—Ted Striphas (ed.) (1998) ‘The Institutionalization Of Cultural Studies’, Cultural Studies 12 (4) —Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon (1998), Cultural Studies For Beginners. —Andrew Edgar and Peter Sedgwick (eds) (1999) Key Concepts in Cultural Theory.

ISSN 0950-2386
Cambridge: Icon Books. ISBN 1874166986
London: Routledge. ISBN 0415114047

Culture Shock

Rupa Huq

‘What do you say to a cultural studies graduate?’, goes one rather zeitgeisty joke. The answer, rather unkindly, is ‘Big Mac and fries please’.

Poor old cultural studies. Always saddled with something of a ‘Johnny come lately’ reputation and condemned as ‘Mickey Mouse’ for such supposedly heinous crimes as unpicking the iconography of the Sony Walkman (Hall and Du Gay, 1996). Yet in 1999 there were 474 UK cultural studies degrees located in 41 higher education institutions ranging from redbrick (e.g. its best known British base University of Birmingham) to smaller collegiate establishment, with figures set to grow. The subject has now notched up a history dating back at least as far as Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy (1958) – regarded by many as its founding text (Chambers, 1986: 201; Kellner, 1995: 36; Munns and Rajan, 1995: 149; Turner, 1996: 40). Its roots arguably go even further back to the comparatively ancient disciplines of English literature, philosophy and anthropology. But despite this venerable past cultural studies still has its detractors. A New Statesman article from 1997 is typical, claiming ‘It is one thing to study popular culture, quite another to romanticise junk and give it academic respectability … As a discipline, cultural studies simply has no right to exist’ (‘Stop Studying Cultural Studies’ by Ziauddin Sardar, New Statesman7/3/97). Somewhat surprisingly, the author of this piece is not the new-right, ‘educational traditionalist’ type of commentator who can usually be relied upon for journalistic attacks of this sort, but one Ziauddin Sardar. More of him later. First it’s worth making a few general comments in order to situate the appearance of these three volumes under review here within the unfolding story of cultural studies.

Without doubt cultural studies is now taking on the trappings of respectability as an academic subject, complete with ‘a national and international network… journals, associations, degrees, publishers’ lists, conferences, good things and bad things, the lot’ (Johnson, 1994: 357). The very appearance of these three texts – let alone anything they say – serves as ‘proof’, if proof were needed, of the steadily increasing rate of cultural studies’ institutionalisation. Yet cultural studies’ own internal norms dictate that this is a cause for concern rather than something to be celebrated; after all cultural studies was, from its early days, firm in its insistence that it was outside the conventional norms of ‘disciplinarity’. In some ways cultural studies has always wanted to be the illegitimate offspring of the academy; a subject where those involved were not just thinkers but doers. Johnson (1994: 356) has written that in its CCCS (Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies) incarnation cultural studies ‘challenged the individualistic social relations of the academy’, a point which is also made by Turner (1996: 41) and Barker and Beezer (1990). In my own area, youth culture, for example, subcultural studies was a part-academic, part-political project which, amongst other struggles, filtered through to anti-racist, feminist and class politics. That cultural studies has always been seen as all things and nothing, too, is confirmed rather than denied by these titles – coming, as they do, along with the ‘University’ edition of Culture Machine (2/2000), at a point in time which could be seen as marking the subject’s coming of age. Importantly, cultural studies sets itself against replicating the policy/practice of other staple university degree subjects, and a strong sense of this comes over in the first two of these volumes.

A noticeable rash of cultural studies journals has erupted of late. The various e-journals now spewing out into cyberspace notwithstanding, 1997-8 saw the launch of Cultural Values (Blackwell), International Journal of Cultural Studies (Blackwell) and European Journal of Cultural Studies (Sage). This rapid expansion is not entirely unconnected, one suspects, to the need to create space to accommodate the huge number of articles that are now being produced by academics with one eye on the UK’s 2001 RAE (Research Assessment Exercise – see the article by Simon Wortham in Culture Machine 2/2000). Given the current crowding of the journal-market it’s odd to think that until relatively recently cultural studies had very little in the way of academic journals. For a long time the best known title and main standard bearer for the subject was, and probably still is, Cultural Studies. It is therefore fitting that issue 1(4) of Cultural Studies should be given over to addressing the question of cultural studies’ institutionalisation.

