Cultural studies

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Cultural studies researches the material and symbolic dimensions of cultures . It combines the cultural aspects of anthropology , art studies , musicology , literary studies , theater studies , film studies , media studies , communication studies , sports studies , game studies , linguistics , ethnology, etc. in different combinations and thus forms a cross-cutting sister discipline of many humanities . In part, cultural studies also relate to social , economic and human sciences . The cultural sciences thus represent a strongly interdisciplinary research area.

In Germany, depending on the institutionalization, cultural studies are taught more as empirical cultural studies ( ethnology , folklore ) or as historical cultural studies (cultural studies, cultural history).



Cultural studies as an independent discipline developed in Germany from cultural philosophy ( Georg Simmel , Ernst Cassirer ) and cultural history, historical and philosophical anthropology, sociology ( Max Weber ) and art history ( Aby Warburg ) since the 1920s.

At the instigation of the National Socialists , the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, previously dedicated exclusively to art historical research and named after its Jewish donor Henriette Hertz , was renamed the "Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Art and Cultural Studies". According to the Nazis, the most important task was The new cultural studies department was to convey German culture and "German spirit" in fascist Italy .


Since the 1960s, cultural studies under the Anglo-Saxon term cultural studies as an interdisciplinary research approach that tries to fathom the meaning of culture as everyday practice , has gained international importance.

“Cultural studies” were developed in the 1960s by representatives of British adult education and literary scholars with an interest in everyday culture and also in connection with the emerging pop culture. They emphasized, also following the Frankfurt School , the production conditions of cultural goods and thus also hegemonic patterns of meaning based on the Marxism of Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramscis .

The research took place mainly in the environment of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) under the direction of Stuart Hall . Other important representatives are Edward P. Thompson and Raymond Williams , who helped to develop the early foundations, Paul Willis and later Dick Hebdige and Angela McRobbie, who were themselves influenced by the youth subculture, especially British punk .

1980s until today

With the research of Pierre Bourdieu , but also John Fiske and the shift of the focus of research to US and Canadian universities, the focus shifted in the 1980s. Production and consumption are now theoretically regarded as equivalent. In the studies of the 1980s and 1990s, those who focus on the appropriation practices of the products predominate. In contrast to the cultural criticism of the Frankfurt School, in which consumers are viewed as the masses deceived and manipulated by the culture industry , cultural studies place greater emphasis on the creative way consumers deal with cultural objects. In the 1990s, the topic of difference in particular became a focus of cultural studies. Top institutions such as McGill University , a world leader in health sciences , began to conduct broad research in the field of gender medicine at their own cultural studies institutes for the first time .

More recent approaches in “cultural studies” aim, among other things, at reconstructing culture through affects in the sense of Gilles Deleuze , beyond the “signifying” practices . The study of culture becomes a question of grasping production, mobilization and affect. This movement goes hand in hand with a criticism of the hegemonic understanding of politics and, following Michel Foucault, deals with questions of the production of everyday life through biopolitics . This includes sport, as sport journalism creates an illusory world that helps dominant social classes to create hegemony . Accordingly, there is some overlap with the research by Tom Holert and Mark Terkessidis on visibility and subjectivity in neoliberalism .

In criminology , too, there is a growing interest in a common articulation of crime and culture. So-called cultural criminology has developed in the tradition of classic youth culture research by the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) or studies on moral panics . At the center of the question are, as Jock Young put it, transgression and vindictiveness. In this sense, the phenomenon of crime is understood as everyday culture and reconstructed through sensitivities. The context is a progressive criminalization of everyday life.

Cultural studies

Since the 1980s, the term “cultural studies” has also stood for a new self-description of a large part of the disciplines called “ humanities ” in Wilhelm Dilthey's tradition in Germany .

According to Hartmut Böhme, cultural studies (in the plural), which deal with the method of individual humanities for the study of culture , can be distinguished from the more recent discipline of cultural studies as a discipline, which for the study of culture also depends on the results of the individual sciences, but despite everything tries to bring overarching connections into view through cultural reflection and cultural criticism: “This distinguishes cultural studies, at least in its current phase, from the established humanities, which due to their high level of specialization have largely lost contact with the tradition that Reinhart Koselleck (1973) described the connection between ' criticism and crisis ' that is characteristic of modernity . "

In comparison to the humanities, cultural studies can be distinguished by the following points:

  • On the one hand, it takes back the displacement of the humanities by National Socialism ; on the other hand, it does not directly follow the German tradition of the humanities, but also incorporates ideas from cultural studies and humanities .
  • The subject of their investigation is not exclusively the so-called high culture , but also includes all areas of cultural life.
  • She therefore pays attention to all mass media (no longer just books), since culture happens in different media.
  • This means that it is no longer just the written tradition that plays a central role, but all cultural pictorial forms, i.e. H. performative acts, body figures, rituals and habitus .
  • As a cultural memory, it is no longer just what is written that counts, but all embodiments and embeddings of culture that have to be constantly updated and inscribed in order to be preserved.
  • Cultural studies examines the migration of cultural forms and symbols across historical and ethnic boundaries, which at the same time avoids Eurocentrism .
  • Following on from culture semiotic , she understands culture as a universe of symbols and a textual context: the meaning of individual cultural moments only ever arises in connection with other passages in this text; culture is a text in which cultural studies reads, from which it reads out what is culturally significant .

