Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cultural Studies and a need for A Better Agenda


Cultural studies has taken much inspiration from postcolonial studies, and adopted critique as its main strategy. Critiquing, although a powerful tool, especially in creating counter discourses, whether it is to counter colonial historiography or neoliberal consumerist logics, it is basically a tool in the hands of the literate intellectuals having abilities to express the critique eloquently. How does then cultural studies relate to the indigenous struggles and everyday lives of people? How does the project of cultural studies change the material conditions that facilitate neoliberal capitalism? As Pezzulo (2011) contends, drawing inspiration from Grossberg, that there is a need for pragmatic practices of social change (p.127). A necessary shift from postcolonial studies, according to me is to engage not in historical narratives, but with the contemporary ones, where change can be effected in the present. Cultural studies stands to offer important guidance for this agenda, because of its conception of power as multimodal and its understanding of contemporary culture as its relation to everything else that is not culture (Pezzulo, 2011 citing Grossberg). Speaking on the basis of case studies of three consumer-based movements in the US, Pezzulo suggests that cultural studies needs to engage with consumer based advocacy campaigns, such as boycotts and buycotts, that seek to change consumption patters, even though it doesn’t mean overthrowing the logics of free-market capitalism. The impact of such campaigns is significant on the basis that they change the relationships of production within a given company. I believe that acknowledging that power exerts itself not in a monolithic fashion, but through micro-practices such as relationships of production, the change could begin with un-doing these relations. As Pezzulo suggests ranking the success of these campaigns from least to most successful is immaterial, but the new agendas they set for theorization of cultural studies is significant, as is their impact in bringing about change.

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