While all the contributors to this volume preface their articles with the news that cultural studies has been subject to much self-examination of late before embarking on their own individual treatments of the topic in hand, the volume on the whole makes for a curious mix of ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ articles. So whilst Ted Striphas, David Morley, Alan O’Shea and Tony Bennett agonise over how to reconcile cultural studies’ initial aims with what it has become, Meaghan Morris proffers sound practical advice to graduate students on how to publish in refereed journals (the author being Australian, there is not a mention of the RAE in sight). Morris’ insights will doubtless be of use to more than just graduate students or those working in cultural studies – although it has to be said that relying on a spell-checker is not always the best advice. A further multi-authored article from UC Davis, USA takes the form of a proposal for an MA and PhD programme at the university. This looks rather as if some pages of the college prospectus have ended up here accidentally and seems the most out of place. The (unstated) ‘action research’ bent of the edition is highlighted by some valuable resources, including a list of all the cultural studies courses currently available – no doubt others have sprung up since. An inventory of cultural studies journals in print handily complements both this and Meaghan Morris’ piece – although, again, this, too, is inevitably already outdated; there is no mention of Cultural ValuesEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies or Culture Machine, for example.

In his introduction piece Ted Striphas takes a largely positive tone on the subject of instiutionalisation. He draws attention (459) to cultural studies’ historically interventionist bent and claims ‘cultural studies has developed something of a “line”, so to speak, in response to the ‘question’ of institutionalisation – despite its professed disdain for ready-made answers’. For him the fact that much criticism of cultural studies is for its stating the obvious in obscurantist language is a sign of the subject’s success; cultural studies has made such ideas common sense. He boldly declares (465) ‘institutionalizing cultural studies implies necessarily [original emphasis] neither its untimely demise nor its enervation as a critical-intellectual-political praxis’. Striphas is the first here to raise the issue of disciplinarity which is something of a hallmark of cultural studies. In the remaining chapters this topic is revisited in a number of forms, with the words transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, crossdisciplinary, interdisciplinary and even postdisciplinary all making an appearance. Tony Bennett, for example, questions assertions of the ‘tendency for cultural studies to fight shy of characterising itself as a discipline’ (528). Despite its laudable aims, however, it seems that, in the eyes of contemporary university administrations, the modern idea of interdisciplinarity can all too often be a by-word for ‘downsizing’. As Striphas points out, cultural studies’ much vaunted methodological, practical, theoretical and political open-endedness is thus somewhat compromised by its pedagogy and policy dimensions.

As the international contributions testify, central funding cuts inimical to the liberal arts and social sciences seem to be a phenomenon that applies wider than new Labour’s adherence to mechanisms such as the RAE and QAA (Quality Assessment Agency) in the UK. There is a general sense of realism behind these articles, a realisation that getting bums on lecture theatre seats and research money into the university coffers now dictates HE rather than the academic freedom to pontificate at tenured leisure. The audit and performance culture and interventionist tendency of the private sector – set in train by the Thatcher government’s reconstitution of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) funding body as the more economically grounded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and which itself mirrored a general eighties devaluing of the social sciences – is spelt out most clearly in Alan O’Shea’s contribution ‘A Special Relationship? Cultural Studies, Academia and Pedagogy’. Zygmunt Bauman (1987) has attributed the fall in status of the academic to the decline of state-sponsored research. This, according to Bauman, has worsened relations between state and academia – a point that is also made by McGuigan (1993). O’Shea’s comments on the advent of a new kind of student ushered in by the massification of higher education are thus symptomatic of HE’s changing purpose: from scholarship to a means of training a skilled workforce. He muses (521): ‘there is a real danger. . . of slipping. . . towards an education which consists of learning a body of received knowledge and repeating it back for assessment without turning it into tools to think with, into “really useful knowledge”, as the nineteenth-century working class educators called it’. Angela McRobbie (New Statesman 14/2/97), however, has argued in defence of cultural studies that it does produce employable graduates despite its ‘dosser’ reputation. In the UK prospective student considerations of this factor are bound to be heightened with the introduction of tuition fees as education takes on more of a customer-client dimension. One can only speculate about the luxury of studying subjects like cultural studies in an age where vocational subjects are seen as having more use value.

