Theories in Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary, and sometimes anti-disciplinary, approach to the study of culture, particularly its broadly-conceived and complex array of signifying practices. Cultural Studies theorists assume that culture cannot be understood apart from politics, and Cultural Studies practitioners are concerned with questions of power, and often strive to engage in analysis or theory that will contribute to counterhegemonic struggle, and often in a way that draws upon marxist lines of thinking.

Another important hallmark of Cultural Studies is that it is a located practice—that the scholar works with attention to the specific struggles, questions, and problems that characterize the place out of which she/he is situated. This class will therefore focus on “Asia/Pacific” as a place of contestation (and this will include thinking about the contradictions, problems, and possibilities of the term ” Asia/Pacific” itself), and cultural struggle and creativity. As we pay particular attention to how Cultural Studies is practiced in Hawai’i, and other locales in the United States, Asia, and the Pacific, we will put this work into dialogue with foundational and more contemporary Cultural Studies work that emerges from other locations, and we will think about how Cultural Studies work does and does not translate and travel from one time and place to another.

We will begin the course with works foundational to Cultural Studies (Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams) that focus on questions of ideology and class struggle. We also will consult various tables of contents to Cultural Studies collections in order to understand the multiple ways the field has been mapped and the tensions and continuities among these conceptualizations of Cultural Studies and its origins.

After the introductory readings, the course will concentrate on concepts that are central to work being done in Cultural Studies, especially as it is practiced in Hawai’i and the Pacific. Issues we will take up are likely to include the following: land/environment, global/local, settler/native, nation/citizenship, sex/gender, race/ethnicity, the role of the intellectual/education. We will consider how these different issues overlap and we also will continuously keep in mind concerns of class, capital, and the workings of ideology that the foundational readings and a Cultural Studies approach foreground. We will put our theoretical readings in
dialogue with cultural texts. As we proceed, we will attend closely to questions of methodology: we will think about how cultural studies research is constructed both at the level of research and writing, and we will investigate the ways it is both interdisciplinary and antidisciplinary.

This will involve thinking about the wide array of literary and extraliterary texts that cultural studies scholars make use of and how they read them; what constitutes an archive and different ways to conduct archival research; practices and ethics of (auto)ethnography; and how the writer situates her or himself in terms of identity and location.

You will be responsible for letters to the class every other week; a presentation on one of the assigned texts; attendance and then a written reflection (two pages minimum) on a Cultural Studies talk or event; a presentation (either a conference-length paper, or participation on a round table) for an English Department Colloquium that will involve collaboration with the other concentrations; a brief paper (5-7 pages) that employs a Cultural Studies theory or methodology in relation to a cultural text; an abstract and a conference-length paper (10 pages).


Course Reader: There will be an extensive COURSE READER, that will include tables of contents to various Cultural Studies collections, and texts by Giorgio Agamben, Louis Althusser, Cristina Bacchilega, Ann Cvetkovitch, Lennard Davis, Samuel Delaney, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Gayatri Gopinath, Antonio Gramsci, Judith Halberstam, Stuart Hall, Epeli Hau’ofa, Fred Ho, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Julie Kaomea, George Lipsitz, Laura E. Lyons, Karl Marx, Manulani Aluli Meyer, Edward Said, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gayatri Spivak, Ty Kawika Tengan, Beth Tobin, Stephen Turner, Albert Wendt, Raymond Williams, and Patrick Wolfe.

Tentative Book List:

(to be ordered through Revolution Books)

  • Judith Butler, PRECARIOUS LIFE
  • Candace Fujikane, ed., ASIAN SETTLER COLONIALISM
  • R. Zamora Linmark, ROLLING THE Rs
  • Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, WESTLAKE POEMS, ed, Richard Hamasaki.

Tentative List of Films:

  • Agnieszka Holland (dir.), A GIRL LIKE ME: THE GWEN ARAUJO STORY (through itunes)
  • Anne Keala Kelly (dir.), NOHO HEWA.