introduction
We All Want to Change the World
I was interviewed recently and asked why I have such a protective and criti-
cal relationship to cultural studies, why I have written and lectured for so
long about what cultural studies can be, and why I have fought and worked
so hard to open up institutional spaces for cultural studies. The answer is
that I believe ideas matter, that we are better off approaching the daunting
tasks of transforming the world with the best knowledge and understanding
possible. And I have believed, for my entire academic career, that cultural
studies matters. It matters not because it is the only intellectual practice that
can tell us something about what’s going on in the worlds in which we live,
but because it is a different way of doing intellectual work, and as a result,
it can say and do certain things, it can produce certain kinds of knowledge
and understanding, which may not be so readily available through other
practices. Cultural studies matters because it is about the future, and about
some of the work it will take, in the present, to shape the future. It is about
understanding the present in the service of the future. By looking at how
the contemporary world has been made to be what it is, it attempts to make
visible ways in which it can become something else.
This book began over ten years ago. I had agreed to write an introduc-
tion to cultural studies. Almost immediately, a slew of introductory texts
and collections were released: a few were imaginative and productive, some
were passable, and most were rather dismal, having little to do with any-
thing that I could recognize as cultural studies. And then it hit me: given
my sense of cultural studies as something that you make up as you go, as a
project that reshapes itself in and attempts to respond to new conjunctures
as problem-spaces, it was difficult to imagine how one could actually pro-
duce an introduction to cultural studies.
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