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Cultural Studies


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


One often hears the complaint that ‘cultural differences’ stand in the way of a frictionless communication between nations, and that they complicate processes of political, diplomatic and commercial negotiations. But what, exactly, is meant by this phrase? Indeed, what is ‘culture,’ and what would it mean to truly ‘understand’ a culture? This course offers an overview of different theoretical and historical approaches to culture and cultural representations. The assumption behind the course is that cultures are never monolithic – there are always tensions between elite and mass culture, between high art and lowbrow entertainment, and between what is available in the mainstream and what is produced by subcultures. The course focuses on the present situation. Special emphasis will be on the relation of culture to language, economics, politics and society.

Course objectives

Students will

  • learn to understand culture as a dynamic field;

  • gain insight in current discussions in the field of cultural studies;

  • learn to apply concepts and methods developed in these fields in their analyses of cultural phenomena;

  • develop the cultural-analytical skills.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week; bi-weekly tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.


  • Lecture 1: Culture, Economy, Ideology (Marxism) [YH]
    Read: Barker, chapters 2 & 5
    Concepts: Culture, High Culture, Mass Culture, Popular Culture, Culture Industry, Class, Cultural Consuption, ideology, Base-Superstructure, Mode of Production, Feudalism, Capitalism, Fordism, Late Capitalism, Ideology, Hegemony, Arnold, Marx, Gramsci, Adorno, Benjamin, Althusser.

  • Lecture 2: Culture, Economy, Ideology (Marxism) 2 [YH]
    Reread: Barker, chapters 2 & 5
    Case: Capitalism, Ideology and the Culture Industry: the Case of The Superhero

  • Tutorial: Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto [excerpt]

  • Lecture 3: Culture, Language, Signs (Semiotics) [LB]
    Read: Barker, 3
    Concepts: Semiotics, Signifying Systems, Signifier-Signified, Denotation-Connotation, Code, Myths, Symbolic Order, Representation, De Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Peirce

  • Lecture 4: Culture, Language, Signs (Semiotics) 2 [LB]
    Reread: Barker, 3
    Case: Reading Magazines (Fashion, Advertisements, Photography)

  • Tutorial: Barthes, Mythologies [excerpt]

  • Lecture 5: Culture, Consumption, Subculture (Cultural Studies) [LB]
    Read Barker 2, 10, 13 [excerpts]
    Concepts: Social Formation, Creative Cosumption, Coding-Decoding, Subculture, Youth Culture, Bricolage, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Ien Ang

  • Lecture 6: Culture, Consumption, Subculture (Cultural Studies) 2 [LB]
    Reread Barker 2, 10, 13 [excerpts]
    Cases: Reading Subcultural Styles: From Skinhead to Supercute

  • Tutorial: Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (excerpts)


  • Lecture 7: Culture & Identity [LB]
    Read: Barker 7, 8, 9 [excerpts]
    Concepts: Cultural Identity, The Subject, Constructivism, Essentialism, Hybridity, Diaspora, Imagined Community, Orientalism, Sex-Gender, Performativity, Patriarchy, De Beauvoir, Butler.

  • Lecture 8: Culture & Identity 2 [LB]
    Reread: Barker 7, 8, 9 [excerpts]
    Cases: Travesty, Transvestism & Gender Performance [including excerpt taken from Paris is Burning]

  • Tutorial: bell hooks, “Is Paris Burning?”

  • Lecture 9: Culture, Power, Knowledge (Foucault) [YH]
    Read: Barker 3, 7, 9 [reprise]
    Concepts: Discourse, power-knowledge, panopticon, subjectivation, discursive construction of the body, Foucault

  • Lecture 10: Culture, Power, Knowledge (Foucault) 2 [YH]
    Read: Barker 3, 7, 9 [reprise]
    Case: Body Cultures: From Fitness to Anorexia

  • Tutorial: Michel Foucault (Interview)

  • Lecture 11: Culture, Globalisation & New Media [YH]
    Read: Barker 11, 12
    Concepts: Hypertext, Cyberactivism, Information Society, Network Society, Convergence Culture, Transmedia, New Media, Fan Culture, Network Society, Megalopolis, Urban Culture, Virtual City.

  • Lecture 12: Culture, Globalisation & New Media 2[YH]
    ReRead: Barker 11, 12
    Case: Fan Culture, Fan Art, Fan Fiction

  • Tutorial Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture (excerpt)

Assessment method

Final Exam (50%);
Midterm (20%);
Writing Assignments and Presentations (30%).

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Chris Barker, Cultural Studies; Theory and Practice (Fourth Edition) (London: Sage, 2012); Selected Readings available from Blackboard.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable