"The Centre for Cultural Studies brings together a remarkably diverse and engaged crowd of doers and thinkers from both the political spectrum and the artistic one for nicely heated discussions on the two."
This MA provides an intensive study in cultural and critical theory and in substantive cultural studies. Specialising in advanced theoretical inquiry, our course of study will give you a groundwork in cultural analysis that allows you, as it has countless graduates of the programme, to pursue further research in the field as well as a variety of cultural work in the world at large.
Unique in its international focus, the programme offers you essential grounding in the various methods and approaches associated with the theoretical and practical exploration of contemporary culture. You will have the opportunity to shape your programme of study in accordance with your own interests and select from a wide range of modules taught by internationally recognised research staff with expertise in Continental philosophy and aesthetics, media technologies, digital culture, art, comparative literature, and global geo-politics. Your experience on the MA will be driven by the Centre’s commitment to innovative and interdisciplinary methods, practice-led research, and meaningful engagement with contemporary culture and politics.
You will take two core modules together with a selection of individual modules, and complete a Masters dissertation. The first core course covers the breadth of advanced contemporary theory. It enables you to study the most advanced theorists of and questions surrounding the ‘new’ cultural theory represented by such figures as Foucault, Deleuze, Negri, Badiou, and Agamben.
The second core course extends this groundwork by familiarising you with the genealogy of critical theory and its basis in the history of philosophy and aesthetics. Key positions in contemporary critical discourse on art, society, politics and culture are discussed with reference to the conditions of their formulation and in context of their provenance in the history of critical thought from Kant, Hegel and Marx to Freud, Husserl, Benjamin, and Irigaray.
Alongside the core courses, you select from a range of specialist options that introduce a material focus to the theory covered – for instance, in digital and genetic media, in urban space, in the creative industries, in art and in textual, visual and audial cultures.
In addition, a team-taught seminar introduces you to the methods of cultural analysis and specialist expertise represented by the Centre's research faculty, preparing you for individual research.
After the completion of coursework, the dissertation is undertaken over the summer term, allowing you to explore your own interests in cultural analysis, and providing a solid groundwork for further study or engagement in cultural work at large.
Find out more about:
Written examination; essays; dissertation.
You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.
You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.
Applicants are encouraged to submit by 31st May, but 1st February if applying for funding. Late applications may be accepted in some circumstances. Please contact the Admissions Team for information. Find out more about funding opportunities for UK/EU students and international students.
Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.
You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at upper least second class standard in a relevant/related subject.
You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.
If your first language isn't English, you need to demonstrate a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (including 7.0 in the written element) or equivalent to enroll and study on this programme.
Please check our English language requirements for more information.
Get in touch via our online form
+44 (0)20 7919 7766
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|CU71002A||Cultural Theory||30 CATS|
This module asks the questions: What is cultural studies. and, what is culture? A wide range of cultural theory dealing with issues concerning technology, art media, philosophy, and the economy, are explored in order to address a number of connected questions that span the field of contemporary cultural studies. Can culture be understood per se or may we only ever consider cultures? What is the nature of culture and how should we try to understnad what is specific to contemporary culture? What is cultural studies in a changing order, whereby China, India, and Latin America - the East and the South - become the drivers of global change? We look at the cultural foundations of the global economy: at 'individualist' and 'relational' orders of value. We ask who this non-Western other is and again, this time wth new eyes, who is 'the West'? We enquire into the Greek and Jewish-Christian transcendental God and in the process investigagte its association with the economic culture of our age; for its messianic ethos; for its critique of law; of neoliberalism and sovereignty and its everlasting obsession with justice; we think it as well for its implicit universalism and ask the broader question: what is universalism? We look at cultures of the East (especially China) and of the South. Here, as opposed to Western ontology, are questions of conduct and 'the way'; as opposed to the Western other-worldly God, immanent this-worldly, non-monotheistic, regimes of religion. We look at the immanent and relation culture of the gift and the clan, the linguistic foundations of Chinese culture. We ask, in this context, whether a new global universalism is possible.
