Course Description

Part of an innovative collaboration between the American Studies and Global Studies Programs, this lower-division course brings together students from around the world to engage each other in analyses of popular culture images of America(ns). Taking advantage of the diversity of perspectives represented in the classroom, we will examine the politics of representation within a transnational context, focusing on how meanings about what constitutes America are created in different locales and circulated within and beyond the U.S.

Together, we will examine a variety of popular culture forms (e.g films, paintings, youtube clips, music, photography, television, popular music, comic books, etc.). Through these texts, we will ask: What are the political stakes of representational practices, as they act upon and reflect contested ideas about nation, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and class? How are images of America(ns) produced, circulated, and interpreted by actors across different national and local contexts?

After an opening module on analytical frameworks, the course will be structured around three broad themes. We will engage prominent representations of 1.) the U.S. as the land of Hollywood celebrity, mass consumption, and overwhelming superficiality, 2.) the U.S. as the locus of empire, occupation, and nationalist violence and 3.) the U.S. as a space of resistance, where subjects of state and economic violence use a variety of cultural forms to respond to institutionalized oppression. Guiding all of our analyses will be the cultural studies axiom that representations are never fixed or one-dimensional, as their meanings are open to contestation, multiple interpretations, and historical transformation.

Course Objectives:

  • To investigate the political nature of cultural representations, which can both reproduce and transgress hegemonic constructions of nationality, race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability.
  • To theorize images of America within a transnational context, focusing on the mutability of meaning across space and time.
  • To actively apply theories about popular culture through analyzing and interpreting a variety of cultural texts, thereby improving critical reading and writing skills

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