Cultural studies is a new and increasingly influential field of scholarly inquiry, emerging in the second half of the twentieth century. Broadly speaking, it takes as its purview the production and circulation of meanings. Its objects of study include cultural practices of all kinds: mass media representations, consumer culture, literary texts, objects of industrial production, practices of performance and display, oppositional subcultures, and aspects of everyday life in both the present and the past. Practitioners of cultural studies seek to understand, critique, and transform cultural practices.
George Mason University's program in Cultural Studies is distinctive in several respects. Similar programs in other universities are usually departmentally based (in English, History, Sociology, or Communications), emphasizing either the humanities or the social sciences. By contrast, the Cultural Studies Program at George Mason explicitly seeks to link the social sciences and the humanities, combining methods of interpretation and explanation to explore the dynamics of intention and reception in the production, distribution, and consumption of cultural objects in their social contexts. Program faculty members are drawn from 14 disciplines, and students matriculate with prior graduate training in a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds.
Program structure is described in detail in the program bylaws, which are included with this handbook. A current list of all Cultural Studies program committee members is available in the Cultural Studies office.
The basic operating structure of the program includes:
∗ the program Director
∗ a ten-member Executive Committee, which works with the Director to set the overall course for the program;
∗ the Admissions Committee, which is responsible for student recruitment, admissions and financial aid;
∗ the Committee of the Whole, of which all faculty and students are members;
∗ and the Student Organization Committee, of which all students are members.
The Cultural Studies program administrative assistant and student assistant provide administrative support for program activities.
There are three levels of faculty membership, with different implications for participation in governance: core, active, and affiliate. The Cultural Studies Student Organization Committee (SOC) is a standing committee through which Cultural Studies students participate in the program's decision-making process. The SOC has two co-chairs elected by the students and meets twice each semester. All committees except the Executive Committee have one or more voting student members.
As with all doctoral programs, the emphasis in this program is on the development of intellectual mastery and professional competence. The most important requirements are foundation coursework (discussed in Part 1 of the Handbook); comprehensive field qualifications (Part 2); and completion of a doctoral thesis that reflects the student's ability to do original interdisciplinary work that meets professional standards (Part 3). Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language before advancing to candidacy. Students pursuing the doctorate in cultural studies must complete at least 48 credits beyond the master's degree.