Introduction to Cultural Studies: Culture, Technology & Power Free Course at Open School East

Introduction to Cultural Studies: Culture, Technology & Power – Free Course at Open School East

Taking place over 9 Tuesdays, 6.30-8.30pm (check schedule below for exact dates)

Click HERE for location
29 September – 15 December 2015

Who has power in our cultures and how does it work? How do the ideas we have about what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ influence our decisions? What exactly is technology and how does it affect social change? Cultural Studies makes use of techniques from philosophy, history, sociology, human geography, anthropology and political and critical theory to examine these questions in the context of contemporary popular cultures.

This course is an introduction to the subject taught by senior academics moonlighting from their day jobs at the University of East London. The course is free because we believe not only that education should be free but that knowledge is a crucial weapon in the war against all forms of inequality.

If you’ve never been to university, have been but miss the critical debates or are curious about who decides what counts as knowledge in the first place, we’d like to meet you.

There is no set reading (although we’ll recommend some if you’re interested) and no essay assignments, exams or deadlines (although we’ll set some if you want to challenge yourself). All the classes are interactive and give you the chance to think about everyday life in the context of the history of ideas. We’ll provide the learning environment. The rest is up to you.

The course is written and delivered by Dr Debra Benita Shaw and Dr Stephen Maddison, Co-Directors of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research. For more information on the Centre and the University of East London click here.

Course outline

Session 1: Tuesday 29 September
‘Making Meaning: Introduction to Semiotics’

We make meaning from everything we see around us every day, but what informs our decisions about what ‘things’ mean? This session will introduce you to the work of the French Philologist Ferdinand de Saussure who gave us the tools to understand the role of ideology in how we make sense of everyday life.

Session 2: Tuesday 13 October
‘Workers of the World Unite: Marx for Beginners’

Karl Marx is famous for predicting a workers’ revolution in Britain and, as some politicians will gleefully tell you, for being wrong. But Marx wrote a lot of books and said a lot of things that are still startlingly relevant to how we think about the organisation of social life and the role of economics in determining how we think about ourselves. In this session, we’ll develop our understanding of ideology and think about the relationship between bodies, machines and going shopping (with a little help from Johnny Cash).

Session 3: Tuesday 27 October
‘Culture Consuming Itself?’

Why has consumption become so central to the cultures of capitalism? This session will apply key concepts from Marxism to a discussion of ideas of identity, taste and cultural meaning. Why do we define ourselves through our shopping choices? Can we ever achieve individuality? How does semiotics help us to understand culture as representation?

Session 4: Tuesday 3 November
‘Sometimes it’s Just a Cigar: The Surreal World of Sigmund Freud’

Sigmund Freud is another towering figure of the twentieth century who gets a bad press. But, like it or not, he gave us the language that we use when we speak about our personalities, early childhood development and mental health (he also provided PR and ad agencies with effective strategies for persuading us to, yes, go shopping). In this session, we’ll look at psychoanalysis as cultural theory; as a way of thinking about what we dream about, how we behave and how we learn to distinguish ourselves according to the roles we’re expected to play.

Session 5: Tuesday 17 November
‘Popular Interests: Antonio Gramsci and Hegemony’

Antonio Gramsci was the leader of the Italian Communist party after WW1 and spent a lot of time in prison. Happily for us, it gave him plenty of time to think. In this session we’ll study his theory of ‘hegemony’ which helps to explain why we consent to be governed by people that really don’t have our best interests at heart.

Session 6: date TBC (this session will be set on a Saturday)
‘How to Get Interpellated: Louis Althusser (with Intro to Jacques Lacan)’

The French nearly had (another) revolution in 1968 but, ultimately, it failed. Louis Althusser was one of the post-’68 theorists who set himself the task of working out why people give in to authority, even when it would be better for them to not do so. We’ll be studying how he made use of the post-Freudian theory of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to explain why we all consider ourselves guilty until proven innocent.

Session 7: Tuesday 24 November
‘Monsieur Foucault and the Prison of the Self’

Michel Foucault was another post-’68 theorist whose work has had wide ranging consequences for how we think about power and its effects on how we understand ourselves and others. This is the first of three sessions where we’ll explore his ideas and their relevance to contemporary culture. We’ll be examining the design of an eighteenth century prison and how it gives us a model for understanding why we think some things (and people) are ‘abnormal’.

