Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies

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The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) was a research centre at the University of Birmingham, England. It was founded in 1964 by Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart, its first director.[1][2] From 1964 to 2002, it played a critical role in developing the field of cultural studies.[3]


The centre was the focus for what became known as the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies, or, more generally, 'British cultural studies'. After its first director, Richard Hoggart departed in 1968, the centre was led by Stuart Hall (1969–1979). He was succeeded by Richard Johnson (1980–1987). The Birmingham CCCS approach to culture and politics evolved from a complex moment within British post-war history: the rise of the anti-Stalinist New Left; the promotion of adult education in Britain after World War II; the "Americanization" of British popular culture and the growth of mass communication in the decades after 1945; the growing multiculturalism of British society; and, the eventual influence within British academia of new critical methods like semiotics and structuralism.[4][5] Drawing on a variety of influences (feminism, structuralism, Marxism — especially the work of Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci, sociology, critical race theory, and post-structuralism), over the course of several decades the Centre pioneered a variety of approaches to the study of culture, including: ideological analysis; studies of working-class cultures and subcultures; the role of media audiences; feminist cultural research; hegemonic struggles in state politics; and the place of race in social and cultural processes.[6] Notable Centre books include Off-Centre: Feminism and Cultural Studies,[7] Resistance through Rituals,[8] The Empire Strikes Back,[9] Border Patrols: Policing the Boundaries of Heterosexuality.[10] The history of this development can be found in the series of stencilled occasional papers the Centre published between 1973 and 1988.[11] To mark the 50th anniversary of the CCCS's founding, the University of Birmingham—in collaboration with former members of staff at the centre, including Richard Johnson, Stuart Hall, and Michael Green—created an archive of CCCS-related material at the Cadbury Research Library at Birmingham.[12]

Noted staff members[edit]

The Centre produced many key studies and developed the careers of prominent researchers and academics. Stuart Hall, who became the centre's director in 1968, developed his seminal Encoding/Decoding model of communication here. Of special importance is the collective research that led to Policing the Crisis (1978),[13] a study of law and order campaigns that focused on "mugging" (a code for street violence). This anticipated many of the law and order themes of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in the 1980s. David Morley and Charlotte Brunsdon pioneered the centre's approach to empirical research in The Nationwide Project .

Richard Johnson was later director and encouraged research in social and cultural history. The centre staff included Maureen McNeil, noted theorist of culture and science, Michael Green who focused on media, cultural policy and regional cultures in the midlands, and Ann Gray, culture and media.

Closure in 2002[edit]

The new Department of Cultural Studies and Sociology was unexpectedly and abruptly closed in 2002, a move the university's senior management described as "restructuring".[14] The immediate reason given for disestablishment of the new department was an unexpectedly low result in the UK's Research Assessment Exercise of 2001, though a dean from the university described the decision as a consequence of "inexperienced 'macho management'".[15] Students and staff unsuccessfully campaigned to save the school, which gained considerable attention in the national press and sparked numerous letters of support from former alumni all over the world.[16] Four of the department's 14 members of staff were to be "retained" and its hundreds of students (nearly 250 undergraduates and postgraduates at that time, many from abroad) to be transferred to other departments. In the ensuing dispute most department staff left.


  1. ^ Turner, Graeme (2002). British cultural studies : an introduction (3rd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9780415252287.
  2. ^ Hall, Stuart (1989). "The origins of cultural studies [videorecording] : a lecture at UMass Amherst".
  3. ^ Dworkin, Dennis (1 June 2012). Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain. Duke University Press. p. 116. doi:10.1215/9780822396512. ISBN 9780822396512.
  4. ^ Hall, Stuart (March 1992). "Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies". Rethinking Marxism. 5 (1): 10–18. doi:10.1080/08935699208657998.
  5. ^ Dworkin, Dennis (1997). Cultural Marxism in postwar Britain : history, the new left, and the origins of cultural studies. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822319146.
  6. ^ Shulman, Norma (1993). "Conditions of their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham". Canadian Journal of Communication. 18 (1).
  7. ^ Off-centre : feminism and cultural studies. Franklin, Sarah, 1960-, Lury, Celia., Stacey, Jackie. London: Routledge. 2007. ISBN 978-0415402798. OCLC 77797840.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ Resistance through rituals : youth subcultures in post-war Britain. Hall, Stuart, 1932-2014., Jefferson, Tony. (2nd., rev. and expanded ed.). London: Routledge. 2006. ISBN 978-0415324373. OCLC 70106758.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ The Empire strikes back : race and racism in 70s Britain. University of Birmingham. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. London: Routledge in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham. 1992. ISBN 978-0415079099. OCLC 31201402.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ Border patrols : policing the boundaries of heterosexuality. Steinberg, Deborah Lynn., Epstein, Debbie, 1945-, Johnson, Richard, 1939-, Politics of Sexuality Group. London: Cassell. 1997. ISBN 978-0304334780. OCLC 37217369.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Stencilled Occasional Papers of the Birmingham CCCS - University of Birmingham". www.birmingham.ac.uk.
  12. ^ "The Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies project", University of Birmingham.
  13. ^ Hall, Stuart (2013). Policing the crisis : mugging, the state, and law and order. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1137007193. OCLC 844021523.
  14. ^ Curtis, Polly (27 June 2002). "Birmingham's cultural studies department given the chop". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  15. ^ Webster, Frank (2004). "Cultural Studies and Sociology at, and After, the Closure of the Birmingham School". Cultural Studies. 18 (6): 848. doi:10.1080/0950238042000306891. S2CID 145110580.
  16. ^ Curtis, Polly (18 July 2002). "Cultural elite express opposition to Birmingham closure". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 December 2018.

External links[edit]

Alec Gordon, "The Genesis of Radical Cultural Studies: Contribution to a Reconstruction of Cultural Studies as Counter-Intellectual Critique" [The Intellectual History of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, England, 1963–1975]. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Leeds, June 1988.