The Culture and Politics (CULP) major is designed to provide students with a complex understanding of the relationship between culture, knowledge, and power. It aims to provide students with theoretical frameworks and analytical skills that enhance cross-cultural tolerance, social justice, and ethical leadership, in order to make a difference in a world marked by power hierarchies and cultural conflicts. Students learn to apply analytical tools from multiple fields as they practice critical reflection on self and society and enhance their analytic sophistication through collective problem-solving.
Students build their substantive expertise in the politics of culture through an in-depth foundational course that stresses fluency in a variety of theories, definitions, and genres of culture. Students then go on to assemble their own course sequence around their individually chosen topical concentrations. All students are expected to master the analytical methods and skills necessary to become thoughtful, rigorous readers and writers of scholarship on cultural power relations in the international arena.
CULP Goals and Objectives: The Purpose of the Major
What do a critical moral judgment, a parliamentary act, an earnest prayer, a patriotic poem, and a romantic movie all have in common? They are all expressions of a culture, and as such, they are shaped by the power their culture exerts on those who create them and those who perform them.
More overt exercises of power—by police, or the military, or people with formal political authority—are obvious and easy to see. But the relation between culture and power is often less visible. Culture imprints itself upon your mind and your body: it shapes the words that come out of your mouth; the way you greet others; the judgments you make about morality, religion, books, and movies; the knowledge you take for granted; the way you conceptualize yourself.
The goal of the CULP major is to make visible this power and to understand the relationship between culture, power, and knowledge. Only when it is visible can we understand the risks of power, and engage in a critique of power, of existing cultures, of the way power dictates behavior, social relations, creative activity. But this visibility also allows us to see how power makes possible any and all human action in the first place—how without cultural power, there can be no human speech; no cultural products such as art, poetry, film, literature, news, or architecture; no morality or religious practice; nor any other of the elements that define us as humans.
The CULP major aims to produce students who:
understand how power operates within the culture to produce agents with specific identities, social relations, and ways of understanding themselves and the world;
can understand theory from a variety of different disciplines, from history, sociology and anthropology to philosophy, literature, and the performing arts—and understand how power operates in each discipline;
understand cultural diversity and can think about different cultures in relation to each other;
can write clearly and persuasively, and can effectively communicate ideas orally;
are better producers of culture—whether through art, writing, photography, or some other medium of cultural production;
understand how culture can empower ordinary people as agents of change—for example, how the arts (such as music, literature, and video) can be used to raise awareness; and
are prepared for a variety of careers—whether at a bank, for the government, for an NGO, as a filmmaker, or graduate school.
Students in the Honors program will further develop these abilities, as well as their research and writing abilities, and will produce theses comparable in quality and depth to many Master’s theses.
CULP Topical Area/Concentration
CULP is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to develop an area of study specific to their interests, which is called the CULP topical area. Students are required to identify and take five courses for the CULP topical area as part of the CULP major. Hence, it’s an opportunity to design a component of the curriculum tailored to student interests. It is expected that this topic may evolve over time as majors explore topics further in their upper-level coursework.
Examples of past CULP topical areas include, but are not limited to, the following:
Cultural hybridity in the GCC
Statehood and identity in the Middle East
Identity politics, law, and marriage
Women and politics in the media
Women and children in conflict zones
Gender, religion and economic development
Psychology of addiction