The term cultural studies needs explaining as it is used in different ways in different contexts. In modern language degrees, the term is often used to refer to academic subject courses with ‘cultural content’, such as literature, film studies, or area studies. In language pedagogy literature the term has also been used. In his 1989 book, Byram called the language and culture pedagogy for which he started to develop a theoretical basis ‘Cultural Studies’. However, his use of the term is not the same as that of the Cultural Studies movement which I discuss below. Byram has since dropped the term, as his overriding concept came to be the ‘Intercultural Speaker’, which I discuss in chapter 3.
I use the term cultural studies here in line with Turner (1992: 9) to refer to an interdisciplinary area of study - rather than one particular approach - where various concerns and methods converge which have ‘enabled us to understand phenomena and relationships that were not accessible through existing disciplines’. Its interest encompasses a very broad field of contemporary cultural practices, products, and processes, although its main focus tends to be on ‘popular’ culture, as it rejects the notion of the ‘canon’. Whereas a Landeskunde approach focuses on providing information and knowledge, a cultural studies approach allows students to engage with texts, to ‘discover’ information about cultural practices, values or processes through reading and interpreting texts.
In chapters 3 and 4, I set out my particular take on how to include a cultural studies approach in a language class, but below I provide a short overview of some of the main ideas and concepts associated with cultural studies as an approach to culture pedagogy.