
Photo credit: T. Schofield, Much previous literature in HCI and interaction design has explored the use of creative techniques in processes of co-design with participants. Cultural probes are collections of creative tasks given to participants in a co-design process. Particularly pertinent here is the focus on a social, embodied or phenomenological conceptualisation of spaces in these probe designs.
Personal mapmaking, creative photographic tasks and place-centred writing activities such as sending postcards were all employed in developing a more fragmentary, personal and affective response to the environment. It is for this reason that we adopted this response over other possible co-design methods. As we will describe, place and its personal and social ramifications are key to the development of our project and the early stages of creating a collection.
Indeed, only eight years after the original work survey, almost 90 papers claim a methodology including the use of cultural probes Boehner et al. A glance at the contemporary picture shows cultural probes and their variants being applied in settings as varied as organisation management Vyas et al. Cultural probes have also found some limited uptake as a method for thinking about the past in and out of the contexts of museums or other forms of heritage institutions or sites. Galani et al. Their work, exploring so-called Rock Art carvings found in parts of rural Northumberland in the north-east of England and elsewhere sought new avenues to engaging with potential visitors.
Galani, Mazel et al. Schofield et al. Here a set of annotatable bookmarks allowed users of the archive to leave reflective notes and cross references hidden among the unsorted collection creating opportunities for new connections between items. Claisse et al. Their work builds on the creative affordances of probes in two distinct ways: first by using creativity as a hook to involve museum staff in a dialogical relationship with designers, and second by using the creative tasks defined as a probe activity as a direct exercise in imagining alternative forms of museum display.
Within our project, the cultural probes had two main purposes which were reflexively interdependent: the first was to act as a mediating factor, a basis for a looser and more imaginative discussion with participants than might occur with more traditional ethnographic interview techniques. In an earlier stage of our project, a series of approximately 80 ethnographic interviews many of which were conducted as walks with routes around the Walls determined by interviewees had already provided a rich data set.
The probes interviews provided an extension, feathering the edges of this activity, and were conducted with existing interviewees from the main ethnography. The second purpose was, as we have said, to focus particularly on personal, social and emotional senses of place. Consequently, our probe designs were calibrated specifically to evoke responses tied to identifiable parts of the Land Walls. This was not only because of the particular relationships between heritage, place and lived experience that we hoped to discuss, but also because a later output of our project was to be a locative media installation which would associate the co-produced content of our new collection with interactions in public space.
Full discussion of the planned installation itself is beyond the scope of this article but it will suffice to say here that we have a particular interest in the quality of spatial interactions in public space away from typical typologies defined by common locative technologies such as hotspots, geofencing and so forth. During the process of conducting our cultural probes interviews, we came to acknowledge the value of the probes in suggesting oblique strategies for the future co-production of personal stories.
In some sense then, the focus of our article here was a corollary benefit. In the course of listening to participants talk about their reactions to the probes, a series of related concerns and refrains suggested to us that they might form the basis of future activities with these or other participants. The participants in our project were drawn from a diverse cross section of Istanbuli society. To identify participants, we drew on a larger pool of participants in our research project who had been the subject of other ethnographic interviews conducted by project colleagues.
This broader pool had been identified with a variety of approaches. Our probes study was relatively small, comprising five interviews with a total of eight participants in three cases individually, and in two cases in groups of two and three respectively. Prior to the interviews researchers had presented the probes packages to participants. The packages contained instructions on how to use them. Interviews lasted between an hour and more than five, and were conducted in Turkish with the non-Turkish-speaking researchers being assisted by colleagues translating into English.
The probe packets contained five probes Figure 2. Most participants chose to complete three to four of the five possible activities. We have described how our cultural probes had two original functions within our research project—providing rich interview data with an emphasis on creativity and imagination and also provoking particular reflection on public space. We have also mentioned that in the course of conducting our interviews we encountered a number of factors which suggested the value of these probe activities in conceptualising activities to form the basis of a new collection.
Rather than a more holistic analysis of the interview material then, we will instead focus on a number of key discussion outcomes within the probe interviews that shaped the design of our future co-production activities. These are discussed below, activity by activity. This was a small notebook, visible at the far right of Figure 2 , in which we asked people to record sounds they had heard and where they had heard them.
We also invited people to take simple mobile phone field recordings around their neighbourhoods and suggested some free apps for them to use. We had an interest in the sonic environment of the Walls, founded in our earlier field visits in which we spent significant amounts of time walking in both guided and unstructured routes along and near the Walls. These walks had instilled in us a close interest in the sensory experience of the Walls within the city due to the often dusty, cacophonic, and visually and olfactorily varied urban environment. Our original probes pack contained five distinct activities and it was always our assumption that some of the activities would prove less interesting to participants than others.
Indeed, the probes were presented to people from the outset as a set of possibilities from among which they could choose to engage with all or some according to their interest. The sounds diary itself was an activity which consistently was left incomplete indeed none of the participants used it, perhaps thanks to our suggestion to download and use an unfamiliar app , but responses to other probes suggested that a focus on the sonic environment of the Walls and in particular the perception that this was in an impoverished state in comparison to the past was a recurrent theme in our interviews.
These findings are of particular significance considering that the relevance of auditory and other sensory facets of memory remains under-theorised in heritage studies. In particular, one probe a mapping activity in which we asked people to design a walking tour route for a person from the past provoked responses where these sensory features were foregrounded. Although we had intended the activity to promote a sense of connectedness between the participant in the present and individuals from the more distant past, most chose to interpret this activity for someone from within their living memory, a cherished community member, an uncle, or an old friend.