Taught by Professor Scott Lash
|CU71022B||Crisis and Critique||30 CATS|
What is critical theory, and whence the notion of critique as a practical stance towards the world? Using these questions as a point of departure, this module takes critical theory as its field of inquiry. Part of the module will be devoted to investigating what critique is, starting with the etymological and conceptual affinity it shares with crisis: since the Enlightenment, so one line of argument goes, all grounds for knowledge are subject to criticism, which is understood to generate a sense of escalating historical crisis culminating in a radical renewal of the intellectual and social order. We will explore the efficacy of modern critical thought, and the concept of critiqueʼs efficacy, by examining a series of attempts to narrate and amplify states of crisis—and correspondingly transform key concepts such as self, will, time, and world—in order to provoke a transformation of society. The other part of the module will be oriented towards understanding current critical movements as part of the Enlightenment legacy of critique, and therefore as studies in the practical implications of critical readings. Key positions in critical discourse will be discussed with reference to the socio-political conditions of their formation and in the context of their provenance in the history of philosophy, literature, and cultural theory. Required readings will include works by Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Benjamin and others, with suggested readings and references in lecture drawn from a variety of source materials ranging from literary and philosophical texts to visual images, film, and architecture. Students are invited to work on their individual interests with respect to the readings.
Taught by Dr Julia Ng
|CU71005A||Dissertation (Methodology and Research)||60 CATS|
The dissertation provides students with an opportunity to undertake a research project on a topic of significance to Cultural Studies, drawing on the knowledge, understanding and skills developed through the taught modules studied during the rest of the programme.
General preparation in addressing methodological questions relating to the dissertation, and training on specific research methods, are provided in a 5-week research methods module during the Spring term. This aspect of the module culminates in a 5,000 word essay/report comprised of a critical analysis of research methods.
Students then go on to conduct the research and complete the 10,000-12,000 word dissertation under the guidance of a dedicated supervisor.
|CU71008B||Interactive Media Practical Methods 1: Media Systems, Media Ecologies, Turbulence||15 CATS|
About Interactive Media Practical Methods
This module promotes a critical attitude to media; its systems, and its ecologies. We will use a series of defamiliarisation techniques to create an environment where media becomes strange again and thus a site of experimentation.
The practical methods employed are not illustrations of the theoretical, just as the theory is not a simple distillation of the practical. Our methods will become tangible speculations, prods and pokes into the mediasystems that reassemble, block, or make possible our worlds.
Your learning will be self-directed within a group environment. You will need to be totally curious and open. You will formulate questions, based on your curiosities, that are answerable through research. You will foster the ability to perceive yourself objectively and accept feedback from others about personal performance non-defensively. We encourage you to constantly diagnose your own learning needs â identifying experiences and human, material, resources to accomplish the tasks you set yourself.
Media Systems, Media Ecologies, Turbulence
Lectures and seminars will focus on diverse topics of new media such as the confluence of media and culture and their relationships within social systems, different levels of perception in cultural narratives, the production and distribution of culture, etc. Lab sessions will be dedicated to the development of small projects and the teaching of technical skills. Visiting tutors might occasionally collaborate with lecturers or workshops.
Taught by Graham Harwood
|CU71011A||Postcolonial Theory||30 CATS|
The aim of this module is to introduce you to canonical, founding texts of Postcolonialism. Close, first-hand reading of texts is emphasised and you are required to probe the whole spectrum of postcolonial thinking - from literary theory, politics, psychoanalysis, diaspora studies, race and gender studies to philosophy, art, anthropology and history. Geopolitically, the emphasis is on the non-West and on the connections, linkages and translatory cultures forged through colonisation, movements, travel and deterritorialisation. We seek to problematise the very notion of post-coloniality - understood not as a temporal marker but more as a style of thought - as a problem.
