Culture Studies and Disciplinarity

I earned my Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. When asked my discipline, I simply say “rhetoric” because that’s entirely true, and it’s a shorter answer than explaining I also took courses in communications, linguistics, and political science because, well, you know, rhetoric is a really big thing encompassing all of human communication and therefore all of human action, and so I ended up studying why it’s important for students in the humanities and social sciences to write publicly.

Yeah, rhetoric.

I’m the quintessential interdisciplinary academic animal.

So I’m totally down with the idea that urban planning is/should be interdisciplinary.

Let me suggest another discipline that ought to be considered in planning the “equitable” city (or any other kind of city that strikes your rhetorical fancy): culture studies.

Because … the study of culture explains things that, say, engineering cannot (just as engineering explains things culture cannot). One of the things that culture studies explains is why, for example, the Dutch ride bicycles so much for basic transportation. I have argued many times (with success?) that their mode share has less to do with infrastructure (especially the terrible stuff in Amsterdam) and more to do with culture (I don’t agree with the spin of this article, but the importance of culture comes shining through).

So listen up urban planners: culture studies. Check into it.

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Comments 8

  1. Kagi wrote:

    Last time I checked, the (interdisciplinary) discipline you’re talking about was called “cultural studies.” No?

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 10:44 am
  2. khal spencer wrote:

    Speaking of rhetorical devices, I initially missed the “down with” and mentally read that as “down on” and was surprised you would pan the idea. Power of language and nuance, eh?

    Agree with you 100%. Brought that up in Hawaii in several contexts, one of which was when the state proposed a plan to put in a bicycle facility in Halawa Valley and I was involved as the president of the state bicycle advocacy organization, HBL. Unfortunately, the well had been poisoned to some degree by the state when the HI-DOT ran the H-3 freeway through that valley, much to the infuriation of many Native Hawaiians.

    Over at my paying job at the University, I went to a friend of mine who was a professor in Hawaiian Studies (and who is a native Hawaiian) and asked him if a bike facility could be put in with some sensitivity, given the Hawaiian traditional use of foot paths as transportation in the context of the ahupua’a land use patterns in pre-conquest Hawai’i. It kinda broke the ice, even though a dumb haole like me could never know the full nuance. At least one is trying.

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 1:55 pm
  3. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kagi … You should check more often ;-) There are several academic journals using “culture studies.” But I think there are more using “cultural studies.” I simply like the former better. I’m not sure it matters all that much as both terms are identifying the same thing.

    Khal … Interdisciplinary has taken me into many a strange new office on campus! And probably a good thing I didn’t use the current “totes” instead of “totally” :-)

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 3:14 pm
  4. Michael wrote:

    So that’s what “totes” means…

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 5:52 pm
  5. danc wrote:

    Nice framing, I thought urban planners where interested in building “bicycle culture”? Build “dutch” and bicyclists will be magically acculturated, suburbs will disappear, bike to work mode share will sky rocket (cars will be abandoned, etc). Ja, Ja!

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 7:18 pm
  6. khal spencer wrote:

    The bicycle culture movement, whatever that is, sometimes seems to me a case of trying to pour it in and it damn well has to grow, rather than asking “am I planting the right seeds for this climate zone?”

    Posted 30 Apr 2014 at 8:12 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    Ironic, considering that the original exponent of bicycle culture in the US, John Forester, is an engineer.

    Posted 01 May 2014 at 1:45 pm
  8. khal spencer wrote:

    Scientists and engineers seem to be on the shit list lately. I see that in bicycling, global change, environmental protection, etc.

    Posted 01 May 2014 at 4:20 pm