The places and spaces described were often small-scale, intimate but significant parts of their neighbourhoods—a garden, a cemetery plot, a market. The prevalence of accounts of auditory aspects of experience, or of identifiable individual sounds marked a clear path to us for thinking about co-production activities focussing around sounds and their role in thinking and talking about the past. We provided writing materials and an envelope on which we asked participants to address their letter to particular towers, stretches of Wall, gates or areas.
Of all the probe designs we produced, this was arguably the most successful in evoking personal connections between the present and the past and consequently, we saw potential in adapting this activity for use in the future co-production. One participant from the Greek community, Kostas, wrote his letter to part of the Walls near to the area where the invading Ottoman army is thought to have finally breached the defences.
Kostas asked the Walls whether, in fact, the conquest had been an inside job so-to-speak a well-known theory. He speculated as to whether this betrayal, if indeed it had taken place, was for financial reasons, perhaps a poor citizen lured by the promise of riches, or for political ones, perhaps a high-ranking leader of the city trying to cement their place in the new city which they saw as an inevitability. Kostas related these speculations to the contemporary and historical demographic make-up of areas of the city in an account which wound in descriptions of the city along the Walls at the time of the conquest and now, noting the suspicion in which some areas were held.
This direct bringing together of the past and present was also a feature of the answers to this activity from two other participants, interviewed together. Yusuf and Erdal were former residents of the region of Sulukule. Building on events through the s, the area was comprehensively demolished around —10 with many of the mostly Roma inhabitants being forcibly relocated to distant suburbs Uysal, 15 , making way for a modern housing development for more, see Foggo ; Robins, ; Uysal, The gentrification of this area which had functioned as an entertainment district was a catastrophic loss of both home and livelihood for many in the Roma community.
We establish this background briefly here to contextualise the contributions of these two participants which by their own accounts related strongly to these events. Their letters to the Walls also took the form of two questions. The conditions for cultural continuity have been disrupted: perhaps, border regions and other intense sites of displacement illustrate this most graphically, but they affect contemporary culture quite generally, because of the profound impact media narratives have on both private and public space.
Garcia Canclini puts it as follows: Collective identities find their constitutive stage less and less in the city and in its history, whether distant or recent. Almost all sociability, and reflection about it, is concentrated in intimate exchanges. More than an absolute substitution of urban life by the audiovisual media, I perceive a game of echoes. The commercial advertising and political slogans that we see on television are those that we reencounter in the streets, and vice versa: the ones are echoed in the others.
To this circularity of the communicational and the urban are subordinated the testimonies of history and the public meaning constructed in longtime [sic] experiences. As Stuart Hall has eloquently argued , it is precisely under the pressure of violence and displacement that the histories of identity formation are played out, and hybrid identities emerge.
It is, above all, in situations of conflict that a critical understanding of culture is called for; more generally, we can say that cultures are formed in conflict. Let me illustrate this by drawing on some recent reflections on the prospects for black cultural criticism in the USA. For black cultural critics in the USA, there can be no simple affirmation of the Euro-American intellectual tradition.
Such prophetic criticism examines and judges the culture that surrounds it at a quite fundamental level. Such criticism necessarily involves a complex relationship to collective experience and culture. It is, as West says, self-critical and self-corrective. A recent essay by David Lionel Smith expresses this powerfully: we [black cultural critics] must have the courage to risk alienating ourselves by challenging common sense, by being true critics and not mere celebrants of black culture, and by subverting the premises that define blackness. What then is black culture? It is, rather, a complex and ambiguous set of processes and interactions, facts, and fantasies, assertions and inquiries, passionately held and passionately contested.
As Kobena Mercer put it: in relation to. Mercer, 3, original emphasis At another level different writers within black British cultural studies especially Hall, argued that the very notion of identity needed to be rethought to take account of widespread experiences of discontinuity whether the historical catastrophes of colonialism and slavery and their aftermath, or contemporary forms of migration and displacement — even tourism. The very space of nations and cultures, organized around the assumption of mutually exclusive differences, was deconstructed by Homi Bhabha and others.
And all these debates have extended into the wider space of post-colonial theory. Towards common ground? At this stage I shall set out five principles, or values, which are important for the practice of cultural studies and which emerged from the preceding discussion. I am brief here because these principles are developed throughout the book in fact, they were already implicit in the images of cultural studies suggested in Chapter 1. Taken together, they represent possible common ground on the basis of which cultural studies can stand, or fall, as a discipline.
What matters is not the achievement of some unified voice that elides difference, but the multiplication of voices. At stake here is much more than a universal right to speak a tower of Babel without mutual understanding. Necessarily involved is a second principle: the obligation to listen to those other voices.
Cultural studies has to be a space for both speaking and listening. This second principle is often forgotten, but it is crucial. The classroom itself needs to be a space where each person can be confident that their voice will be recognized and valued hooks, Wherever we have started from, we need to listen to others who started from a different position.
Cultural studies, however, should involve not only dialogue, but also reflexivity this is the third principle , including reflection about the means through which all the voices in that dialogue have been formed, and the conditions which underlie the production of the space of cultural studies itself. That means reflecting both on ourselves and on the culture around us: does, for instance, that culture satisfy the principles of cultural democracy which the first two principles encapsulate? Critical reflection on shared culture, of course, carries risks: of being misunderstood as elitist or unconstructive.
