50 Key Terms in Contemporary Cultural Theory

Anthropocene, posthumanism, biopolitics… Terms such as these have not only become very popular in academic circles, but they are also increasingly used in public debates, catalogues of exhibitions and policy documents. Sometimes a term suddenly becomes a fashionable buzzword, only to go out of fashion as quickly as it gained attention, but there are also terms that people keep on using because they help us to understand something important about contemporary society.

finale cover 50 Key Terms croppedIn the book 50 Key Terms in Contemporary Cultural Theory, edited by Joost de Bloois, Stijn De Cauwer and Anneleen Masschelein, 50 important terms are explained by 35 scholars. In short texts, the history and context of each term is explained, as well as the debates that the term has triggered. Each text is followed by a short bibliography for further reading. There are terms that help us to understand contemporary political challenges: precarity, immaterial labor, biopolitics, common(s), anthropocene, surveillance, debt, cultural memory, agonism, multitude, spectacle, post-truth and political theology. Some terms help us to understand new media developments: algorithm, open access, digital cultural heritage, convergence, archive and network. Other terms help us to come to terms with the diversity of human life: intersectionality, heteronormativity, posthumanism, postfeminism, postcolonialism and crip theory. Some terms are deceptively simple but they have a complex history and their use has become the object of critical research in the Humanities: love, war, life, justice, immunity, noise, image, participation, crisis, creativity, performance, rhythm, curating and that mysterious notion people like to use so easily, culture. Certain terms may be considered to be somewhat outdated in the public opinion but they have continued to be relevant in the Humanities: utopia, class and ideology. Finally, there are terms which have become much-debated theoretical terms: accelerationism, plasticity, affect, individuation, speculation, medicalization and the sensible.

Amongst the 35 authors in this book, there are several staff members of the Cultural Studies program (Anneleen Masschelein, Stijn De Cauwer, Jan Baetens, Jonas Rutgeerts, Leni Van Goidsenhoven, Silvana Mandolessi, Laura Smith, Clarissa Colangelo, Gert-Jan Meyntjens, Heidi Peeters) and the Literary Studies department (Elke D’Hoker, Tom Chadwick, Michiel Rys, Jan Vanvelk, Tom Willaert).

With this book, the authors hope to clarify the meaning and use of these 50 key terms, which can be of great value to comprehend some of the challenges we all face today. The terms are not only of interest for students or researchers, but also for policy makers, people working in the art world and other cultural domains and people active in social and environmental organizations. Anybody who wants to take part in debates about the current political, social or cultural state of affairs will inevitably encounter these terms and this book will be a useful guide.

In Leuven, the book will be available in book stores such as Acco.