Intellectual History of Cultural Studies

African 901

Professor Ron Radano

Tuesdays, 2:25-5:25

Where did the phrase, “cultural studies,” come from?  And how might its legacy as both a discipline and an anti-discipline inform contemporary studies of black culture in Africa and the diaspora?  This seminar will seek to bring these two, orienting questions into continual relation as we undertake an exploration of cultural studies writ large.  Rather than conducting a broad survey, the seminar will perform strategic readings, following lines of thought from source to source, from one arena of inquiry to another.  We’ll begin with Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1993), a canonical text, whose copious engagements and interpretations will bring forth a wealth of intellectual points of engagement.  After we parse Gilroy’s assertions and positions, we’ll trace their linkages to a broad expanse of ideas circulating within modern intellectual knowledge.  In Gilroy, we may find our way to Hegel, and then to Du Bois and Fanon; we may reach back to Marx, and then to Lukacs and Adorno.  Raymond Williams will come up too, who points us to Stuart Hall, Houston Baker, and Achille Mbembe.  At this point, we may find ourselves turning to other contemporary authors engaging in broad, transnational conversation on wide-ranging topics, from tragedy to new media, anthropological theories of value to “provincializing Europe.”  At the center of our concern will be the relation of aesthetics and politics, and how that relation impacts what we do today as critics, historians, ethnographers, and activists.  The seminar is open to graduate students across the humanities and social sciences.