Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths

This is one of those internal discussion documents that never sees the light of day – here it is for the gnawing criticism of the mice (supposed to leave it in a drawer for that, but of course I mean digital mice):

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has offered the PhD for over ten years and aims to provide the destination of choice for research in cultural and postcolonial theory, popular culture studies, critical philosophy of praxis, creative and interactive technological media, new media and media activism. The PhD can be either ‘practice-based research which entails significant practical work and a written component of up to 60,000 words, or textual research with a 100,000 word thesis’. 

Students undertake the CCS PhD for several reasons: academic research and teaching as well as cultural organization, international agencies and third sector careers. The engagement with critical theory in cultural studies is well established and draws upon a strong heritage in the UK, especially at Goldsmiths with staff in the Centre for Cultural Studies as well as Cultural Studies-and cognate area identified staff in Media and Comms, Visual Cultures, Politics and Art, Visual Art, Visual Anthropology and Digital Sociology. At Goldsmiths, the Centre for Cultural Studies was founded by Professor Scott Lash in consultation with people like Profs Morley, McRobbie and Professor Stuart Hall. It was Professor Hall who insisted that CCS should aim at extending beyond the founding interests of British Cultural Studies. Today CCS incorporates theoretical and practical explorations in technological media and cultural difference in the geo-political context of global capitalism. It’s commitment to theory involves enquiries into the most advanced paradigms of cultural thought. It’s practical commitment involves us in cultural production and critical engagement with the culture industries.

An ethos in cultural studies is interdisciplinarity. A way to describe this is to say that the Centre for Cultural Studies works by mixing possibly incongruent constituencies – what this means is that we have, for more than ten years, been bringing what may at first seem like incommensurate groups together to debate and research creatively, in teams, workshops and symposia: for example we ran a series of research conferences pairing neuropsychologists and artists together to examine new modes of representing the brain and its functions, innovating the new area of neuro-aesthetics; also we brought both London City and Chinese Finance modelers together with artists to rethink the portrayal of high finance and money [hence, the recession]; following the same convergence model, in a series of 6 workshops in London, Berlin, Copenhagen and Gothenburg we brought immigration activists and theatre, film, music and medical practitioners together to re-imagine the border. We continue to develop new projects along such lines, most recently historians and the Maritime Museum Greenwich, the Museum of London Docklands and activists in social and housing campaigns along the eastern end of the Thames in London (eg., ‘Proletarianisation and the River’ event for Museum of London Docklands Sept 2013). Our mode of operation is to intersect and interrupt in creative ways the protocols of disciplinarity, so as to inspire new work. This has a successful; track record reflected in our theory-practice research student projects. 

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has some 12-15 PhD students per year, currently 45 students enrolled, and has increased enrollment year on year since founding in 1998 with one PhD student. Its MA programmes feed into the PhD – there are five such programmes at present – Interactive Media, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Creating Social Media and Culture Industry. MA Contemporary Asia and MA Provocative Media are planned to start in 2013. There are some 100+ MA students. In 2012 there were twelve graduations from the Centre for Cultural Studies PhD programme, but this by no means is the extent of cultural studies at Goldsmiths. Significant Cultural Studies PhDs, especially working in popular culture and media, are housed in Goldsmiths five star rated Media and Communications Department, and there are significant numbers of PhD students working in Visual Anthropology, Visual Sociology, as well as initiatives in Visual Cultures and Politics and Art. Goldsmiths is pre-eminent in this area, as evinced by its staff profile, and its contribution to cultural debate in the UK. 

Training provision for PhD students is rich and diverse and tailor-made to individuals.

The Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths has a dedicated PhD-level cultural theory seminar, writing practice groups, and readings groups (Hegel, Deleuze, Ranciere, Spivak, Lefebvre, new Media at preset) and runs numerous training workshops on practical and formal aspects of the Phds – for example a publishing workshop in Spring 2012, a video editing training in Spring 2013, risograph training, print on demand trainings, and much more, including in-house publications such as NyX: a Noctournal (supported by the Graduate School), Coputational Culture and close associations with Mute, TCS, and Pavement Books. In terms of colloquia, three times each year CCS participates in or co-ordinates a joint doctoral symposium with InterArts Berlin and the Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies (Berlin November, London February, Copenhagen in June) and we send AHRC candidates to India via the AHRC International Placement Scheme. CCS doctoral students must present their work at least once per year in the PhD seminar as well as in the Graduate School Spring Review, they participate in the writing group, an annual panel, regular supervision, often with co-supervision in another department, and are encouraged to present at conferences and international colloquia.

Proposal: that we think in terms of Convergences and Frictions. The putting together of seemingly incommensurate or unusual partnerships so as to provoke creative and innovative alliances. A fund to be apportioned to initiatives on the model of ‘incongruent constituencies’ described above, with PhD students in cultural studies tasked with proposing projects:

e.g.,

-        the two Augusts – the imagery of Olympics and the Riots

-        cinema and mapping

-        global rivers, cultural theory, history and value theory

-        geological and social survey techniques, the report from Hunan used to survey London

-        border convergence, time-based media and immigration

-        the politics of cleaning

-        etc.

Proposal: on the model of the artist-in-residence programme, already extant alongside for example the Politics and Art PhD programme at Goldsmiths, we introduce a cultural activist–in-residence programme. An ‘activist-in-residence’ programme similar to established ‘artist-in-residence’ initiatives would be developed with initial efforts to establish the ways such placement would enable relevant people to work in collaboration and parallel to grant holders and other staff members across Goldsmiths…

Educate the educators. Pace Gayatri Spivak: The effort to build an ethics of education into the protocols of the institution. The institution as a mechanism for social mobility is filled with blockages and cul-de-sacs that can only be circumvented through a ruthless criticism of everything that exists

Transnational literacy, lexicon-consulting, language-learning, long-durée effort to unpack assumptions and counter the too easy inducements of information retrieval and impression management that web 2.0 offers as alternative to book-learning.

Patient non-coercive work to rearrange desire and unlearn Eurocentric privilege. (See Gayatri Spivak 2012 An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization)

Stitching the two ends of here and there together. The co-constitution of urban and rural, metropole and colonial theatre. Even if these old binaries no longer map so easily onto translocal globalism, any programme of training must make mobility multidirectional and bifurcate ideological privilege of advanced, western, developed or civilizational privileges. Remote locations, obscure languages, opaque aims are also viable research interests in a critical geopolitical and geopoetical cultural studies.

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  • By Rachel Rye « trinketization on 07/12/2012 at 11:25 pm

    [...] A great abstract for an upcoming must see talk by Rachel (jan 2013, goldsmiths – stay tuned), posted (with permission) because it sums up some of the best that CCS does. The sort of thing that also was described here. [...]

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