In 1996, we’ve started the dialogues among cultural studies
During his first visit to Japan in March 1996, Stuart Hall gave a keynote speech before a packed audience in University of Tokyo’s Yasuda Auditorium. In that speech, he emphasized that cultural studies had never been a school connected to the single origin and theory, nor had it been born solely inside the university.
Of course, cultural studies formed as a Marxian project that problematized the concept of culture from within the everyday experiences of the working class after the 1950s. It appropriated the innovative theories and concepts of Structuralism to expand the field to include youth subculture after Hall was appointed director of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in 1968. The front line of cultural studies after the 1980s then shifted to the thorough criticism of neoliberalism, taking into account the perspective of post-colonialism and feminism to promote the advanced analysis of the multistory structure of “the popular” through conjunctures of class, race, and gender.
However, Hall suspected the tale of this trajectory itself. He agreed with Raymond Williams that cultural studies had been performed by adult education in working class districts before it became a booming field of academic discourse. Also, he maintained that cultural studies could have many origins. Although adult education in the working class could be one important source, alternative origins could also be possible in non-western countries.
In the dialogue between Hall and other participants in Tokyo, I was strongly impressed by the creative way in which Hall responded to questions. His responses not only answered the queries themselves, but also delved into the very background from which they emerged, probing their origins and content. Hall was a person who could instantly understand the best way to inspire the critical imagination of the people with him. Besides being a great thinker, a scholar, and an author, he was an amazingly gifted teacher.
Shunya Yoshimi is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in University of Tokyo. He is also Vice President, Director of Center for Research and Development of Higher Education, Director of Center for Global Education in University of Tokyo. He wrote many books on cultural theory, urban culture and media. He has been a leading scholar in the field of cultural studies in contemporary Japan. Publications include Dramaturgy in City (1987), The Politics of Exposition (1992), Cultural Sociology in Media Age (1994), Voice of Capitalism (1995), Cultural Turn (2003), Expo Syndrome (2005), Pro/Anti-America (2007), Post-Postwar Japan (2009), What is University? (2011), Atoms for Dream (2012), Ways beyond America (2012), etc.