If such reflexivity is to be effective, it must be theoretically adequate for what it reflects upon. In looking at how voices and cultures are formed, it must adopt a materialist perspective the fourth principle. Cultural phenomena — and this is a common thread throughout the history of cultural studies, wherever it has been practised — are always material processes, which are far from transparent. Who is represented in them and how? Who has access to them and on what terms?
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Who does not have access? Studying culture, then, means examining how hierarchies and exclusions, as well as inclusions, work in practice within culture — whether those of race, class, gender, sexuality, education, age or the relations of power that exist between large-scale cultural formations colonialism, imperialism, economic domination. These questions apply on all social and geographical scales: personal, local, national and global. It is here that cultural studies must draw on work in the political economy tradition, because of the way it addresses the impacts of economic as well as cultural processes of exclusion.
Yet there are dilemmas: how are we to give adequate weight both to speaking and to listening, both to self-reflexivity and to critical analysis? How can we develop a materialist analysis which is respectful of the individual voice? How can we reconcile a sense of the complexity and difference within the real inequalities of power? These are issues and tensions to be explored in the rest of the book. One further principle is worth stating: quite simply, the first four principles have to be actively defended through the work of cultural studies itself.
If it is to be more than fine ambition, cultural studies must be an empowering practice, a practice which acts directly upon the conditions of culture to change them. As if to illustrate the need for this, when I began writing this chapter in April , Britain was enduring a particularly prominent spate of racist and homophobic violence, which provoked Prime Minister Tony Blair to make an affirmation of a vision of community across difference In the past, patriotism, national identity was defined by reference to those excluded. Today we take pride in an identity, limited by the geography of the country, but within that country, open to all whatever their colour, religion or ethnic background.
The undermining of cultural democracy can, in any case, take more subtle forms than bombs. This has quite drastic implications for the cultural dialogue for which cultural studies calls: The clash between the multiculturalists and the defenders of Western civilization and the American Creed [sic] is. Within the American segment of Western civilization, Americans cannot avoid the issue: Are we a Western people or are we something else? Domestically this means rejecting the divisive siren calls of multiculturalism.
Internationally it means rejecting the elusive and illusory calls to identify the United States with Asia. Huntington, It is against the background of this and other rallying cries to cultural exclusion that cultural studies has to work, actively defending the values for which it stands. Learning teaching from experience Values sound abstract, but they must always be redeemed in practice. His own education was marked by injustice. He grew up in a working-class family, but at the age of 11 the scholarship place he had won on merit was awarded to another boy through nepotism.
Because of lack of family resources, he left secondary school in London at 14 years of age, long before his educational abilities had been fulfilled. Looking back from this distance, the pedagogic principles shared by both wings of British adult education matter more than the differences: above all, there was the principle that education is central to democracy and must be responsive to the life experiences of those it teaches.
McIlroy, He saw democratic principles extending into the classroom: Popular education in any worthwhile sense begins from a conception of human beings which. Williams, b: —4  This vision, as the American educational and cultural theorist Henry Giroux has seen b: ; , remains highly relevant today. Doing cultural studies means being active as a cultural producer and doing your own theorizing about the culture around you Giroux, 50, 52; cf.
This means as many people as possible getting critical skills, demystifying the processes of representation through examining how meanings are produced, and becoming aware of the underlying politics of representation. This is the true moving force of cultural studies as a discipline.
It means always listening to the experiences of others, and, as part of that, being ready for theoretical and methodological change. Cultural studies, of course, was that new discipline; and yet we are a long way from achieving, anywhere, the participatory culture for which Williams hoped. Method is the route to making that complexity manageable. The succeeding chapters look directly at the methodological challenges which cultural complexity poses.
There are problems with the anthropological notion of culture, explored in Chapter 5. Ngugi 11—13 ; cf. Williams b: 7 and see Chapter 1. Williams acknowledged this later See Gilroy Williams — See Williams , especially section II 3. See Kember for helpful discussion. Significantly Williams wrote critically about English writers such as Lawrence who chose exile: Williams This is to select drastically from a large tradition of work on the Mexican—US border: see Alvarez and more generally Chabram-Dernersesian For overviews of post-colonial theory, see Moore-Gilbert and MooreGilbert et al.
For discussion of the hostile reaction to this work in Asia, see Chen 16— Carolyn Steedman No social study that does not come back to the problems of biography, of history, and of their intersections within a society, has completed its intellectual journey. Wright Mills 12  [W]hen she realized what her situation in the world was and would probably always be she threw away every assumption she had learned and began at zero.
Toni Morrison, The Song of Solomon The individual self is formed within culture, and on the basis of shared cultural resources. While there may be broad consensus on this point, there remain a number of difficult issues. Questioning this has been a feature of post-structuralism, a challenge to one of the main tenets of modern thought in the West. If not, our whole perspective on the individualculture relationship must change. We can look at this problem on two levels.
This is a question, partly, about cultural flows; it is fundamental to any attempt to understand cultural experience across the world today, whether in anthropology, sociology, history, or cultural studies. I discuss this in Chapter 5. These questions are particularly important in understanding how cultural studies has developed and they are the subject of this chapter. My argument is that cultural studies, until recently, has tended although with some important exceptions to study culture on the scale of wider cultural formations, even where it has emphasized the contradictions that operate there.
In the second section The problem of experience detailed examples are used to show why ignoring the scale of individual cultural experience means missing crucial insights into what culture is. In the final part of the chapter Expanding the scope of cultural research I look more broadly at the new empirical questions about culture that arise when we take seriously the complexity of individual experience.
They include questions about the historical nature of experience, to which cultural studies has tended to give too little emphasis. In this and other ways, this chapter provides a preliminary working out of the methodological themes addressed more fully in later chapters. Subcultural theory The problem of overemphasizing the unifying tendencies in cultural experiences and cultural production emerged in Chapter 2, when we discussed Raymond Williams. A similar formulation was shared by many other writers in early British cultural studies: indeed it was closely connected with the power and insights of the work.
So you can distinguish three levels in the analysis of subcultures: one is historical analysis which isolates the specific problematic of a class fraction, in this case, the respectable working class; and secondly a structural or semiotic analysis of the [cultural] subsystems and the way they are articulated. On this basis, then, individual experience is merely the place for working out wider structural patterns. Even so, Hebdige continued the tendency to discuss cultural issues in terms of wider structural unities, for example in this extract from his justly celebrated analysis of British punk: This is not to say, of course, that all punks were equally aware of the disjunction between experience and signification upon which the whole style was ultimately based.
The style no doubt made sense for the first wave of selfconscious innovators at a level which remained inaccessible to those who became punks after the subculture had surfaced and been publicized. Punk is not unique in this: the distinction between originals and hangers-on is always a significant one in subculture. However, despite these individual differences, the members of a subculture must share a common language. And if a style is really to catch on, if it is to become genuinely popular, it must say the right thing at the right time.
It must anticipate or encapsulate a mood, a moment. It must embody a sensibility, and the sensibility which punk style embodied was essentially dislocated, ironic and self-aware. They formulated the important issues about culture exclusively at a broad structural level, with too little account taken of the complexity of individual cultural experience.
The Australian cultural theorist, Meaghan Morris, has formulated the difficulty very well in a critique of the British cultural studies tradition and also, incidentally, the writings of Baudrillard. In Britain, Angela McRobbie b  had already critiqued subcultural studies for neglecting girls and women, whose integration into male-dominated subcultures saturated by antifemale aggression was, to say the least, problematic. But human beings and social movements also strive to produce some coherence and continuity, and through this exercise some control over feelings, conditions, and destinies.
Johnson, —4 [—87], original emphasis This passage contains, among other things, an important response to poststructuralist critiques of the subject, which I discuss in detail in Chapter 6. Hall, , first emphasis added There is, in other words, a gap between the space from which the subject speaks and the discursive means available to him or her with which to speak. At the same time, identifying that gap allowed new identities to be formed — for example, within the ethnic, cultural and sexual politics of late s Britain as analysed in the work of Kobena Mercer and others.
That challenge works in two directions at once. This directly leads on to important political issues about the unequal opportunities which people have either to participate in or to be represented by cultural production. These relations are full of contradictions, and the contradictions themselves are crucial to understanding wider issues of inequality. But, as Hall points out, while there is a real conflict between the two positions, even structuralist arguments do not completely undermine an appeal to individual experience.
Mead, , added emphasis Each person carries with them an individual history of reflection which cannot be reduced to shared cultural patterns. These are, of course, difficult issues, to which we return in Chapter 6. For the time being, it is worth keeping in mind a crucial distinction that is often forgotten. There are two, quite different, ways in which we might think of wider forces language, ideology, cultural frameworks, and so on as influencing our experience as individuals. The first is as determining conditions, which would determine the specific content of experience, so that our experience would truly be reducible to those underlying conditions; it would be nothing but their working out.
Alternatively, those wider forces might be merely constitutive, or limiting, conditions, which would impose some limits on the types of experience we might have all experience, for example, is closely tied to our means for formulating it in a particular language, normally our first language , but would not determine specifically their content. In fact, no one has yet convincingly shown that those wider forces ideology, and so on are determining, rather than merely constitutive, conditions of what we experience.
The confusion, or sliding, of terms is crucial since it leads to a drastic exaggeration of the influence upon us of shared language and cultural forms. I have argued this, negatively, against the grain of some early British cultural studies, but here I want to put the point more positively through specific examples of where the individual perspective on culture makes a difference. Steedman grew up in the s in a reasonably comfortable, but unhappy working-class family in south London.
It is important, however, to point out that this is just one strand of debate within the book. In particular, the book contains a detailed dialogue with psychoanalytic perspectives, which it would be interesting to explore in detail. However, as I mentioned in Chapter 1, there are deep-seated theoretical issues relating to the role of psychoanalysis in cultural studies which are beyond the scope of this book. To keep the discussion within bounds, those issues are put to one side. Yet she also insists that her mother was a good mother, and that this was a role which her mother explicitly sought to play.
This leads Steedman to comment on how people inhabit the stereotypical roles that are required of them: her presentation of herself as a good mother shows also with what creativity people may use the stuff of cultural and social stereotype, so that it becomes not a series of labels applied from outside a situation, but a set of metaphors ready for transformation by those who are its subjects. Two important implications follow from all of this.
Another implication follows.
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Accounts of working-class life are told by tension and ambiguity out on the borderlands. Giroux, a. Not identifying. Landscape for a Good Woman is an original, and particular, history. But other important challenges to the familiar narratives of cultural studies have been developed by British feminist writers during the s. This is not simply self-directed social advancement, but a consequence of something deeper: the fact that those women did not have available to them narratives through which they could speak positively about themselves as working-class women As a result, they worked on performing another class position.
Whilst the imaginary middle class may represent elegance and sophistication, the real middle class may behave in ways the women do not want to be associated with. They cannot pass as completely middle class because they do not want to.