Nonetheless romanticising resistance and venerating the extent to which cultural studies ever offered intellectual solutions to political problems is an easy trap to fall into. David Morley takes criticisms of cultural studies work of media audiences and consumption, as opposed to the media power relations that preoccupied cultural studies in its earlier, more avowedly activist times, as his starting point and provides a spirited defence of the subject claiming (491) ‘In societies such as ours, where increasing numbers of people are quite alienated from the processes of formal politics on which ‘serious television’ focuses, it would be politically suicidal to fail to take seriously the field of popular culture in which people do find their attachments’. That cultural studies ever managed to live up to its high flown ideals is not an easy case to establish in any case. Despite the emergence of ’70s subcultural theory from the ashes of wider political and cultural movements of the 1960s, including feminism and anti-racism, women and black youth are glaringly absent in early subcultural studies. Such ultimately self-defeating political constraints have since been criticised because ‘the symbolic baggage the kids are being asked to carry is just too heavy… the interrogations are just a little forced’ (Cohen, 1980: xv). Themes such as ethnicity and gender need to be integral to future theorisations rather than simply tacked on. Again on the subject of youth culture, Frith (1985: 347), referring with hindsight to the introductory chapter of Resistance Through Rituals, a book to which he himself contributed, has claimed ‘Punks and skinheads and mods and teds are unlikely (unless they’ve done sociology A-level) to talk about “winning subcultural space”, “resistance at the ideological level” or the “magical reclamation of community”‘. The disjuncture between the researcher and the researched is a recurring criticism of academia. This comes over memorably in the reactions of Willis’s (1977:194-199) lads to the first draft of his now classic Learning to Labour. One comments regarding the author’s obtuse narrative: ‘The parts you wrote about us, I read them, but it was, y’know, the parts what were actually describing the book like I didn’t. . ..’ (Willis, 1977:194). This much made criticism of cultural studies’ deliberate academic obscurantism presents cultural studies with something of a paradox, for the simple reason that so much of what comes under its remit is so ordinary, commonly perceived as what Morley calls a ‘celebration of the superficial’. It is a common criticism of cultural studies to wilfully dress these up in unintelligible terminology as a way of clothing the subject in academic respectability (Frith and Savage 1997), a trait rendered even more reproachable by the fact that the subject’s interventionist leanings have implications for real people in real struggles.

Tony Bennett’s essay ‘Cultural Studies: a reluctant discipline’, like Striphas’ contribution, talks about institutionalisation in relation to actual institutions which many neglect to do. Like O’Shea Bennett sets the growth of cultural studies in the context of change in higher education, the student body and the position of universities vis-à-vis the creative and cultural industries. As Bennett points out, ‘The broader demographic base of the student population means that fewer students now come to university with a close involvement, and interest in, high culture’. He spells out some of the subject’s characteristics: its attention to high and low culture, power relations, postcolonial studies, feminism, cultural subjectivity and the world outside, its social and political analysis. Bennett’s dissection of his argument into numbered points rams home his message but this structure sometimes seems to interrupt his flow making his suggestions for future directions look a bit like a wish list – a stylistic point only. Of course, one can always suggest items for inclusion in a future volume. Perhaps for British cultural studies academics, now armed with advice on how to publish in journals and a load of new journals to try this counsel out on, a winning ESRC proposal for research project funding might be an idea. Nonetheless, all this makes interesting reading alongside introductory texts.

The ever-proliferating number of readers and histories that are presently available (Barker and Beezer, 1992; During, 1993; Gray and McGuigan, 1993; Inglis, 1993; Munns and Rajan, 1995; Punter, 1988) stand as compelling evidence of cultural studies’ shift in status from academic outsider to the realms of respectability. This truism is also reflected in the sort of (safe) product publishers are willing to invest in: an even-handed, unfailingly objective, compulsory core subject text-book is going to shift more units and export better than a narrowly focused, polemical monograph which belongs to what Rojek (1995:101) has described as ‘the gladiatorial paradigm’, where ‘contributors seem to evaluate the power of their own arguments with the absolute destruction of the arguments of others who represent competing traditions’. Recent years have also witnessed a burgeoning market of readers addressing specialist cultural studies topics (for example, youth subculture (Frith and Goodwin, 1990; Gelder and Thornton, 1997; Redhead et al., 1997) and race/racism/post-colonialism studies (Solomos and Back, 2000). Although they come from radically different starting points both in presentation and contents, the books by Edgar and Sedgwick, and Sardar and Van Loon are in keeping with this market, functioning as they do as ideal companions to the uninitiated, or ‘idiot’s guides’ to cultural studies.

