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The Cultural Turn Identity, Subjectivity and the Meaning and Practices of Everyday Life.

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Presentation on theme: "The Cultural Turn Identity, Subjectivity and the Meaning and Practices of Everyday Life."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Cultural Turn Identity, Subjectivity and the Meaning and Practices of Everyday Life

2 The Concept of Culture A problematic concept Integral to study of identity cultural situatedness, cultural pursuits and practices shape our sense of self Culture shapes attachment to identity Culture has material effects

3 the study of culture in the social sciences From social anthropology to present day cultures and subcultures, leisure activities and shopping, football hooliganism, the political culture of groups and organisations - just a few of the areas that the intellectual tradition that has become known as cultural studies have become interested in

4 So what is cultural studies? Exciting field of study Interested in micro level analysis spans the arts, the humanities, geography even science and technology

5 Definitions of Culture hotly contested concept rules and conventions that govern social behaviour material artefacts that societies utilise and produce when they are going about the business of daily life an abstraction that exists only in the mind

6 EP Thompson on Culture EP Thompson Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society (Thompson 1871). A broad definition highlights the notion that culture is something that is learned and something that is shared.

7 Raymond Williams on Culture Founding father of cultural studies culture includes the organisation of production, the structure of the family the structure of institutions which express or govern social relationships, the characteristic forms through which members of society communicate

8 Karl Marx on Culture separate but interlinked relationship between culture and the economy economic base determines the cultural superstructure capitalist societies have a very different culture to communist or feudal societies.

9 Clifford Geertz on Culture noted the role of personal and group story telling or narrative in culture culture is simply the ensemble of stories we tell about ourselves

10 Cultural studies cultural studies does not have a clearly defined set of interests or objects of study lacks its own distinct set of theories or methodology borrows heavily from a range of disciplines such as sociology, anthroplogy, socio- linguistics, literary criticism, art theory, political science, psychology

11 Sarder and Van Loon (1998) five main characteristics. 1. examines its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power 2. Studies culture in context 3. two functions: it is both the object of study and a site of political critique and political action 4. attempts to reveal and to reconcile the division of knowledge 5. committed to a moral evaluation of modern societies and a radical political response

12 The Concept of the Sign in Cultural Studies key concept in cultural studies is that of the sign comes from the structural liguinstics of Ferdinand de Saussure and semiotics symbolic aspects of language, image and text

13 3 Basic Features of the Sign 1. The sign has a concrete form 2. it refers to something other than itself, in other words the sign always has some other referent 3. It is commonly recognised by most people within the cultural context that it comes from, to signify the same thing.

14 Elements in the Process of Signification 1. Sign- the mental image or concept. 2. Signifier- the object or word 3. Signified- the symbolic thing or mental association that the sign refers to

15 Saussure on Language language generates meaning in a special way Language produces meaning because it is part of a system of relationships of similarity and difference. we understand the linguistic sign dog because it conjures up a mental image of dogness. It is not man, it is not cow, it is not cauliflower

16 Language and Shared Meaning Language works because we have a shared set of concepts and common understandings The principles which geovern language also organise other symbolic forms of communication Some objects, although apparently similar have very different symbolic values and we understand their symbolic value because they are part of a system of rich symbols

17 The Meaning of Objects Similar objects can have different meaning Context and use alter meaning Same article of clothing- jeans- different significations meaning of signs is not fixed it can change over time

18 The Meaning of Burberry Shift in meaning over time. Once signified wealth and status Now symbolises chavness or the underclass

19 Signification and Identity Use of body in signification Tattoos, peircing, clothing, eating Signifies who we are and how we want to be seen Others who share our culture can read the body Shared systems of referents

20 Problems with Signification Not a smooth unproblematic process Frequent misunderstandings Cross cultural differences in meaning Objects and practices can have many meanings They are polysemic Opportunities to misread But we still rely heavily on signification to make sense of the world

21 Why is it important to understand Signification? helps us to understand power relationships and social control part of the process of representation Through representation abstract and ideological forms are given a concrete form. Representations prop up political systems, they are ideological.

22 Representing the Other non- western cultures represented as the other of the West That which is not us, non-whites, women, homosexuals are seen as the other others are ascribed with negative identities

23 Meaning making and Representation All meaning making is to an extent subjective meanings change over time meanings have been shaped by history cultural studies sphere of interest is about looking at how and why meanings change

24 Cultural theory and political critique cultural theory has provided some of the most vehement criticisms of slavery and colonialism, of class inequality, of racism and sexism often been accused with being obsessed with the underdogs Cultural studies has attempted to reveal how marginalised groups build their identities

25 A Critique of Cultural studies accused of obsessing about mostly white culture founding fathers, EP Thompson, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall… all came from working class backgrounds All helped set up BCCS

26 Cultural Studies and Race Notions of Race and Ethnicity have become central in cultural studies Race a socially constructed category not a set of objective social categories no biologically significant diffrenecs between so-called racial groups. differences are ideologically constructed they have developed in the context of imperialism Modernity has generated racism and social hatred as a justification for the subjugation and exploitation of non-white peoples

27 Ali Rattansi on Race in racist cultures ethnic identities are racialised. biological discourses around difference and superiority and inferiority are combined with cultural signifiers such as religion, clothing, food and eating practices to legitimate social exclusion, exploitation, inferiorisation and violence against the other.

28 Identity and the Other our culture as pure with other culture being viewed as potentially polluting The others identity is dangerous, dirty potentially contaminating. But- no such thing as a pure culture. All cultures hybrid The culture of the other under threat from the west Globalisation damages local culture

29 Final words identities are something that are experienced most profoundly when they are under threat Whether that threat is subjective or objective is a matter for debate. Cultural studies is at the forefront of critiques of globalisation Isolationist identities such as various forms of political separatism and religious fundamentalism can be seen as a back lash against increasing cultural convergence and homogenisation.

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