Inside Culture: Reimagining the Method of Cultural Studies
They respect and resent the power of the middle classes but despise them for the power they affect. The issue of disidentification is relevant to cultural studies internationally, far beyond the British context and debates over class. What are the possibilities of politicizing disidentification, this experience of misrecognition, this uneasy sense of standing under a sign to which one does and does not belong?
The French lesbian theorist Monique Wittig closes her influential book, The Straight Mind and Other Essays , by emphasizing the uncertain position of each individual both inside and outside the available narratives of their culture. Its many interviews demonstrate beyond doubt what an indispensable resource individual voices are.
Here, for example, is a retired factory worker, called Abbas, who emigrated to France from Algeria in and now has come to reflect bitterly on the consequences: How did we arrive here? Are we the same? The same creatures that we were on the first day [we emigrated]? What changed our state of being? One must accept it, as it is. It may sound as if Bourdieu is returning us to a naive individualism, where individual voices are taken at face value. But this is far from the case: the point of orchestrating these individual voices is to bring out the structural patterns working within the details of their lives, which a more general social theory or equally empirical survey work could never uncover cf.
Bourdieu, Addressing this is, fundamentally, a political question about who gets heard. In so doing, they make our experiences appear ordinary, robbing them of any importance or potency. Spence, —5 What are the implications of this principle for empirical work on culture? Expanding the landscape of cultural research We live in societies and cultures where individuals are spoken for, much more than they speak in their own name — and they are not necessarily spoken for accurately. Whose cultural experience?
This means researching cultural experience on all sides of important social and cultural divisions. Take the example of contemporary dance music. We need to understand the engagement with dance of both men and women, people of high social status and of low social status, and whatever their ethnic identity. Equally, of course, we need to look closely at how such social divisions are bridged, and how far they continue to be reproduced, through the consumption and production of this music. Although there has been important work which takes that responsibility seriously,18 it is worth emphasizing that to study popular music consumption in this way — that is, across class status and other divisions — undermines the implicit assumption of much earlier cultural studies work that it was dealing principally, or even entirely, with the taste of subordinate groups.
How can we possibly assume this, given the broad availability and popularity of dance music? Some writers, rather unfairly, have argued that this is because media studies is complicit with a project of pathologizing the working class, maintaining it under surveillance Hartley, ; Walkerdine, This ignores the potential practical difficulties in doing ethnography in the living rooms of the rich and powerful, resulting precisely from the fact that they are rich and powerful! This has been an issue as much for anthropology as for cultural studies Lamont, But the gap in cultural studies research remains.
Perhaps the most intractable blind spot in cultural studies research has been age. Although never stated explicitly, there has been an assumption that the experiences of the old are just not worth studying. Cultural studies has failed completely to challenge the discriminations against the old which operate in British and many other societies Hazan, Are they alienated by it or do they find ways of engaging positively with it?
The answer as yet is: we do not know. What type of cultural experience? There is also no justification for favouritism in what aspects of culture we study. In fact, until we study in greater depth the full range of cultural materials that individuals consume, we cannot hope to deal theoretically with the changes to the landscape of taste that may, or may not, be occurring.
Even if in some cases we are sure that a particular type of music or film is more radical, more politically engaged, than others, that provides no special reason for studying its consumption. There is, in any case, always the question of how such material is absorbed by individuals alongside the less innovative, the less radical. Clearly, there are historical moments when large groups of people, for a time, make drastic choices about what they will and will not consume.
If this is true for individuals, it must also be true on a larger scale. Cultural studies cannot do without a sense of history, an awareness of the historical production of the cultural surfaces with which it has to engage. Yet the uses of history in cultural studies are underdeveloped C. Hall, ; Steedman, ; Pickering, and comparative historical research in cultural studies remains just a dream. But, as always, it is a question of where politics enters the analysis. An underlying argument in this chapter has been that, if politics enters at the level of dictating what forms of cultural experience — or what types of people — we study, then it can only distort our picture of the cultural terrain.
Politics must enter the analysis at a different point, in foregrounding the issues of power and inequality within all culture, and their bases in the material workings of culture: its exclusions, its inclusions, its contradictions, and in each case their basis in other structures social, economic. It is in insisting on these issues that so-called political economy approaches have been very helpful for example, Golding, , although they have no monopoly on them Couldry, ch.
We confront here starkly the issue of choice. Cunningham, 21, quoted in Bennett, 68  This connects with broader issues of citizenship and community which are raised in Chapter 7. The power invested in cultural studies intellectuals to speak and write about culture is itself, of course, an important part of the equation here; if we take seriously a commitment to cultural democracy, we should be suspicious also about that voice, using it tactically and cautiously.
Empirical research, whatever its limitations, is one important tactic to open up what can otherwise easily become rather isolated theoretical positions. This is no naive empiricism. Issues of power, for example, mean that we cannot simply take interview material at face value. The same is true of the wider culture. The complexity of action and talk I have not considered in any detail in this chapter what researching individual cultural experience might involve.
The contentious issues lie at a more general level. Even so, it is worth giving a sense of the terrain. Studying cultural experience must involve looking at a number of processes, which may or may not mesh neatly together. These are basically action and talk a useful, if crude, division : see Figure 3. But the question of how identity connects with music is not straightforward.
We cannot simply take individual tastes at face value, for a number of reasons. First, because they can be seen in terms of a strategy which may not be consciously formulated of social positioning and capital acquisition Bourdieu, Second, because identity is not simply expressed in music but to some extent — perhaps even to a large extent — is found through music Frith, We recognize an affinity with others through music which without music we might not have articulated at all. Studying the texture of individual voices, in other words, if done properly, brings us back inexorably to wider structural issues about power and the workings of social and cultural institutions — which is exactly where we should be.
In the next two chapters, I shift focus and look at the issues concerning the complexity of culture that arise when we take a trans-individual perspective — in relation, respectively, to texts and cultural flows. Can you see a coherent pattern to them? Find out if that person finds your account convincing; if not, think about where, and why, your accounts differ. In each case, think both about what is said, and what might have been omitted; think both about the individual narrative presented, and about the wider set of narrative forms through which that life has been told or perhaps not told.
Identify both what might be important about the particular topic and the further, comparative studies it might generate. Hall, a. For helpful discussion of this debate, see Benjamin 82—8. For a clear discussion of the distinction between determining and limiting or constitutive conditions, and its importance for assessing post-structuralist attacks on social research, see Bohman —32 ; and cf. Thanks to Jim McGuigan for pointing out this reference. And it is only magazines that I read. Just have trouble sleeping, which everybody does, and that is what started me reading in bed.
Mary Croston, interviewee quoted in Hermes 34 the world is full of abandoned meanings Don DeLillo, White Noise Our cultural life is saturated by texts, especially media texts. Cultural studies cannot, therefore, do without textual analysis; indeed many have argued that textual analysis is the method which distinguishes it from, say, cultural sociology. Instead, I focus on the more general, and more fundamental, question: what does it mean to do effective textual analysis in the context of contemporary cultural studies?
At what level can we usefully analyse the textual environments we inhabit? In contemporary cultures of exceptional textual density and complexity, serious doubts arise about these questions. Both exegesis and analysis depend on prior value judgements: obviously about the merit of texts themselves, but also more subtly about the judgement of a particular type of reader — the critic or more recently the semiotician, that is, someone who is assumed to make correct or authoritative judgements.
That might seem to be the end of the matter, since critical discussion about literary value provided it admits that it cannot be other than partisan and particular would seem to be an important part of our cultural conversation. But in deciding whether literary models still have anything to offer to cultural studies, we have to ask a further question: what is the methodological function of value judgements about texts and readings?
They work, I would argue, to limit the complexity and vastness of the textual field: selecting from the range of available texts those to which we have to pay close attention; selecting from the range of possible readings those which can serve as reference points for establishing meanings. Such value judgements are stabilizing devices4 in textual fields which, in reality, are far from stable — or at least so complex that we have as yet few reliable means of describing where their stability lies. Ask different, broadly sociological questions — what are the social or cultural effects of particular texts or what does it mean for a text to have social significance?
It is this sociologically informed approach to texts which, I would suggest, is most useful for cultural studies, although of course it can always draw on the alternative two approaches exegesis and analysis to establish the possible meanings and impact of, say, a film and to analyse how formally they are produced. If we are really interested in articulating the connections between culture and power, as cultural studies is see Chapter 1 , then we are simply required to ask: what effects does that text actually have on social practice, what types of cultural experiences are in practice associated with seeing it?
This raises an ontological question evaded by literary approaches : what is a text, when considered as a social object? It is this question which is so difficult to answer in cultures characterized by a massive proliferation of texts. I argue that cultural studies itself has often neglected this question,7 and this neglect underlies uncertainties within cultural studies about other problems, whether epistemological how are we in a position to know about texts? By focusing firmly on the underlying ontological questions — what is a text? In addition, cultural theorists became increasingly aware of the phenomenon of inter-textuality:9 the dense network of interconnections between texts, which, arguably, it is as important to understand as the texts themselves.
My favourite as an illustration of how the Star Wars cover can be used was an article in the high-circulation celebrity magazine OK promoting a visit by a British TV celebrity to the locations where The Phantom Menace was filmed: the article came with an invitation to compete for a holiday in Tunisia visiting the locations, itself promoting a travel company. If we place The Phantom Menace in its own wider context the Star Wars series, all the associated fan literatures and practices, the whole history of cross-marketed merchandise-saturated Hollywood blockbuster films , it is clear that we need to understand not one discrete text but a vast space of more or less interconnected texts, and how that space is ordered.
And this is just one of many interconnected regions of contemporary textual production. In a vast textual universe, we must ask different questions about texts or, at least, address old questions in a different way. In other words: What is the basic unit of analysis in thinking about textual production as a social phenomenon? This may seem a strange question until we realize that, even in literary analysis, the apparent obviousness of treating the book, or play, or poem as the basic unit of analysis rests on certain conventions for thinking about authorship.
The problem, however, is that since the actual textual field surrounding, say, a film is so complex and has so many participants, to treat the film text in isolation seems highly artificial from a methodological point of view. If, as we saw, the canon of highly valued texts was a way of limiting the complexity of the textual field, and making analysis manageable, perhaps we need something similar for the wider textual environment, but based on more transparent criteria.
But the important question is: on what scale do readers themselves regard textual order as existing? Put another way, what textual materials in practice function as texts? Bennett and Woollacott, Such differences are partly questions of convention, but they affect what expectations readers have of the text and of their own reading of it. A basic, if oversimplified, example would be the contrast between films and magazines. Most films or novels are produced on the assumption that their audience will watch or read them with enough concentration to be aware of whether, and how, the plot is resolved at the end.