Edgar and Sedgwick opt for a dictionary-cum-encyclopaedia format. Among the terms included are the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), Marxist utopianism, Gramscian hegemony, and the Frankfurt School’s (Marxist) vision of a mass society, as well as plenty of French structuralist political theory. Yet however all-embracing one sets oneself up to be, there will always be lacunae. I spotted the Chicago School studies of urban micro-sociology grounded in US behavioural social science (Cohen, 1955; Merton, 1938; Whyte, 1955) and the concept of risk society (Beck, 1992) as absences pertinent to my own research. Of the late 20th century youth cultures that Rave does not merit an entry but punk does perhaps relates to the ages of the editors. Gilroy’s concept of the ‘black Atlantic’, one of the most important ideas of recent years to those working in areas of ethnicity, doesn’t get a mention. Deleuze and Guattari – two names it has become fashionable to drop on the academic circuit since the early 90s, especially amongst those working in fields as diverse as cyberculture and ethnicity – get a couple of mentions. But the real clue to their popularity can be seen in the time lapse of their translation into English. We Brits seem to catch on to these French philosophers long after their appearance sur le continent so we are always at least a generation behind. My chums in France reliably inform me that D and G are regarded as so passé darling – one of them is dead. The entry on ‘continental philosophy’, in which Deleuze and Guattari are featured, highlights the problems of reductiveness that is necessarily bred by this textual format: it tries to condense a lot of dense information into a short space and, as a consequence, skates over too much. Also the listing by concept and not author can leave gaps. There is no mention of Bourdieu’s idea of ‘habitus’, for example.

As is the normal modus operandi in comparable texts (e.g. Payne, 1996), this is an assembly of alphabetically arranged definitions from various named contributors, but, frustratingly, we don’t get any description of where these authors hail from geographically. Both Edgar and Sedgwick are philosophers and this shows in their selection of material and heavy theoretical emphasis. Key Concepts in Cultural Theory is a book centring crucially on cultural theory, not cultural studies – although the latter gets a definition to itself (101). This semantic difference will possibly allow it to be marketed to a wider public than students on cultural studies degrees, and the authors are quick to point out early on in their introduction the cross-cutting nature of their subject ‘in its espousal of a multidisciplinary approach’ (3-4). French structuralist philosophy is exhaustively covered (or as exhaustively as such a book allows). So, too, is post-structualism as used within a Marxist frame of reference by Althusser, whose work on ideological state apparatuses is present and correctly positioned alongside Foucault’s reading of culture in terms of history/power/knowledge. The concepts of culture, semiotics and ideology and the study of language/linguistics, anthropology and literary criticism also fare well, with thorough referencing of the work of big names like Lévi-Strauss and Barthes. However, the rather pedestrian definitions offered by the entries lack the effervescence of the discussions of these subjects in, say, Hall and Jefferson (1976) or Hebdige (1979), although the entry on subculture does contain a three page definition which refers readers to these texts (and – more bafflingly – the execrable Common Culture by Paul Willis (1990)). Admittedly, this doesn’t claim to be a book about my pet subject, youth culture. Nevertheless, a little lateral thinking in flagging up some applications of these sometimes weighty concepts might have been in order, rather than simply citing the primary sources. As the authors themselves attest, ‘a theory is a schema of explanation according to which a diversity of phenomena are accorded a significance’ (2). There is some attempt at this but it doesn’t go beyond the obvious. As it is, the hyperlinking effect of cross-referencing in bold text gives this book the appearance of having been produced by someone who has just discovered the bold function of their word-processing package. In sum, this looks like a text that is calculated to, and will, sell. Routledge appear to be monopolising the market for this type of thing: the introduction reminds us that there is already a companion volume on popular music in print and one on colonialism on the way – neatly explaining away some of this book’s shortcomings at a stroke.

Of course, one reason cultural studies’ history is currently being pored over is that it now has a past to revisit. It is this history that is depicted and retold in Sardar and Van Loon’s Cultural Studies for Beginners. Unlike Sedgwick’s methodical alphabetical listing of definitions, this is a text telling a story with a narrative. With its liberally illustrated form containing pictures a-plenty it also radically differs from Edgar and Sedgwick’s straight text layout. Sardar and Van Loon’s effort is in fact the latest volume in the Icon series, which, itself paralleling the late 20th century popular culture fad of the graphic novel (i.e. comics for grown-ups), explains sometimes dense academic subjects in pictorial-strip style. From the outset the series, like the Guardian‘s cult Biff cartoons, has had a vaguely cultural studies bent with previous titles on postmodernism, semiotics, Foucault, Baudrillard and the like. This particular title thus plugs a glaring and long-standing gap. Fittingly enough, it is reviewed in Cultural Studies 12(4) by J. Macgregor Wise.