Session 8: Tuesday 8 December
‘Perverse Pleasures: Foucault and Sexuality’

One of the most important things that Foucault helps us to understand is that sexuality has a history. Although he disagreed with Marx about the way that power works, he had a similar interest in historical change and its effect on our private lives. In this session, we’ll examine how our attitudes to sexual practices are deeply entangled with the power afforded to certain institutions by vested economic and political interests.

Session 9: Tuesday 15 December (note this session is a week after the last one)
‘Racial Mythologies: Edward Said and Orientalism’

Foucault’s ideas have considerable implications for how we understand racism and its effects in contemporary culture. In this session, we’ll discuss the work of Edward Said who applied Foucault’s insights about history, language and self-identity to understanding how racial stereotypes come to be accepted as ‘truth’.

Everything has changed but nothing has changed: cultural stasis and technological revolution.

 

 

Thursday, July 2. 6:30-8:30 pm

appleTwo observations about contemporary culture have become commonplace in recent years. On the one hand, the claim that we are living through a social revolution, driven by technological c
hange, is virtually accepted as a truism. On the other hand, the apparent slowdown of rates of actual innovation in fields such as music and fashion is also widely observed; Simon Reynolds’ diagnosis of ‘retromania’ as the contemporary condition has been widely appreciated, for example. Can we understand both of these phenomena as symptomatic of a world in which the hegemony of Silicon Valley forces certain kinds of innovation while retarding and containing others? And what can we do about it?

Jeremy Gilbert is Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London. He is the author of Anti-Capitalism & Culture: Radical Theory & Popular Politics (Berg, 2008) and Common Ground: Democracy & Collectivity in an Age of Individualism (Pluto, 2013). He is also editor of the journal New Formations.

Open School East
The Rose Lipman Building
43 De Beauvoir Rd
London N1 5SQ

 

All welcome, admission free, no need to book

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In Theory: Seminars at Open School East

In Theory: CCSR at Open School East

The Centre for Cultural Studies Research is a research centre in the School of Arts & Digital Industries at the University of East London. Members of CCSR are all active researchers engaged in exploring the politics of contemporary culture. In Theory is a series of seminars and workshops designed to offer OSE associates and the general public the chance to engage in debates about art, cultural theory, popular culture and social change. Come along for a lively exchange of ideas and the opportunity to develop your understanding of the relationship between critical theory and culture.

Programme 2015

All lectures and seminars 6.30 – 8.30pm

Thursday, April 16 – Stephen Maddison (UEL/CCSR): Softer, Metrosexual or Sissy: How Do You Fancy Your Masculinity?

How do we understand masculinity now? Is homophobia really declining, and if so, what effects has this had on so-called traditional or hegemonic masculinity? Are men getting softer? Or just more willing to spend money on what has traditionally been seen as the female realm of fashion and beauty? In this session we will be considering the political implications of recent influential theories of masculinity in the post-queer moment

Dr Stephen Maddison is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London and co-director of CCSR. He is the author of Fags, Hags & Queer Sisters (Palgrave, 2000) and has published widely on the politics of pornography, queer theory and masculinity.

Thursday, May 7 – Ashwani Sharma (UEL/CCSR) The Sublime Time of Race: Rethinking Black History and Contemporary Film  

In a neoliberal capitalist context of ‘no future’ and the ‘end of history’, where utopian futures are near impossible to imagine, questions of temporality, memory and history have emerged as sites of cultural and political struggle. This is particularly the case for black and postcolonial histories entangled in a commodity (multi)culture driven by ‘atemporal’ fantasies of ‘post-race’.

The seminar by focusing on recent black cinema – from popular films such as 12 Years a Slave and Selma to independent productions like John Akomfrah’s The Nine Muses – examines the aesthetics and politics of race and time. In a contemporary digital media environment obsessed by archives, cultural memory and nostalgia, the session asks what past, present and future do these films offer? How is black history represented? Is the future always to be haunted by the traumas of the racial past?

