Although neither a cultural philosophy nor a political theory, the concept of cultural politics emerged, as we conceive it, decades ago in a time when it was often argued that the study of culture and the academic discipline of cultural studies were unavoidably political because of questions of value, ideology, and power this study entails. This article by the editors of the journal Cultural Politics provides a short survey of the field, its emergence, issues of interest, and its relationship to cultural studies. To do so within an era of full-blown globalization, with all its attendant laudatory dimensions and many burdens and discontents, because of the unavoidable intercultural tensions and stresses around identity, belonging, and power these processes produce, we address several pressing questions about politics, culture, and textual engagement. How can we theorize cultural politics and the political goals of cultural theory and analysis in the English-speaking world and beyond when uncertainty around identity is the driving force of the project itself? What do a contemporary politics of culture and a cultural politics look like now, and how might that terrain be shifting? How can we theorize culture as a political issue and politics as a cultural field?
Cultural Politics Now
John Armitage is professor of media arts at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. His most recent works include Virilio for Architects (2015) and, coedited with Joanne Roberts, Critical Luxury Studies: Art, Design, Media (2016).
Ryan Bishop is professor of global art and politics at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. Among his recent publications are Barthes/Burgin (with Sunil Manghani, 2016) and Across and Beyond: A Transmediale Reader on Post-digital Practices, Concepts, and Institutions (with Kristoffer Gansing, Jussi Parikka, and Elvia Wilk, 2017).
Mark Featherstone is senior lecturer in sociology at Keele University. He is author of Tocqueville’s Virus: Utopia and Dystopia in Western Social and Political Theory (2007) and Planet Utopia: Utopia, Dystopia, and the Global Imaginary (2017).
Douglas Kellner is George Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education at UCLA and is author of many books on social theory, politics, history, and culture, including Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film (coauthored with Michael Ryan, 1988), Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity (1989), Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond (1989), and American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald J. Trump (2017).