The Faculty of Communication and Culture's newest graduate students are breaking new ground in cultural research. MA and PhD students are The Faculty of Communication and Culture's newest graduate students are breaking new ground in cultural research. MA and PhD students are researching aspects of culture that range from blogs to Chinese ethnic minorities in the Culture and Society program - an interdisciplinary program in which students will study all the activities, artifacts, social institutions and practices that constitute culture.
The MA and PhD programs were formally launched in fall 2007. They represent an emerging field of study that uses all the programmatic areas within the Faculty of Communication and Culture to examine the relationship between culture and society.
"The graduate program in Culture and Society provides an intellectual space for students with background in these areas to look at broader based themes that cut across those programmatic discourses," says Dr. Tamara Seiler, head of the faculty's culture division.
It is just the right fit for Georgia Gaden, a PhD candidate whose research will examine blogging as an emerging genre of personal writing and how this genre contrasts with blogs that serve the interests of media outlets, politicians and corporations.
"I wanted the opportunity to study something that was actually happening around me, something I was living," says Gaden, a blogger herself. "I want to discover what are the things that shape the practice of the blogger and why do they choose to put some things on their blog and not others. They are not the unmediated, uncensored bloggers we think they are."
Gaden says the broad and diverse base of expertise within the faculty in women's studies, science technology and society and communications studies was a primary reason for coming to Calgary and this will significantly influence her research.
MA student, Joanne Schmidt also joined the program for the opportunity to study a dynamic and evolving aspect of culture. Her research will look at the way in which the Miao, one of 55 ethnic minority groups recently recognized in China, are negotiating their cultural identity.
"Until recently, China's government policy was that all its citizens were Chinese and they did not appreciate differences," says Schmidt. "But since China has opened its borders for tourism in an effort to diversify the economy, the government has realized the marketability of ethnic products, particularly Miao textiles."
Schmidt will draw on the fields of Art History, Cultural Anthropology, Museum and Heritage Studies as well as East Asian Studies to examine how the Miao are asserting their identity and renegotiating the labels that have been placed on them, through the production and marketing of their textiles.
"I want to look at Miao culture as fluid, dynamic and changing, rather than as a concrete entity, resistant to external influences. This is why it is more meaningful to use so many disciplines to study it and understand how their culture is created and recreated through their arts."