Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course the student: is provided with a toolbox (made of concepts, methods and techniques) related to cultural studies; has developed basic skills for designing, conducting, and evaluating empirical researches in the field of cultural studies, with special reference to arts, music, and entertainment.

Course contents

How are data on tastes and experience collected? Is it possible to measure cultural practices and objects? How are texts, images, sounds treated when they are given in large masses of data? And what are "data" and how are they found or perhaps, rather, how are they constructed? How are the results of a research "in the field" presented and how can they be read? What role do tables, charts, diagrams or images play? And what is a research report or what literary genre does it belong to? The course introduces the logic and practice of empirical research in the field of cultural studies from a historical and critical (non-Eurocentric) perspective. It does so moving from a close reading of some exemplary research - such as The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber (1905), The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Émile Durkheim (1912), The Polish Peasant in Europe and America by Florian Znaniecki and William I. Thomas (1918-20), Argonauts of the Western Pacific, by Bronislaw Malinowski (1922), Royal Touch by Marc Bloch (1923), Patterns of Culture, by Ruth Benedict (1934), On popular music by T.W. Adorno (1941), Balinese Character, by Margaret Mead e Gregory Bateson (1942), Street Corner Society by W.F. Whyte (1955),The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman (1959), The Savage Mind by Claude Lévi-Strauss (1962), Deep play. Notes on Cockfighting in Bali by Clifford Geertz (1972), The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (1975),Resistance through Rituals, by Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (eds. 1976), Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu (1979), Reading the romance by Janice Radway (1984), Watching Dallas, by Ien Ang (1985), Club culture, by Sarah Thornton (1995). We will selectively analyze these and other books through an examination of their methods, a reflection on their epistemological assumptions, and a critical reading of the empirical evidence mobilized or produced to support their theoretical arguments. The analysis of these books will be accompanied by the reading and examination of a series of methodological texts that can help us to critically read these and other cultural researches. We will see qualitative approaches, quantitative approaches, and "mixed" approaches at work. We will see how these researchers also experimented with "arts-based" or creative methods and techniques. And we will also see how it is possible to use them to study, decades after their publication, cultural practices and tastes at the time of media and digital platforms. In fact, during the course we will also work on concrete research questions, we will prepare interview guidelines and questionnaire models, we will practice ethnographic research "in the field" by simulating research situations, we will discuss provisional research results collected. The field on which we will work is that of "culture" understood both in the humanistic sense (cultural works, the creation and consumption of art, philosophical and aesthetic ideas, etc.) and in the socio-anthropological sense (ordinary culture, daily, popular, that of the most common cultural practices such as surfing the web, reading a book, watching a video on Youtube, seeing a film, visiting a church or museum, listening to live or recorded music, chatting, eating, etc.).


M. Pickering, ed. Research Methods in Cultural Studies (Research Methods for the Arts and Humanities), ‎ Edinburgh University Press 2008


P. Saukko, Doing Research in Cultural Studies. An introduction to classical and new methodological approaches, London, SAGE 2003.



D. Lupton, Digital Sociology, London, Routledge 2014.

Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of qualitative research, London, Sage; available on the course's platform.

Ginzburg, C. (1979). Clues: Roots of a Scientific Paradigm. Theory and Society, 7(3), 273–288. http://www.jstor.org/stable/656747 (available on line on JStor)


Teaching methods

Lectures with classroom research simulations and moments of seminar discussion. An objective of the course is in fact to share knowledge, reflections and research paths (on texts, starting from texts, against texts) in the critical and participatory pedagogical approach that is typical of Cultural studies. Since this is a course held for the first time this year, the seminarial moments are also designed as opportunities for critical reflection by everyone (teacher and students) on the forms and contents of the course itself.

Assessment methods

Oral exam (it normally consists of 3 questions on topics of the course and in any case on texts in the program, plus a discussion of a short research report.)

Each student is in fact required to put into practice, with an exercise, at least one research tool - interview, participant observation, secondary analysis of statistical or textual data, etc.

It is necessary to provide a short descriptive account /report of the research exercise (report of about 1000 words and structured according to a standard articulation in three points: 1. research question, 2. research methods or method employed, 3. main results) to be presented and discussed during the exam.

Teaching tools

Texts in pdf format uploaded on the online platform of the course; teaching support videos; course slides (available at the end of the lessons)

Office hours

See the website of Marco Santoro