In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

JO-ANN WALLACE English Studies versus the Humanities? Cultural Studies and Institutional Power The short paper which follows was originally delivered at a 1994 ACCUTE (Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English) panel on 'Cultural Studies versus English Studies?,l The title of the panel evokes and interrogates the threat that a politically informed, interdisciplinary 'cultural studies' paradigm may pose to traditional 'English studies' programs. The title of my paper redirects that question to consider the long-term effects, in a period of governlnent cutbacks to university funding, of expanding the already elastic mandate of English departments to include 'cultural studies' in their curricula. One of the long-term effects may be the loss of slnaller departInents within the humanities (e.g., art history, film studies, classics) and the concurrent loss of discipline-specific training these departments offer. This is not to say that English departments should observe a 'hands off' policy in relation to new interdisciplinaIY imperatives; nor is it to say that the only appropriate response to cutbacks is disciplinary entrenclunent. The very modest proposal of this paper is that we must all - but especially those of us in large, 'protected' departments (that is, departments which by virtue of their size and, often, their 'service' Inandate are perceived, by smaller, more vulnerable departInents and programs, as 'protected') attempt to anticipate SOlne of the long-term effects of institutional restructuring in response to funding cutbacks. In their introduction to a recent collection of essays, published after this paper was originally written and delivered, Cary Nelson and Michael Berube note the degree to which the various 'crises of legitimation,' which have preoccupied debate in the humanities for the last twenty-five-years, have seldom included attention to 'the discourses of fiscal policy': Since the larger fiscal picture for American higher education is rarely anyone researcher's 'field,' assessments of it are usually left to administrators, and rarely linked to intellectually substantive discussions of undergraduate education, campus policies, or innovative research in the humanities and social sciences_ Likewise, analyses by writers in the humanities ... seldom, if ever, gesture toward the economic factors that are now shaping lives and livelihoods in the universities_ (Nelson and Berube, 5) UNlVER.<;ITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 64, NUMDER 4, PALL 1995 ENGLISH STUDIES VS THE HUMANITIES 507 The paper that follows atten1pts to locate the intellectual project of cultural studies within a specific institutional moment. In this sense, it Inay be occasional and topical. However, in the year since this paper was delivered, it has becOlne clear that the effects of the so-called 'Klein revolution', are spreading beyond the borders of Alberta. In its last bud~ get, for example, the federal government announced a 25 per cent cut to provincial transfer paYlnents for postsecondary education. Clearly universities across Canada will be facing Inany of the same challenges which are outlined in this paper. We in the Alberta universities increasingly find ourselves playing the role of the uninvited wedding guest. While this paper does not offer a model for ilnplementing cultural studies programs, it does offer a warning: don't shoot the albatross. In his posthulnously published article on 'The Future of Cultural Studies,' RaYIDond Willialns suggests that the 'central theoretical point which ... is at the heart of Cultural Studies' can be fornlulated as follows: [It is] that you cannot understand an intellectual or artistic project without also understanding its formation; that the relation between a project and a formation is always decisive; and that the emphasis of Cultural Studies is precisely that it engages with [loth, rather than specializing itself to one or the other. ... The importance of this is that if we are serious, we have to apply it to our OW11 project, including the project of Cultural Studies. We have to look at what kind of formation it was from which the project of Cultural Studies developed, and then at the changes of formation that produced different definitions of that project. We may then be in a position to understand existing and possible formations which would in themselves be a way of defining certain projects towards the future. (Williams, 151-2) In keeping with Willimns's insistence on the relatioll between a project and its forll1ation, this paper will focus on the problelnatic of 'cultural studies' as an intellectual project in a period of government commitlnent to deficit reduction. I will argue for the necessity, in this forrnatio11., of a clear distinction between 'cultural studies' as a transdisciplinary Inethodology and 'Cultural Studies' as a university progratD or ldiscipline' (with all that implies in tenDS of exalninations, syllabi, degree requirements, etc). I will suggest that while cultural-studies-as-methodology holds out the potential of collaborative work across disciplines, luore flexible institutional exchanges and groupings for teaching and research, and the fonnulation of new questions and knowledges, Cultural-Studies-as-prograln has becom.e a contested and frequently divisive site of institutional desire. The most bitter struggles today are not - as they luay have been five, ten, or fifteen years ago - bet'ween those