Krieger Hall

About the Program

The Ph.D. program in Culture and Theory provides a strong theoretical and critical approach to race, gender, and sexuality studies. It is the Ph.D. graduate program that is constituted by several interdisciplinary units including African American Studies and Asian American Studies, and works integrally with the Critical Theory Emphasis. Interdisciplinary in nature and buttressed by the established strengths in critical theory at UCI, the program uses a problem-oriented approach to issues of race, gender, and sexuality in diasporic, transnational, and postcolonial contexts, as they are engaged broadly in the humanities, social sciences, and arts.

Culture and Theory and its Historical Development

In the past few decades, new approaches to the production and critique of knowledge have transformed the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. These approaches have developed all the more energetically through cross-fertilizations and reciprocal challenges within cultural studies, critical theory, area studies, and race, gender, and sexuality studies. The development of these overlapping fields has also drawn vigor from the tensions emerging within each of these fields. Cultural studies, reemerging in the 1980’s from a British Marxist scholarly tradition has moved beyond studies of popular culture to incorporate insights from feminism, critical race theory, ethnic studies, post-colonial theory, queer studies, and media studies. Issues of globalization, colonialisms, diaspora and immigration studies, as well as the study of new social movements have created new interdisciplinary knowledges and theories. Critical theory, originally conceived at UCI to include European philosophy, Frankfurt School critique, post-structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, semiotics, and Foucaldian theories of history and discourse, has been transformed by interactions with post-colonial studies and the changing nature of ethnic and gender studies. Area studies, pushed beyond its former framework restricted to the nation-state, has become transformed through the study of diasporas, globalization, and transnationalism. Race, gender, and sexuality studies, emerging through distinct and related social movements have fruitfully pushed each other to consideration of their heterogeneity and interconnectedness.

While the established disciplines have incorporated many of these developments into their own objects of study, the tensions within the fields listed above have also produced new objects of study that demand interdisciplinary methods of inquiry. The complexity of these objects of study - for instance, the social conditions for the emergence and comprehension of cultural representations based on gender and race in both the US and outside it and the interdisciplinary study of these representation in visual, written, aural and gestural productions, or the focus of this study on popular rather than elite cultures makes them irreducible to a single methodological approach or set of disciplinary assumptions. Interdisciplinary bodies of theoretical, representational and empirical studies are now deployed both to re-investigate the philosophical traditions, be they European, Asian, African, Latin American or Native American, to which they trace their genealogies, and also to investigate critically social, political, historical constructions of identity, institutional formations, and a variety of cultural productions. These fields have separately or in selected combinations led to the emergence of interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs throughout the U.S. in such areas as cultural studies, American studies, semiotics and media studies, women's studies, and ethnic studies.

Distinctive Features of the Ph.D. Program at UCI

Culture and Theory fits into the broad trend of new interdisciplinary programs that have emerged on the national and international scene, yet retains an important distinction that builds on the particular strength and reputation of the humanities at UCI. It has the distinct mission of setting into systematic dialogue critical theory and cultural studies, through gender, race, and sexuality studies. Our distinctiveness is that, unlike other interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the humanities and social sciences, the goal is to examine productively the intersections of Critical Theory with race, sexuality and gender studies through a problem-oriented approach.

The Ph.D. is part of these new developments but also utilizes existing strengths at UCI. This Ph.D. program is distinctive in that it combines the strong theoretical traditions of critical theory at UCI with new approaches within race, gender, and sexuality studies and cultural studies that are being pioneered by a growing faculty in interdisciplinary programs and departments (such as Gender and Sexuality Studies, Critical Theory Emphasis, Asian and African American Studies) at UCI. The Ph.D. program in Culture and Theory is designed to take full advantage of the combined expertise of the nationally and internationally prominent faculty at UCI whose work exemplifies the best in contemporary, critical, interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts.

UCI is particularly well-suited as a site for an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the fields of Culture and Theory. The UCI Critical Theory Emphasis is well respected internationally. UC Irvine also has important strengths in gender and ethnic studies: many leading scholars in the field, who would not be interested in working in a traditional discipline, have come to UCI. For a list of these and other faculty and their areas of expertise, please check our core and affiliate faculty lists. Asian American Studies has recently become a department with a number of faculty interested in the interdisciplinary projects that this Ph.D. would include. Gender and Sexuality Studies, also recently a department, has made hires which will make it a nationally recognized center for research on gender and transnationalism. African American Studies has also made notable hires in recent years and thus is able to contribute substantially to graduate training. In addition there are many other faculty members in other departments in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the School of the Arts who have affiliated themselves with this new proposal.

This faculty, with disciplinary and interdisciplinary humanistic and social science training, has research interests that also cross the boundaries of the US, thus bringing an interest in globalization, transnationalism and postcolonial formations into the study of race, gender and sexuality.

Program Goals

Our goal is to produce students who can bring theoretical sophistication to addressing problems in the humanities, social sciences and the arts on topics related to race, gender and sexuality studies through interdisciplinary methodologies and practices. Unlike other Ph.D. programs, we do not see this program as following any disciplinary canons but instead we wish to encourage students to develop new modes of theorizing and problem-solving. We recognize that some students may seek disciplinary training; if so, our students will work with the core and affiliate faculty in disciplinary departments to provide them with such training.

Program Handbook

The Handbook outlines the specific requirements of the graduate program including information on advisors, designated emphases, qualifying exams, required courses, dissertation writing, organizing a dissertation committee, financial aid and much more.Organized by year, it is designed to help students understand and navigate the program and University requirements for the Ph.D.