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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jonathan E Murr
BIS 216
Bothell Campus

Introduction to Cultural Studies

Introduces cultural studies as an interdisciplinary field and practice. Explores multiple histories of the field with an emphasis on current issues and developments. Focuses on culture as a site of political and social debate and struggle. Equivalent to ENGL 207.

Class description

This course is intended to introduce you to some of the ways “cultural studies” is practiced (and contested) as an interdisciplinary form of knowledge production invested in social transformation. Rather than attempting to nail down a fixed definition of this notoriously complex field, we will familiarize ourselves with some key theories, methods and practices that emerge from thinkers associated with the “Birmingham School” (such as Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams) and from some prominent practitioners working in the US. These thinkers will give us a working set of terms for talking about culture, race and racism and a framework for engaging with the intersectional politics of race, class, gender, sexuality and other modes of social difference in the past and present of the United States.

Our course is divided in three sections: 1. What do we mean by “culture” and “Cultural Studies”? Why “social transformation”? (Weeks One – Three); 2. An Intersectional Approach to Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality (Weeks Four – Six); and 3. Cultural Studies Labs (Weeks Seven – Ten). Each section will ask you to engage critically and creatively with “culture” as the terrain in which social meanings are produced, represented and always struggled over, so our primary task will be to explore the work of cultural texts and cultural politics in helping to produce and contest the problems of our present. Together we will ask what it means in our allegedly “post-racial,” “multicultural,” or “colorblind” moment that peoples' basic life chances continue to be produced along the lines of race, gender, sexuality and class.

This work will involve focusing on cultural texts themselves and cultural studies scholarship from a variety of disciplines, including History, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography and Ethnic Studies. Course materials will include works by a range of scholars and cultural workers, including Stuart Hall, Mos Def / Yasiin Bey, Adrienne Rich, Spike Lee, Stephanie Black, George Lipsitz, Paul Beatty, the Combahee River Collective, Frank Ocean, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Angela Davis, Suheir Hammad, and Robin D.G. Kelley, among others. Evaluation will be based on active, daily participation (including at least one class in which you will act as an “informed discussant”), in-class quizzes and other writings, one in-class examination and one take-home examination, and one self-recorded (audio and/or video), creative “philosophical tantrum.”

This class is probably not for you if... attendance isn’t your strong suit; if you don’t care for discussion or group work; if you have no interest in reflecting critically and openly on the difficult political questions this course raises.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jonathan E Murr
Date: 04/01/2013