We begin with Edward Said’s Orientalism, and ponder about the founding role of discourse in shaping geopolitical destinies and historical subjectivities. That takes us into complex questions about the complicity between power and knowledge and the legacy of slavery and colonialism in the present. These discussions are pursued throughout the seminars as we proceed from Bhabha through Spivak and Gilroy to Mbembe and Povinelli. We interrogate Bhabha’s ideas of colonial ambivalence, hybridity and mimicry and read Fanon and Glissant in the light of a generalised, global unhomliness to mark out the time of the postcolonial ‘contramodernity’ (Gilroy). While reading Spivak and Povinelli, we interrogate the enunciative modalities of liberal discourse and look for strategic prohibitions within which would not let the subaltern speak. The question about agency and location is confronted headlong in Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe while in Timothy Mitchell’s Colonizing Egypt we debate the role of representation in non-western modernity. Through an interrogation of Deleuze’s idea of difference, we try to make sense of the postcolonial ‘right to difference’ in the context of the politics of multiculturalism. Other themes highlighted in the module are: empire, secularism, governmentality, multiculturalism, gender and sexual politics, representation, minorities in Europe and diaspora.
Taught by Dr Shela Sheikh
|CU71015A||Theories of the Culture Industry: Work, Creativity and Precariousness||30 CATS|
This module sets out the key theorizations of the culture industry. While incorporating classical figurations of the culture industry, the module is primarily concerned to assemble a clear engagement with contemporary research such as those spearheaded by leading researchers at Goldsmiths. The organization and substance of work and of precarious labour, of the developing debates and mechanisms of ‘intellectual property’ and cultural workers’ development of institutions and networks as well as contemporary configurations of the professional will be discussed. Students will learn to strategise cultural production and intervention through exploration of relevant material. The globalization of the culture industry will provide a persistent and ambitious point of reference.
The module will combine a critical assessment of the most significant theoretical frameworks for analyzing and understanding the contemporary cultural industries, with detailed analysis of the structure of specific cultural industries. The opening of the module will introduce key conceptual frameworks for interpreting the cultural industries, starting with the classic macro perspectives of the ‘culture industry thesis’ developed by The Frankfurt School, and Political Economy, which is concerned with the economic structure of the creative economy. These theoretical frameworks are read critically in relation to contemporary structural changes within the social world, primarily the shift from an industrial to a knowledge based economy, the rise of globalization, reorganizations in the labour market, and the proliferation of symbolic goods, brands and logos. As the module continues it draws more broadly from contemporary cultural theory in order to develop a model of the cultural industries which remains attuned to the influence of economic structure and ‘the domination of the commodity’ while being able to account also for the complex texture of innovation, creativity, and restructured power relationships which are emerging.
Convened by Dr Stefanie Petschik
|CU71016A||Practices of the Culture Industry||30 CATS|
One of the problems that the study of the culture industry presents is that in its very nature its key object of analysis, the culture industry, as a whole has the status of a theoretical or policy-oriented fiction. Such a status does not negate its analytical use, but reflection on the particularly fragile and temporary nature of the field and its associated circumscription by notions of policy need to be brought into productive comparison with actual cultural practices. Equally, those active in the field described by this term recognise the term as belonging to a separate category of knowledge than that required to succeed in the production of culture. Culture involves complex networks of production ranging from the institutional and the transnational to the interpersonal and aesthetic. Here questions of genre, of variegated economic models and ultimately of existential and aesthetic rationale, break up any treatment of the culture industry as a coherent whole. Driven by questions of practice this core module is organized around a series of more detailed analyses of specific cultural dynamics, where the theoretical models from part one are brought to bear on individual areas of practice and the ways that they can and cannot be thought of in terms of ‘industry’. The section will focus on the empirical structure of particular, methodologies for researching the culture industries, and the practice of cultural workers within these fields. In addition to lectures by academic researchers with particular expertise in music, fashion, radio and new economies, students will have access to practitioners from the fields of radio, film, music and art.
