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To what end do we practise and propagate Cultural Studies (and why do we organize our annual Cultural Studies conferences)?
Hans Kastendiek and Sebastian Berg

Contribution to the 11th meeting of the working group “British Cultural Studies in the New Lšnder of the Federal Republic of Germany” on 12.1.2002 in Berlin (this version dated 15.1.2002)
A central thesis …
The German Association for the Study of British Cultures, which was founded in November 2001, is a broad church. It will only achieve anything if we protect and strengthen its pluralistic character. This means, however, that we must remain conscious of our collective aims and clearly declare and open-mindedly represent our differing interests.
… and thirteen (!) theses

I. British Cultural Studies and English Studies

1. Our collective aims relate to expanding the established research and teaching ingredients of German English Studies to include the formulation of problems and questions in terms of cultural science, together with corresponding content and subject matter, theories and methods. This leads, however, to the emergence of very divergent academic and political tendencies, whereby Cultural Studies is understood as
(1) an innovatory and augmentative approach to Literary Studies and Linguistics,
(2) a new component discipline of English Studies, and
(3) a component of a new component discipline.

2. According to the first vision, the two traditional pillars of English Studies are reinforced or given a new foundation. The second and third visions of Cultural Studies presume a new architecture for English Studies, for they postulate extending the structure of subject matter and investigation whereby English Studies develops a third pillar.

3. The second vision sees Cultural Studies as widening the objective field of English Studies to include cultural practices which formerly did not fall within the scope of its teaching and research (e.g. media studies or pop cultures). These may in part be worked on with philological “apparatus”, but they also lead to the borrowing and trying out of theoretical concepts and methodical approaches that come from other disciplines such as Cultural History and Cultural Sociology.

4. The third vision sees Cultural Studies as an extremely important complement (content, theory, method) to a historical- and social-science-based British (etc.) Studies – and vice versa! Cultural and Social Science are understood as separate but nevertheless mutually dependent ways of perceiving and thinking about society.

5. The differences between the three tendencies can be vividly illustrated with the so-called Landeskunde question. In the first vision, Landeskunde serves at most for a sort of “applied language practice”. In the second vision, Landeskunde is either replaced by Cultural Studies or entrusted with imparting the unloved but not wholly dispensable facts and figures. In the third vision, conventional Landeskunde is superseded by British (etc.) Studies based on cultural studies and social science.


II. British Cultural Studies - British Studies – British/Cultural studies

6. The aim of cultural- and social-scientific British (etc.) Studies is the comprehensive examination of the present society with the goal of comprehending the collective identities, discourses and forms of social organization, which have been influenced by specific historical and structural conditions.

7. The teaching and research objects that result from this should determine the methods used for investigation. This way of working, geared to problems and objects, differs from that which is geared to a discipline, where theories and methods often dominate the choice of themes. Most of the objects of investigation, however, are open to more than one approach, and the use of several helps towards a more thorough analysis.

8. To be more concrete, the explanation of social processes requires not only the examination of their discursive representations but also the historical, structural and institutional locating of the actors. Such an intention can never be more than partially realized by an individual. For the discipline as a whole, however, the investigation of social and cultural practices needs the perspectives of both cultural and social science.

9. The necessary combination of these perspectives, which may be pithily understood as the (social science) question of the “why” of social developments and the (cultural science) question of the “how” of their discursive mediation and negotiation, has also occupied the British practice of Cultural Studies, more however in its cultural materialist than in its poststructuralist guise. It is perhaps not unimportant to recall this starting point.

10. British/Cultural Studies can, in deference to the “Studies” idea, make various complementary but also mutually
challenging and problematizing contributions to the re-/deconstruction of the object “British cultures and society”.


II. Why Cultural Studies conferences?

11. Apart from the Journal for the Study of British Cultures, the conferences are so far the only forum for the cultural studies diaspora in English Studies. They should, however, be more than a thematic supplement to the usual conference business and should serve as a forum for agreement over the aims and tasks and the institutional forms and possibilities for a “reformed English Studies” (Kramer).

12. The conferences should promote a productive competition between the three tendencies mentioned in the first thesis, not in the sense of competition between theories, methods and approaches, but as a competition in respect of content in the contributions to the understanding of British (etc.) cultures and society.

13. The conferences should purposefully try to widen the circle of participants and to attract speakers for other disciplines (cultural, social and economic history, cultural anthropology, comparative political and social research, etc.). What discipline more than English Studies and what sub-discipline more than British/Cultural Studies could potentially be more suitable to become something like a focal point for British Studies in Germany?