Written by Tomaselli, Keyan
A Contested Terrain:
Struggle through culture
delivered in the University of Natal, Durban
24 September 1986
By Professor K. G. TOMASELLI
B.A.(Hons), M.A.(Dramatic Art) (Wits), Ph.D.Wits), MBKS
Director of the Contemporary Cultural Studies Unit
UNIVERSITY OF NATAL PRESS
It seems that the Financial Mail had advance notice of this lecture. In its 'Did you hear. . .' column, the magazine lampooning the title 'Struggle Through Culture', states: "that should really have them rolling in the aisles".' Perhaps the writer expects me to offer an impression of Pieter-Dirk Uys impersonating P. W. Botha?
The study and delimitation of culture during the twentieth century has been a hotly contested terrain. Scholars, activists and politicians have exploited the term for different purposes. The history of cultural studies is a history of the mobilisation of the term and what it means. Contemporary cultural studies itself initially arose from the literary debates around the 'high' - 'low' culture dichotomy.
Literary scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries like Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis responded to the political turbulence, moral disorder and social anarchy of the underclasses by attributing these to the break down of cultural values - "the best that has been thought and known in the world".'
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