Convened by Dr Stefanie Petschick
|CU71024A||Media Philosophy||15 CATS|
Media Philosophy is taught by Prof. Scott Lash, Prof. Matthew Fuller and Dr. Luciana Parisi. This five-lecture course investigates media by a close analysis of key texts and authors in this field. We understand media as much from an engineering point of view as from a philosophical one. We look at how information and media comprise self-reproducing non-linear systems; and how this involves the interchange of information between media and ourselves as physical, social and cultural beings. This course is uncompromising in dealing with the philosophical questions underpinning contemporary media and technology and is at the same time always embedded in the critique of today's capitalist political economy.
Lectures by Professor Scott Lash, Professor Matthew Fuller and Dr Luciana Parisi
Autumn term (5 weeks after Reading week)
|CU71027A||Biopolitics & Aesthetics||15 CATS|
If, in modernity, bare life enters the stage of history and the field of politics for the first time - as the philosophers Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben have extensively argued - and we are living in a biopolitical age in which power intimately accesses and regulates this life, how do aesthetics register, mirror and contest these developments? The desire for modernist, avant-garde and critical art to burst their banks and fuse with 'everyday life', the chaos and contingency of social life, the body as a site of experience and action, parallels power's increasing need to act upon 'active subjects' and to co-opt the vitality of populations. This module will move schematically through key artists, movements and conditions of beholding, from the late 18th century until today, to explore this relationship and consider art's dual role as pioneer and antagonist of biopolitical power.
Taught by Dr Josephine Berry-Slater
Five weeks in spring term
|CU71069A||Software Studies||15 CATS|
Software Studies is specifically concerned with the inter-relation between the cultural, social, and the technical. The module provides key theoretical tools for understanding digital technologies and the software that underlies them. It provides an essential interface for modules that aim to link cultural and social concerns and practices with the technical.
Students will read and work with current and historical documents from the history of computing and computing culture, alongside those from cultural theory, as such this is be a uniquely interdisciplinary module that brings together and works through different approaches to the problematic of effective and inventive working in contemporary creative and social technologies.
Software studies is an interdisciplinary field that has emerged over the last decade amongst an international range of scholars and has a particular strength in Goldsmiths. It combines approaches from the arts, humanities and social sciences with those drawn from computing, in order to develop a creative and critical approach to the theories and practices of computing. Software is understood to be a core, yet under-theorised, aspect of contemporary culture and society. This module examines how software, and computing more broadly, is deeply implicated in the development of aesthetics, political forms, social agency and the generation of new forms of subjectivity. It follows a line of enquiry that draws together inventive critical thinking from technologists, hackers, computer scientists, philosophers, artists and cultural theorists, thus providing the context for a rich discussion on the nature of contemporary software cultures.
Students will write an essay or investigative report into a software system, a programming language, an aspect of the history of computing, work of software art, or other such topic.
Taught by Professor Matthew Fuller
First 5 weeks of the Autumn term
|CU71007A||Critical Theory (15 CATS option)||15 CATS|
This module provides an in-depth overview of key theoretical debates in the field of new media culture, and in particular computational culture. The 15 CATS module will be useful and complementary for those who would like to be introduced to these key debates but do not need to engage fully with those aspects of the module that are more specifically tailored to MA Interactive Media students: in particular topics such as cybernetics, human machine interaction, autopoiesis and telephonic networks.
In particular, it would be useful to offer this module as a 15 CATS to students attending the MA at the Centre for Cultural Studies and other Departments, especially computing, but also media and sociology.
As a 15 CATS module, Critical Theory could become fully complementary to those modules that analyse software, new media, and system theories, but do not offer an overview of the theoretical debates and the critical concepts animating them. For instance students will be only required to attend five lectures and seminars out of 10 and will be asked to write a shorter essay (3000 words).
