Minimally, you would want to distingush between the following:
The initial Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, under the directorships of Paddy Waddell, Raymond Williams, and Stuart Hall, which fostered work on subcultural appropriation (Dick Hebdidge--Angela McRobbie), audience ethnography (David Morley, Charlotte Brunsdon, etc.), critical pedagogy, and criticism of hegimonic discourse. A key defining moment is the debate between the male founders and the female researchers, which poses crucical questions still being considered about the politics of research and the need to focus more on gender as well as class.
You would also want to think about other schools of cultural studies in England that were contemporary to Birmingham and other writers, such as Richard Dyer, who tend to get left out of the standard histories of the movement.
The American popularizers of the Birmingham School, which would have included John Fiske and Larry Grossberg, among others, each of whom struggles to fit its concerns into an American context. Fiske promotes textual semiotics, then audience research, and more recently, a Foucaultian analysis of political discourse, and is involved in a shift from class towards gender and more recently, race as key terms of analysis. Grossberg takes the road towards high theory, away from the application associated with the Birmingham group, and towards some ties to postmodernism. We might also want to cite here Janice Radway, who does not come from Birmingham, comes from an American Studies tradition (see the intro. to the later editions of READING THE ROMANCE) but who helped to define the American approach to Cultural Studies along a focus on gender and reader-response criticism.
You would also want to see how this story plays itself out in Canada and Australia, both of which develop their own schools of cultural studies and reflect the different circumstances of their cultural contexts.
The students of Fiske, Radway, and Grossberg, etc., constitute a new generation of work in cultural studies which is excluded from the Grossberg et al collection but needs to be looked at if we are to fully understand what cultural studies means today. This work has been more fine-grained, centered on empirical research (history, ethnography) into the place of media in everyday lives and cultures, case-study driven rather than theory driven, though also drawing on the theoretical traditions of what came before, more frankly autobiographical in relation to popular culture, interested in more proximate forms of criticism (that is, writing from up close rather than from critical distance). Issues of race, sexuality, and gender still outstrip class at the core of our work. I would consider myself part of this later generation and would cite Alex Doty, Lynn Spigel, and Tricia Rose as other key exemplars of this new work.
>From my point of view, the key tensions have to do with methodology (audience research, history, criticism, political economy), the ways we define what counts as political ("the personal is political," grassroots activism, national political issues, or global cultures), the basis of that politics (politics of consumption and appropriation, politics of production and media ownership, textual politics), the relative focus on theoretical generalization or particularity, and the stance of the critic vis-a-vis the cultural formation under examination (i.e., academic distance vs. writing from within a subcultural community) and finally, the relative focus on class, gender, sexuality, race, nationality, etc. This would allow you to seperate Fiske (focus on audience, personal is political, politics of consumption, focus on theoretical generalization through example, somewhat objective distance) from Grossberg (broader national politics, high theory, interest in both production and consumption, academic distance, etc.) and Ross (shifting political frameworks but generally towards national and global politics, more focus on text and production than audience, more distanced observation, etc.) All would be left of center, but there would be real disputes, I think, about what kinds of politics matter the most and what political tactics make the most sense in terms of changing society and culture.
I hope this helps. You are really asking a very complex question, which no one fully grasps.
Return to H-FILM Home Page.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]