Ashwani Sharma is a Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London and co-editor of darkmatter journal (www.darkmatter101.org). He is the co-editor of Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (Zed, 1996) and has published widely in the fields of race, globalisation and postcolonial art and media. He is currently completing a book – In the Ruins of Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Global Times(Bloomsbury Academic).

Monday, May 18 – Debra Benita Shaw (UEL/CCSR), Stefan Sorgner (University of Erfurt) & David Roden (Open University): Posthuman Studies and the Arts

What does it mean to be ‘human’ in the digital age? How are the biological sciences redefining bodies and what does it have to do with culture? What will be the politics of posthumans? This session will survey the new field of ‘posthuman studies’ and its implications for popular culture and the arts.

Dr Debra Benita Shaw is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London. She is the author of Women, Science & Fiction (Palgrave, 2000) and Technoculture: The Key Concepts (Berg, 2008). Her new book Posthuman Urbanism: Mapping Bodies in Contemporary City Space will be published by Rowman & Littlefield International in 2016.

Dr Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is director and co-founder of the Beyond Humanism Network, Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and teaches philosophy at the University of Erfurt. His most recent publication is Post- & Transhumanism: An Introduction (Peter Lang, 2014).

Dr David Roden is a Research Affiliate at the Open University. He is the author of Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (Springer, 2013) and Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (Acumen, 2014).

Thursday, July 2 – Jeremy Gilbert (UEL/CCSR): Everything has changed but nothing has changed: cultural stasis and technological revolution.

Two observations about contemporary culture have become commonplace in recent years. On the one hand, the claim that we are living through a social revolution, driven by technological change, is virtually accepted as a truism. On the other hand, the apparent slowdown of rates of actual innovation in fields such as music and fashion is also widely observed; Simon Reynolds’ diagnosis of ‘retromania’ as the contemporary condition has been widely appreciated, for example. Can we understand both of these phenomena as symptomatic of a world in which the hegemony of Silicon Valley forces certain kinds of innovation while retarding and containing others? And what can we do about it?

Jeremy Gilbert is Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London. He is the author of Anti-Capitalism & Culture: Radical Theory & Popular Politics (Berg, 2008) and Common Ground: Democracy & Collectivity in an Age of Individualism (Pluto, 2013). He is also editor of the journal New Formations.

Thursday, July 16 – Tim Lawrence (UEL/CCSR): Schizo-Culture and the Politics of the Downtown Scene

The downtown art and music scene of the 1970s and early 1980s rose out of New York City’s shift from an industrial to a postindustrial economy. The scene also flourished as the city headed into bankruptcy and was forced by the national Republican government to turn to the banking sector for bailout money, a development that David Harvey cites alongside the rise of Pinochet as being foundational to the rise of neoliberalism. At the time artists and musicians flocked to New York because of its cultural importance and also because it was such a cheap place to live, only for critics including Harvey and Sharon Zukin to subsequently argue that they ended up colluding in New York’s transition to a post-democratic, post-collective city. Exploring an alternative framing of cultural practice during this formative historical conjuncture, this seminar will look at the special Semiotext(e) issue dedicated to Schizo-culture, which explored the relationship between participants in the downtown scene and developing strains within post-Marxist theory that sought to map out an anti-authoritarian, fluid, pluralistic politics for the late 20th century. How might this formative debate inform current discussions about art, creativity and politics?

Tim Lawrence is a Professor of Cultural Studies in UEL’s School of Arts and Digital Industries, where he teaches music. He is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 (Duke University Press, 2003), Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92 (Duke University Press, 2009) and the forthcoming Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83 (Duke University Press).

Culture, Power and Politics: An Open Seminar

 

Culture, Power and Politics  is a regular open seminar on…culture, power and politics. It is convened by Jeremy Gilbert of CCSR.

What will it do?

It mainly explores ideas from the traditions of cultural studies and radical theory, considering their relevance to understanding contemporary political issues, struggles and campaigns, as well as key themes in political history.

Who is it for?

Ideally, it’s for anyone who is interested. The idea for the seminar has come out of discussions amongst members of the New Economy Organisers’ Network and Compass. Our hope on launching the series in May 2015 is that the seminars will be useful and relevant both to political activists and organisers and to others simply interested in exploring the ideas.

