SOAS University of London

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Cultural studies theories and the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

This module is available as an Open Option in MA degrees that allow them.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim of the module is to offer grounding in the theories on Cultural Studies and their use, application and adaptation in the cross-cultural contexts of Africa and Asia. It will provide an examination of the main historical concepts in Western culture such as ideology, power, class, identity, race, nation, subjectivity, representation, memory, etc. and how these are challenged by scholars working in non-Western cultures of Africa and Asia. The aim is to explore the different and plural cultural histories and memories of these contexts to which Cultural Studies must adapt.

At the end of the module, a student should be able to…

  • demonstrate understanding of key Cultural Studies theories applied to the study of Africa and Asia;show an awareness of the theoretical paradigms on which Cultural Studies is based and of key debates within and between these paradigms, particularly in the study of Africa and Asia
  • demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the economic and political forces that frame the cultural processes and the role of such processes in specific areas of contemporary political and cultural life
  • acquire a comprehensive understanding of the variety of methodologies that these approaches offer to the students of the cultures of Asia and Africa
  • evaluate and reflect on the use of Cultural Studies approaches and methodologies in the student’s areas of research
  • critically evaluate a variety of books, journal articles and other sources of information relevant to the topics studied in the module
  • acquire communication and presentation skills


This module will be taught over 20 week with 3 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

Scope and syllabus

Theoretical paradigms covered will include: Modernism, Marxism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Post-Marxism, Feminism, Phenomenology, Post-Modernism and Psychoanalysis. The course will investigate central questions of epistemology and methodology in relation to the application of Cultural Studies theories in non-Western contexts. It aims to equip students with sufficient knowledge to understand and evaluate the way in which Cultural Studies theories and methods are used in cross-cultural contexts and hence develop analytic skills for undertaking their own research projects.

Core Topics

  • Theorizing Culture
  • The use of Marxist theories in Cultural Studies
  • Ideology and hegemony
  • Post-modernist theories and their in/applicability in the context of Africa and Asia
  • Class, race, gender and sexuality, which cultural histories?
  • The Enlightenment’s ‘Discourse on In/equality’ and its Dialectic History in relation to non-Western contexts
  • The Politics of representation: Orientalism, Occidentalism
  • Subaltern studies
  • Rethinking Postcolonial theory and history
  • Nation/ Narration and Nationalism
  • Globalisation
  • Gendered discursivity and Feminisms
  • The Empire and its legacies
  • ‘Race’, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism
  • Diaspora Cultural Studies
  • The Religious vs. the Secular?
  • Cultural Studies theories and cross-cultural inquiry
  • Rethinking Cultural histories in the context of Africa and Asia

Method of assessment

Portfolio of 4 reaction papers of 600-800 words each to be submitted on Monday, week 5 and 9, Terms 1 and 2. Students receive immediate detailed feedback and can edit before finally submitting on day 1, week 2, term 3 (30%); an essay of 2,000 words to be submitted on the day the course is taught, week 1, term 2 (30%); an essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on the day of teaching, week 1, term 3 (40%).

Suggested reading

  • Abu-Lughod, Lila (ed.) (1998) Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Adorno, T.W. (1991). The Cultural Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (ed., with intro.), J.M. Bernstein. London: Routledge.
  • Baldwin, E. (2004). Introducing Cultural Studies. New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
  • Almquist, Kurt, (ed.), (2007) The Secular State and Islam in Europe. Stockholm, Sweden: Axel & Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, pp. 81-96.
  • Balslev, A.N. (1996). Cross-cultural Conversation. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press.
  • Barthes, R. (1973). Mythologies. London: Paladin.
  • Belsey, C. (2005). Culture and the Real: Theorizing Cultural Criticism. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Benjamin, W. (1968). Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1993). The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Buruma, I. and Margalit, A. (2004) Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies. New York: Penguin.
  • Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that Matter: on the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. London: Routledge.
  • Byerly, C and Ross, K. (eds.) (2004) Women and Media: International Perspectives, Oxford: Blackwell.Chatterjee, Partha (1993). The Nation and Its Fragments. Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton University Press.
  • Chow, R. (1993). Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Curran, J and Park, M. (eds.) (2000) De-Westernising Media Studies, London: Routledge.
  • Davies, I. (1995). Cultural Studies and Beyond: Fragments of Empire. London: Routledge.Fanon, F. (1986) Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press.
  • Foucault, M. (1972) The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge.
  • Forgacs, D. (ed.) (1988) A Gramsci reader: selected writings, 1916-1935. London : Lawrence and Wishart.Nigel Gilbert (ed.), (2001) Researching Social Life. London: Sage Publications.
  • Grossberg, L. et al. (eds.). (1992). Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Hall S. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.
  • Harvey D. (2006). Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. London, New York: Verso.
  • Hills, M. (2005). How to Do Things with Cultural Theory. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.Jordan, G. & Weedon, C. (1994). Cultural Politics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Loomba, A. (2005). Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Lull, J., (2000) Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach, Polity.
  • McCann, C. and Kim, S. (eds.) (2003) Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, New York: Routledge.
  • McClintock, Anne (1995). Imperial Leather. Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. Routledge, London.
  • Mohanty, C. T. (ed.) (1991) Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Mouffe, C. (2005) On the Political: Thinking in Action, London: Routledge.
  • Said, E. (1978) Orientalism. London: Routledge 1978.
  • Said, E. (1994) Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage.
  • Spivak, G.C. (1987). In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. London and New York: Methuen.
  • Storey, J., (2001) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, Prentice Hall.
  • Talal, A. (1993) Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Talal, A. (2003) Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford University Press.
  • Young, R. (1990) White Mythologies: Writing History and the West.
  • Williams, R. (1982). The Sociology of Culture. New York: Schocken Books.
  • Wolff, J. (2002) Why Read Marx Today? Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules