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Unit information: Popular Culture and World Politics in 2015/16

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Unit name Popular Culture and World Politics
Unit code POLI31378
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Weldes
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Although the discipline of International Relations (IR) has overwhelmingly ignored popular culture, it is the argument of this unit that popular culture and world politics are inextricably connected in a variety of different ways. For example, popular culture is connected to world politics through relations of representation: e.g., we can investigate the ways in which contemporary Hollywood films depict Muslims or how a TV show like The Wire critiques the war on terror in the guise of the war on drugs. We might, in contrast, examine the global political economy of popular culture: e.g., we might look at the globalisation of the music industry, its corporate capitalist nature, and whether it is possible for radical bands to be subversive, or not. Popular culture can also be a tool deployed by states: e.g., we might investigate how the Nazi regime in 1936 or the Beijing government in 2008 used the Olympic Games to acquire power and prestige. Popular culture is also closely related to national identity: e.g., cricket in the West Indies has been used to construct a particular post-colonial national identity. This unit examines various such interconnections between popular culture, on the one hand, and the theories and practices of world politics, on the other. A central objective of the unit is to introduce students to the analysis of popular culture in its diverse manifestations, and to relate these analyses in diverse ways to our understandings of world politics. The course will cover several approaches to the analysis of popular culture (e.g., structuralism, Marxisms, Feminisms), as well as a range of media and texts (e.g., TV, film, advertising, music).


  • to provide an introduction to some of the theoretical approaches and methods available for analysing popular culture;
  • to interrogate diverse popular cultural texts for their relations to and representations of world politics;
  • to explore various forms of intertextuality between popular culture and world politics;
  • to build upon analytical and study skills developed in previous units;
  • to develop and write a substantial research project.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • to develop an understanding of the theoretical approaches, methods and conceptual tools available for analysing popular culture (#1)
  • to develop critical reading and analytical skills, with regard to both academic and popular cultural texts and their diverse relations to world politics (#2)
  • to develop an understanding of the intertextuality of popular culture and world politics (#3)
  • to further develop the ability to integrate theoretical and empirical material in verbal and written formats (#4)
  • to extend and enhance existing verbal presentation skills (the ability to articulate concise and persuasive arguments in a well-paced and stimulating manner) (#5)
  • to extend and enhance existing writing skills (the ability to write articulately, concisely, and persuasively, in a research paper) (#6)

Teaching Information

A 1hr lecture and 2 hour seminar.

Assessment Information

  • Presentation (formative) #1, #2, #3, #4, #5
  • 3,500 word Research paper (100% summative) #1, #2, #3, #4, #6

Reading and References

  • John Storey (2006) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, 4th edition, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Jutta Weldes (Ed.) (2003) To Seek Out New Worlds: Exploring Links between Science Fiction and World Politics, New York: Palgrave.
  • Ronnie D. Lipschutz (2001) Cold War Fantasies: Film, Fiction, and Foreign Policy, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. PN1195.9.W5 LIP