Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Cultural Studies Redux
What if we called Geisteswissenschaften "cultural studies" instead? In other words, all the "human sciences" having to do with hermeneutics and the interpretation of culture would be called cultural studies. The first thing that would do is expose the limitations of what is now known as cultural studies, conceived of as the study of anxiety as manifested in television commercials. That is just one way of studying culture. Secondly, it would point to the fact that the choice of a label is significant. The German name for this collection of fields implies Hegel and Herder, and a whole ideological baggage attached to German idealism. "Humanities" harks back to renaisssance humanism. Every label has a certain historical residue, and that's a good thing, I think, to be aware of. "Liberal arts" evokes an image of a tweedy professor. "Anthropology" is another name for everything we are concerned with, but that evokes yet other images.