It seems we have come a long way from early manifestations of the subject which drew together critics including E. P. Thompson (1959), Raymond Williams (1958) and, most trenchantly, Richard Hoggart (1958; 1995) in a negative cultural consensus against a backdrop of Britain’s declining status as a world power, where the end of its empire and a general fear of the deluge of lowbrow US trash are all seen as threatening to erode Britain’s cultural identity. All of the above are pictured, although Orwell’s (1937) fear of the insidiousness of mass culture and its attendant hidden agenda of class oppression and subjugation is absent; as is, even more oddly, the similarly oriented pre-war Frankfurt school critique (e.g. Adorno and Horkheimer, 1979) of the supposed manipulative powers and negative homogenising effects of popular culture. Lots of what Sardar and Van Loon seem to be communicating to us is the axiomatic truth that many of these arguments are cyclical. Thus whilst Hoggart’s (1958) attacks on the ‘levelling down’ process through which working class purity was under threat from mass culture may now appear quaint in form (e.g. railing against ‘canned and packeted provision’ and the ‘juke box boys’ as the ‘rich full life’ gives way to ‘the immediate, the present, the cheerful’), parts of the analysis have been repeated with regularity since, although the targets have of course shifted: violent videos, McDonalds, Sony Playstation and the Internet being modern substitutes. As David Morley points out, cultural studies is attacked because much of what it says is common sense (471), but, importantly, in some ways it is the inexorable rise of cultural studies that has made this so.

Nonetheless, the eighties saw the scrutiny of popular culture being somewhat ‘normalised’ in the media. The televisual equivalent of the Icon series is perhaps BBC2’s Late Review (now Newsnight Review) and Objects of Desire respectively, embodying as they do easy and digestible popular cultural critique and cultural history which echoes Raymond Williams’ (1958) ‘culture is ordinary’ declaration. In the words of Chambers (1986:12), ‘we discover that we all live in a world where by choice or circumstances, we have all become experts. We confront and use signs – clothes and hairstyles, radio and TV programmes, newspapers, cinema, magazines, records, that circulating in the profane languages of habitual sights and sounds, have no obvious author.’ Under the aegis of ‘style’ magazines like The Face and ID a breed of pop-anthropology journalists like Tony Parsons (1993) and Julie Burchill (1986) propounded what Redhead (1997) calls ‘pulp theory’. As eighties postmodernism displaced seventies subcultural perspectives in youth-cultural studies, popular commentators such as Simon Reynolds, Paul Morley and Ian Penman were able to display their clever clogs credentials by invoking a set of names well-known in contemporary cultural theory, like Kristeva and Baudrillard. Attempts to take culture seriously in its own right from both academia and popular criticism and the increasingly contested ground inbetween include the renaming of the Sunday Times‘ television supplement as The Culture following the addition of some arts features from columnists including cultural studies professor Robert Hewison. All these developments underline the extent to which analyses of youth style and popular culture had become normalised/ taken for granted by sections of the contemporary media at the end of the last century.

There have been numerous examples of media-academia cross-over in both directions since the eighties. Sardar’s New Statesman piece I referred to earlier is one such example. His book meanwhile is obviously hoping for cross-over appeal in taking up residence on the surfaces of coffee tables everywhere. McRobbie (1980) has claimed that subculture theory’s influential high watermark came when in the late seventies pop weekly the NME gave Hebdige’s Subculture a rave review. The 1988 reprint includes gushing back cover recommendations from Rolling StoneTime Out and The New York Times, indicative of the popularisation of the popular culture critique of the eighties. The book was a best-seller and is still in print. Featherstone (1991: 44) identifies a media-driven ‘new breed of celebrity intellectuals who have little distaste for, indeed who embrace, the popular’. The dissolution of the demarcation between popular and high culture is exemplified by the collaboration between Simon Frith, professor of English, and Jon Savage, music-press journalist, which identifies a downgrading of intellectuals under the right, arguing: ‘The effect of the Thatcher decade was … to increase the importance of journalists as cultural ideologues while undermining the cultural authority of educators’ (1997:10). These mediatised cultural/intellectual power-brokers have been particularly prevalent in the youth cultural field as academics have frequently forayed into ‘legitimating’ roles in newspapers and on television documentaries – examples include Angela McRobbie, Paul Gilroy and Mercury Music Prize judge Simon Frith. Lovatt and Purkis (1996: 254-255) claim ‘an academic researching into popular culture might spend some of a week in night-clubs or football matches, take time out to appear on or even present media programmes, and still sit on academic committees and give lectures’.

