Critical Theory to Cultural Studies

- Prof Ira Bhaskar and Prof Ranjani Mazumdar

This course will focus on the theoretical interventions made to understand the cultural phenomena of industrial and post-industrial societies. Technological developments of electricity, printing, photography, film and television profoundly changed the terrain of cultural production. Duplication and multiplication brought with it the sudden power of what many have termed “mass culture”. Frankfurt School theorists like Adorno and Horkiemer saw mass culture as a threat to the integrity and autonomy of art. Others like Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer viewed mass culture as a space that also contained the possibility of a redemptive and democratic practice. More recently, the field of Cultural Studies (The Birmingham School) has drawn our attention to the relationship between popular culture and everyday life. Cultural Studies theorists like Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams and Lawrence Grossberg among others have challenged the mass culture/ art divide in favour of an active engagement with popular culture as a performative site where issues of power, ideology, and identity are constantly invented and reinvented. Through an engagement with these debates the course will introduce students to the complex relationship between modernity and culture as it evolved through the historical landscape of the 20th century. The effort here is to widen the debate by bringing in voices from Asia, Africa and Latin America.


Key Readings:

• Adorno, Theodore. The Culture Industry. London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

• Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: The Cultural Dimension of Globalization. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

• Canclini, Nestor Garcia. Consumers: Globalization & Multicultural Conflict. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

• Chatterji, Partha. The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Post Colonial Histories. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

• Foster, Hal. Ed. The Anti-Aesthetic. Seattle, Washington: Bay Press, 1983.

• Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader, ed. P Rabinow. Harmondsworth: 1984.

• Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London and New York: Methuen, 1979.

• Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Cultural Memory in the Present.. New York: Continuum, 1988.

• Huyssen, Andreas. After the Great Divide. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

• Jameson, Fredric. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern. 1983-1998. London & New York: Verso, 1998.

• Morley, David and Kuan-Hsing Chen. Eds. Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London & New York : Routledge, 1996.

• Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. Bombay, Calcutta, Madras: Oxford University Press,1983.

• Storey, John. Ed. What is Cultural Studies? A Reader. London, New York: Arnold, 1996.