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date: 25 November 2020

The Birmingham School of Cultural Studieslocked

  • Sean Johnson AndrewsSean Johnson AndrewsDepartment of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, Columbia College Chicago

Summary

The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies refers to the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which was housed at Birmingham University from 1964 to 2002. The shorthand “Birmingham School” refers to a site, a moment, a movement, and a method. Emerging alongside other intellectual and activist currents in the British New Left, it posed a radical democratic alternative to traditional higher education and the available methods and methodologies of communication and media studies. Centre researchers expanded the possible objects worthy of critical academic research—arguing it was imperative that we look at the products of the mass media or so-called popular arts—as well as the means through which those objects and their potential effects were understood. Central to the methodological approach espoused by CCCS scholars is the need to look at the way the meanings and values of cultural texts are articulated to and through a “cultural circuit”: A text emerges from a context, and its meanings are contingent on the frameworks of ideology and experience of both that context and audiences that read it. Under the leadership of Stuart Hall, and then Richard Johnson, the CCCS developed pathbreaking research into cultural politics more generally, looking at the way identities and subjectivity were developed, reinforced, and lived, and intersecting with emergent theories from and research in postcolonialism, poststructuralism, nationalism, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, studies of race and ethnicity, and a variety of other subfields in the humanities and social sciences. Despite the closure of the Centre, these tendencies and emphases remain important, especially to the many academic monographs, journals, and conferences in cultural studies each year.

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