Taught by Luciana Parisi
|CU71007A||Critical Theory (30 CATS option)||30 CATS|
This module critically engages with the philosophical, aesthetic and cultural implications of computation-based media technologies. Computation is not the same as digitalisation and rather implies an abstract capacity to order data (linear and non-linear command) and organise communication (through input/output relations of information in an environment of data) common to all media technologies. From this standpoint, interactive media are only an instance of a computational method influenced by the sciences of cybernetics, autopoeisis and system theories, and challenging notions of reason and cognition, perception and memory, emotions and affection.
The module brings together media theories (M. McLuhan, F.A. Kittler, V. Flusser to P. Weibel, L. Manovich, P. Levy, G. Lovink, M. Fuller), scientific concepts (from Shannon and Weaver, N. Wiener, A. Turing, Maturana and Varela, Bateson, Prigogine, Clark) and philosophical approaches (Serres, Deleuze and Guattari, DeLanda, Latour, Stiegler, Badiou, Plant, Harman, Stengers, Massumi, Negri) to articulate a trans-disciplinary view of computational culture and system-based modes of interactivity.
This transdisciplinary view emphasises the necessity of rethinking computation away from immaterial idealism and material empiricism to develop new concepts that can critically engage with the abstract culture generated by this fast evolving field.
This module requires you to actively participate in the seminars. In the first week, you will be (arbitrarily) divided into groups of max three to max four members to make one presentation of max 10 minutes about one or two of the key readings designated for each week. These presentations will not be assessed or impact on your overall evaluation. They are only designed to encourage participation (and self-learning) in the theoretical development of the module.
Taught by Dr Luciana Parisi
You may prefer to look through the full range of optional modules available across Goldsmiths departments. Please note that not all the modules listed below may be open to you - your final selection will depend upon spaces available and timetable compatibility.
To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.
"The Centre for Cultural Studies brings together a remarkably diverse and engaged crowd of doers and thinkers from both the political spectrum and the artistic one for nicely heated discussions on the two."
I started the MA as the only student of the group already with a background in cultural studies. Having received my BA in this field from a North American university, I initially took for granted that my experience at Goldsmiths would be a simple continuation of it – ie an interdisciplinary programme between film, performance and media studies. Yet, I couldn’t have been more wrong – for the best, luckily enough.
Building upon the different traditions of cultural studies and continental philosophy, the Centre for Cultural Studies does more than surfing on the buzzword of ‘multidisciplinarity’ and brings together a remarkably diverse and engaged crowd of doers and thinkers from both the political spectrum and the artistic one for nicely heated discussions on the two. I personally arrived there with a set of (incoherent) interests and was immediately met with spot-on feedback and thoughtful insights. I was actually even introduced by two professors to the fields of biophilosophy and computational architecture in which I am currently working with the intent of pursuing them at the PhD level in a near future.
"The Centre for Cultural Studies offers an exciting and unique research space for interrogating existing forms of knowledge. Students and researchers are relatively free to experiment with new ideas and political strategies, and exchanges can be lively, sharp and sinewy. I used my MA research here to develop much of the material for my forthcoming book with a leading political-philosophy publisher, and I met a lot of interesting people in the process. Whilst at CCS I co-organised reading groups, a conference, and edited the Nyx Noctournal publication, and I now coordinate a men's suicide prevention campaign in London."
MA Cultural Studies Course
Undergraduate degree and course: Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication
Previous job before MA: Correspondent, Panos Radio South Asia
Current Job: Senior Correspondent, India Today
“I chose the Cultural Studies course for the potential it held in widening my knowledge base, especially in media and media theory related ideas, which I hoped would help enhance my career prospects in journalism.
The course stood out for me. It was unlike other courses I had looked at, and because I had already acquired a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism, I felt the knowledge that I would gain from a course in Cultural Studies would be more relevant to me.
The course has taught me how to read philosophical and theoretical texts in a structured manner, research and write in detail on subject areas of my choice and interest, and in particular, develop a meticulous reading habit.
