Welcome Denise Albanese--the New Director of Cultural Studies

Welcome Denise Albanese--the New Director of Cultural Studies

The Cultural Studies Program welcomes Denise Albanese as the new director!  Denise is a Professor in the Cultural Studies Program and the English Department and teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses. 

Denise received her PhD in Renaissance Literature from Stanford University and before that she received a BA from New York University after double majoring in English and Physics.  Denise’s varied interests and broad knowledge across a spectrum of academic disciplines makes her well-suited to be the director of the lone doctoral interdisciplinary program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences here at GMU. 

Students—future, current, and past—faculty, and staff, please take a moment to read the message below from Denise to get to know her and to learn about the present and future of Cultural Studies at GMU.  And if you are left wanting to know more, send a message to Denise and she will surely make time for you. 


Welcome Message from Denise Albanese

I am looking forward to serving as the third elected director of Cultural Studies. (And to be strictly accurate I’m the sixth director the program has had: the program has been well-served by the acting directorships of Deborah Kaplan, Dina Copelman, and Alison Landsberg in addition to the efforts of Mark Jacobs and Roger Lancaster.) My aim as director is, of course, to continue to build on the program’s strengths, first and foremost its status as the interdisciplinary doctoral program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, a status it has held for twenty years.  It’s nice to be able to call attention to this fact, since GMU’s ten-year plan has inter- and multi-disciplinary research coming to greater and greater prominence as part of the university’s signature. If we didn’t pave the way, precisely, certainly our decision to give the Cultural Studies program multiple foci now seems prescient.

Our program’s attitude to disciplinary intersections is capacious, but it is not open-ended: as I hope our students know by now, we principally hope to engender in them a capacity to think critically about the current conjuncture as a political, economic, and socio-cultural entity, using the methods and modes of inquiry cultural studies shares with text-based fields like English and film studies, as well as the conceptual and empirical work associated with the social sciences. Our core faculty have particular strengths in political economy, visual culture, media and popular culture, biopower and biopolitics, and gender and sexuality; we’ve fostered work in these fields even as the program is also sustained by the efforts of the more than fifty CHSS faculty associated with the program. But I’d like to see more usual offerings in fields like critical race studies and will work to get them in the rotation with some regularity.

I also hope there’s a role for critical historicism in the program, which is to say for a dialectical relationship between past and present. This desire is keeping with Susan Buck-Morss’s assertion that with the future foreclosed as a source of hope, it must be retrospection that allows us to reconstitute our place at this moment, and hence our sense of liberatory and transforming possibilities as well as of their dialectical opposites. Those who know me already know that I try to square that particular circle, to think about historicist inquiry as an intervention in the present.

But my current research is, in fact, more of the moment. I’ve been writing about affect as the compromised location of the political, for instance, and will be offering a course on Affect and Politics in 2015-2016. I am also beginning research on the Santa Fe Institute, which has been a quietly influential source of new epistemological dominants: if ostensibly unrelated fields of inquiry nevertheless share a conceptual substrate—as has been argued about, say, economic models and the biotech industries—it is because of the mathematical instruments for handling complex adaptive systems being forged at the Institute. In other words, the Foucauldian model of the historical a priori, whose point of emergence cannot and need not be determined, is being supplanted by the research profile of a definable institution whose growing influence calls out for the attention of cultural studies scholars.  There’s a nice symmetry to be found in the fact that a member of one multidisciplinary institution is turning her attention to the work of another.