CULTSTUD-L

CULTSTUD-L began life in January 1996 as an online discussion list for a cultural studies graduate seminar offered by the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. When the course ended, there was enough interest in continuing the list to merit opening it up to a broader group of participants. Today, CULTSTUD-L has more than 2600 subscribers from over 40 different countries. More detailed information about the list (how to join, how to update your subscription information, what the list is for, etc.) can be found below.


Technical questions

Logistical questions

Intellectual questions


Technical questions

  • How do I subscribe to the list?

    Point your web browser here, click on “Subscribe or Unsubscribe,” complete the form on the subsequent page, and then click on the “Subscribe (CULTSTUD-L)” button. LISTSERV (the software that runs the list) will then send a confirmation message (with instructions on how to activate your subscription) to the email address you provided. To prevent mischievous/malicious subscriptions by third parties, your subscription will not become active until you formally confirm that you wish to subscribe to the list.


  • How do I login to the list’s web interface? And what’s all this about a password?

    To login, point your web browser here, enter your email address and password, and click on the button that says “Log in.” On the following page, click on the “Subscriber’s Corner” link in the upper lefthand corner. From there, click on the “Settings” link next to the list’s name in order to adjust your subscription settings.

    If you have not set up a LISTSERV password, or if you have forgotten or lost your password, click on the “get a new LISTSERV password” link, fill out the subsequent form, and follow the instructions.


  • Who can post messages to the list?

    Only subscribers are allowed to post messages to CULTSTUD-L, and any such posts must come from the exact address that is on record for your subscription. If you have multiple email accounts or if your subscribed email address has multiple aliases, you may have difficulties posting, since LISTSERV has no way to recognize that mail from those different (or different looking) addresses is coming from the same person.

    New subscribers will have their first few posts “moderated” by the list manager prior to distribution. This policy helps to screen out spam, advertisments, and misdirected personal messages, as well as reducing the potential for trolling and flame wars. In most cases, any “moderated” post that doesn’t clearly violate the guidelines laid out in this FAQ will be approved without any problems. [N.B.: Once upon a time, under a previous software regime for the list, the “number moderation” process was semi-automated, insofar as members were automatically cleared to post directly to the list after a fixed number of messages from them had been approved. LISTSERV doesn’t have this particular feature, and so the process of moving people from “moderated” to “unmoderated” status now depends on the list manager doing so by hand.]


  • How do I post a message to the list?

    As only subscribers are allowed to post messages to CULTSTUD-L, you should make sure you’re subscribed to the list (see above) before trying to post to it.

    Send your post as an email message to CULTSTUD-L@lists.umn.edu — it’s just that simple.

    Listmembers whose posting status is still “moderated” (see above) can still submit posts, but their messages will not be distributed to the list until they’ve been approved by the list manager.


  • How do I control the way that list messages arrive in my email?

    The default setting for CULTSTUD-L is for all posts to the list — including any that you may send yourself — to be emailed to you as soon as the server receives them. To change these settings, login as described above, and adjust your subscription options as you see fit.


  • I sent a message to the list hours ago: why haven’t I seen it yet?

    There are a few possible explanations:

    • Your posting privileges are still semi-restricted (see above) and the list manager has not vetted your post yet.
    • You sent your message from an address that isn’t (or doesn’t appear to be) subscribed to the list (see above).
    • Your post contains a file attachment of some sort — and LISTSERV automatically rejects such messages (see below for a more detailed discussion of why).
    • Your subscription is not set to send you copies of your own posts. To check on (and change) the status of your settings, follow the instructions above.
    • You’ve inadvertently sent your post to the wrong address. In theory, when this happens, you should receive an error message from wherever your post really went. Make sure your message is addressed to CULTSTUD-L@lists.umn.edu
    • The server is running slowly. Ideally, LISTSERV should deliver messages sent to it almost immediately (e.g., within a few minutes). And while LISTSERV doesn’t experience a great deal of lag, it’s still possible that we’ll experience server-related delays on occasion.
    • The server is down. If several hours have gone by and your message has still not appeared, it may mean that the server has crashed. In theory, messages sent during server downtime gather in a queue to be distributed when the server is up again — but things don’t always work out this way, especially if the server is down for more than a few hours and the backlog is extensive. If you suspect that the server might be down, please contact the list manager.

  • How do I get off the list?

    Login as described above. From there, click on the “Settings” link next to the list’s name, and then on the “Unsubscribe (CULTSTUD-L)” button at the bottom of the page.


  • How do I change my subscription to a new email address?

    Login as described above using your old address [N.B.: this simply involves typing your old address into the login form, even if you’re using a different account to access the Web]. From there, click on the “Settings” link next to the list’s name, enter your new address in the (surprise!) “Email address” form, and then click on the “Update Options” button at the bottom of the page.


  • I’ve stopped getting mail from the list altogether: what happened?

    There are several possible answers here. In rough order of likeliness, the explanation here is probably:

    • There’s been no mail sent to the list. Like many listservs, CULTSTUD-L goes through moments of relative silence — especially (though not exclusively) during summer in the Northern hemisphere, when many of the academics who comprise the bulk of the list’s subscribers are away from their email for extended periods of time.
    • Your subscription to the list has been placed on hold or cancelled. The various reasons why such a thing might happen are explained below.
    • The server is down. If you suspect this to be the case, please send the list manager a note to this effect offlist.

  • Who’s in charge here? Who do I complain to? Who do I ask for help?

    The list manager is Gil Rodman, associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota. Questions, problems, criticism, complaints, suggestions, etc. can be sent to him at gbrodman@mindspring.com.


Logistical questions

  • What’s this list for?

    This list is intended for the discussion of virtually anything pertaining to the broad and varied range of intellectual and political work known as “cultural studies” (see below for further explanation of what cultural studies is and isn’t): from conversations about works in progress to syllabi exchanges, from calls for papers to debates over cultural theory, from job announcements to discussions of what people on the list are currently reading . . . and then some.


  • Is this a moderated list?

    By and large, no. The list is configured to automatically filter out that include file attachments, but the vast majority of messages sent to the list are not screened before being distributed (the major exceptions to this policy are described above). The statements and viewpoints expressed in posts to CULTSTUD-L are not necessarily those of either the list manager or the University of Minnesota.

    On a related note, please bear in mind that CULTSTUD-L is a semi-public forum, not a one-on-one conversation, and that anything you post to the list can be read by (or at least available to) everyone subscribed to the list . . . and potentially beyond. Messages sent via email can all too easily be reproduced and circulated beyond their originally intended audience, and neither the list manager nor the University of Minnesota are responsible for consequences arising from list messages being redistributed in such a fashion.


  • Is there a length limit to posts?

    There is no hard-coded restriction on the length of posts sent to the list, but it is still bad form to send messages that are more than 15K in size. Such messages run the risk of overtaxing the server (even for a fast machine, sending a 15K message to more than two thousand subscribers takes a lot of time) and have a tendency to fill individual subscribers’ inboxes beyond their quota.

    If you have a very long message (e.g., a full-length essay, which can easily run 20-50K in size, even in plaintext format) that you’d like to share with the list, the preferred procedure is to post a short abstract to the list and ask interested parties to contact you offlist for a copy of the full text.


  • Are there any content restrictions on posts to the list?

    Again, this being an unmoderated list (more or less), there are no formal prior restraints in place here. Because the primary function of this list involves scholarly dialogue, however, commercially-oriented posts (e.g., “MAKE MONEY FAST!!!”) are not welcome. Admittedly, there are some fuzzy lines here — announcements of new and noteworthy books, journals, conferences, job openings, and the like are perfectly appropriate contributions to the list — but posts of a clearly mercantile nature are not. Announcing the publication of your new book (for instance) with a conversational post is generally acceptable, but simply forwarding the promotional information that your publisher has generated on your behalf is not a good idea. Similarly, announcements for journals (new or otherwise) are much more welcome when they recognize that listmembers are potential contributors (e.g., “send us your essays”) and not just sources of revenue (e.g., “send us your subscription orders”).


  • Okay, so there are no formal content restrictions: what are the informal ones?

    There are a few varieties of posts that have resulted in reprimands and/or loud grumbling (from the list manager and/or other subscribers), most of which are violations of general “netiquette”:

    • Flames, trolls, spam, etc. There’s sometimes a fuzzy line between spirited, intellectual argument and rude, abusive behavior. The former is more than welcome on the list, while the latter is not. Personal attacks and gratuitous insults directed towards other list members are definitely on the wrong side of the line.
    • Personal messages. Messages sent to the list find their way into the inboxes of more than two thousand people around the world: if you’re really only trying to reach one or two of those, you should send your message directly to them. N.B.: The list is configured so that the “reply” feature in most email programs will direct responses to individual posts to the whole list, not just the original sender. If your intent is to respond privately to a list message, make sure you change the address in the “To:” line of your response before sending it.
    • Other people’s personal messages. Forwarding private email from third parties without their consent, permission, and/or knowledge is simply rude. N.B.: Announcements clearly intended for public distribution — e.g., CFPs, job listings, etc. — are perfectly acceptable fare for the list.
    • Administrivia. Sending server commands (e.g., subscribe, unsubscribe) and/or requests for assistance from the list manager to the whole list is heavily frowned upon — and generally won’t get you the results you’re looking for as quickly or efficiently as you’d like.
    • Quoting previous posts in their entirety. In the interests of saving bandwidth, it’s a good idea to quote only as much from a previous post as is necessary to put your own comments/questions in their proper context. To be sure, there may be occasions when you need all of an earlier post to create that context, but (for example) tacking a one-sentence reply onto a five-paragraph post that the list received less than a day before is generally not Good Form. [N.B.: Subscribers using the “digest” feature should be especially cautious about quoting the entirety of a digest while replying to just a single message in that digest.]

  • I’ve got a class full of students who would benefit from the list. Is it okay to have them subscribe?

    Yes . . . but also don’t send flocks of students to the list without giving them some sort of guidance first. Encourage them to “lurk and learn” before they leap into the fray with quips and questions. Make sure they know some basic rules of “netiquette.” Don’t send them to the list expecting immediate help with projects that have impending deadlines. And definitely have them read the FAQ.


  • I working on a term paper/syllabus/book project/etc. Is it okay to ask for help from the list?

    Here we get into one of the grayer areas of what counts as proper list conduct. The short answer would be “Yes, if you do so carefully.” The longer answer (including what “doing so carefully” entails) follows.

    Listservs can be marvelous resources when it comes to “Calls for Help” (CFHs), and CULTSTUD-L is no exception to this rule. Even if only a tiny fraction of the list’s subscribers respond to a given CFH, the collective knowledge of those who do reply can be quite valuable when it comes to compiling lists of “films about class struggle,” “songs about witchcraft,” “sitcoms with single fathers,” and the like.

    At the same time, there’s a major difference between CFHs that actually stimulate on-list discussion (which are Good Things) and CFHs that treat the list as a pool of knowledge to be tapped at will (which aren’t so good). So here are some basic guidelines for posting CFHs to the list:

    1. Be as specific as possible about your subject. Asking for help with a project on an exceptionally broad topic (e.g., “race and music,” “changing perceptions of family,” etc.) is generally not a good idea. If you want truly productive responses to your CFH, you should give the list enough details to help out (e.g., are you concerned with a particular historical moment? geographic region? etc.) without swamping both you and the list with citations that are irrelevant to your project.
    2. Provide as much context as possible. Are you looking for information for a 4-page paper assignment? A 12-minute conference paper? A 30-page journal article? A 400-page book manuscript? A 45-minute lecture to a class of 200 frosh? Or just some stimulating reading material in an area new to you? Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (for instance) may be a wonderful suggestion in response to a CFH on the social construction of gender roles for a doctoral student working on a dissertation, but it’s probably not going to work so well for a sophomore trying to flesh out a 7-page paper.
    3. Frame your CFH in ways that might actually lead to an engaging on-list discussion. The easiest way to do this may be to say a few words about the argument you’re hoping/trying to make in whatever it is that you’re working on. Such an approach makes it possible to generate a conversation about the issues at stake in ways that asking for a simple list of citations probably won’t. Perhaps most importantly, such a discussion will probably make for better reading for the list’s subscribers than a parade of bibliography entries will — and it should be of more value to you, too. [An alternative solution to the problem of clogging up on-list bandwidth with lists of titles is to ask people replying to your CFH to do so offlist.]

  • Can I send file attachments to the list?

    No. File attachments sent to listservs tend to be a Very Bad Thing™. Why?

    • Not all subscribers have email setups that allow them read or handle attachments neatly. And the subscribers who are most likely to have these sorts of problems are also the ones who are most likely to have severely limited disk space available to them for email — and thus, even a single attachment runs the risk of exceeding their disk quota and shutting their inbox down.
    • Attachments tend to be large enough to bog the server down needlessly. Sending a 20K attachment (which is smaller than the average journal article in text form, and much smaller than that same essay in PDF form) to a list with as many subscribers as CULTSTUD-L is a very time-intensive task, even for a fast server.
    • Computer viruses can’t be transmitted via plaintext email messages . . . but they can be propagated through file attachments. And while certainly not all attachments contain viruses, the “need” to send an attachment to an entire listserv is far outweighed by the risk of sending an unsolicited, infected file to more than two thousand subscribers.

    As with long messages, if you have a file attachment (e.g., a desktop-published essay saved as a PDF) that you’d like to share with the list, the preferred procedure is to post a short description of the file to the list so that interested parties can contact you offlist for a copy.

    In theory, CULTSTUD-L is configured to automatically reject posts that include attached files — but the algorithm here may not be perfect. Subscribers who manage to circumvent the anti-attachment filters run the risk of having their subscription restricted and/or cancelled, at the list manager’s discretion.


  • I don’t seem to be subscribed to the list anymore. What happened?

    You may find yourself removed from the list if your subscribed email account generates repeated “bouncebacks” (e.g., “cannot deliver” error messages) due to “unknown user,” “unknown host,” “disk quota exceeded,” or the like. This is an automated feature of LISTSERV and should only come into play if your subscribed account bounces posts back to the server on a recurring basis for an extended period of time. Once the problem with your account is fixed (e.g., the server downtime that caused the bouncebacks ends, you get your account back under quota, etc.), you will be free to resubscribe to the list once more.

    The list manager also reserves the right to remove and/or ban people who engage in abusive or inappropriate behavior that, in his eyes, is detrimental to the overall viability of the list.

    If you think you’ve been wrongly removed from the list (for whatever reason), contact the list manager.


  • Is there an archive of previous posts to the list?

    Yes. To access the archive, log in to the list’s web interface as described above and click on the “CULTSTUD-L Home” link. Posts prior to the list’s last major software change (March 2012) are not publicly archived. Sorry.


  • I’m having problems posting to the list. Can I get the list manager to post something to the list for me?

    As a general rule, no. If you’re not a listmember and want to send something to the list, you should subscribe and post your message yourself. If you are subscribed to the list, you should sort out whatever difficulties you may be having in sending messages to the list (instructions on how to solve the most common posting problems are in this FAQ) and post your message yourself.


Intellectual questions

  • What is this thing called “cultural studies”?

    • Isn’t “cultural studies” simply another way of saying “the study of culture”?

      No. To be sure, most (if not all) instances of cultural studies somehow address the question of culture, but not all studies of culture count as cultural studies. This sort of hyper-literalness, after all, doesn’t apply to other fields: not all studies of women are examples of women’s studies, not all studies of America or Americans are examples of American studies, and so on. As it is, “studies of culture” also encompasses far too broad a turf. After all, given the range of common meanings for the term “culture,” anyone in the humanities, almost anyone in the social sciences, and a fair number of natural scientists can reasonably be said to be “studying culture” in one form or another. If this is all it takes to be doing cultural studies, then most scholars have been doing cultural studies all along — which renders the term effectively meaningless.


    • Well, then, is it fair to say that cultural studies is about the study of popular culture?

      Again, no. There are a number of university presses and wanna-be-hip bookstores (among others) who seem intent on normalizing this definition of the field through institutional fiat by simply slapping the cultural studies label onto whatever titles they sell that deal with TV, rock ‘n’ roll, and other such phenomena. Yes, cultural studies often deals with the popular, but not all studies of popular culture are examples of cultural studies. At the very least, cultural studies has traditionally had both a theoretical and political component to it that not all pop-culture-oriented scholarship can be said to share. Moreover, cultural studies doesn’t necessarily have to be about what is typically called “popular culture”: its specific objects of study can include (for example) art exhibitions, canonized literature, (post)colonial history, and other phenomena that have no clear connection to the pop culture terrain.


    • Is cultural studies linked to a specific academic discipline?

      As an inter-, multi-, and sometimes even anti-disciplinary set of projects, cultural studies has never had a disciplinary home to call its own. A partial list of fields that have historically been associated with cultural studies (in one form or another) includes:

      American Studies Communication History Psychology
      Anthropology Education Literary Criticism Rhetoric/Composition
      Black Studies English Philosophy Sociology
      Cinema Studies Ethnomusicology Political Science Women’s Studies

      Not surprisingly, however, few (if any) specific instances of cultural studies will successfully be able to cross all those disciplinary borders at once.


    • Is there a theoretical school of thought particular to cultural studies?

      While cultural studies isn’t theory-phobic, it’s also not synonymous with “critical theory.” To paraphrase Stuart Hall, cultural studies isn’t interested in theory for its own sake; rather, its commitment to theory is a pragmatic one. Theory isn’t the ultimate destination that cultural studies is trying to reach as much as it’s a territory that cultural studies must pass through in order to address the concrete, real-life questions that motivate its projects in the first place.


    • Does cultural studies have a fixed methodology?

      There is no such thing as “the cultural studies method,” and there is no single or simple answer to the question of how to do cultural studies. As Larry Grossberg puts it, “cultural studies is radically contextual,” which means (in part) that whatever questions it is trying to answer at a given point in time need to be approached using whatever method(s) are most appropriate to the specific project at hand. In one study, close readings of contemporary media texts might be the method of choice; in another, nothing less than a full-scale ethnographic project will do; in yet a third case, the most fruitful approach might entail digging through historical archives and institutional records, and so on.


    • Is cultural studies allied with a specific political position, movement, or project?

      To be sure, cultural studies is a politically-motivated project (or, more precisely, a range of them) and, historically, its politics have been leftist in nature, but not all leftist scholarship is cultural studies, and cultural studies isn’t simply the intellectual component to what is presumably a non-intellectual leftist political agenda.

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