Cultural Studies traces the relationships among aesthetic, anthropological, and political economic aspects of cultural production and reproduction. Cultural studies scholars and practitioners often begin their inquiries by questioning the common understandings, beliefs, and histories that shape our world. This type of inquiry assumes that culture is not a fact to be understood and explained. What demands attention is how culture constitutes diverse worlds and how it can be mobilized to change those worlds.
Cultural Studies relies on interdisciplinary research on the formation of knowledge, power, and difference. Cultural Studies scholars and practitioners explore constructions of race, class, ability, citizenship, gender, and sexuality in their effort to understand the structures and practices of domination and resistance that shape contemporary societies. Many different topics surface as part of this exploration: everyday practices that structure the creation and reception of cultural artifacts; relations between producers and consumers in the circulation of global commodities; claims to membership in particular communities as they undergo transformation.
Our Master of Arts in Cultural Studies at the University of Washington Bothell stresses the local and global locations of the field and seeks to cultivate the capacities needed to work either within or outside the university. Students in the program pursue academic research and community-based projects that engage critically with the arts and humanities, the social and natural sciences, and the cultural practices that shape power relations across local and global communities. We understand this approach to Cultural Studies as providing the field with a new formation, one that is responsive to the work culture does and can do in the world today.
We would be remiss if we ended this response to the query “What is Cultural Studies?” without pointing to a problem in the question itself. Cultural Studies is many different things and the shape of the field necessarily shifts in response to diverse institutional locations, pressures, and opportunities. As a result, we think that the original question ought to be reformulated. Given its pasts, presents, and possible futures, what should Cultural Studies become and what can we do with it? This is the question we have designed our Master of Arts in Cultural Studies to address.
-- The Cultural Studies Faculty and Staff
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