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'STEPHEN PENDER AND ANDREW GRA Y Afterword: Cult~ral Studies in Canada NOT WAVING, BUT DROWNING Cultural studies is in crisis. It is not a crisis of method, nor of theoretical program: cultural studies is too inherently pluralist to be susceptible to such conditions. Rather, its crisis stems from rapid growth, accelerated institutionalization, and calculated over-investInent. The essays in this issue either symptomize this crisis or directly address it. Though it is not our intention to preserve the current state of cultural studies in Canada in aspic, as it were, SaIne of the essays included in this collection do attempt to articulate perceived shortcomings present in certain fonns of cultural and theoretical work; others celebrate diversity. Arising out of the work of the Toronto Cultural Studies Group, a loosely organized cluster of students, faculty, and cultural workers from the Toronto area that met regularly to discuss cultural studies issues in relation to their work in disparate and segregated locales, the Cultural Studies in Canada conference was, to our knowledge, one of the first national and international cultural studies conferences to take place in Canada. In May of 1994, more than 115 papers were presented over three days on a wide range of topics, from early Inodem discourses on aging to contelnporary lesbian chic. The terms employed in that title and their interrelations should be closely interrogated. Models for such an exercise already exist: German historian and theorist Reinhart Koselleck, for example , has been working for some time on an ambitious encyclopedic project of Begriffsgeschichte, a 'concept history' or 'the history of concepts: including an examination of terms like Polilik, Gescltichte, and Kritik. In Raymond Williams's Keywords (1976), culture elnerges as a similar conceptual term: it is both a historical phenomenon and a term of analysis for that phenomenon. His Culture and Society (1958) traces this relation through time and, at its conclusion, establishes contemporary AngloAlnerican cultural studies as its legacy. But Williams's project is one grounded in a specifically national context: English historical society. Whether we are engaged in cultural studies in Canada or in Canad'ian cultural studies, our national-historical location is central to Ollr practice. To borrow a phrase frDIn Perry Anderson, our cultural studies needs to ask and answer a number of Canadian questions. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 64, NUMBER 4, FALL 1995 568 STEPHEN PENDER AND ANDREW GRAY Beginning in 1964, Anderson and Tom Nairn began to publish exploratory essays in New Left Review that probed the historical origins of the crisis in which, they argued, English society was mired. The Anderson -Nairn theses, as they came to be known, were developed to fill a void in the English left, to provide a 'general map of English class society.'l The absence of such a sociology in England was, they believed, one of the causes of the crisis they sought to diagnose. Over a number of years, they did establish a map of English society, returning to, elaborating upon, and revising their original theses. More important, Anderson and Nairn, together with collaborating and dissenting interlocutors (most notable aluongst the latter was E.P. Thompson), provided a context in which debate about English society - its history, politics, and culture - could develop. A similar project in Canada, one to which cultural studies has much to contribute, is long overdue. Early in the evolution of the Anderson-Nairn theses, E.P. ThOlnpson's work was accused of exhibiting a 'lnessianic nationalisln' - a parochial attaclunent to the twin vices of English society, traditionalism and empiricism. This nationalism took the form of a debilitating reliance on the texts of English culture which Anderson and Nairn felt prohibited the necessary work of national, critical inquiry. There is a little of that 'messianic nationalism' in the history of Canadian cultural studies. But today, situated within a globalluarket of theoretical paradigms, nationalist parochialisln is the least of the problems facing Canadian .cultural studies. The obstacle that restrains the formation of a coherent and constructive Canadian cultural studies (if such a formation is either possible or desirable) is the unwillingness on the part of its potential contributors. to formulate questions and answers on the scale of the Anderson-Nairn theses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 567-572
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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