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cultural studies

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The critical analysis of the texts and practices of everyday life in contemporary society: an interdisciplinary enterprise involving both the humanities and the social sciences. Its territory (in the current context significantly overlapping with that of media studies, film studies, and communication studies) includes: mass culture (or popular culture), consumer culture, the culture industry, and cultural production and reproduction. It began as a product of the British New Left, influenced in particular by Williams (see culturalism; cultural materialism) and neo-Marxist sociologists such as Stuart Hall (see also encoding/decoding model), Bourdieu, and Foucault, and also by feminism, structuralism, poststructuralism, semiotics, postcolonialism, queer theory, and initially (to a lesser extent) psychoanalytic theory. It can be seen partly as a reaction against Leavisite cultural elitism and the Frankfurt school's bleak stance on mass culture. Its emergence as a discipline is marked by the establishment of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS, or the Birmingham school) at the University of Birmingham in the UK in 1964 (lasting until the 1990s). Primary concerns of cultural studies include: ideological processes, social and historical context, subcultures (notably youth subcultures), representation, identity, and cultural politics (particularly in relation to ‘*race’ and gender). Cultural studies theorists see culture as a site of struggle. Critics in the established disciplines have attacked it for eclecticism, lack of focus, or cultural populism but it has nevertheless gained international recognition as a discipline, and it has particularly highlighted the value of the close and reflexive study of cultural forms in the specific contexts of their production, use, and interpretation.

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