The Understanding Culture Toolbox

A Dismantle Resource FREE for all Patreon Subscribers!

We live in overwhelming times. There’s a lot we’re all navigating in classrooms, the workplace, among friends and family, and on social media. If you’re looking for a resource to help you and others understand the constant flood of media, information, and social contexts that make up our world, look no further: Sara and Elise have created The Understanding Culture Toolbox! 

In 2019 we unveiled the first Toolbox: Why #RepresentationMatters.  Check it out to see our detailed explanation of representation and corresponding analysis, exercises, and questions that can be used in classrooms, workshops, reading groups, or for personal growth! Our plan is to develop more of these as we expand our educational mission. These will always be available for FREE to our Patreon subscribers, and we are exploring other ways to share these learning packets with our audience. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to expand possibilities for public scholarship!

What is the Understanding Culture Toolbox?

As cultural studies advocates, we are heavily invested in what the 1960’s Brits called the “Adult Education Movement.” That is, we believe that critical, progressive work can and should continue beyond the formal education system, and doing so is essential for achieving both individual happiness and social justice. This belief is at the foundation of Dismantle Magazine and the work we do every day in classrooms and through our writing.

But we want to do more for our readers than just provide fun examples of Cultural Studies scholarship. The Understanding Culture Toolbox does this by offering learning guides to explore questions that could be best addressed with a Cultural Studies framework. 

For instance, many of us ask ourselves (and others):

Do we know if we’re reading or watching something from a reliable source? Is sustainable fashion actually possible? How can we figure out if a story is biased? Do I unconsciously contribute to racial inequality?  Why does representation matter so much? What is cultural appropriation really? How do I know whether or not my relationship is patriarchal?

With the Understanding Culture Toolbox, we don’t provide the answers — we share the tools we use so that everyone can find answers for themselves! 

What’s in the Toolbox?

  • An easy-to-understand definition of the concept (or “tool”)
  • Historical context (when and where the term emerged, how it’s evolved, what cultural critics have said about it)
  • Examples of the concept/tool in action
  • Suggested reading/viewing
  • Playlists, slideshows, and other useful resources!

What are the “Tools”?

These are theoretical concepts that allow us to understand cultural processes that shape our everyday lives, and help us address power and inequality by helping us figure out concrete political steps.

  • Representation (a preview of Part One: Why #RepresentationMatters is available now to everyone!)
  • Power
  • Discourse
  • Cultural Appropriation
  • Articulation
  • Fashion-Style-Dress
  • Ideology
  • The Circuit of Culture
  • Identity (and so-called Identity Politics)
  • Myth
  • Commutation Test
  • Encoding/Decoding

Who Will Use the Understanding Culture Toolbox?

The Understanding Culture Toolbox is primarily for educators in the broadest sense of the word. While we imagine that university professors and high school teachers will utilize the packets, we also see their utility in workplace or other professional settings. Therefore, nonprofit managers, human resources departments, or workshop leaders could draw from them to foster community and improve workers’ lives. Further, we believe that media makers, journalists, writers, artists, performers/actors, and other cultural producers will find that these frameworks can enrich their work, so there’s a great possibility for institutional use among media production companies or theater groups.

We also believe that anyone who participates in media, popular culture, fashion, and everyday life (that is, EVERYONE) could get something from using the Toolboxes. So we’ll also include instructional guides for informal learning contexts like book clubs or weekend retreats.

And we always listen to our followers! If there’s a concept or phenomenon you want to understand better, are finding trouble teaching, or are struggling with in your work or personal life, you can let us know! We’ll be sure to add it to our list and cover it in future Toolbox packets.

How Do I Get It?

You can have FREE and unlimited access if you subscribe to our Patreon at any level. And know that when you do, you’ll be supporting writers directly with your money! 

If you haven’t already, sign up for our mailing list to get updates on everything we’re doing, including the development of The Understanding Culture Toolbox.