Andrews, D (2002) 'Coming to Terms with Cultural Studies', in Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol 26, No 1: 110 - 17.
Cultural Studies has become a major strand in the sociology of sport, but not all recent devotees properly understand the cultural studies project, and can be guilty of 'the reductive forcing of "complex conceptions into simple catch words" and the resultant trivialisation of the approach' (Andrews page 110, quoting Gottdiener). Apparently, not everything can be Cultural Studies [news to me]. The Journal of Sport and Social Issues is 'the leading forum for the dissemination of cultural studies informed sporting analyses', hence the choice of this journal to call for greater intellectual specificity, a 'more rigid and exclusive [sic] understanding' (111). This will involve engaging with 'the primary tenets and practices of the broader cultural studies project' (111). It will help rescue Cultural Studies from its 'numerous detractors' like Rojek and Turner 2000 [and me mate!].
Cultural Studies has never been dominated by a single theoretical framework, which requires us to focus instead on its 'particular intellectual sensibilities'. [My own view, in Harris 1992, is that this apparent openness and eclecticism was driven in fact by an overall project which had theoretical, political and scholastic ambitions. I call it gramscianism] We need to take into account Grossberg and his notion of 'radical contextualism' (111). This connects with Stuart Hall's 'marxism without guarantees'. This complexity is what needs to be stressed against the 'vacuous black hole of academic populism' (112). [in my view, the gramscians headed as rapidly as possible for this black hole, especially in the final phase when they were seeking connections with American analysts like Grossberg, and when academic empire-building was all that remained of the gramscian project]
Rojek and Turner accuse Hall of using ahistorical analysis, but there is an historical context according to Andrews. In particular, the cultural was best seen as a contested terrain. This required '"a different conception of ""determinacy""' (Andrews quoting Hall), to avoid economic determinism and also idealism. This new conception is captured by the phrase 'no necessary correspondence... no necessary non-correspondence' (112). [Is this a helpful and flexible term or an evasive attempt to remain sitting on the fence? See Hirst on this] As a result, each historical moment should be seen as unique, a specific conjuncture [although marxism is still to be retained in the final instance?]. For Grossberg, although there are no necessary correspondences, there are always real correspondences none the less. Hall refers to 'the levels and trajectories of determination that helped to constitute the conjuncture' [this is really his Althusserian phase, with heavy borrowings from Poulantzas. Critics said that this was not as open and exploratory as it looked, and that there was an underlying 'combinatory' mechanism that always produced what Althusserian marxism predicted in the first place -- social classes, class struggle, ideology and the rest].
Marx's Grundrisse is cited as the source of the view that there are many determinations and relations [via the Althusserian appropriation again?], and that these cannot be guaranteed in advance to produce an agreed result. In Grossberg's terms, context apparently always has a determining effect in constituting a specific events or practices.
How can this be operationalised so that we can actually do Cultural Studies? Here, we need to turn it to the concept of articulation, seen by Grossberg as 'the "methodological face of a radically contextualist theory"' (113). Apparently, the concept will also unite theory and method. Hall has defined articulation as '"the form of the connection that can make a unity of two different elements, under certain conditions. It is the linkage which is not necessary, determined, absolute and essential for all time. You have to ask, under what circumstances can a connection be forged or made?"' (Andrews page 114). [So what makes it different from empirical sociology or statistical analysis? It has to be some kind of linkage based on gramscian theory all along?]. Andrews says that society is seen as a 'fractured totality', where each form of cultural practice 'has its own relatively autonomous field of effects. Yet, the meaning and effect of any concrete practice -- its conjunctural identity -- are always over-determined by the network of relations with which it is articulated' (114). [Clear or evasive?]. Apparently, Grossberg thinks that you can identify lines or connections by mapping reality and isolating "productive relations between events" (114), [which suggests some kind of empiricism, with events and connections out there waiting to be uncovered?]. However, the context is not just out there, but is itself constituted by practices -- the context seems to be both constituted and constituting. [Really evasive by this time? Heading towards some kind of acknowledgement of Giddens and structuration theory?]. Apparently as a result of all these complexities 'Articulation, then, involves a method of reconstructing a cultural practice's conjuncture of relations, identity, and effects to produce a contextually specific map of the social formation' (114). [I rest my case]. Hall apparently sees his work as some project of construction as opposed to deconstruction [so he is a social constructivist? This 'sardonic' remark is usually what we get instead of argument with critics].
What this means for sport is that we can understand it by seeing how it is 'articulated into sets of complex social economic political and technological relationships' (115). There are no necessary correspondences here, but there are effective ones. While sports is produced by a context, it also helps to constitute one. Applying Hall would involve 'reconstructing a context within which a sporting practice, product or institution becomes understandable' (115) [understandable within the particular framework of gramscianism, presumably]. Grossberg says that researchers themselves are to forge [sic] these connections between practices and effects [as a political act? a theoretical act? in order to pursue a research programme and get funded?]. Grossberg feels that any kind of empirical method is useful, even surveys and statistics, according to Wright, quoted on page 115. The aim seems simply to '"gather more and better information, descriptions, resources, and interpretations"'. [So who actually does the magic moment where all these informational sources are articulated -- sic -- into a coherent strand in the gramscian programme? This is where underneath all the openness, there is a role for dogmatism].
Theories must must not be mobilised uncritically, however, because that would be to provide answers which are already known. Nor should theory be expected to fit exactly the reality in question. Instead it is a struggle, '"wrestling with the angels"', in one of Hall's flowery phrases (quoted on page 116). Andrews thinks that we should grapple with theory 'to see what is useful and appropriate within a particular empirical context... discarding/reworking that which is not' (116) [No different from grounded theory then? What now for the lofty criticisms of the logic of discovery expressed so eloquently by Butters in Hall and Jefferson 1976].. Finally, what this means is that we should not see sport as a coherent and united category but develop 'an explicitly contingent understanding... as an outgrowth of contextually grounded and sensitive research practice... a fluid, dynamic category, whose definition and composition is contingent on the specificities of the context' (116). [So we seem to have no guarantees, but no guidelines either? Any researcher can define sport however they like? Or will some definitions be rejected dogmatically by wheeling in some other aspect of gramscianism which they apparently lack?]. Sport means different things, and is 'a product of intersecting, multi-directional lines of articulation between the forces and practice that compose the social context' (116). There is no necessary correspondence or non-correspondence 'between sport and particular forces (i.e. the economic)' [so are we still doing marxism?]. Before going to do research we must develop 'a truly contextual sensibility' (116) [An open mind? A strategic attempt to overcome any criticism of gramscianism by manipulating the various categories?]
back to key concepts