The Field of Cultural Studies
Cultural Studies is a field that analyzes and critiques our cultural, social, and political world. Cultural Studies is best understood as the politically committed, theoretically informed, radically self-reflexive and historical-materialist analysis of cultural processes and practices in which the commitment to imagine a more humane, more democratic society has always been a guiding assumption in the field from its early formations in post-war Britain. In this sense, Cultural Studies is not just an academic discipline and a particular approach within the wider field of the study of culture (one with implicit but distinctive epistemological assumptions and ways of working), but it is also a political project that seeks to construct what Larry Grossberg calls a "radical political history of the present."
Cultural Studies understands culture in a broad way, as a way of life and a “way of struggle,” as Grossberg notes, including practices and phenomena of all kinds: visual representations, media and literary texts, consumer culture, youth subcultures, performance and display practices, as well as other aspects of popular culture and everyday life. That is why it is impossible to define Cultural Studies by looking at the kind of objects it studies. Cultural Studies cannot be defined by a particular kind of object or set of objects, and as Grossberg puts it, "[Y]ou can do cultural studies of almost anything."
Cultural Studies interrogates the objects of art and media, creating the space and dialogue essential for the development of progressive, intelligent products. Cultural Studies fosters awareness of the world and promotes informed decisions in these places, where arts and media are created, collected, consumed, and studied.
The Cultural Studies Program at Columbia College Chicago
Columbia College’s Cultural Studies Program is one of the only such programs for undergraduates in the United States. It is unique in its combination of theory and praxis, offering both challenging and rigorous theoretical coursework alongside hands-on, practice-based coursework in foreign languages, arts activism, media production, and a wide variety of internship opportunities. The program also partners with the University of East London’s Cultural Studies Programme to host a student exchange program.
We are the only program to combine theory and praxis in our advanced course offerings, where seniors in Cultural Studies complete either a yearlong Capstone Research Thesis or a yearlong Capstone Internship in Cultural Studies. Capstone seniors present their work publicly before graduating from the program. The former has led to published articles, academic essays, and conference presentations by our undergraduate seniors. The latter provides students with an exciting opportunity to participate in closely supervised, service-learning work experiences under the sponsorship of a local cultural or political organization. These intensive Capstone experiences provide a bridge between a student’s formal undergraduate education, preparing them for future employment or graduate school.