Friday, November 24, 2006

Seminar and Reading Group

Yesterday I attended a postgraduate reading group at CCR in the morning and two seminar presentations put on by the centre in the afternoon.

The readings included a chapter from Nick Couldry's book "Inside Culture: re-imagining the method of cultural studies" and the editorial of a volume of "Ethnicities" called "The Predicament of Difference" by Ien Ang and Brett St Louis. I got quite a lot out of the Couldry chapter but reacted negatively to his writing style. I found his writing style, or perhaps more accurately, his textual positioning, quite arrogant and defensive. On the other hand, this is the first time the concept of "cultural flows" has really made any sense to me. I felt Couldry put a lot of work into delivering his re-conceptualisation of "culture" within a historical context. He argued that the problems with certain traditional definitions of culture are just too difficult to overcome. He was primarily focusing on anthropological definitions and uses of culture in early cultural studies, particularly the idea of culture being only that which is "shared", "fixed to a place" and readable, "like a text".

So apparently we need a nice, new and shiny, flowing model instead of the old, dingy "contained" one (this reminds me of Terminator 2 and the arrival of the new, improved liquid metal "Terminator"). I appreciate that some of the issues Couldry raises about the need to look into the relationship between place and culture as not automatic and also the idea that cultures are made up as much by what we don't share as what we share, are valid and worthy research areas. What I don't see is why a new model of culture has to be installed onto the landscape of cultural studies for these questions to be pursued empirically or theoretically. Some of the other students had some similar views although some were more critical than others of Couldry's positioning in relation to cultural studies as a discipline.

The article by Ang and St Louis received a slightly less favourable response in the reading group. Again I found the writing style a bit frustrating but not as much as one of the other students. One student really disliked it. One of the points made we all found pertinent is the pervasiveness of the idea of identity politics, even when, the concept may have been done away with theoretically (at least within some circles). This reminded us all of the concept of "culture" in Couldry's reading and how it too is not something that can so easily be done away with...

The seminar presentations were great.
One of the presentations was by Sandro Mezzadra, from the University of Bologna, on "Boundary Work. Shifting Configurations of Territory, Borders, Sovereignty and Citizenship in Contemporary Europe" and the other one was a presentation by Fiona Allon, Kay Anderson and Robyn Bushell entitled "Not In My Backyard!: Backpackers, Mobility and the ‘Global City’". Both presentations inspired me to pursue an area that is I'd like to explore in my thesis, that is, thinking about how notions like work/life balance pre-suppose a particular concept of place which is undermined by the contemporary experience of place, and is inadequate for explaining and articulating people's experience of work and life.

No comments: