Cultural Studies: Meaning-making Essay

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Cultural Studies focuses on two particular systems of meaning-making, i.e. a set of beliefs, ideas, practices, etc. These two systems are Humanism and Poststructuralism.

In particular, Humanism has been extremely important to Western culture’s development, and so has become naturalised. Humanism therefore can be considered to be a ‘common sense’ way of interacting with the world; Poststructuralism was created in response to critically analyse and engage with Humanism. (Sullivan, n.d.)

Humanism is defined by Mansfield and Fuery as “the basic value system of the traditional humanities… most closely associated with the study of human arts and cultures, literature, history, fine arts, philosophy, and languages”. (as cited in Sullivan, n.d.,
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In order for Man to have this position of privilege, they must have the traits that Humanists consider the most important, such as rationality and being unemotional. This means that the undesirable traits (irrationality and being emotional) must be oppositional to Man, consequently they become attributes of Woman. Therefore Woman is actually not-Man, and becomes the Other. (Sullivan, n.d.; Spencer, 2004)

The idea of Men being greater and Women being inferior was considered the natural order of things, or ‘common sense’. Cultural Studies uses Poststructuralism to analyse and disrupt this concept, often by studying the (dis)connection between sex and gender. (Sullivan, n.d.; Spencer, 2004)

If Humanism focuses on sameness, then Poststructuralism studies difference, in particular how differences are created, and the effects of those differences. It does this by attempting to analyse and rethink notions like truth, culture, subjectivity, power, etc. (Sullivan, n.d.; Spencer, 2004; Belsey, 2002)

In response to Humanism theorists like Habermas, many Poststructuralist theorists argue that differences cannot be covered over or ignored and is in fact extremely important to each persons’ view of their own reality. That is, all beliefs, practices, and/or narratives are created and (in)formed by the context of each individual, and so is unavoidably subjective. (Sullivan, n.d.; Spencer, 2004;

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