who argue for or against disciplinary purity, but amo1lg cultural studies practitioners for fonl1al institutional 508 JO-ANN WALLACE recognition (at the level of SSHRC funding, the establishment of research institutes, progrmTI affiliation, etc) and even h;'stitutional survival. The question now is not whether progressive intellectuals in departments. of English can overcome the 'practical barriers' to interdisciplinary work but "Y"hether, in the easy slippage of a lliterary into cultural studies' paradigm (the phrase is frolll Antony Easthope's 1991 book of that naIne) the smaller disciplines (art history, film studies, philosophy, etc) are threatened. Whose long-term interests are served by these struggles? What might the erosion of the traditional humanities disciplines accomplished , in part, through an appropriation of SOlne of their most vital work into English-department-based cultural studies prograins mean in a recessionary economy? My argument is clearly informed by conditions at lny home university and in Iny hOIne province, and I want to briefly step back frOln my larger polelnical questions to sketch in some of those conditions. To do so, I will be drawing fro"m two documents: Quality First~ a February 1994 University of Alberta document outlining fifteen proposals for restructuring in response to Inassive provincial funding cuts;2 and the province's March 1994 draft white paper on higher education, Adult Learning: Access through Innovation. The irony, in the context of this discussion, of the white paper's emphasis on ladult learning' will not be lost on those familiar with the history of cultural studies in Britain. As Raymond Williams has pointed out, cultural studies, as we now understand that term, had its origins in the later 19405 and the 19508 in extension or adult education (Williams, 154); this was adult education, in Willialns's terms, for 'human and social knowledge and critical possibility' (161). What·Alberta's Klein government report Ineans by 'adult learning' is something quite different. The . white paper identifies three constituencies in its 'new vision' of higher education: adult learners, 'learning providers,' and 'key stakeholders.' The choice of terms - an undisguised rhetoric of consumers, producers, and investors - is deliberate and strategic. Adult learners are not people attempting to make sense of their social relations (in the widest sense of that term), but individual free agents circulating in a free market; learning providers respond to market delnands and fluctuations; and key stakeholders , specifically business and industry, are the principle shareholders and policy shapers. In the words of the report, 'The government will retain its role of consumer protection' (Adult Learning, 6). In its IAgenda for Change' the 'white paper articulates four goals: (1) to foster individual responsibility in a leamer-centred system; (2) to ensure responsiveness and accountability to learners and taxpayers; (3) to enable Albertans to participate in a changing economy and work force; (4) to promote accessibility to affordable, quality learning opportunities. Goals 1, 2, and 4 focus on the 'haws' of what the Klein government calls its ENGLISH STUDIES VS THE HUMANITIES 509 Inew vision for adult learniilg in Alberta' - how to 'change the funding structure of higher education, how to centralize and 'rationalize' programming, how to persuade educational institutions to offer the kind of instrumentalist progranls this government favours. Goal 3, however, addresses the 'why' and 'who' of adult learning in Alberta. Why educate?" Who is the subject of learning? Goal 3 - 'enable Albertans to participate in a changing ecollOluy and work force' - comes with three guiding principles and four strategies. The first strategy, 'focus on programs that address the needs of the econonlY,' is clearly the heart of this document. In the words of the white paper, Industry and post-secondary institutions will be encouraged to forge stronger links with each other to ensure the relevance of education and training to the work force and the economy. The employability of graduates and their ability to become entrepreneurs will be emphasized. (Adult Leami11g, 16) Clearly, the subject of learning is the entrepreneur-in:.formation. But just as clearly learning providers are expected to be entrepreneurial in their (our) competition for resources; if funding cuts are the stick, the Klein government's carrot is a proposal to establish a $47 million Access Fund ~to finance innovative, cost-effective means of expanding Albertans' access to learning opportunities that address the learning needs of the work place' (Adult Learning, 20). At this point the reader luay be asking herself a couple of questions: what does all of this have to do with cultural studies? and doesn't all of this prove only that Alberta needs cultural studies programs, now more than ever? Yes, we do need critical cultural studies, but - and in spite of the acknowledged difficulties, especially for students, of pursuing interdisciplinary studies within traditional department structures - I am not sure we should rush to institutionalize cultural studies programs now. Both Stuart Hall and Patrick Brantlinger have written extensively on the rise of a cultural studies paradigm in Britain and North America as a response to the Icrisis in the humanities' occasioned by post-war - and, later, post-1968 - fissures in the Arnoldian project. But it is one thing to institute new prograll1s/institutes/schools