Interdisciplinary Cultural Theory

This site is designed for anyone wishing to know more about the history and current nature of interdisciplinary cultural theory. While especially useful for students and scholars in the field of American studies, including such allied fields as ethnic, gender, queer, and postcolonial studies, it seeks to be useful to anyone, newcomer or expert, interested in learning more about the development and current state of the art in cultural theory.

The core of the site is an extended annotated bibliographic essay, including an accompanying historical narrative about how this body of theory has evolved over time. In addition there are pages linking to sample theory course syllabi, a list of some key online theory journals, and a few additional theory sites to consult.

The site focuses on work that, whatever its discipline of origin, has been widely used in interdisciplinary cultural studies fields. Given the breadth of the topic, no fully comprehensive list is possible but the bibliography broadly represents a variety of approaches, selecting the most lucid treatments of the highlighted theories.

Each section begins with an introduction that, taken in series, offers an informal narrative of developments in American Studies theory over the years from the 1930s to the 1990s, by which time it had melded into the more general field of cultural studies. Items within the sections are arranged chrono-topically rather than alphabetically, such that they too form part of a narrative about historical trends in theory. This is meant to suggest both that new theories can only grow out of earlier work and that earlier works are seldom fully superceded by newer ones.

Certain theoretical paradigms (always contested) were prominent if not dominant in American Studies at particular historical moments. Over last few decades, American Studies has become increasingly interwoven with its sister field, cultural studies (originating as a parallel development in Britain), as well as other key interdisciplinary fields, especially ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and postcolonial studies.

This site embodies the principle that the development of theory can only be understood in relation to historical and social forces, especially progressive social movements. More than anything, cultural theories have been shaped by the struggles of people violently erased from or profoundly misrepresented in US histories--women, indigenous nations, people of color, the working class, sexual non-conformists, the colonized and the disabled.

The categories of theories used are necessarily partly arbitrary and overlapping, since not all works fall neatly into a a single school or topic area. But the categories are heuristically useful in sorting out major approaches. Many individual works could have been listed in more than one category (a fact dealt with when important through cross-referencing).

This bibliography grew out of a graduate course on theory and method in US cultural studies and it is in such a context that it may prove most effective. But it is designed it to be useful to any individual wishing to learn more about cultural theory. For a sample syllabus of the graduate course out of which this bibliography arose, click here.

This site is updated frequently, so comments and suggestions for additions, substitutions or corrections are wecome.

Mario Pozner volunteered a Ukrainian translation of this page (see http://stoodio.org/cultural-theory). Other translators are welcome.