Arriving late to the party? Histories of cultural studies as resources of hope

2018-05-09T12:21:53Z (GMT) by Jilly Boyce Kay
This review article critically considers two recently published books, both of which contend with the complex relationship between cultural studies’ history, present and future, albeit in extraordinarily different ways. Cultural Studies 50 Years On: History, Practice and Politics, edited by Kieran Connell and Matthew Hilton, is a collection of essays that emerged from a 2014 conference that explored the legacy and influence of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. Why Cultural Studies? is a searing, single-authored polemic by Gilbert B Rodman on the current state of cultural studies and a rallying call to reinvigorate the project by resuscitating its leftist impulses. In this article, I consider what these two books might offer in the way of intellectual, political and emotional resources for hope in the contemporary conjuncture; the ways that the books negotiate the inevitable partiality and the hidden personal politics of their own narratives; as well as the ways they implicitly invite personal, subjective reflection about one’s relationship to the histories and traditions of cultural studies. I end with a reflection about the challenges, but also the generative value, of revisiting painful and difficult debates within the field.