in response to a crisis in the humanities, and quite another thing to institute new programs particularly one with an avowedly political project - in response to a crisis in funding. It is here that I want to turn to Quality First, the University of Alberta's fifteen proposals for restructuring in response to what the university anticipates to be a 15 to 20 per cent reduction of its operating grant over the next three years. Of the fifteen proposals outlined in Quality First, the 'first ten deal with [the] restructuring or reorganization of academic units' (Quality First, 4) - as opposed to support areas. Quality First proposes to 510 JO-ANN WALLACE restructure academic units in two ways, described in the policy document as the 'termination or significant down-sizing of ... programs and units' and the 'reorganization' of other progralns and units in ways proposed either by the President's Executive Committee or by faculties and departments . The document argues that 'the restructured units [that is, those that have not been terminated] will be better able to deal with future budget cuts in a manner which allows for flexibility, innovation, and increased interdisciplinary teaching and researclz' (Quality First, ii, my emphasis). (And I want simply to note here the degree to which interdisciplinarity , because of its administrative efficiency and flexibility - if enrolments fall short in a course on French literature, the instructor can be shifted to a course on the French cinema - is attractive to planners struggling to balance a university budget.) Two of the proposals outlined in Quality First deal with the consolidation of departments within the Faculty of Arts, nonnally - in English Canada - the home of cultural studies programs. I won't outline these proposals in detail, partly because - since the release of the document - the proposals have themselves been consolidated. Effectively, the next two years will see the Inerger of the modern languages departments (Gernlanic, Slavic and East European, ROIl1ance) with the departments of comparative literature, film studies, and religious studies. This nlerger does not preclude the future possibility of down-sizing or closing SOlne progrmns within what has come to be known as the 'n1ega-deparhnent.' Quality First suggests that this department make sense of its reorganization and new affiliations by thinking of itself as a departlnent of 'comparative cultural studies' (Qllality First, 14). The Department of English strenuously objected to this new designation, and the Inega-deparhnent will likely be called the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Studies. One might argue that central adlninistration's willingness to support cultural studies on the basis of its administrative efficiency is no reason to oppose such a progratn now. In other words, why cut off our noses to. spite our faces? However, there are three issues to note here. The first is that Quality First proposed.a department of comparative cultural studies with no social sciences cOlnponent - no sociologists, no historians, no anthropologists, etc. This has two effects: it obviously dhninishes the intellectual rigour of such a program, and it pits several of the humanities . disciplines against each other in a competition for students, funds, survival. A second and related issue is that the DepartInent of English, because of its very healthy average enrohnents - that is, because its teaching is cost-effective - is exempt from restructuring, significant downsizing , or termination. Moreover, it is very possible that we will benefit from selective vertical cuts. We do not read in fear and trelnbling the sentence in Quality First 'which notes that 'it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the administrative cost which result~ frOIn o'perating the ENGLISH STUDIES VS THE HUMANITIES 511 current number of small departlnents and programs' (Quality First, 13). It is, of course, a residual Arnoldianisln which maintains the size and strength of Inost English deparhnents in North America and elsewhere. The third issue is that, in Quality First and in other discussions at the interdepartnlentallevet the Department of English has not been invited to join either the other Inodem language departments or the proposed comparative cultural studies department - this in spite of the fact that English is a modern language and that we like to think of ourselves as a 'natural' home for cultural studies. At least this would seeln to be the implication of the easy slippage suggested by, for example, Antony Easthope's 1991 book, Literary into Cullural Studies. What I want to suggest here is that it is just this kind of e·asy slippage which has made our colleagues in the slnaller humanities disciplines so suspicious of us. To risk another cliche, we are seen to want to have our cake and eat it too; Of, more accurately, to want to throw our cake away and eat it too. We want to throwaway the Arnoldian iInperative which keeps us big, strong, and - in their eyes - invulnerable, but we also require that Arnoldian imperative to keep us big enough (and we are big in relation to the other humanities) to do the kinds of interdisciplinary research and offer the kinds of interdisciplinary courses we increasingly believe in. I want to stress here that I don't believe the move to interdisciplinarity in English studies is misguided - very much the contrary. What concerns me is what one Inight call the affective and effective consequences of establishing