Culture, Power Politics 2021

Introduction to Cultural Theory Course 2021

What is the connection between culture and power? How do the ideas we have about what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ influence our decisions? How did Brexit happen? What is gender? Why do some people think Covid-19 is a hoax? Cultural theory makes use of techniques from philosophy, history, sociology, human geography, anthropology and political and critical theory to examine these and other questions in the context of contemporary popular cultures.
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, please join us.
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.

All sessions are free and open to all and there is no need to book. For full participation in the series, we recommend joining our Slack. To join, email Debbie with the subject line ‘CPP’:

Ridley Road Market Bar, 49 Ridley Road, Dalston, London, E8 2NP
Thursdays 6.30 – 8.30pm

Course outline

Session 1
Thursday 5th August
Language, Meaning and Marxism

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 ideas which question the relationship between language and truth, what is meant by ‘ideology’ and how it is relevant to how we make sense of everyday life.


Session 2
Thursday 12th August

Do We Think We Are?


We like to think that we’re individuals but what does this really mean? We use the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ in nearly every sentence but do we really know who it is that is speaking? Where does the idea of individuality come from? In this session we’ll discuss the concept of ‘subjectivity’ and why we think it’s ok to exclude those that don’t conform.


Session 3
Thursday 19th August
Bodies, Race and Culture

The history of colonialism is a history of violence and genocide justified by the idea that there is a hierarchy of races and that certain types of bodies carry the marks of inferiority. In this session we will explore how these ideas are perpetuated in contemporary culture and examine just what exactly is meant by ‘critical race theory’.


Session 4
Thursday 26th August

What’s Sex Got to Do With It?

The current decade has exposed the widespread abuse of women’s bodies in public life alongside a resurgence of interest in feminism and demands for equality in the labour market. But is ‘equality’ enough? What does it even mean? In this session we will examine the radical politics of gender dissent and why all forms of sexuality are political.


Session 5
Thursday 2nd September
Are We Posthuman?

We used to be sure that we knew what ‘human’ meant and, more to the point, who or what was decidedly not human. Now we’re not so sure. In this session we’ll look at the way that certain influential scientific theories have conditioned our understanding of what it means to be human and how new understandings of how the universe works are causing us to doubt where the boundaries are between what we think of as human and other forms of life.



Session 6
Thursday 9th September
Art, Politics and Culture

Many of the ideas that we’ve discussed on this course have influenced artists to think beyond representative forms of art making and to produce art which challenges received ideas and exposes hypocrisy. But art is, itself, deeply embedded in the circulation of capital and perhaps only accessible to those with the knowledge to appreciate it. In this session, we’ll be looking at the politics of art and how it functions to both perpetuate and challenge ideas.



Session 7
Thursday 16th September

We’ll finish the course with a roundtable of invited experts who will respond to questions you have posted on our Slack.