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cultural studies history

An intention I have for this blog is to further the cultural studies tradition of sharing "Working Papers". Researching my PhD, I tracked down a number of the original "Working Papers" published by the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. These were pretty rudimentary photocopies of typed scripts, but they were useful for showing the kind of research being done within the Centre, as well as the development of staff and students' ideas over time.

The Centre actually developed this concept to publish a specific journal, Working Papers in Cultural Studies, from 1971. As Graeme Turner explains, the Centre's collectivist practice - students often published in collaboration with staff - worked against the established hierarchies of teacher and pupil, indeed the publishing program itself was a measure of the Centre's unconventional institutional ambitions.

We can see this tradition continuing in other initiatives since this time. In Australia, for instance, M/C Journal began in a similar fashion (it would be great to hear more about this history if anyone involved is reading!). Meanwhile postgraduate journals like Melbourne University's Antithesis offer an important role for students seeking to get involved in publishing, and to have their writing read alongside more senior scholars (the blogroll on that site has links to other postgraduate journals of this type).

At a time when publishing seemed to matter as much as thesis completion, there were conflicts in the BCCCS between the perceived urgency of political and intellectual consolidation and the need to produce more sanctioned qualifications. This is a tension that continues to drive many students in our Department, and I hope that by sharing their work here they may be able to come to some kind of accommodation.

For feminists in the BCCCS, working groups were also important. The Women Thesis Writers' Group invited feminist grad students and other friends of the Centre "to exchange written work, provide and receive feedback, and discuss ideas" according to the editors of Off Centre: Feminism and Cultural Studies . This important book marked the 10 year anniversary of Women Take Issue - the feminist edition of the Working Papers journal, which holds particular meaning in the scholarly history our Department follows. Perhaps this space can offer a similar, if wider, function of support.

As I have argued in my own research, blogging is useful for thesis writers in particular because it breaks the isolation of the sole-authored project. In increasingly professionalised and competitive graduate programs for cultural studies, it may even provide a space for dialogue across campuses and regions so that the politics and ethics for contemporary cultural theory may continue to be defined and realised.


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This is the blog for thinking and talking about culture, Cultural Studies and cultural analysis at the University of Sydney.

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