Working papers in cultural studies, or, the virtues of grey literature

Winter 2012

One of the more striking, if under-appreciated, aspects of publishing in cultural studies’ early days was its provisionality. It is worth remembering that the chief publishing organ of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies was not called Cultural Studies, or something similarly definitive, but rather Working Papers in Cultural Studies. By today’s standards it would likely be considered ‘grey literature’, because the work appearing there announced itself as, on some level, in process. This essay offers a detailed history of cultural studies’ early publication practices, particularly those associated with the Centre. Its purpose is to provide insight into the modes of scholarly communication through which the nascent field established itself in the 1960s and ’70s. Equally, its purpose is to use this history as a means for taking stock of the field’s apparatus of scholarly communication today. Cultural studies, the authors argue, might do well to open a space once again for less finished scholarly products - work that is as much constitutive (i.e., about community building) as it is instrumental (i.e., about conveying new research).

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NF 78 Materialities of text: between the codex and the net