By contrast, most magazines and a great deal of radio, TV and press production assume a quite limited, and discontinuous, degree of concentration in their audiences readerships. When dealing with the second broad type of textuality as cultural analysts, we simply cannot make the same assumptions about how those texts are should be read as we would about, say, a film. They work both as flow and as individual dramas. Soaps have, therefore, quite a complex textuality, and we cannot be sure without investigating it further that different viewers would necessarily agree about how a particular programme should be watched.
Another example Bennett, is museum spaces. Are they read as independent, self-sufficient entities, and if so by whom other than professional cultural analysts and critics? If not, how are they made sense of? Textuality in turn raises the question of inter-textuality. Certain types of inter-textual connection are specifically promoted and it is impossible not to be aware of them. I have already mentioned the merchandising extensions of Star Wars imagery and characters.
There are countless others: for example, the cross-promotion of the Tomb Raider heroine Lara Crofts in advertisements for drinks Lucozade, UK campaign, How are these inter-textual links interpreted by actual readers? The point, at this stage, is that these questions of textuality and intertextuality cannot be resolved in the abstract. It is not enough to study texts or inter-texts in isolation; we must look at the actual operations of the contemporary textual field. Tactics If all of us negotiate a path across vast textual fields, how do we do this?
While this may sometimes be important, it obscures the wider point de Certeau raises: how do people interact not just with single texts, but with contemporary textual fields? If people in actuality screen out the vast majority of images and texts around them, there will be a great difference between the total textual environment the field of possible textual interactions for anyone and the segments of that field with which particular individuals actually interact.
Yet this is an area where cultural studies has done very little research. We have moved here a long way from the idea of studying one particular text as a discrete unit in isolation the literary model. Richard Johnson has characterized this necessary shift very well: The isolation of a text for academic scrutiny is a very specific form of reading. More commonly texts are encountered promiscuously; they pour in on us from all directions in diverse, coexisting media, and differently-paced flows.
No subjective [textual] form ever acts on its own. Nor can the combinations be predicted by formal or logical means. The combinations stem, rather, from more particular logics — the structured life-activity in its objective and subjective sides, of readers or groups of readers: their social locations, their histories, their subjective interests, their private worlds.
A note on structuralism and semiology Before we explore these issues further, let us reflect briefly on how they probably could not have been formulated in these terms were it not for the intervention of structuralist approaches to literature in the s and s, which in turn took their main inspiration from the founder of semiology, Ferdinand de Saussure. These processes are not controlled or directed by the author; they are processes that range across countless texts and are closely related to the competences of the reader as well.
In that sense, Andrew Tudor is surely right to argue that the influence of structuralism marks a decisive moment in the historical development of cultural studies. Why in that case have I not based this chapter more explicitly on structuralist and semiotic models the same question can, perhaps, also be asked of Chapter 5? For some writers such as Tudor it is precisely the adoption of structuralist insights that characterizes cultural studies, not only in relation to texts but cultural production generally.
I believe, however, that it is unhelpful to place so much methodological weight on structuralism and semiotics, for two reasons. Such attacks date back to the early work of Volosinov  in Russia, but have recently been revived in various forms Tallis, ; Jackson, In fact, their analyses also rely on artificially stabilizing the actual complexity of textual fields. Taking these points in turn, semiotics seems to be most effective where cultural production has systematic features explained by the industrialization of culture: for example, in the areas of fashion Barthes,  , novels produced for a mass audience such as the James Bond novels Eco, ,16 advertisements Barthes, , and news photographs Hall, c.
The idea, however, that semiology is a general science for understanding all cultural production as it is often presented needs to be examined very critically. Elsewhere in Mythologies, however, Barthes makes clear that the huge variety of advertisements, stories and images which he so entertainingly dissects contains nothing like the order of language.
This raises the question of what happens when certain standard associations of ideas, of images cease to be naturalized — that is, we see through them to something else. But if myth were a system at all like language, that would be impossible. The rules of a language are always compulsory for those who speak or write the language and want to be understood; knowing explicitly the rules of a language does not stop us following them! The analogy between semiology and the science of language is itself a myth encouraged by Saussure himself — a myth enormously influential in installing semiology as, apparently, the method of cultural analysis.
Strinati, —8. Rather, it is a locally useful way of analysing those aspects of contemporary cultural production which are naturalized. In that sense, the detailed uses of semiology are very much a secondary question. Textual analysis after textual proliferation This discussion of structuralism and semiology has confirmed what was already suggested: if we are interested in textual analysis in an age of massive textual proliferation, our primary object of study is not a limited set of particular texts, but the whole textual environment — how it operates and how readers negotiate it.
What conceptual tools do we have, or need, for that task? Re-employing the expert reader? You can, of course, ignore the problem: take an isolated element from the textual field say, a film and analyse it as if it were a discrete object, coherent in itself, and as if the critic were in a privileged position to discern its meaning.
Business as usual! Provided such analysis does not claim to be more than it is — a particular reading of a particular text from within a particular institutional position — there is nothing wrong with it. Without evidence of whether, and in what way, the text is recognized as having those meanings by at least a significant group of readers, this is just social analysis using smoke and mirrors.
Unfortunately it is all too common — and completely pointless. Textual analysis which claims also to be social analysis assumes, among other things, that just because it reads a text one way, this tells us something about how the text is read by anyone else. A fundamental challenge to this occurred in the s when a Cambridge Professor of English, I. Richards, published an analysis of the anonymous interpretations by his students of poems which he had handed out at lectures without any contextual information .
