Cultural Studies and critical pedagogies were difficult for me to separate at first, but my understanding is that critical pedagogies is more “radical” or politically and socially transformative than Cultural Studies (and obviously more focused on teaching practices). This is not to say that Cultural Studies is without social implications, however; it seems to me as though it may simply be broader with the potential for social transformation, but with a primary goal of analyzing cultural narratives.
Many folks in cultural studies are interested in the possibilities for social reform. George, Lockridge, and Trimbur note that around 2005, Composition (with and because of Cultural Studies) took a public turn with “an increased interest in public rhetoric, community-engagement, and the kinds of communication practices characteristic of public debate and action” (100). This sounds much like the language of leadership surrounding our ENGL 120 course syllabi.
The ideas of Cultural Studies I was first introduced to via Stuart Hall were more politically and socially charged. In “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies,” Hall notes the influence of Marxist thought on Cultural Studies. He adopts Gramsci’s notion of the “organic intellectual”—as opposed to the “traditional intellectual”—to discuss the role of Cultural Studies in making a voice for the culturally marginalized. Hall writes, “I’m trying to return the project of cultural studies from the clean air of meaning and textuality and theory to the something nasty down below” (1785). In essence, scholars, and in particular “organic intellectuals,” must use their privilege to improve the social mobility of those less fortunate.
Others considered Cultural Studies scholars look at film, music, social media and even *gasp* hip-hop culture as telling the perhaps “not-so-grand” narratives of cultures and subcultures. I suppose in the end, Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life offers my favorite Cultural Studies approach. He argued that the academy has studied “high” culture for quite some time, and that is a noble pursuit, but that we should study all culture to discover how we make meaning as practitioners of the “arts of consumption,” always with an eye to not exploit our cultures of study. His approach is a broad one, but offers many possibilities, radical and quotidian, that I can get on board with.