POP CULTURE AND POLITICS
About this course
The course aims to introduce students to a world of politics through a non-conventional approach that posits popular culture as essentially a political matter. Throughout the course the students will confront and discuss important contemporary and historical political issues, such as feminism, nationalism, colonialism, and capitalism, by: 1) watching movies, documentaries, and cartoons coming from Japan, United States, and UK/Sri Lanka; 2) reading graphic novels coming from Iran, France, Germany, Argentina, and Bosnia-Herzegovina; and 3) listening and watching music videos coming from Latin America, Asia, and the Balkans. Having become acquainted with a range of movies, graphic novels, music-videos, and other artifacts of popular culture that informs the creation of the political, the students will leave the course with
enriched cultural capital that will allow them to think and understand the world they form an essential part of in novel ways.
We will use today’s lecture to get to know each other a bit more and also to get to know the content of the course that we will be covering during the next two weeks. Thus, before the class I encourage you to think a bit about the reasons why you have decided to participate in this course and also to consider how politics connects to your own personal lives. Also, in order to start thinking about the importance of pop culture for politics you need to watch the three following videos: Stuart Hall – Race, Gender, Class in the Media; Edward Said- Framed: The Politics of Stereotypes in News; Stuart Hall’s Representation Theory Explained. Also, please read the following two short articles: Stuart Hall obituary; Asterix- France’s Superman and Ego.
During today’s lecture we will be discussing the difficult topic of Yugoslav wars by reading a famous graphic novel called ‘Safe area Gorazde’ and written by Joe Sacco. In order to prepare for the class please read the part of the graphic novel that I have sent to your emails. Here, since we are dealing with a very delicate topic of our history I kindly ask you to remember to be respectful towards your classmates. Having in mind the difficulty of the topic that we will cover today, I also suggest you watch the following video that deals with the same topic but that approaches it in a much lighter mode: Helem Nejse – Bosna i Hercegovina. Also, in the case that you have time and that you are interested in knowing more about the issue of nationalism from a literary perspective I suggest you read Danilo Kiš: O nacionalizmu. However, remember that this last text and Helem nejse video are optional. Finally, and most importantly, while reading the graphic novel and watching the video, think about the topic of BiH (but also of Iraq and Yemen) at large. Most importantly, bring your questions for our in-class discussion.
In today’s lesson we will deal with the question of class by reading the graphic novel Red Rosa, made by Kate Evans. In order to approach this question we will explore the life and thoughts of the most famous female marxist – Rosa Luxembourg. Besides reading the part of the graphic novel that I have sent to your emails, in order to prepare for the class I encourage you to think about the meaning of class in your own life. Also, think about whether there is a class question in societies like BiH, Yemen, and Iraq. Why or why not? Why is it the case that the class politics are almost nonexistent in BiH? Does it mean that we are a classless society? Why is our political space so overtaken by nationalist worldview? Are there any actors in our public space or in your lives that talk about class? How is the class shown in your everyday life? In case you want to learn more about Rosa Luxembourg and her life you can read the following two articles: The revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg and Heroines and Feminists. Also, in the case that you are interested into portrayal of class question in BiH music check following videos: Letu Štuke – Minimalizam; Dubioza Kolektiv – Dosta; Dubioza Kolektiv – Šuti i trpi; Zoster – Ko je jamio. In a notch, during this lesson we cover the concepts of Marxism, class, class politics, and capitalism.
During our forth session we will be discussing the question of environmental politics. In order to prepare for the session please watch ‘Spirited Away’, a japanese movie made by famous director from Ghibli Studio – Hiyao Miyazaki. While watching the movie, think about the following questions: What criticism of the human treatment of the environment is made by Hiyao Mizazaki? How is this criticism made in the movie? How does the author approach the issue of capitalism in the movie and what is the connection between capitalism and environmental questions in the movie? How is environmental politics expressed in your local societies? Bring us an example of environmental politics being led in BiH. Be prepared to say something about this. Also, what other issues are made by the author in the movie? For example, how is capitalist society portrayed in the bathhouse? Here, I urge you to not only think about these questions but also to make some notes, since I will expect you to present your own views during our class discussion. Also, I expect each and every one of you to bring one question of your own making to the class. This is obligatory 😉
In today’s class, titled ‘Subaltern People and the Question of Voice in Politics’, we will listen and watch music videos coming from Latin America in order to approach the world and its narratives from the position of the oppressed sectors of society. Here, we will attempt to interrogate the problem of social construction of reality from the position of those whose voices are usually silenced in “important” academic discussions. In this sense, we will tackle the problem of social, economic, and political subalternity with the help of Latin American rap culture, which is probably the prime example of social critique expressed through pop culture. In order to start thinking about issues of political voice, subaltern marginalization and resistance, but also of the importantce of feminist standpoint epistemology and sitautional consciousness for understanding the world we live in, read Subaltern (Postcolonialism) and watch the following music videos: Calle 13 – Latinoamérica; Ana Tijoux – Shock; Portavoz feat Staylok – El Otro Chile; Portavoz – Escribo Rap con R de Revolucion; Portavoz ft Subverso – Donde Empieza la Violencia; Manu Chao – Para todos todo; Ana Tijoux – Antifa Dance. For those videos that do not have English subtitles I have emailed to you their translations into English via email. Also, if time permits I strongly encourage you to play the following game: https://laburatory.itch.io/nanopesos. In this game, you turn into a person who tries to survive with the minimum wage in Chile. GOOD LUCK!