Recent years have witnessed the palpable rise of numerous variations of specifically focussed ‘niche’ cultural studies. Sardar, presumably from the bias of his own research interests, deals with some sections better than others. Post-colonial studies gets a particularly comprehensive treatment – particularly South Asian cultural studies from the Indian subcontinent. Again taking the example of youth culture, the category of ‘Asian’ youth, after long being at best an adjunct to ‘black’ youth – with the exception of mentions of ‘pakibashing’ (Clarke, 1976; Hebdige, 1979: 56; Pearson, 1976) – is currently commanding a number of studies (Anwar, 1998; Back, 1996; Bhatti, 1999; Gillespie, 1995; Hutnyk, Sharma and Sharma, 1996). This goes some way toward redressing the balance by addressing the subject of Asian youth outside the narrow parameters of ‘racism studies’ accompanied by the transition of the public perception of Asians from migrants to settled population. Unlike Edgar and Sedgwick, Sardar is strong on all the relevant literature here. Paul Gilroy’s crucial concept of the ‘black Atlantic’ gets a look in as does Stuart Hall, and the Indian subcontinent originating theorists get extensive coverage with Ashis Nandy, Ali Rattansi, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Avtar Brah all given starring roles. Also substantiating Sardar’s predilection for all things Indian-flavoured is the close detail paid to the Indian restaurant as the case-study of a site of semiological struggle/the politics of consumption.

So, after all these reams and reams of paper, to invoke the title of yet another refereed article on the subject, where is cultural studies? (Schwarz, 1994). Thatcherism has left its mark (McGuigan, 1993: 61-2; Murdock, 1989). The 70s emphasis on youth as a metaphor for social change was, in Frith and Goodwin’s phrase, ‘consigned to the bargain bins of cultural theory’ (1990: iv) and instead young people were seen as victims (Calcutt, 1998). Subcultural positions reoriented themselves as a result of wider political shifts: with the collapse of state-communism, Marxism was jettisoned as a rationale (McRobbie, 1994: 38). Sardar worries out loud that cultural studies is in danger of losing its edge: ‘only as an intellectual movement of genuine dissent in all its forms can cultural studies fulfil its original promise’ (171). Yet we are measuring it up against benchmarks of an earlier age. Edgar and Sedgwick plump for a future of increased institutionalisation and the attendant scrutiny that accompanies this: ‘Work in cultural theory … is typically highly self-reflexive … acutely aware of the part that a methodology or academic discipline can play in constructing its subject matter. Thus the very process of selection found in the critical disciplines, and which leads to the construction of a seemingly self-evident canon of work, is itself a legitimate, and indeed central, object of enquiry’ (4). These three texts all substantiate this claim in their own ways.

Much of the cultural studies work that dominates introductory UK cultural studies lecture courses has been resolutely Brit-fixated (i.e. even narrower than that other damning adjective ‘Euro-centric’), propounding what Murdock (1989) calls ‘the condition of England’ tendency, in reflecting the UK’s island geography with its insularity. Yet much recent cultural studies work has emerged from shores other than Blighty. In youth culture study important contributions have come from Germany in the individualisation thesis (Beck, 1992) and a significant body of youth transitions literature from Northern Europe (Fornas et al. 1995; Fornas and Bolin, 1995; the respected Young: the Nordic Journal of Youth Research). Other recent youth studies have come from Australia (Wyn and White, 1996) and America (Epstein, 1998; Giroux, 1996; Giroux, 1997). These volumes between them are encouragingly indicative of a shift away from previous parochialism, only varied by the occasional longing look to America. At the same time their collective, polyvocal positions serve as a reminder that grand theories and linear models of youth culture are increasingly redundant in the culturally pluralist, multimedia 90s. As Sardar and Van Loon write, ‘cultural studies is not an ideology. It is not a religion’ (170). Although it is under increasing pressure from an audit and performance culture manifested in mechanisms such as the RAE and QAA, cultural studies should not allow itself to become isolationist in outlook or lose sight of its original interdisciplinary ideals, despite the fact that it is now more institutionalised than ever. Cultural studies has always prided itself on its uniquely multifaceted, multidisciplinary, multiperspectival approach. Long may the subject’s bumpy journey into the uncharted academic waters of its second century continue.


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Rupa Huq is Lecturer in Leisure Management and Leverhulme Special Research Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Manchester, UK.