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Chronicle Article: “Expanding the Agenda of Cultural Research”

13 October, 2006

An article has appeared in the latest edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the state of cultural research in the US. Peter Stearns, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at George Mason University, argues for the continuing importance of the concept of culture in a range of fields. He warns that much of the interest produced by the ‘cultural turn’ in fields such as psychology, literary and gender studies, and sociology is waning at present. Many of the important insights produced by research that takes culture into account are therefore in danger of being lost. Although there is an increasing interest in “organisational cultures”, this remains “dangerously soft within business schools” and lacks integration with wider academic discourses. He concludes that:

As we take the essential next steps, we can learn from the past and avoid the kind of overblown claims and overuse of jargon and thick theory that made cultural analysis so many enemies. Partisan shots at explorations of cultural diversities may not end, but one can hope that they will also fade as we learn more about the significance of cultural variations over place and time, with less sheer sloganeering about multiculturalism, and more real analysis. We need more researchers willing to ask what role culture plays, even when their own main interests lie in other explanations. We need more students capable of asking and answering similar questions, as they try to understand what makes people tick. After the cultural turn, then, we need to apply fresh energies to explorations that the turn helped launch. The challenge is exciting.

Full article.

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