International comparison

In the USA and Canada in particular, the interdisciplinary combination of subjects in “cultural studies” is determined by those key disciplines in which a scientific institution researches or teaches. Different combinations can even be defined within a research area, based on the respective scientific question. For example, at the McGill University, a world leader in medicine and psychology, an interdisciplinary "cultural studies" course with research on gender medicine encompasses the subjects of anthropology , psychology, communication science , sociology and the history of medicine . At other Anglo-American universities and research institutions with a political focus, for example, “cultural studies” see themselves as a decidedly political science, while most representatives of German cultural studies also frequently examine areas of knowledge that are free of politics. This is due to the history of German cultural studies.

The Russian " Kulturologie " is mainly based on the semiotics , whereby here mainly the Tartu ( Juri Lotman ) and Moscow schools ( Boris Uspenski ) are to be mentioned. Mikhail Bakhtin is one of their forerunners.


Friedrich Kittler criticizes the "wonderfully pretended, but all the more mendacious scientific innocence" of cultural studies, but above all of Anglo-Saxon cultural studies . Instead of assuming himself from the standpoint of an observer removed from everything, Kittler instead calls for “our own science” to be approached as a matter “with one's own means.” By historicizing the development of cultural studies and cultural studies , Kittler emphasizes that cultural studies are not ideological either are neutral, but prove to be a form of lived culture.

“Above all, every theory that serves a so-called society (even if it serves to improve it) has already decided in advance about its basic concepts. It cannot withstand and open that emptiness in whose dark room, contrary to an omnipresent fable convenue, it can never be determined that intoxication and the gods, tragedy and heaven never exist. No people, no societies decide whether and when in the gift of the pouring earth and heaven, the divine and the mortal, dwell. "

For comparison, Kittler opposes the neutral scientific establishment with an alternative world, as he finds it in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and in Heidegger's late philosophy of the quarter . Neither ideological neutrality nor an absolute point of view can be established for Kittler by the researcher, but are determined by the dynamics of media history , which are beyond human availability. Kittler demands that cultural studies and cultural studies apply this knowledge to oneself .


General literature

  • Serjoscha P. Ostermeyer: The struggle for cultural studies. Constitution of a teaching and research field 1990-2010. Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86599-292-5 .
  • Aleida Assmann : Introduction to Cultural Studies. Basic terms, topics, questions. Berlin 2006.
  • Doris Bachmann-Medick : Cultural Turns. New orientations in cultural studies. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2006 (several editions; revision and English translation: Cultural Turns: New Orientations in the Study of Culture. De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2016).
  • Hartmut Böhme, Klaus R. Scherpe (ed.): Literature and cultural studies. Positions, theories, models. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-499-55575-1 .
  • Hartmut Böhme, Peter Matussek, Lothar Müller: Orientation cultural studies. What she can do, what she wants. 2nd Edition. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-499-55608-1 .
  • Roger Bromley, Udo Göttlich, Carsten Winter (eds.): Cultural Studies. Basic texts for introduction. zu Klampen, Lüneburg 1999, ISBN 3-924245-65-7
  • Jan Engelmann (Ed.): The small differences. The cultural studies reader. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-593-36245-7
  • Klaus P. Hansen: Culture and cultural studies. An introduction. 4th edition. Francke, Tübingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8252-3549-9
  • Ludger Heidbrink, Harald Welzer (ed.): End of modesty. To improve humanities and cultural studies. CH Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-55954-9
  • Andreas Hepp, Friedrich Krotz, Tanja Thomas (Eds.): Key Works of Cultural Studies. VS, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-15221-9
  • Friedrich Jäger, Jörn Rüsen (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Kulturwissenschaften. 3 volumes. Stuttgart 2004.
  • Elisabeth List, Erwin Fiala (ed.): Fundamentals of cultural studies. Interdisciplinary cultural studies. Tuebingen 2004.
  • Oliver Marchart : Cultural Studies. UVK / UTB, Konstanz 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-2883-5 .
  • Harun Maye, Leander Scholz (ed.): Introduction to cultural studies. Fink / UTB, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-8252-3176-7 .
  • Lutz Musner, Gotthart Wunberg (Hrsg.): Kulturwissenschaften. Research - Practice - Positions (= Rombach Sciences, Edition Parabasen. Volume 1). 2nd edition, Rombach, Freiburg 2003, ISBN 978-3-7930-9373-2 .
  • Andreas Reckwitz: The Transformation of Cultural Theories. Weilerswist 2000.
  • Heinrich Rickert: cultural studies and natural science. 7th edition. Tübingen 1926, new edition: Celtis, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-944253-00-8 .
  • Annette Vowinckel : Contemporary history and cultural studies. In: Contemporary historical research . Volume 4, 2007, pp. 393-407.
  • Harm-Peer Zimmermann (ed.): Empirical cultural studies. European ethnology. Cultural anthropology. Folklore. Guide to studying cultural studies at German-speaking universities. Jonas, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89445-351-6 .

Trade journals

Web links

Wiktionary: cultural studies  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Marchart 2008.
  2. ^ Arnd Krüger : Sport Sciences as Part of Cultural Studies. The Responsibility of the Sciences for the Future , in: J. Raczek (Ed.): Nauki o Kulkturze Fizycznej wobec Wyzwan Wspolczesnej Cywilizacji. Katowice: AWF 1995, 175-186. Arnd Krüger: Cui bono? On the effect of sports journalism , in: Arnd Krüger & Swantje Scharenberg (ed.): How the media prepare sports - selected aspects of sports journalism. Berlin: Tischler 1993, 24–65.
  3. a b Hartmut Böhme: What is cultural studies? , 2001, pdf
  4. See Böhme et al. a. 2002 (see literature)
  5. Friedrich Kittler : A cultural history of cultural studies . Fink, Munich 2001, p. 11.
  6. Friedrich Kittler : A cultural history of cultural studies . Fink, Munich 2001, p. 249.
  7. Review in H-Soz-Kult .