1. Define key elements of cultural studies.
2. Show how cultural studies and rhetorical studies are related.
3. Discuss key terms related to cultural studies.
4. Identify ways cultural studies and rhetorical studies complement each other.
What is Cultural Studies?
Students of culture studies trace the discipline to two
books in the 1950s.
1. Richard Hoggart’s The Use of Literacy
2. Raymond William’s Culture and Society
These authors sought to examine how culture could be made
more democratic and free of ideological constraints. They
took up they task of exploring how cultures were created not
just by “elite” works of literature and art but also by the more
popular cultural texts to which everyone is exposed.
Cultural studies is extremely difficult to define with any
degree of precision. It’s not really possible to draw a
sharp line and say that on one side of it we can find the
proper province of cultural studies.
Fiske offers a succinct definition of cultural studies-
Is a way of living within an industrial society that
encompasses the meanings of that social experience.
Essentially, cultural studies is interested in signification, or
how signs come to have meaning within a culture.
This perspective assumes that meaning is not
something fixed or permanent.
Instead, meanings are varied, temporary, and based on
personal experiences – a view much common to
Example – Two people are watching the same TV show.
They may come to different meanings about that the
show and its characters mean.
These different meanings are based on the experiences
of those viewers.
-- Cultural studies critics look to all variables involved in how
culture is created and maintained: the process by which texts
are created, the situations of receivers, the dominant political
ideology at the time, the previous meanings that have
existed, and the competing meanings for a text.
Culture studies has been influenced by Marxism and that all
the basic assumptions of cultural studies are Marxism.
Cultural studies is interested in how meanings in a culture
are related to the social structure and history of the culture.
Cultural studies, like Marxism, assumes that inequalities
exist along gender, ethnic, generational, and classlines.
Culture is seen as a way of dividing groups and as a site of
struggle between those groups over the meanings that exist
within a culture.
Goals of Cultural Studies
The goal is to show the political aspects of culture.
Theorists think of politics in a broad sense. They illustrate
how particular cultural practices and texts privilege one
set of values or beliefs within a culture.
Cultural studies tries to theorize about what kinds of
political actions can be taken within a given cultural and
Grossberg (1997) explains further:
“It is not about interpreting or judging texts or people, but
about describing how people’s everyday lives are
articulated by and with culture, how they are empowered
and disempowered by the particular structures and forces
that organize their lives, always in contradictory ways,
and how their everyday lives are themselves articulated
to and by the trajectories of economic and political
Manifesto of C.S. Beliefs
1. CS has a history of literature that must be considered when one performs a “CS”
2. CS does not necessarily have to concern itself with artifacts of popular culture.
3. CS is concerned with cultural context and politics of signification.
4. CS is concerned with the production, reception, and use of cultural texts.
5. CS considers the relationships between texts, objects, and cultural forces.
6. CS does not provide a “fixed, repeatable methodology.”
7. CS criticism suggests future courses of action for members of a culture.
8. Academic disciplines that teach cultural studies must take seriously the politics of
Rosteck (1999) notes that cultural studies and rhetoric
studies share much in common:
Both seek to understand how meanings are created –
interested in questions related to how power is managed
through communication; movies, television shows, or
Both entail critical practice. Throughout this book we examined
rhetorical criticism, which is the application of rhetorical theory
to rhetorical practice to make a judgment about rhetoric. CS
uses the same critical tool.
Both concern themselves with ultimate and complete disclosure
of the artifact or practice being studied.
Rhetorical studies focuses primarily on texts, cultural
studies focuses on context as well.
Rhetoric studies has traditionally taken a neutral position
toward the artifact; cultural studies takes a political
position toward it.
Rhetoric studies has traditionally focused on legitimate
social institutions, whereas cultural studies has
emphasized alternative institutions that resist the
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on Feb. 3, 1932.
Moved to England to attend Oxford University as a
recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship.
One of the most influential cultural theorists.
Some of his works include:
What is Black in Popular Culture? (1992), Questions of
Cultural Identity (1996), and Visual Cultural (1999).
Basis of Cultural Studies:
Cultural studies is the investigation of how members of
industrial societies creates meaning.
Typically, media are a primary way that individuals learn
about the possible meanings for symbols, people, or
Hall points out that from this perspective, critics often look
for a gap between what is true and what is presented.
Previously, media critics make an argument that a TV
show portrays a minority person inaccurately or
For Hall, this view that you can accurately portray an idea
through media is outdated and inaccurate.
Idea of Representation
Instead Hall offered the idea of representation.
Meaning depends on how ideas, objects, or people are
Meaning doesn’t exist until the idea has been
Meaning is part of the event and doesn’t exist outside the
Meaning certainly doesn’t exist prior to the event’s
depiction in the media.
Meaning exists within the event.
Culture – becomes a primary element in a discussion
According to Hall – culture is the way we make sense
of, give meaning, to the world.
Meaning arises because of the “shared conceptual
maps” that we share with others in our culture.
Culture, then, plays a role in representation, or how we
make meaning of events.
You need disclosure, the frameworks of understanding or
interpretation, to make sense of things.
Who We Are
We learn who we are by how we are represented, or
constituted in a culture.
Hall believes that ideas of identity are linked to
ethnicity, class and gender.
Articulation emerges from representation.
Articulation is the act of speaking clearly.
Halls definition is joining together – An articulation is
thus the form of connection that can make a unity of
two different elements, under certain conditions.
Meaning must be expressed.
Idea of Signification
This is the study of the production of meaning.
Signifying practices are practices involved in the
production of meaning. Ex. Media/Talking.
Absence means something; signifies something as
much as presence.
Every image we see is read against what is not there. As
you determine what something means, you cannot ignore
what is missing from the defining situation.
Meanings are not fixed. There are temporary meanings,
they but can be easily changed.
Meaning does not exist in the actual texts, of culture,
but rather in how audience members respond to those
texts based on their position within a cultural context.
Cultural Studies Model of Communication
(Ideology,economic (knowledge, stratus
Factors) gender, race, class)
Subject Position Definition Example
Preferred A reading of the text that Maxim magazine portrays
accepts the dominant ideology. consumerism in a way that
its readers embrace.
Readers desire to purchase
items advertised in the
magazine and pursue its
Negotiated A neutral reading of the text. Readers believe that
Maxim is a humorous
magazine that is not to
be taken seriously.
Oppositional A reading that opposes the Feminists may believe that
dominant ideological message Maxim promotes the
present in the text. objectification of women
and leads to discrimination
and violence against
Is a key distinction between cultural studies and
Cultural studies is contextual, where as rhetorical
studies is textual.
Cultural studies is not interested solely in the text, but
in how the text interacts with its cultural, social, political,
and historical environment, and also how they are
circulated within a culture.
Using Both Rhetorical and
Approach Object of Study
Rhetorical Approach Symbolism of the memorial including
mirror, plaque, and names
Cultural Approach Visitor attributes, including their
clothing and comments while
observing the memorial
Combined Approach Symbolism of the memorial as well as