Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary field that emerged in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Stuart Hall, a founding figure of the field, was “trying to understand how ideas, politics, popular culture, and the movements of history can be understood in relation to each other—and how the theorization of those conjunctions can better shape effective political interventions.”1 These intersections and questions form the basis of this unit.
The origin of this field offers insight into its purpose and its stakes. In Stuart Hall’s words, “I want to insist that [Cultural Studies] is in fact born as a political project, as a way of analysing postwar advanced capitalist culture.”2 This explicitly political origin, whose premise is still deeply relevant for us today, guides us—as scholars and as educators—in how we must approach this discipline. About this, Stuart Hall is unequivocal: “[Cultural studies analysis] has to be about politics, not just as a ‘celebration’ of the popular: it needs to be a way of investigating politics through culture.”3