He explained this in terms of declining standards of literary appreciation in a world saturated by too much information ibid. At least, Richards had showed the danger of cultural analysts assuming that they know how most readers read, or even perhaps how they read themselves. Variations on the Richards test have emerged on other occasions.
Her empirical research led her to question, in fact, whether there was such a thing as the preferred meaning of a text, as opposed to a meaning which in some cases, but not others, people happened to agree on ibid. As a result, the individual text simply does not work as a stable reference point. However, in the working out of this metaphor at its most abstract, that of the marking or tracing of pure relationality , the concept of text undergoes a mutation.
Rather than designating a place where meanings are constructed in a single level of inscription writing, speech, film, dress. In any case, does anyone except cultural analysts read a shopping mall as a text? We need surely some notion of text which is tied to how things functions as texts for actual readers. An interesting attempt to grapple with the complexity of textual production while keeping some role for textual analysis is the work of the British media theorist John Hartley.
Much of his work was done in Australia, whose universities have been an important focus for textual theory in cultural studies; not only Hartley, but also Frow and Morris see above , Ien Ang , and others are working out of Australian universities. Hartley takes the challenge of textual proliferation very seriously.
We cannot do textual analysis, he argues, by starting out from the individual text: we have to take account of the pervasiveness, the endless circulation, of meanings 2. Meanings circulate not just in one medium but in many, with countless connections between them ibid. And yet, as Hartley forcefully argues, large regions of it have been virtually ignored by cultural studies — in particular, the world of the popular press.
To his credit, Hartley takes a long-term historical view of the social centrality of modern media, drawing on material from and including the French Revolution. Instead of the individual text, Hartley needs some other relatively stable reference point which can anchor textual analysis. Contemporary media do systematically produce connections between many different areas of life which otherwise might not be connected.
This is a kind of order in the textual universe, which Hartley is surely right to argue we must understand better. In addition, newspapers and magazines, for example, because they are widely available and shared, constitute their readerships as a public, focused around their texts; in that way, they create an ordered relationship between the readers themselves ibid. So far so good. But Hartley tells us nothing at all about how people negotiate the implications of all this. How many are people apathetic, or cynical about the contents of the mediasphere?
More to the point, how much of it do they screen out? What types of connection do they make between the mediasphere and other spheres of social life? Yet Hartley rules out the possibility of researching the relationship of actual readerships to the mediasphere, except through assumed clues in the texts themselves.
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While of course these are serious points, they provide no reason for stopping us thinking about how people all of us read, or watch. Hartley sees the potential problem 64 but does not resolve it. That these discourses circulate in prominent media sites which is all he establishes is significant, but it is quite unclear how significant. A new place for textual analysis To recap: there is no question of abandoning the idea of analysing texts; it is a matter of rethinking how it fits into our understanding of the wider textual environment. We have to take seriously the difficult question: what is a text considered as a social object?
That means investigating — not simply assuming — the status that texts have in the environment and the extent to which there are systematic orders of meaning.
Perhaps there is less order than we imagine. This, in turn, means taking seriously the contribution to these processes of actual readers. There are in principle as many perspectives on that overall pattern of flows as there are readers: each of us stands at a different point in the flow. One is the inter-textual patterns through which texts draw on each other similarly, each of us in conversation or reflection draws on material we have heard, seen or read elsewhere. I want to concentrate here, however, on the processes which organize the flows of texts and readers themselves.
What are these processes? The following is a preliminary list: 1 The material structures of textual production most obviously, the heavy concentration of production in particular institutions, rather than across whole populations. The first two processes are familiar — they are central to any political economy of textual production — but the last is more difficult to envisage.
How is our reading ordered? An image may help. There are countless switching processes or, perhaps, gradients which, in the overall textual space, make one set of connections more likely than another; they are repeated, resulting in various feedback loops — some small and some massive. This neatly brings together the range of processes listed above. What, in turn, produces the reading formation?
The reading formation is, in effect, a working term for thinking about the quite abstract notion of textualization — that is, the processes which lead to certain complexes of meaning, and not others, being read as texts. Crucially, however, Bennett and Woollacott unlike Hartley are open to empirical research into readers and reading practices. Two minor caveats are necessary. The future of text-related research Broadly there are three main priorities for research: the textual environment, patterns of belief, and textual events.
These are discussed in more detail below. The textual environment If we picture the textual environment as the result of a number of flows see Figure 4. A useful area for research would be to look in detail at those whose job it is to produce standardized, naturalized meanings the marketing and advertising industry. Advertisements are, in effect, experiments with semantic order.
It would be crucial, in relation to particular advertisements, to establish through audience research to what extent they were accompanied by a stable set of associations.
The same idea could be applied to other areas also. Instead of the armchair science of semiology, we need a more active and open-ended research exploration of the possibilities of order in the field of meanings. The second task — studying the flow of texts — is also a familiar part of cultural studies, except that our definition of where to look for texts has to expand to match the scale of our textual environment. If, for example, we are interested in discourses around masculinity and technology, or childhood and violence, it is artificial to study films and television in isolation from computer games, comics, toys, advertisements, and so on.
We may screen some material out entirely, and make a more explicit and considered choice about other material. Some texts we may read closely, working hard to connect them with other texts. Or we may read a text with limited attention, incompletely, without any great interpretative work. After all, no one not even the researcher can claim even to be aware of the whole space — it is too large. It has been in media and cultural studies, if anywhere, that the pioneering work in researching these maps has been done.