Terms of Engagement: Doing Cultural Studies in the Enterprise University
Simon During recently argued that the structure of research funding in Australia and the rise of the ‘enterprise university’ have deprived ‘more abstract and theorised cultural studies’ of their ‘critical force’; conversely, Ien Ang has argued for the transition from ‘cultural studies’ to ‘cultural work’, carried out through strategic and pragmatic industry alliances. This paper contributes to these debates by reflecting on a recently completed doctoral study entitled Vernacular Creativity and New Media. The project was grounded in the history and politics of cultural studies’ engagement with ‘ordinary’ culture and ‘everyday’ creativity, and in addition to theory-building and historical work included participation as a facilitator in community-based creative practice, as part of other university research projects funded by government and industry sources. The paper examines the multiple opportunities for and constraints on ‘critical engagement’ that emerged throughout the course of this research.
I suggest that a critically engaged cultural studies that is practically articulated with ‘real world’ contexts affords productive alternatives to the extreme positions – both of them positions of ‘critique’ – that Jim McGuigan calls ‘uncritical populism’ and ‘radical subversion’ respectively. Instead, an engagement grounded in critical pragmatism actually works to reveal and open up, rather than close down or disavow complexity.
That’s the background and the set of issues I want to intervene in, and I’ll mainly be concentrating on the work I did as hybrid ethnographer-participant-trainer in various digital storytelling workshops. More importantly, I will be chasing down photo ops with Stuart Hall, Dick Hebdige and Judith Halberstam! I’m also really looking forward to this seminar on feminism and cultural theory at Goldsmiths.
Meanwhile, John Hartley has a new post over at Propagating Media (my ‘other’ blog) in response to an open letter we received the other day about the launch of the National Indigenous Television Network. John says:
It is a pity that no-one in government seems to be ‘joining the dots’ in relation to Aboriginal creativity. NITV, ICTV, NIRS – and other initiatives – need investment and strategic direction if they are to become what they claim to be – a ‘national’ resource with both economic and representational clout for an emergent Indigenous polity.
The full post is here.