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

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Unit name Understanding Popular Culture in/and World Politics
Unit code POLIM0002
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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

While International Relations (IR) as a discipline has largely ignored popular culture, this unit argues that popular culture and world politics are inextricably linked in diverse and significant ways. For example, popular culture is linked to world politics through relations of representation: e.g., we can investigate the ways in which contemporary Hollywood films depict Muslins or how a TV show like Homeland constructs the ‘global war on terror’ through gender and race. Popular culture is also a fundamental part of the global political economy: most popular culture – music, sport, television -- is produced in global/ising capitalist industries. Popular culture is a tool deployed by states, and non-state actors: 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 also helps to establish national identity: e.g., cricket in the West Indies and India has helped to construct specific post-colonial national identities.

This unit investigates various interconnections between popular culture, on the one hand, and the theories and practices of world politics, on the other. Central aims of the unit are

  1. to introduce students to the analysis of various forms of popular culture, and
  2. to relate these analyses in diverse ways to our understandings of world politics as a practice and International Relations as an inter-discipline. The course will draw upon various approaches to the analysis of popular culture (e.g., structuralism, Marxisms, Feminisms), and a range of media and texts (e.g., TV, film, advertising, music).

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. Apply a range of theoretical perspectives, methods and conceptual tool to the analysis of diverse popular cultural artefacts.
  2. Relate diverse forms and content of popular culture to diverse practices of world politics/International Relations.
  3. Formulate a precise and doable research question.
  4. Present a well-structured oral argument about diverse relations between popular culture and world politics.
  5. Present a well-structured, well-written and well-researched argument about a specific set of relationships between popular culture and world politics.

Teaching Information

One two-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

Please link the assessment to the intended learning outcomes bearing in mind that it is expected that all intended learning outcomes are assessed.

Formative assessments:

Presentation (learning outcomes #1, #2, #4)

Summative assessment:

4,000 word research paper (#1, #2, #3, #5)

Reading and References

John Storey (2012) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, 6th edition, London and New York: Pearson.

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.

Rose, Gillian, Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials, London: Sage, 2006.

Stuart Hall, ed., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997.

Karagiannopoulos, Vasileios, ‘The role of the internet in political struggles: Some conclusions from Iran and Egypt,’ New Political Science, 34(2), 2012, pp. 151-171