Theories in Cultural Studies (CSAP)

Whether we address questions of class, race and
ethnicity, politics of signs, gender and sexuality, or colonialism, Cultural
Studies (CS) scholars pay attention to power structures and dynamics,
understand cultural production and reception as inseparable from politics, and
are invested in situated critical practices. Since CS emerged from various
critical traditions and has taken varied directions, the course aims to provide
a mapping of these approaches and problematics that foregrounds their
historicity, location, and transformations. This mapping of theories, which is
of necessity introductory, will be designed to “orient” us to cultural studies
from our location in Hawai‘i nei and our responsibilities here as students,
teachers, writers, and critics. Thus, the course has two objectives: to read
and discuss foundational texts marking what, within English studies, makes
“cultural studies” distinctive in scope, methodology, history, goals, and
practices; and, throughout the semester, to consider the relevance, impact,
limitations, and possibilities of cultural studies for us studying and doing
cultural work in Hawai‘i. Since theories are inseparable from practice, we will
engage in critical analysis of selected texts, several of them produced in
Hawai‘i and Oceania. Our collective aim, then, will be to unpack or
denaturalize practices of consumption and interpretation, strengthen our
understanding of how to engage responsibly and anti-hegemonically in social
discourse and action, and discuss how foundational CS texts matter in the
Hawai‘i/Asia/Pacific contexts.

part of our reading practice, we will explore and historicize key critical
clusters (hegemony, counter-hegemony, subaltern, public sphere, public
intellectual, cultural field; ideology, commodification, coding, myth,
fetishization; interpellation and subjectivity, sex and gender, homosociality,
disidentification; state and nation, land, settler colonialism, coloniality,
orientalism, pacificism; archive, performativity, gaze, spectacle, frame,
agency) and discuss how CS approaches intersect with indigenous studies, film
studies, translation studies, and globalization studies.

my text selection for the course, I am committing—within the main “introduction
to CS” framework of the course—to a discussion of competing relationships to
“place” and resources, to a consideration of visual culture, and to a focus on
cultural politics in Hawai‘i.


General Student Outcomes

  • Foundational knowledge of the theories and
    methods of this concentration within English
  • Understanding of advanced research methods
  • Written and oral ability to place one’s own
    scholarly work within broader critical conversations
  • Independent research in


  • participation in and
    response to the Hawaiian Literature symposium that will take place in
    October 2012 at UHM and at least one CS event;
  • a 15-minute research
    presentation on a critical concept or “key” term, focused on its critical
    provenance(s), definitions, developments, and productivity;
  • a collaborative
    presentation (with handout) on a documentary or fictional film, focused on
    matters of production, reception, genre, translation, and politics of
  • an abstract,
    presentation at an English Department Colloquium, and a 10-page paper that
    extends and revises that presentation.

various presentations are aimed to engage students in focused research and to
provide experience with different oral practices in our profession: grounding
discussion in detailed analysis, presenting a timed and highly synthesized
panel presentation, performing a critical perspective. Producing a concise and
rhetorically strong abstract is another professional skill on which we will
work collaboratively.


Texts: Many texts will be
available on Laulima and range from Marx, Gramsci, Althusser, Horkheimer and
Adorno, and Fanon selections to Hall, Said, Butler, Spivak, Žižek, Munoz, Trask, Silva, Arista, ho‘omanawanui, Kuwada,
Wolfe, Agamben, and more. There is one text TBA we will share with all the
other 625s for our presentations. In addition, other texts will be available at
Revolution Bookstore: (tentatively) Visual
Culture: The Reader
, edited byJessica
Evans and Stuart Hall; Asian
Settler Colonialism
, edited by Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Okamura; Cultural Critique and the Global
, edited by Laura E. Lyons and Purnima Bose; Epeli Hau‘ofa’s We Are the Ocean; Puakea Nogelmeier, Mai Paa I Ka Leo: Historical Voices in Hawaiian
Primary Materials, Looking Forward and Listening Back
. Documentaries include Noho Hewa (dir. A. Keala Kelly) and Jamaica for Sale (dir. Esther Figueroa);
fictional movies Even the Rain (dir.
Iclar Bollain), Sleep Dealer (dir.
Alex Rivera), The Land Has Eyes (dir.
Vilsoni Hereniko), Sinalela (dir. Dan
Taulapapa McMullin),
Pan’s Labyrinth (dir. Guillermo del
Toro).The course will include an
orientation to the Hawaiian and Pacific collections in Hamilton Library.