Note from the editors: This letter was received on March 28, 2013 and was written by Professors Elizabeth Eames and Sue Houchins
We are writing in response to the critique of cultural studies courses in Alex Daugherty’s Forum article of March 20, 2013, entitled “Short Term Needs to be Revamped.”
In addition to the article’s description found on the Bates College website, our understanding of at least one important purpose for Short Term’s curriculum is to present both faculty and students with an opportunity to experiment with new subjects of inquiry and innovative modes of analysis. We also find this five week period enables a kind of immersion in cultural texts impossible during the regular semester.
Such efforts represent state of the art in our respective disciplines. The television series The Wire and the overarching reach of The Disney Empire form part of a network of college courses across the nation.
Through the process of subjecting cultural texts to critical, anthropological and cinematic analysis, students learn to discern America’s contested beliefs and values by unearthing the cultural politics embedded in popular extended dramatic narratives. Such demystification entails delving beyond apparent surface messages to reveal underlying tensions, recurring contradictions, and even counter-hegemonic themes with respect to the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and nation.
We are profoundly aware of the growing apprehension of Bates students about the constricted job market for graduates of liberal arts colleges. In fact, President Spencer has been conducting a series of luncheon meetings for faculty entitled “Purposeful Work” to address this very issue in a variety of ways other than entirely “revamping” Short Term. As the “working group” of faculty and staff she is organizing begins to design and establish programs focused on providing employment experience, your alarm might lessen at Short Term courses whose purpose you only surmise.
As asserted on the poster publicizing a recent all-day BCDC-endorsed symposium Beyond Intellectual Profit, “studying race, gender, class, sexuality or disability make[s] you an attractive job candidate….knowledge about difference [makes you] a better doctor, lawyer, or professional…[thus] your academic career prepare[s] you for purposeful and meaningful work.”
We assert that racism, heterosexism and male domination are no “joke.” Such serious content in cultural studies courses should make no allowances for “slacking off” during short term.
Elizabeth A. Eames (Anthropology)
Sue E. Houchins (African American and American Cultural Studies)