interdiscipl~nary programs - like cultural studies programs - in response to economic pressure. The affective consequence is the strain on interdepartmental relations. We'can't support the establishment of a cultural studies program that doesn't include English studies - selfinterest and intellectual rigour forbid it; our colleagues in the slnaller humanities need to get their enrohnents up (an attractive new program would help) and they need an intellectual project which will make sense of their new institutional positioning, their new departmental relations. Since weaker units within the megadepartnlent are still in danger of 'termination/ they can't afford to invite us· to join them. One effective consequence might be the erosion and even the disappearance of the smaller hwnanities disciplines. If we in English studies can 'do' cultural studies - if we can teach art history, fihn studies, philosophy, etc - it might be more cost-efficient to get rid of the smaller programs and let us get on with it. In this paper I have described the investments - elnotional, intellectual, and econolnic - in cultural studies in one very particular formation: the University of Alberta in its attelnpt to respond to provincial budget cuts made explicitly in the nalne of deficit reduction, and implicitly in accordance with a neo-conservative political vision - what we would call an ideology, something the Klein government says everyone else has and 512 lO-ANN WALLACE they don't. It might be objected that what I have described is too localized to be useful in thinking through the larger project of cultural studies. However, Will Straw - of Carleton's School for Studies in Art and Culture - has made a siInilar argulnent in an article in the 1993 Relocating Cultural Studies collection of essays. There he points out that It would do an injustice to those working within cultural studies to see the institutional politics which surround it as driven exclusively by struggles for prestige and influence, but the administrative accommodation of this work is often one response to the trivialization with which disciplines in the humanities have, for many years, been marked.... [D]ecisions by disciplines to embrace many of the concerns of cultural studies are often made in response to a perceived diminishing of their status and influence within intellectual culture, and are not inevitably or exclusively the result of projects of radical transformation . (89-90)3 In this paper I have left a n1ajor question unanswered. How would cuItural-studies-as-methodology outside of Cultural-Studies-as-program work? what would it look like? Here I can only gesture towards a desire for more collaborative research and teaching, and - yes - more flexible institutional boundaries. But I want that flexibility to be organized by the issues or projects and by researchers, teachers, and students - not as a way to lTIeet funding cuts. NOTES 1 The argument of this paper owes much to a series of often painful discussions with my colleague and research partner, art historian Bridget Elliott. 2 The draft white paper notes that 'The budget for Advanced Education and Career Development will decrease by 15.8% over the next three years' (2). This figure does not include a 5 per cent wage cut the provincial government has suggested should be 'negotiated' for all public sector workers, induding university workers. 3 One could also point to a passage at the beginning of the editors' introduction to the big Grossberg, Nelson, and Treichler Cultural Studies reader, published ' by Routledge in 1992. The editors note that: 'it is undoubtedly cultural studies' material and economic -promise that contributes, as much as its intellectual achievement, to its current vogue. In the United States, where the boom is especially strong, many academic institutions - presses, journals, hiring committees, conferences, university curricula - have created siglIificant ilwestment opportunities in cultural studies, sometimes in ignorance of its history, its practitioners, its relation to trifiditional diSciplines, and its life outside the academy' (1 J my emphasis). ENGLISH STUDIES VS THE HUMANITIES 513 WORKS CITED Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development. Adult Learning: Access through Inllovation. Draft White Paper: All Agenda for Change. March 1994 Brantlinger, Patrick. Cmsoe's Footprillts: Cultural Studies ill Britaill alld America. New York and London: Routledge 1990 Easthope, Antony. Literary illto Cultural Studies. London and New York: Routledge 1991 Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler, eds. Cultural Studies. New York and London: Routledge 1992 Hall, Stuart. 'The Emergence of Cultural Studies and the Crisis of the Humanities.' October 53(1990), 11-23 Nelson, Cary and Michael Berube. 'Introduction: A Report from the Front.' Higher , Education wIder Fire: Politics, Ecol1omics, and the Crisis of the Humanities. Ed Michael Berube and Cary Nelson. New York: Routledge 1995 Straw, Will. 'Shifting BOUlldaries, Lines of Descent: Cultural Studies and Institutional Realignments.' RelocatiJzg Cultural Studies: Developments ill Theory and Research. Ed Valda Blundell, John Shepherd, and Ian Taylor. London and New York: Routledge 1993 University of Alberta. QlIality First. February 1994 Williams, Raymond. 'The Future of Cultural Studies.' The Politics of Modemis11l. London: Verso 1989 ...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 506-513
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.