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Stuart Hall and the Rise of Cultural Studies | The New Yorker
"Culture, he argued, does not consist of what the educated élites happen to fancy, such as classical music or the fine arts. It is, simply, “experience lived, experience interpreted, experience defined.” And it can tell us things about the world, he believed, that more traditional studies of politics or economics alone could not."



"Broadly speaking, cultural studies is not one arm of the humanities so much as an attempt to use all of those arms at once. It emerged in England, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, when scholars from working-class backgrounds, such as Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, began thinking about the distance between canonical cultural touchstones—the music or books that were supposed to teach you how to be civil and well-mannered—and their own upbringings. These scholars believed that the rise of mass communications and popular forms were permanently changing our relationship to power and authority, and to one another. There was no longer consensus. Hall was interested in the experience of being alive during such disruptive times. What is culture, he proposed, but an attempt to grasp at these changes, to wrap one’s head around what is newly possible?

Hall retained faith that culture was a site of “negotiation,” as he put it, a space of give and take where intended meanings could be short-circuited. “Popular culture is one of the sites where this struggle for and against a culture of the powerful is engaged: it is also the stake to be won or lost in that struggle,” he argues. “It is the arena of consent and resistance.” In a free society, culture does not answer to central, governmental dictates, but it nonetheless embodies an unconscious sense of the values we share, of what it means to be right or wrong. Over his career, Hall became fascinated with theories of “reception”—how we decode the different messages that culture is telling us, how culture helps us choose our own identities. He wasn’t merely interested in interpreting new forms, such as film or television, using the tools that scholars had previously brought to bear on literature. He was interested in understanding the various political, economic, or social forces that converged in these media. It wasn’t merely the content or the language of the nightly news, or middlebrow magazines, that told us what to think; it was also how they were structured, packaged, and distributed.

According to Slack and Lawrence Grossberg, the editors of “Cultural Studies 1983,” Hall was reluctant to publish these lectures because he feared they would be read as an all-purpose critical toolkit rather than a series of carefully situated historical conversations. Hall himself was ambivalent about what he perceived to be the American fetish for theory, a belief that intellectual work was merely, in Slack and Grossberg’s words, a “search for the right theory which, once found, would unlock the secrets of any social reality.” It wasn’t this simple. (I have found myself wondering what Hall would make of how cultural criticism of a sort that can read like ideological pattern-recognition has proliferated in the age of social media.)

Over the course of his lectures, Hall carefully wrestles with forebears, including the British scholar F. R. Leavis and also Williams and Hoggart (the latter founded Birmingham University’s influential Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which Hall directed in the seventies). Gradually, the lectures cluster around questions of how we give our lives meaning, how we recognize and understand “the culture we never see, the culture we don’t think of as cultivated.” These lectures aren’t instructions for “doing” cultural studies—until the very end, they barely touch on emerging cultural forms that intrigued Hall, such as reggae and punk rock. Instead, they try to show how far back these questions reach."



"Hall found ready disciples in American universities, though it might be argued that the spirit which animated cultural studies in England had existed in the U.S. since the fifties and sixties, in underground magazines and the alternative press. The American fantasy of its supposedly “classless” society has always given “culture” a slightly different meaning than it has in England, where social trajectories were more rigidly defined. What scholars like Hall were actually reckoning with was the “American phase” of British life. After the Second World War, England was no longer the “paradigm case” of Western industrial society. America, that grand experiment, where mass media and consumer culture proliferated freely, became the harbinger for what was to come. In a land where rags-to-riches mobility is—or so we tend to imagine—just one hit away, culture is about what you want to project into the world, whether you are fronting as a member of the élite or as an everyman, offering your interpretation of Shakespeare or of “The Matrix.” When culture is about self-fashioning, there’s even space to be a down-to-earth billionaire."
2017  stuarthall  culture  culturalstudies  huahsu  arts  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  popularculture  richardhoggart  raymondwilliams  humanities  resistance  consent  jenniferdarylslack  lawrencegrossberg  frleavis  society  canon  marxism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"



"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."



"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.



As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing  jedediahbritton-purdy 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Metamodernism | Adbusters
"To be more precise, metamodernism is not a new art movement replacing the old but rather a new “structure of feeling” that “reveals” itself in different everyday and artistic practices. With the term “structure of feeling,” the authors refer to British philosopher Raymond Williams, who invented this concept in his 1977 text Marxism and Literature as an alternative to very general terms such as “worldview” or “Zeitgeist.” To Williams, a “structure of feeling,” very broadly speaking, refers to a shared set of values, notions and meanings of a culture, subculture or generation, which mainly reveals itself in the artistic practices of that culture, subculture or generation.

"Taking this into account, “metamodernism” could be considered the dominant structure of feeling of a generation born in the peak of “postmodernism,” roughly between 1960 and 1990. A generation that grew up in economic prosperity, but which, because of the financial crisis, witnessed the collapse of the neo–capitalist dream and, as a result, the evaporation of the political essence of the 1990s."
metamodernism  generations  modernism  raymondwilliams  2014  capitalism  postmodernism  collapse  worldview  zeitgeist  subcultures  nielsvanpoecke 
january 2015 by robertogreco
raymond williams and education - 'a slow reach again for control' - the encyclopaedia of informal education
"Raymond Williams was a literary critic, cultural historian, cultural and political theorist, novelist, dramatist, and the virtual inventor of the interdisciplinary field known as 'cultural studies'. Josh Cole explores his little appreciated contribution as an educational thinker."