My favourite part of the course was organising the seminar called Unfinished Business—Undoing Cultural Studies, along with other peers from my department. The seminar dealt with a wide array of issues regarding cultural theory and how it is practiced. I was primarily involved in the making of a short-documentary which involved gaining opinions from a large spectrum of people on the question of culture. The process was a student-initiated affair, and it was a great learning experience organising the event itself.
I believe the course has helped me to develop a more analytical framework, which I can apply when possible during my work as a journalist. The theory I learnt has also helped me form more coherent arguments.
Throughout the course, I was really inspired by works such as Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari, and the theoretical texts of Michel Foucault, which I was unfamiliar with before the course commenced. A wide range of South Asian texts, including works by writers like SH Manto, also provided me with a new perspective.
In the future, I would like to have a job which enables me to produce journalistic reports and features on a consistent basis, and on a wide-array of subjects within the South Asian context.
I think for perspective students interested in this course, it would be good to know exactly how you would like to apply theory, to learn, and get informed about your chosen field before enrolling on to the course.”
Interviewed by Claire Shaw
MA Cultural Studies
Undergraduate degree and course: BSc Economics at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy
Previous job before MA: Rights Manager at Zed Books in London
Current Job: Rights Manager at Verso Books
“I chose this course because I wanted to complement my studies in economics with a more philosophical approach. I felt the course could teach me how to contextualise my work in the publishing industry within a critical interpretation of culture and cultural production, as well as improve the theoretical foundations of my writing.
I particularly liked the department of cultural studies and how it provided a truly interdisciplinary approach, while at the same time creating strong connections between philosophy, cultural theory, anthropology, sociology, art and even business studies.
I gained a deeper understanding of the various theoretical and critical approaches to cultural production during the course. This has helped me contextualise both my work and my position as a cultural consumer. I also met some very interesting people during my studies, who I hope to stay in touch with.
The course allowed me to understand the industry I work in as a field of cultural production, and how I can interact with it and with all its philosophical and political implications.
I enjoyed the courses’ scope for independence, which meant I had the time and the resources to explore and research, which was a great asset to the writing I am doing now.
During my studies, Franco Berardi ‘Bifo’ really inspired me through his writing and through our friendship, along with writer Mark Fisher who I still frequently discuss ideas with. In terms of more contemporary journals, I have found Wilful Disobedience a very worthwhile read.
The knowledge I have gained from the course has definitely made me a lot more familiar with the concepts behind the books that Verso, the company I work for, publishes.
My dream would be to live well while writing, as well as having free time to travel.
I would advise prospective students to read as much as you can and try to meet and talk with people, not just the ones on your course, and try and have a mentor/friend that you can discuss your work with.”
Interviewed by Claire Shaw
Ulises was awarded a Goldsmiths Banco Santander Scholarship
"Goldsmiths is known to be an open space for ideas, creativity and sparkling notions about art."
The first time I heard about Goldsmiths I was working for Random House in Mexico, and a few friends told me about the attitude the university had about education. Without any effort I found that they were right, as Goldsmiths is known to be an open space for ideas, creativity and sparkling notions about art. When I decided I wanted to be part of this community I was trying to comprehend the value of culture in Mexico via the publishing industry, so I thought it would be a perfect joint to study cultural studies in a place like Goldsmiths with my localized curiosity about the Mexican cultural field. I was fortunately granted the Banco Santander Scholarship, which happily allows me to focus in my studies and engage with the British culture in all its richness.
Around half of students completing this programme progress to PhD level, and others go into practical work – in the creative industries and in NGOs in a great number of countries.
High-level knowledge of cultural research; transferable skills within social and critical theory, aesthetics and performance, communication and multimedia; ethnography skills; critical appreciation of current debates in the media, the culture industries and the wider contemporary cultural environment.
Content last modified: 21 Nov 2014
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