We also hope that they will work for people who have no prior knowledge of the subjects and for those who may be world-class experts, and everyone in between. If you don’t know anything about  these subjects then feel free to come and find out. If you’re an expert – then come and join in the discussions to help others learn and to deepen your own understanding through conversation with others. We believe that all learning is collective!

For more details click HERE

Kill Your Darlings

30 August 2014
18:30to22:30

CCSR in association with Guerrilla Zoo is proud to present a special screening of Kill Your Darlings and Q&A with film director and co-writer John Krokidos. Kill Your Darlings

Ginsberg. Kerouac. Burroughs. And Lucien Carr. The last name may be less familiar, but the real-life character was the linchpin who first brought together these three icons of American literary and cultural revolution in a galvanizing drama of murder and obsession. 

Shot from a script by director Krokidas and Austin Bunn, KILL YOUR DARLINGS features a compelling young ensemble that includes Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter series) as the young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) as Jack Kerouac, Ben Foster (The Messenger) as William S. Burroughs, Dane DeHaan (In Treatment) as Lucien Carr and Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as David Kammerer. Rounded out by a supporting cast that includes Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Margot at the Wedding), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) and David Cross (Arrested Development), KILL YOUR DARLINGS delivers a picture of the nascent Beat Generation that we‘ve never seen before, and tells the true story of the emotional crucible that shaped its voice and vision.

Docklands Campus, Main Lecture Theatre, University Way, E16 2RD

Tickets and more info

Common Ground: Democracy & Collectivity in an Age of Individualism

18 June 2014
18:00to20:00

We live in an epoch of personal choice, hyper-mobility, celebrity-worship and fiercely competitive labour markets. But this is also the age of networked communication, of global culture, of Occupy and the new politics of ‘the Commons’.

What are the connections and tensions between such apparently diverse tendencies, and do they help democracy to develop, or render it impossible?

This public seminar, marking the launch of Jeremy Gilbert’s book Common Ground (Pluto Press),  will discuss the relationship between collectivity, individuality, affect and agency today, asking whether personal freedom is the great achievement of our era — or if individualism is actually forced on us by capitalist culture, fatally limiting our capacity to solve the problems that we can only solve together.What forms of politics, culture and philosophy might take us beyond the limits of traditional conservatism or banal individualism?

At: Brilliant Corners, 470 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London, E8 4AE

Speakers: Anthony Barnett, Lisa Blackman, Mark Fisher, Jeremy Gilbert
Continue reading Common Ground: Democracy & Collectivity in an Age of Individualism

Hauntology with Mark Fisher

24 April 2014
19:00to21:00

Ghosts of My LifeCCSR welcomes Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? author Mark Fisher to launch his new book Ghosts of My Life, in conversation with the London-based artist and writer Laura Oldfield Ford. Are we, as Fisher argues, haunted by futures that failed to happen?

“Ghosts Of My Life confirms that Mark Fisher is our most penetrating explorer of the connections between pop culture, politics, and personal life under the affective regime of digital capitalism. The most admirable qualities of Fisher’s work are its lucidity, reflecting the urgency of his commitment to communicating ideas; his high expectations of popular art’s power to challenge, enlighten, and heal; and his adamant refusal to settle for less.” Simon Reynolds, author of Retromania and Rip It Up and Start Again.

Venue: Room US.G.17, University of East London, University Square Stratford, 1 Salway Road, E15. 1NF

Social Media, Activism & Surveillance

19 March 2014
17:30to19:30

Information and communications technologies have had a profound effect on political activism in the 21st century. In the hybrid space of contemporary cities, movements for social change are co-ordinated through social media and, effectively, take place both on the street and in information space. At the same time, as the Snowden files have revealed, digital communications are routinely monitored by government agencies and military applications of the same technologies facilitate drone surveillance and targeting. In the lead up to our annual lecture, this seminar brings together specialists in the field of social media, activism and surveillance to assess the impact of digital activism and its future development. How is the use of social media changing in the face of increased surveillance? What are the connections between activist and military applications of information technologies? And how do people respond to monitoring and surveillance in daily life? Continue reading Social Media, Activism & Surveillance

Centre for Cultural Studies Research