"as child in Wales, Raymond Williams learned more than just an appreciation for the life of the mind. He also began to see education and politics as deeply intertwined, a lesson that marked him deeply. In the Wales of Williams’ boyhood, formal schooling served as a means of supplanting local cultures with the official culture of the British Empire. Children in Pandy were punished for speaking Welsh in schools, and were taught, above all else, about the glories of ‘English Civilization.’ As he was finishing at King Henry VIII, Raymond Williams’ father and his headmaster colluded to send him to Cambridge University without his consultation. He later recognized that this educational official played a small but important role in the colonizing process, by identifying talented local children and whisking them away to elite English universities, thus neutralizing their potential anti-colonialist tendencies. (Williams 1979: 37)"

"For Raymond Williams, adult education as a means of expanding democracy meant all involved would be educated—including the educators. Anticipating Paulo Freire’s great work Pedagogy of the Oppressed (published in 1968), Williams argued in the early 1960s that the educational process cuts both ways. The adult instructor has much to learn about herself and her discipline from her students. Ideally, through adult education, instructors and students would ‘meet as equals’ in the classroom, and share fully in the process of democratic learning. (This is not to suggest that Raymond Williams assumed that students automatically knew more about a teaching subject than their instructors—his was not an uncritical version of ‘student-centred learning’--rather, he simply took it as given that the instructor is not beyond reproach: the educator “may not know the gaps between academic teaching and actual experience among many people; he may not know when, in the pressure of experience, a new discipline has to be created.” Interaction with adult students could give educators that experience) (Williams 1993: 225)"
raymondwilliams  education  learning  informallearning  colonization  unschooling  deschooling  joshcole  interdisciplinary  culture  politics  lifelonglearning  paulofreire  adulteducation  democracy  democraticlearning  democraticschools  community  communities  lcproject  openstudioproject 
february 2013 by robertogreco
School Days — Lined & Unlined
[Now here: https://linedandunlined.com/archive/unbuilding ]

Quotes highlighted by Allen on Reading.am:

"It is not simply the unexamined life here that is not worth living, but the unnarrated life — and far from a nostalgic examination, that narration is increasingly essential and increasingly likely to occur in real time."

"Instead of the dismantling and overtly critical strategy employed by postmodernism, the reflexively modern society seeks to examine and correct itself in order to keep placing itself continually back on track. The result is a heightened sense of self-awareness and self-preservation leading all the way back to the individual. "

"Whether overtly biographical or simply self-referential, design remains even today in the peculiar position of having its history and criticism written largely by and for its own practitioners."

[This is a link-rich article that points to many other articles worth reading.]

[Manifesta 6's Notes for an Art School is available in PDF here: http://a.nnotate.com/docs/2011-11-11/iVdeoOj9/NFAAS%20fire%20inside%20copy.pdf ]
designcriticism  altgdp  manifesta  via:litherland  via:tealtan  whitneyispprogram  mountainschoolofart  josephbeuys  freeinternationaluniversity  skowhegan  blackmountaincollege  bauhaus  manifesta6  self-involved  art  criticalautonomy  andrewblauvelt  lorrainewild  wiggerbierma  karelmartens  graphicdesign  gunnarswanson  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  fionaraby  anthonydunne  helenwalters  brucenussbaum  dextersinister  raymondwilliams  antonvidokle  waltergropius  paulelliman  nowinproduction  designeducation  writing  education  criticism  2012  self-preservation  self-reference  unnarratedlife  examinedlife  unexaminedlife  self-awareness  design  robgiampietro  bmc  designfiction  dunne&raby 
november 2012 by robertogreco
The Country and the City - Wikipedia
"Coming from the Welsh border, a village in the Black Mountains, Raymond Williams found that the images of rural life taught at Cambridge did not match what he had seen. As an academic at Cambridge, he studied and examined the contradiction, along with the contrasting idea of the city, which in the U.K. has never been separate from the countryside. Rural life without cities had existed in other parts of the world, but not for a very long time in Britain."
history  urbanism  communitites  knowablecommunities  community  classconflict  class  contrast  uk  britain  1973  culture  cities  urban  rural  raymondwilliams  via:litherland 
may 2012 by robertogreco
TOM CLARK: Raymond Williams: Individuals and Societies
"To the member, society is his own community; the members of other communities may be beyond his recognition or sympathy. To the servant, society is an establishment, in which he finds his place. To the rebel, a particular society is a tyranny; the alternative for which he fights is a new and better society. To the exile, society is beyond him, but may change. To the vagrant, society is a name for other people, who are in his way or can be used." [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2388426722 ]
society  community  servitude  rebellion  membership  belonging  establishment  sympathy  identity  tyranny  change  resistance  raymondwilliams  revolution  gamechanging  individuality  longrevolution  evolution 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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