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Richard Johnson

Related: cultural studies - cultural theory

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During the mid-1980s the then director and longtime member of the Birmingham Centre, Richard Johnson, had occasion to publish in the United States a landmark manifesto, "What Is Cultural Studies Anyway?" which, following Hall, observed that two distinct methodological branches of cultural studies had developed at the Centre. The "culturalist" line, derived from sociology, anthropology, and social history and influenced by the work of Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson, regarded a culture as a whole way of life and struggle accessible through detailed concrete (empirical) descriptions that captured the unities or homologies of commonplace cultural forms and material life. The "(post)structuralist" line, indebted to linguistics, literary criticism, and semiotic theory and especially attentive to the work of Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, and Michel Foucault, conceived of cultural forms as semiautonomous inaugurating "discourses" susceptible to rhetorical and-or semiological analyses of cognitive constitutions and ideological effects. While the members of the former group preferred to research, for instance, oral histories, realistic fictions, and working-class texts, seeking to pinpoint and portray private social "experience," the latter group analyzed avant-garde or literary texts and practices, attempting to uncover underlying constitutive communal codes and conventions of representation. One especially influential American study blending culturalism and poststructuralism was Edward W. Said's Orientalism (1978), which depicted the history of Western research on the Near East as a massive disciplinary discourse structuring and dominating the Orient in a consistently racist, sexist, and imperialistic way that bore little relation to actual human experience. Vincent B. Leitch--http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/hopkins_guide_to_literary_theory/cultural_studies-_2.html

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