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Cultural Studies Emph. Ph.D. Program Recommendations?

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Hi everyone! I'm new to GradCafe, so there may possibly be a better/different place for this question. I apologize if there is!

I'm currently in an English/C.S. MA program here in Florida and will be applying to Ph.D. programs for Fall 2019. I've come up with a list of programs to read a bit more into and consider, but I would love some more recommendations. My research interests involve critical race theory and post-colonial studies, especially as they pertain to slave narratives and motherhood in African American literature and popular culture (in case this helps with your recommendations).

My short list as of right now include:

UPenn, Carnegie Mellon, Umass Amherst, UC San Diego, Boston University, UC Riverside,  Boston College,  UNC Chapel Hill, and Harvard.

I'll be retaking the GRE in October and prefer not to take the Subject Test in English. My B.A. is in Political Science/ International Relations so I'm not sure it would show me in the best light.

Thanks for your input!

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Welcome, SydCaesar! You've come to exactly the right place!

Some questions for you: what angle are you approaching cultural studies from? What about the universe of cultural studies is most important to your work? Is it an emphasis on or openness to critical theory/Continental philosophy? Working with texts across media? Or more generally taking a culture, rather than a literary topic, as your main object of study, as with American Studies, Black Studies, Chicanx Studies, etc., programs? It seems to me that "cultural studies" means many things to many people, so I want to make sure I understand what articulation of it you're engaging with.

I don't know much about the programs you've listed, other than Harvard English's massive strength in your field due to Gates and others. From what you've described of your research interests, it sounds like American Studies programs, "more theoretical" English programs, and maybe a few Cultural Studies programs would all be good flavors of program to look at. (Are the programs you listed all English programs, btw?)

But if it's especially important to you to have a disciplinarily flexible, theory-heavy program and/or one that emphasizes questions of 'media,' I'd also recommend checking out:

  • UMinnesota CSDS--a Cultural Studies PhD housed in a hybrid comp lit/media studies department. Has real emphases on media and critical theory, and the affiliated faculty have eclectic and fascinating specialties, including things like critical geography. They seem to have a healthy postcolonialist bent--not sure how strong they are on African American lit or slave narratives though.
  • Duke Literature--extremely theory-heavy, and many people seem to be doing postcolonial type work there. You might look at Duke English too, which may be a better fit if the literature is more important to you than the theory.

On the American Studies/Black Studies side, it looks like UT Austin has solid programs in both--and of course their English program is excellent, and I'm sure there's a lot of potential for intellectual cross-pollination across the three departments.

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Hi - I might possibly suggest adding, to the great suggestions listed above, the University at Buffalo. 

Buffalo and Carnegie Mellon were two of my top choices this past season. I study Caribbean and Caribbean American literature and do a lot of work with critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and slave narratives. I'd say that both programs exist in the same broad wheelhouse but do, of course, differ in details and particular strengths. Buffalo may not have what you're looking for, but there are some great scholars doing excellent poco and critical race studies work there, so --- I figured I'd offer up the name. 

And if you have any questions about CMU, please don't hesitate to shoot me a PM (especially in few months, once I've actually started coursework, haha). 

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Hi there! I'd also would recommend looking into Washington University in St. Louis as an option. They have an American Culture Studies certificate which you can add on to enhance your degree in English Literature and also offer fellowships for entering students of that certificate which provides an additional year of funding. In addition to the above, I'd take a look at programs that have an African American studies major and explore if there are any additional opportunities to teach across sections.

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