"Cultural Studies" is a catch-all term for a movement that arose in American academic circles in the 1980s
that sought to decenter and deconstruct
the traditional narratives of the traditional academic disciplines by drawing upon interdisciplinary methodologies to foreground previously marginalized voices. Essentially, Cultural Studies was the putting into academic practice of the three "posts" - poststructuralism
, and postcolonialism
At its height in the late 1980s, Cultural Studies was a valuable enterprise that uncovered and brought to light previously ignored narratives - notably those of women, minorities, previously colonized peoples, and gays and lesbians - and demonstrated the utility of greater interdisciplinary integration by combining, in new and innovative ways, traditional disciplines such as history, literature, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and art. Moreover, by taking the postmodernist view that everything is a text, Cultural Studies led scholars to greatly expand the scope of their investigations to previously under-utilized sources such as film, advertisements, popular fiction, mass-market products, and anything else under the sun.
By the mid-nineties, however, Cultural Studies had begun to lose its vitality as an intellectual concept, sinking under the weight of its own arrogance and, to be brutally honest, the sheer incompetence of many of its proclaimed practitioners. By claiming everything as a text potentially subject to the purview of Cultural Studies-type analysis, the field, such as it ever was, lost its focus and became increasingly harder to define. Moreover, Cultural Studies became a huge fad in academia, such that eventually the voices of its comparatively few intelligent exponents were drowned beneath a deluge of mediocre stuides written by lesser lights who had mastered the lingo of postmodernism while missing most of the point.
In the end Cultural Studies was a victim of its own success - in discrediting the ossified, monolithic, establishment interpretations of the past, Cultural Studies itself became a monolithic establishment, and was ossified within its own terminology, which came to acquire a feeling of hackneyed cliche. Most importantly, however, the so-called "traditional disciplines" that had been so viciously assaulted by the Cultural Studies lightning storm had quietly incorporated the strengths of the Cultural Studies approach while discarding its excesses, and emerged from the 1990s stronger and more relevant than ever. Meanwhile, few serious scholars would still actively claim the label of Cultural Studies today.