The Cultural Politics of Universities in the U.S. Culture Wars

By Peter Phipps.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

American universities have been at the center of the ‘Culture Wars,’ which have amplified broader social trends undermining the authority of academic knowledge.

The ‘Culture Wars’ have been a feature of American cultural life for well over a decade. The ‘Culture Wars’ of the USA have been described as a contest for ‘American Civilization’. This struggle has been promoted by right-wing think tanks, and played out for the most part in the national press. One of its constant themes has been an attack on ‘political correctness’ in the academy, which it is claimed has been captured by ‘radicals’. This paper uses the example of Postcolonial Studies to argue that the debates have had the intended consequence of making academics more restrained in their public pronouncements (particularly outside their fields of expertise), and perhaps the unintended effect of amplifying broader social trends undermining the authority of expert knowledge in general, and universities in particular.

Keywords: Culture Wars, Universities, Postcolonialism, Right-Wing Think Tanks, Cultural Authority, Status of Knowledge

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.129-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 559.586KB).

Dr. Peter Phipps

Lecturer and Researcher, Global Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Peter Phipps is a researcher and lecturer in Global Studies and manager of the Globalization and Culture research project (2007-9, Global Cities Institute, His research interests include the cultural politics of postcolonialism in the culture and history wars of the USA and Australia; Indigenous-settler relations in Australia; the history of theory in anthropology; and the cultures of global tourist and religious movements. Peter is Honours Program Co-ordinator and a lecturer in the BA International Studies Program, responsible for co-ordination and delivery of four courses and supervision of a number of honours and minor masters theses. He is a core researcher and founding member of the Globalism Institute where he was Deputy Director for three years (2004-06) and managed a large international research project ( over the same period. He is Chief Investigator in a project on Indigenous cultural festivals in Australia and the Asia Pacific, Globalizing Indigeneity (2008-10, ARC with Telstra Foundation). He has co-ordinated twelve local and international conferences and forums including the annual Garma Forum of Indigenous Knowledge in Arnhem Land (Northern Territory, Australia 2002-05).


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