Culture, Power and Politics is an occasional open seminar and podcast on…culture, power and politics.

If you already basically know what it is and you just want to join the mailing or subscribe to the podcast

You can join our low-volume email newsletter / mailing list HERE

And you can subscribe to the podcast Here

If you mainly just want to know about the podcast…

The podcast started life as casual audio recordings of a live seminar series held in London. Over the years the podcast has acquired a following of its own, and we are forever planning to start releasing regular podcast-only episodes, and forever failing to get around to it. At the current time of writing (October 2022), we are again hoping to start doing this regularly before the end of the calendar year. 

If you want to know more about the live seminar series, read on….

What does it do?

It mainly explores ideas from the traditions of cultural studies and radical political theory, considering their relevance to understanding contemporary political issues, struggles and campaigns, as well as key themes in political and social history.

How is it organised?

CPP has evolved out of two parallel projects that both started in 2015. Debbie Shaw was teaching a free course on cultural studies and cultural theory at squatted and co-operative spaces in London; Jeremy Gilbert was teaching a very similar course for an audience mostly of activists from various social movements and political organisations, in the basement of the New Economics Foundation. Originally, Debbie’s course was called ‘introduction to cultural theory’ while Jeremy’s was called ‘Culture, Power and Politics’. 

Debbie and Jeremy were (and still are) colleagues at the University of East London, where they taught cultural studies together for many years. They are also both directors of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at the University of East London. They each also have a long history of activism and public education.

These started out as parallel projects, doing quite similar things for slightly different audiences. After a couple of years we basically merged them into one project, although the organisation of our activities still bears some of the traces of these slightly different trajectories. 

In a normal year, the way the programme usually work is like this:

Autumn: Introduction to Cultural Theory

In the Autumn, Debbie usually  leads a series of introductory lectures on cultural theory and cultural studies. The questions being asked in this tradition include: what  is the connection between culture and power? How do the ideas we have about what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ influence our decisions? What is gender? Cultural theory makes use of techniques from philosophy, history, sociology, human geography, anthropology and political and critical theory to examine these questions in the context of contemporary popular cultures.

The course is free because we believe not only that education should be free but that knowledge is a crucial weapon in the war against all forms of inequality. 

If you’ve never been to university, have been but miss the critical debates or are curious about who decides what counts as knowledge in the first place, we’d like to meet you. 

There is no set reading (although we’ll recommend some if you’re interested) and no essay assignments, exams or deadlines (although we’ll set some if you want to challenge yourself). All the classes are interactive and give you the chance to think about everyday life in the context of the history of ideas. We’ll provide the learning environment. The rest is up to you.

This originally came out of a free ‘Introduction to Cultural Studies’ course at Open School East, a free art school based in Hackney.

Spring / Summer: Culture, Power, and Politics 

In the Spring / Summer, Jeremy leads a series of seminars covering a range of topics in contemporary politics, cultural studies, social science and cultural theory. This can be seen as following on from Debbie’s course, but we don’t expect anyone necessarily to have attended that to be able to attend any of these seminars.

This series normally features many guest speakers, including academic, journalists and activists. It is a chance to see what’s happening at the cutting edge of current work in the fields of cultural studies, critical sociology and political theory, and how that work interacts with and helps us understand what’s going on in the wider fields of politics, culture and social change.

The idea for the Culture, Power and Politics  seminars came out of discussions amongst members of a number of different organisations and groups, including New Economy Organisers’ NetworkCompass The World Transformed,  and Demand the Impossible From the beginning our hope was for the sessions to be useful and relevant both to political activists and organisers and to others simply interested in exploring the ideas.

We also wanted them to work for people who have no prior knowledge of the subjects and for those who may be world-class experts, and everyone in between. Our idea was that if  you don’t know anything about  these subjects then feel free to come and find out. If you’re an expert – then come and join in the discussions to help others learn and to deepen your own understanding through conversation with others. We believe that all learning is collective!

Both sets of  seminars have been running in different formats and venues since 2015, and we think they have been very successful at achieving what they set out to do, so we are continuing with them.

Most of the Spring / Summer seminars to date have been recorded and podcast – go to the menu and click on podcasts to find the archive of recordings.

Usually Debbie’s Autumn seminars are not recorded BUT a lot of the material covered is the same as the material that was covered in first few sessions ever of Jeremy’s original Culture, Power and Politics, that can all be found on the podcast and previous sessions pages.

So you can basically treat the archive of ‘culture, power, politics’ podcasts as a continuous exploration of the same set of themes and ideas that Debbie normally introduces for new participants in her Autumn series. But you don’t need to have attended Debbie’s seminars to be able to follow the whole podcast series from the beginning, if you want to, because the podcast series starts with Jeremy covering most of the same topics that Debbie normally covers in her seminars. 

What’s the format of the live seminars?

This really depends on who turns up and what they want to do. Ideally we like it to be a fairly free-flowing mixture of lecture, open workshop, group discussion, skill-share and political debate.It really varies from session to session.

What topics have been covered?

You can find links to descriptions and recordings of previous sessions HERE.   So far we don’t have any of Debbie’s introductory seminars recorded, but we do have an set of introductory seminars led by Jeremy a couple of years ago in the archive.

More details please?

You can join our low-volume email newsletter / mailing list HERE

How do I join?

You can find details  of upcoming seminars by clicking on the menu icon above. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed by clicking on the link above. 

What happened during the pandemic?

For most of 2020 and 2021 nothing really happened. Debbie ran a few Zoom seminars in 2020 that weren’t recorded. In the second half of 2021, Debbie ran some introductory seminars (again, not recorded), and we also included in the podcast feed a recording of a public online seminar series hosted by the journal New Formations. Over the course of 2020-21 Jeremy also managed to record a couple of discussions on current UK politics purely for the podcast feed.

What is happening now?

BIG plans! Live seminars in London will be back summer 2023 – Jeremy is currently working with friend and colleague Jacob Mukherjee to put together a series for May-July 2023. We plan to include recordings of all these seminars in the podcast feed, hopefully which much better audio quality than in the past.

Debbie is also planning some introductory seminars for Spring 2023.

Jeremy is also planning a monthly series of online, public ‘advanced theory’ seminars with friends and colleagues Andrew Goffey & Jason Read, on the general theme of Spinozist Marxism. The plan there is for a monthly online seminar, usually featuring guest speakers, that will carry on probably for a couple of years, at a time of day that will suit people in multiple time zones, but that will also be recorded for the podcast feed. We’re planning to start this around July 2023.

And yes, Jeremy is hoping to start producing weekly or fortnightly content purely for the podcast feed before the end of 2022.

How do I stay in touch if  I don’t want to attend the next seminar (or even if I do), or if I want to know about podcasts and live events?

Again, you can join our mailing list HERE

You can also like our Facebook page.

We’re not terribly scrupulous about updating either of these resources about podcast-only content. If you want to keep updated about that, then you should subscribe to the podcast feed (see the link at the top of this page). We tend to assume that anyone who’s interested in engaging with the project mainly as a podcast series, will do that. We will update the mailing list and FB page about any live digital events that we plan. Another good way to stay in touch is just to follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jemgilbert.

Who funds all this?

Absolutely nobody. When we started doing it Debbie and Jeremy were both on good full-time academic salaries and we felt it was a public / political duty to do something like that. Since then Jeremy got made 55% redundant and the general position for academics in our end of the university sector has become extremely precarious, but we still prefer not to tie ourselves down by seeking financial support for this project. At some point Jeremy may well try to start a patreon in order to able to put aside the time to produce content exclusively for the podcast feed on a more sustained basis, but for now that isn’t necessary.

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