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Critical Sites: A Round-Table Discussion with Some of the Members of the Trent University Cultural Studies Program STEPHEN PENDER (for UTQ) To remind everyone of the questions we have proposed for this discussion: (1) What species of political praxis are enabled, emphasized, or occulted under the rubric of cultural studies? (2) How is cultural studies defined? By object or practice? Is , the object of cultural studies everyday life? (3) What about Raymond Williams and the shift from Marxist to 'culturalist' models of inquiry? (4) What is the institutional context of cultural studies here at Trent, its relation to women's studies, queer studies, native studies, or graduate work, including what is called here the 'methodologies MA'? JOHN FEKETE Any history of the formation of the Trent Cultural Studies Program would emphasize the diversity of the people here, their various political and institutional affinities. The formation of the program relates to the institutional politics in a more direct sense than it does to the politics of one particular intervention. From the start there was sonle sense in which we didn't want to reduce intellectual life to a political question or to reduce it to political criteria - I mean we are not sinlply doing politics by other lTIeans in the university. We all 'had our own individual politics and still do. In so far as we have a political practice related to our comInon intellectual work, over the years it has evolved into a kind of resistance or allergy to the efforts to reduce a heterogeneous intellectual field to one particular thing or other. I should mention the national, historical, and geographical groupings of Inaterial that have been relevant 'to this program. Broadly put, such groupings might be said to be German, French and Anglo-American. The first generation of cultural theorists - like Lukacs, who was related to a Marxislll of a certain period concerned with the renewal of culture , the renewal of humanity, alongside of which would be Gralnsci - also becomes important in combination with the Inoment of Althusser and Birminghaln. Generally, we relnained engaged with the German Marxist tradition. OUf engagelnent continued with the second generation of the Frankfurt theorists and th~ir critiques of culture. I would say that there was a third distinct grouping around Habermas and the effort to redeeln an Enlightenment project. Equally influential on the progranl was a French brand of cultural studies that included the UNiVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 64, NUMBER 4, FALL 1995 548 ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSION Parisian 'linguistic structure and representatioil people,' from Levi- 'Strauss to Derrida and Lyotard, as well as the theories of the fonnation and defonnation of subjectivity, from Althusser, Foucault, Lacan, and Deleuze. It also included the theories of culture, of culture as signification , simulation, and distinction, from Merleau-Ponty, Baudrillard., and Bourdieu. In the Anglo-American Inilieu, obviously we were attentive to Alnerican popular and mass culture research, multiculturalism, the sociology of cultural research in the States, the whole Canadian culture-technology theIne - which encompassed McLuhan and Innis, and then Donald Theall, SOllle of the work done by Arthur Kroker, Andy Wernick , and Inyself - which would see technicisrn as a kind of emblematic sign of postmodernism and its mOlnent in a way which is still perfectly Canadian. Finally, there was evidence of various forms of British cultural studies, last but certainly not least, including schools of cultural anthropology and cultural sociology, the cultural materialism of the Birmingham Centre, Stuart Hall's emphasis on collective reaction and the practice of political research. We worked through cultural theory in terms of an interest in aesthetics, which I think is characteristically part of our sense of cultural studies. So in 1978 we went ahead and we fonned what was then the first Cultural Studies degree program in this country, perhaps in North America, and it reluains the largest and Inost developed degree undergraduate program around. IAN MCLACHLAN I think what John has said is a good summary of where the political roots of the program lie: in a politics of resistance to the homogenization and abstraction typical of the acadenly in general , in resistance to the institutionalization that individuals found at a specific point in time and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 547-556
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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