University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

Download full 2021 archive Page archived at: Thu, 23 Sep 2021 13:38:12 +1000

Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study in which culture is understood not just as textual or artistic products like books, music or films, but in the broader sense of dynamic and complexly patterned ways of life. A major in Cultural Studies introduces you to critical approaches used in the study of a wide variety of cultural forms and practices. It cultivates critical thinking and an ability to intervene in surrounding social, political and scholarly debates.

Culture shapes our understanding of who we are and the world we share. Cultural Studies explores the cultural aspects of a range of topics, including youth, race, class, nation, gender, consumption, everyday life, popular media and the environment. It will provide you with tools to analyse cultural practices, representations, identities and power.

Historically, Cultural Studies draws principally on the fields of Anthropology, Education, History, Literary Studies, Media and Communications, Philosophy, and Sociology but it now interacts closely with Law, Politics and many of the physical sciences. It has notably influenced disciplines like Literary Studies and Sociology by insisting on the importance of studying the contemporary, the popular, and the everyday.

About the major

A major in Cultural Studies will allow you to examine everyday practices in relation to systems of power and will provide you with a range of tools to analyse how meanings are produced, circulated and exchanged in cultural contexts. You will learn how to think analytically, how to question social norms, and how to share ideas in clear and persuasive ways.

The Cultural Studies major complements all forms of study in the humanities and social sciences as well as law and legal studies, the sciences, the arts, government, economics, commerce and education. It equips you to become informed and engaged critical thinkers in relation to important contemporary cultural issues and everyday experiences and it encourages good writing skills. We also train students in ethical scholarly conduct and appropriate techniques for engaging in critique. Students will understand what cultural competence means in different contexts. (Students interested in engaging with cultural diversity in particular have the option of pursuing a minor in Diversity Studies, also coordinated by the Department of Gender Cultural and Studies.) You will learn values of intellectual generosity and critical engagement without negativity or closing down discussion, through studying how power operates discursively.

Studying a major in Cultural Studies enables you to become an engaged critical thinker, informed about cultural issues and their social significance. It will prepare you for further research and graduates with majors in Cultural Studies often go on to careers in the arts, heritage and cultural sectors, legal areas, education, government, the NGO sector, and media and communications. Studying Cultural Studies also complements study in other fields of the Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as degrees in Business, Education, Psychology, and Law, as all social institutions and fields of practice have cultural dimensions.

Requirements for completion

The Cultural Studies major and minor requirements are listed in the Cultural Studies unit of study table.

Learning outcomes
No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate a confident and extensive knowledge of culture, understood as a complex and dynamic mesh of routines, rituals and practices.
2 Demonstrate understanding of questions of identity, meaning, representation and power in relation to cultural forms and processes.
3 Demonstrate skills in interpretation, textual analysis and qualitative research into cultural texts, practices and experience.
4 Research and critically analyse complex cultural issues and appreciate their significance in changing historical contexts.
5 Demonstrate the creativity, ethical integrity and intellectual acuity to construct and defend a valid cultural studies argument in a variety of scholarly formats, using different media.
6 Demonstrate the personal reflexivity and interpersonal competence to negotiate issues of cultural difference.
7 Engage with the theories, methods and source material of other disciplines, applying the theories and methods of Cultural Studies to issues encountered in interdisciplinary contexts.
Advanced coursework

How do the perspectives you bring from your studies in History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, Archaeology and Ancient History uniquely frame and explain a contemporary issue? The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry will enhance the skills and capabilities students have acquired over the course of majors undertaken within the School’s diverse departments. Students will learn how to apply research training from SOPHI’s unique disciplines, develop an interdisciplinary capacity with methodology, pose problems and consider their solutions in scenarios sourced from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Ancient History, or Gender and Cultural Studies. Emphasis is placed on developing the ability to apply methods of philosophical, historical, cultural, gender or archaeological inquiry to contemporary problem-solving and to communicate findings to non-academic and culturally diverse audiences via emerging digital media.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Cultural Studies advanced coursework units of study page.


The honours program gives students an opportunity to refine their thinking to a very high degree, pursuing an independent research topic that will be of deep interest to them. The thesis is an extended piece of research on an approved topic of the student's choosing, and is written under the individual supervision of a member of staff who will be an active researcher in their own right. The thesis gives students the experience of formulating and conducting a substantial piece of independent research, working closely with a supervisor who helps to bring their reflections and research into sharper focus. It is thus a key means of demonstrating the attributes required for further study.

The honours year consists of:

  • 18,000-20,000 word thesis on a topic devised by the student in consultation with a supervisor appointed by the department;
  • Arguing the Point, a unit which provides training in thesis research and writing and includes a series of practical research skills;
  • Participation in an honours mini-conference where constructive peer review is given and received on a 20 minute thesis presentation; and
  • A seminar unit chosen from an approved 4000-level suite.
  • The final assessment involves 60% thesis and 40% coursework (20% ATP + 20% elective seminar).

Honours admission requirements

Admission to Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Cultural Studies with an average of 70 percent or above.

Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Cultural Studies honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

More information and current contact details for academic coordinators may be found at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies website.

The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies is administered by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).