Today’s class, titled ‘Nina Simone and the question of race in the United States’, will be divided into three parts. During the first part of the class we will go together through the reviews you made for the first week and, on the basis of this, we will agree on the direction which we will be taking during this second week of the course. Thus, it is important that those who had no chance to complete the survey so far, do it at their earliest conviencience. After we complete this task, we will move onto discussing the documentary ‘What happened Miss Simone’, which covers the life journey of an iconic music star of the US and the entire world that destabilized the image of an American society by speaking from the position of its oppressed african-american community. During the movie, I encourage you to think about the way in which race has impacted the life of Miss Simone and also to consider her own perspective on the question of race politics in this country. Also, think in what way is racial question relevant for the societies we come from? Thus, is there race in BiH or in Yemen? Why or why not? If yes, how is it shown? Those from BiH, think about whether you have any Roma friends? If not, why do you think this is the case? What does this say about our country? Attempt also to think from the Roma perspective. What does BiH mean for them? How does it feel to be Roma in this country? What do Roma think about BiH? FInally, I will also bring one surprise to the class that you will see tomorrow.
During today’s lesson we will deal with the question of Feminist politics. In order to approach this issue and prepare for our discussion tomorrow please first check the video of famous Chilean feminist art collective ‘Las Tesis’ and their denunciation of patriarchal state in Chile. In order to better understand this movement and its political significance please watch the following video and read the following article. Once you are done with this check the music-videos Bad Girls by M.I.A. and Antipatriarca by Ana Tijoux (English translation can be found here). FInally, please see the feminist instagram webpage coming from Bosnia-Herzegovina that is called ‘Sve su to Vjestice’ (They are all witches) and pick a favourite meme from this profile that you would like to share with others in class. During your homework please also think about the following questions: What is the meaning of the patriarchal macho state that Las Tesis are denouncing? What does it mean that the state is a macho patriarch? Do you think that BiH or Yemen embody a macho patriarch? Why yes or why not? How do you experience your gender position in everyday life? Is feminist politics important in BiH? Why or why not? In order to understand these questions theoretically we will also introduce feminist standpoint theory and situated knowledge issue during our class.
For today’s lesson, titled ‘Adultcentrism, Authoritarianism, and Youth in Politics’, please watch doku-series Ritam Balkana (15:00min – 27:00min), listen to music-video Kultur Shock feat Edo Majka – Sloboda (English translation can be found here), read Erogag: Sjevernokorejac odusevljen Mostarom (Momo please use google translate). Also, in order to approach the country of our fellow classmates, please check the following video: Yemeni Youth and 2011 Protests. While doing the assigned materials think about the following questions: How are you satisfied with the position of youth voice inside of political debates within BiH and Yemen? Is there youth politics in our countries? What does the Jajce student rebellion against segregated education tell us about our society? What do you think about this only example of high school rebellion against segregated education? What does freedom mean to you? Are we a free society? Or, alternatively, are there authoritarian tendencies in our society? Why or why not? How do we recognize them in our lives? Are our societies democratic? Why or why not? What would you, as youth, like to see changed in our countries?
This class will be used to review the topics and themes that we have covered during the last eight lessons. Thus, it is important that you bring two questions of your own making for discussion. These questions need to be related with something that has been discussed in our class thus far. In order to get you thinking about these themes I also want you to see 22 minutes of a brilliant Irani movie called ‘Persepolis’. By clicking on the following links, you will find chapter 1-4, chapter 5-7, chapter 8, and chapter 9.
During today’s lesson we will firstly complete our course quiz. After this, we will discuss memes that you made for our final presentation. Each participant will have to reflect what message he/she wanted to convey by his/hers meme. Also, other participants will have the opportunity to comment on the message that is being sent through a particular meme. Then, we will finish the class by reflecting on the overall process which we completed together over the course of these two weeks. In order to get you thinking about the relationship between propaganda, ideological production, and politics, which stood at the centre of our entire course, you will need to read the following text My dictator: Growing up in Caucescu’s Romania.