In this paper I have explored some of the histories which inevitably connect, but also differentiate, critical discourse analysis and cultural studies. I have argued that both are strongly influenced by the versions of critical theory which have been characterised as ‘postmodernism’ and ‘poststructuralism’ and that both could benefit not only from some serious engagement with the several disciplines from which their interdisciplinarity is derived but also from some further in depth exploration of the critical theory which informs them and which they have often ‘translated’ or ‘co-opted’ in reductionist ways. I have also argued that the claims sometimes made for critical discourse analysis are inflated and that without serious ethnographies and attention to the theorisation as well as research of contexts those claims cannot really be sustained. On the other hand ‘resignification’ or the cultural politics of CDA are important agendas and we need to do much more work on establishing exactly how social change can be effected through the kinds of work CDA could do. My conclusion is that we need to reframe and recontextualise the ways in which we define and perform CDA and that that will involve bringing cultural studies and critical discourse analysis together in productive new ways with other disciplinary and theoretical formations and with proper attention to the new and different global and local contexts in which we work.