What is British Cultural Studies?

“British cultural studies was founded as a fundamentally transdisciplinary enterprise and in its very conception attacked established academic institutional practices which neglected the popular in favour of elite culture. … cultural studies insists that culture must be investigated within the social relations and system in which it is produced and consumed, and that analysis of culture is thus intimately bound up with the study of society, politics and economics.” (Marjorie Ferguson & Peter Golding, Cultural Studies in Question, London: Sage Publications, 1997)

“Cultural studies can be seen to have set itself against the preconceptions about culture found in the traditional critical disciplines, such as literary criticism, aesthetics, and musicology. While such traditional disciplines predominately treated cultural products as objects or texts there could be legitimately or even exhaustively studied in isolation from the social and historical context of their production and consumption, the exponents of cultural studies sought to situate cultural products explicitly in relation to other social practices, and particularly in relation to political structures and social hierarchies, such as race, class, and gender.” (Peter Sedgwick & Andrew Edgar, Key Concepts in Cultural Theory, London/New York: Routledge, 2002)

“To use a contemporary analogy, culture is the software of our lives. It is the program we live by, the rules that determine how we think and act. But it is also the malleable, rewritable script that we ourselves rework and recreate as we live and produce creative works and say and do creative things in our lives. … The most interesting tension in culture will occur at the frontier running through everyday life where the normative and the creatively dissonant collide. Normative culture must respect established forms and prescribed practices. It is our way of maintaining the stability of our civil life in communities. Creative culture has less respect for such things; indeed, it is defined as disrespect for whatever would make the new resemble the old. Culture in this sense is human life remaking itself anew every day. It is creative destruction as much as it is system maintenance through embedded normative prescription. Culture understood as what maintains civility in communities is necessary because nature propels humans toward physical survival in ways that can lead to violence, domination, and injustice. Culture and civility are our ways of tempering those physical urges, but violence, domination, and injustice occur nevertheless, and Cultural Studies has a moral, ethical, and political dimension to the degree that it takes stock of that reality.” (Michael Ryan, Cultural Studies: A Practical Introduction, Malden/Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)