AtHQ – Defending the Headquarters

Does cultural studies have its own territory that is worthy of being defended?

Given that the autonomy of disciplines has been vehemently debated and de facto denied as usefully productive by many, how can cultural studies be the source of any resistance whatsoever without staking out a particularized terrain and theatre of potential operations? (channelling Boris Groys in Art/Power”, 2008)

 What would a practice-based PhD look like in CCS that would of necessity claim its territorial, conceptual, and political stakes here as opposed to Visual Cultures, Media & Communications, or Fine Arts? How might this be a useful and even crucial attachment as opposed to merely a convenient academic anchor?

Surely CCS must argue for some particular autonomy (to bring in a much disputed term).

The greater or at least ancillary challenge however would then be to tamper with/expand the existing definitions and formal requirements of the PhD at the level of the university which has very specific guidelines/understandings of what a thesis project should look like.

Who are we? What do we do? How do we do it?

I’m stating the obvious when I say that it’s important to acknowledge that our concerns (collectively and individually) are not necessarily one and the same (something Jennifer notes on her blog entry). The challenges for students and by extension their needs are not identical to those that face faculty as ongoing members of the Goldsmiths research and academic community.

The questions of “who we are” (institutionally as CCS housed within Goldsmiths, as cultural studies in the UK more generally, as researchers—faculty and students) and “what” and “how” do we do the things that we do, must then be continually re-worked and productively coupled with the more urgent question:

“How is a subject of any kind produced in the world”? To attack the headquarters must, in my opinion, place this question at its core.  

Seminars & Events

I think its important that faculty have agency in terms if bringing readings forward to the student seminars. This doesn’t have to be an overly consultatively process because its impossible to know in advance what it is that might perturb and/or provoke us – something that may be embedded in the readings themselves or be triggered in the resulting discussion.

I’m not overly concerned in having my own particular interests mirrored back to me but rather am much interested in the unexpected – ideas that enter into the orbit of my universe that I had never considered before or even knew existed.

Real interest can only ever reside in the fact that one does not know a priori what history these discussions will ultimately be a question of.

I can’t speak for my fellow students but feel that it is important to go to seminars and be actively involved in the events at the college because this is generally where life-long networks are established – to remain in the contact zone so to speak, so that we might create new categories of assembly that don’t as of yet exist.

These are emergent processes that can happen both organically as  students get together in self-organizing reading groups, arrange screenings, facilitate events etc., but can also be evolved through the structural and formal elements of CCS.

There are PhD programs where one can happily sequester themselves at the British Library for four years but it seems to me that CCS was set up in part to counter this model and provide alternate modes of critical engagement – what these are exactly is what this series of discussions is attempting to figure out.

CCS as a Collective Project

I’m committed to CCS as a collective project but also recognize that it contains within it many heterogeneous subfields of potential. I propose mobilizing small-scale intensive projects under the auspices of CC that can connect faculty, students and ideas to other research/creative clusters (in the UK and abroad). This is not to “go out in the world” as was critiqued last time we gathered because it presupposes that we [CCS] are not of the world but rather to acknowledge our potential to connect with other non-aligned organisations/entities.

For example, the Roundtable in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths has been involved in various conferences, exhibitions, and events under the collective banner of RA. We have even opened up our PhD seminars to the public upon certain occasions. 

Could CCS operate as a larger structural device (a kind of resource galaxy), that would consist of smaller subgroups and organisations (cultural constellations) each of which would participate in public events and research activities as specifically named entities? I know that the urgent issue of our of relevance with respect to the college is linked in part to perceptions of visibility and profile. Although these identifiable subgroups would be anchored within CCS and publicised as such, these smaller categorical assembles would allow different constituencies and ideas to move and in out them as needed.

 Some Basics 

  • we need to stop making distinctions between theory & practice and understand them as mutually affected terms and terrains of culture making
  • we need to refrain from picking and choosing between practices – privileging certain practices over others
  • when we approach a non-textual work entirely through the register of language potential tools for thinking are lost 
  • we need to develop alternate forms of critique and evaluation appropriate to different forms of practice (whether this is the crafting of a philosophic concept or the scoring of a musical composition)
  • we need to acknowledge and articulate the ways in which practice retrospectively performs itself as research
  • we need to reinvent components of the thesis requirements = adaptive structures that allow other temporal and spatial elements (non-textual) to move into the thesis project