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MARK FORTIER From Cultural Studies to Cultural Studies in Canada: A Review Essay An obvious place to begin for anyone in search of an introduction to recent cultural studies would be to wander around in Lawrence Grossberg , Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler's cOlnpendious Cultural Studies, the outgrowth of a vast conference at the University of Illinois in 1990. The book contains thirty-nine papers by scholars from the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada. Perhaps the Inost venerable representative is Stuart Hall, former director of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which has had a truly seminal (or gestational) influence on the field. The topics and approaches covered by the essays collected here are wide-ranging: AIDS, everyday life, popular music, crime fiction, Hustler, widow burning, '1968,' Rambo, race, class, gender, ethnicity , sexual orientation, postcoionialis111, and so forth. Peter Stallybrass presents an essay on Shakespeare, but it seems out of place or marginal - one is left with the impression that cultural studies is predOlninantly concerned with contemporary culture in its Inyriad manifestations. In the face of the diversity of the volulne, the introduction to the collection is a concise and helpful account of some key issues in cultural studies. Foremost among these is the question of definition. The editors adopt a somewhat open account: 'it is probably impos:?ible to agree on any essential definition or unique narrative of cultural studies' (3); 'cultural studies in fact has no distinct methodology' and its choice of practice 'is pragmatic, strategic, and self-reflective' (2). The editors are aided in their view - which is more pluralist and less socialist than many would be comfortable with - by the contribution of Stuart Hall. Hall argues that Birminghaln Cultural Studies was provisional and contested, that it took Marxism as a problelTI rather than a solution, and that issues ยท of feminism and race had to interrupt and break into cultural studies in order to be recognized. Hall and the editors agree, however, that 'cultural studies cannot be just anything' (3). Hall writes: Now, does it follow that cultural studies is not a policed disciplinary area? That it is whatever people do, if they choose to call or locate themselves within the project and practice of cultural studies? I am not happy with that formulation either. Although cultural studies as a project is open-ended, it can't simply be pluralist in that way. (278) UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 64, NUMBER 4, FALL 1995 558 MARK FORTIER Cultural studies entails a real commitment to leftist - not rightist or centrist - political struggle, which implies that cultural studies as academic work lnust have some vital connection to political struggle outside the academy. There is, however, nothing stopping the growth of a depoliticized practice that Inay come to be called 'cultural studies.' Here Hall worries about the institutionalizing of cultural studies in the U.S., which presents an 'extraordinarily profound danger' (285) that politics will be lost in academic professiohalism, abstracted theorization, and a narrow focus on textuality. One offshoot of political commitment is a felt need to address a general audience outside the academy; Angela McRobbie writes of 'knowledge and understanding as a practical and material means of communicating with and helping to empower subordinate social groups and movements' (721). British cultural studies began in adult education and the Open University, and Hall's essay is a model of clarity and the plain style, though pitched at an academic audience. Many, however, even those strongly political, do not seem concerned with accessibility. Indeed, the essays by Donna Haraway and Homi K. Bhabha are the most difficult in the voltune, even for the academically trained reader. Inthe excerpts from conference discussion after his paper, Bhabha is asked about the forbidding difficulty of his presentation, and answers: I can't apologize for the fact that you found my paper completely impenetrable. I did it quite consciously, I had a problem, I worked it out. And if a few people got what I was saying or some of what I was saying, I'm happy. (67) The tension between intellectual integrity and regard for a readership, general or otherwise, haunts cultural studies and is exacerbated in situations, such as, especially...


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