Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies concerns the political dynamics of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts and defining traits. It is distinguished from cultural anthropology and ethnic studies in both objective and methodology. Cultural studies approaches subjects holistically, combining feminist theory, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, communication studies, political economy, translation studies, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies. Thus, cultural studies seeks to understand the ways in which meaning is generated, disseminated, and produced through various practices, beliefs and institutions. Also politically, economically and even social structures within a given culture.

Cultural Theory and the Lens of Marxism

15 short lectures by Ron Strickland of the English Dept at Illinois State University. They can be viewed as a unit, in batches, or separately.

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E. P Thompson on Social Change

Three lectures by the renowned E.P. Thompson in March 1977  on Models of Social Change, organized by Alan Macfarlane, dealing with the  economy, social structure and ideology

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belle hooks on 'Outlaw Culture'

Eight 8-minute videos entitled 'Cultural Critcism and Transformation,' where bell hooks covers a range of themes, from Madonna to Rap Music

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Frank Sinatra, the Left and the US Popular Front A 25 page article from Science & Society, 2002, by Gerald Meyer,  exploring the little-known history of the poplar singer and his contributions to the left as a young man.  Sinatra played an active role in a score of Popular Front organizations. In contrast to most other celebrity leftists, he also actively fought against racism and intolerance by speaking widely, including at high schools where racial incidents had occurred. Vicious red-baiting contributed to an astounding downward spiral in his career, and caused him to distance himself from the left. Access Here

Guy Debord: Society and Spectacle

 "The spectacle is not a collection of images," Debord writes, "rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images."In his analysis of the spectacular society, Debord notes that quality of life is impoverished with such lack of authenticity, human perceptions are affected, and there's also a degradation of knowledge, with the hindering of critical thought. Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle obfuscates the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, a type of never-ending present; in this way the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is only a moment in history, one that can be overturned through revolution. 90 minutes of film, in nine 10- minute parts.

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Stuart Hall on Race as a Constructed ' Floating Signifier'

Seven 10 minutes videos by the founder of cultural studies. Arguing against the biological interpretation of racial difference, Hall asks us to pay close attention to the cultural processes by which the visible differences of appearance come to stand for natural or biological properties of human beings. Drawing upon the work of writers such as Frantz Fanon, he shows how race is a "discursive construct" and, because its meaning is never fixed, can be described as a "floating signifier." Access Here

The Letters of Rosa Luxemberg: A Reading

Acclaimed actress Kathleen Chalfant performs a selection of Rosa Luxemburg's letters on the anniversary of her assassination. 55 Minute Video.  The event took place at the official opening of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office, November 2012. For more information, visit www.rosalux-nyc.org. Introduction by Albert Scharenberg, Co-executive director of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office.

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Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Godmother of Rock and Roll This one-hour documentary re-examines a piece of U.S. culture, highlighting the intersection of sex, race, and several trends in music. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and recording artist. A pioneer of 20th-century music, Tharpe attained great popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings that were a mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock and roll accompaniment. As the first recording artist to impact the music charts with spiritual recordings, Tharpe became the first superstar of gospel music and became known as "the original soul sister". She was an early influence on iconic figures such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Johnny Cash. Access Here
THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA: POPULAR FRONT IN FILM 105 minutes long, this is the fifth film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda film series, and the longest film of the series. The film begins with an overview of previous failed attempts to conquer Russia: by the Teutonic Knights in 1242 (footage from Sergei Eisenstein's film Alexander Nevsky is used here), by Charles XII of Sweden in 1704 (footage from Vladimir Petrov's film Peter the First), by Napoleon I in 1812, and by Germany in World War II. The vast natural resources of the Soviet Union are then described, showing why the land is such a hot prize for conquerors. To give a positive impression of the Soviet Union to the American audience, the country's ethnic diversity is covered in detail. Later on, elements of Russian culture familiar to Americans, including the musical compositions of Tchaikovsky and Leo Tolstoy's book War and Peace are also mentioned. Communism is never mentioned at any point in the film. The start of the film also includes a quote from U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who commended the Russian people's defense of their nation as one of the most courageous feats in military history. Accesss Here


Burn! The Film of Revolt Starring Marlo Brando.
Now in an 11-part video playlist. Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) is called to the island of Queimada in the Antilles to foment a rebellion against Portuguese rule, to benefit British sugar traders. At the same time Walker meets with the colonial leaders (ethnic Portuguese) and encourages them to lead the revolution, lest the slaves lead the revolution on their own, which would threaten all white infrastructure, and lives, on the island. The revolution succeeds, the Portuguese are expelled, subtle power struggles ensue between the former colonials and the freed black slaves, and the future of sugar exports is uncertain. Having completed his mission, Walker returns to England. Access Here

Film Noir and the 1940s.

 The term 'film noir,' French for 'black film,' first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946. Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private eye (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes policeman (The Big Heat), an aging boxer (The Set-Up), a hapless grifter (Night and the City), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy), or simply a victim of circumstance (D.O.A.). Although film noir was originally associated with American productions, films now so described have been made around the world.  Six classics of the genre are available from the link.



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 'COOL' AND CULTURE  An essay of our blog page by Carl Wilson of Slate: ' Cool has come a long way, literally. In a 1973 essay called “An Aesthetic of the Cool,” art historian Robert Farris Thompson traced the concept to the West African Yoruba idea of itutu—a quality of character denoting composure in the face of danger, as well as playfulness, humor, generosity, and conciliation. It was carried to America with slavery and became a code through which to conceal rage and cope with brutality with dignity; it went on to inform the emotional textures of blues, jazz, the Harlem Renaissance, and more, then percolated into the mainstream.

The Cultural Apparatus of Monopoly Capital

A new and important essay in Monthly Review by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney.

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