Christopher B. Patterson
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. Offered: AWSp.
In the post-civil rights era, forms of liberal tolerance—such as multiculturalism and diversity—have become ends in themselves, and have often substituted for forms of real social justice. In 1965, the scholar and philosopher Herbert Marcuse wrote that “what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.” For Marcuse, “false tolerance” goes hand in hand with “free enterprise,” and does the most serious damage in the realm “of business and publicity.” In this class, we will use a cultural studies perspective to investigate the historical, cultural and social implications of multiculturalism and the free market. Emerging in the 1950s and 60s as a method to consider the political, economic, and social implications of culture at large, cultural studies has offered unique approaches to reading “cultural products” (i.e. literature, films, music, magazines, paintings). Cultural studies proposes that we live enmeshed in a cultural web that influences the way we relate to each other, and that cultural values and beliefs affect us differently depending upon our gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, weight, etc. As a critical practice for engaging with social phenomena, cultural studies allows us to see how cultural products help determine our values, beliefs, and place in the larger world. Using cultural studies as our critical lens, this class will investigate how forms of multiculturalism and the free market (or neoliberalism) have emerged from the civil rights era, as well as from colonial regimes and immigration studies, to become dominant ideologies in our contemporary moment. We will read novels, films, graphic novels, music videos and video games, to explore how texts interpret the “multiculturalism/free market” bind, and how these texts can offer new ways of seeing the world around us. This class will demand heavy reading, strict attendance, presentations, three 4-5 page papers, and critical thinking about our everyday social world. The point of this class is not to “process” students into a certain political mindset, but to use cultural studies to invoke difficult political and social questions. Please come with an open and eager mind, bordering perhaps, on agitation and distress.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading