SEMINAR: Popular political Culture

Course content

Contemporary society is dominated by cultural politics, popularised mass media, and rapidly changing political culture. How can we best understand the power of popular culture and socialised media to shape, and be shaped by, contemporary politics? The seminar beings by reviewing the major approaches of cultural theory, social theory, and political culture, arguing that critical social theories provide a means of understanding the relations between popular, political, and culture. Second, this theoretical perspective is then used to analyse popular culture and news media as expressions of popular political culture. The analysis of popular culture includes fiction, music, cinema and gaming; while the study of news media includes documentary, news, national politics and international politics. Third, the seminar uses the theoretical insights and analyses to explore and understand four themes in popular political culture – economy, society, environment, and conflict. The seminar concludes with a discussion of what the theory, analyses, and themes say about popular political culture.


Preliminary plan:

Introduction: Theorising Popular Political Culture

1. Understanding Popular Political Culture

2. Theorising Political Culture

3. Theorising Popular Culture

Analysing Popular Political Culture

4. Popular Culture in fiction and music

5. Popular Culture in cinema and gaming

6. Documentary and News Media

7. National and International News Media

8. Mid-term project presentation

Themes in Popular Political Culture

9. ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’

10. ‘There is no such thing as society’

11. ‘An inconvenient truth’

12. ‘The evil empire’

Conclusion: Practical Critical Social Theory

13. Final project presentation

14. Practical Critical Social Theory


The seminar consists of fourteen 2-hour sessions placing a heavy emphasis on cumulative series of active learning and continuous assessment. These activities and assessment include deconstruction and critique; review writing; oral presentation; poster presentation; video reviewing; designing learning activities; and essay writing.

Questions raised in the seminar include asking what are the best theories for understanding the interrelationships between popular and political culture? How are popular culture and political culture related? How does popular culture shape contemporary politics? How does contemporary politics shape popular culture? What role does the ownership and agency of mass media play in contemporary politics? How are popular cultural and media representations of the economy, society, environment and conflict political? What is the ideological direction of popular political culture?




Learning outcome

The aim of the seminar is to enable the student to:

  • Understand the interrelationships between popular culture, mass media, and political culture.

  • Present central theoretical perspectives on popular political culture

  • Apply these theoretical perspectives to studies of the interrelationships between popular culture and news media.

  • Analyse the role of popular political culture in the representation of the economy, society, environment, and conflict.

  • Use an appropriate choice of media to present project findings

  • Demonstrate the ideological basis of popular political culture

This Active Learning seminar requires Preparation, Participation, and Positive attitude.

Almond, Gabriel, and Sidney Verba (1989 [1963]) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (London: Sage).

Almond, Gabriel, and Sidney Verba (eds.) (1989) The Civic Culture Revisited (London: Sage).

Bacon-Smith, Camille (1999) Science Fiction Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).

Calhoun, Craig  (1995) Critical Social Theory: Culture, History and the Challenge of Difference(John Wiley & Sons).

Carter, Sean (2014) International Politics and Film: Space, Vision, Power (NY: Columbia University Press).

Caso, Federica, and Caitlin Hamilton (eds.) (2015) Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies (Bristol: E-International Relations Publishing).

Collin, Matthew (2015) Pop Grenade: From Public Enemy to Pussy Riot - Dispatches from Musical Frontlines (Zero Books).

Dale, Pete (2016) Popular Music and the Politics of Novelty (London: Bloomsbury).

Dittmer, Jason (2010) Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity (Lanham DM, Rowman and Littlefield).

Griffin, Penny (2015) Popular Culture, Political Economy and the Death of Feminism: Why women are in refrigerators and other stories (London: Routledge).

Hall, Stuart, Jessica Evans, and Sean Nixon (eds.) (2013) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, 2nd edn. (London: Sage).

James, Robin (2015) Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism, neoliberalism (Zero Books).

Knights, Vanessa, and Ian Biddle (2007) Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location: Between the Global and the Local (London: Ashgate).

Lipschutz, Ronnie (2010) Political Economy, Capitalism, and Popular Culture (Lanham MD, Rowman and Littlefield).

McNair, Brian (2006) Cultural Chaos: Journalism and Power in a Globalised World (London: Routledge).

McNair, Brian (2016) An Introduction to Political Communication, 6th edn. (London: Routledge).

Negrine, Ralph, and  James Stanyer (eds.) (2007) The Political Communication Reader (London: Routledge).

Nielsen, Jakob Stougaard (2016) Scandinavian Crime Fiction (London: Bloomsbury).

Orwell, George (2000) Essays (London: Penguin).

Philips, Deborah, and Katy Shaw (2013) Literary Politics: The Politics of Literature and the Literature of Politics (London: Palgrave).

Richardson, Kay, Katy Parry, and John Corner (2013) Political Culture and Media Genre (London: Palgrave).

Rose, Gillian (2016) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials, 4th edn. (London: Sage).

Sedlmayr, Gerold,  and Nicole Waller (2014) Politics in Fantasy Media: Essays on Ideology and Gender in Fiction, Film, Television and Games (Jefferson NC: McFarland).

Shaw, Katy (2015) Crunch Lit (London: Bloomsbury).

Storey, John (2015) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, 7th edn. (London: Routledge).

Storey, John (2013) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: a reader, 4th edn. (London: Routledge).

Street, John, (1997) Politics and Popular Culture (Cambridge: Polity).

Street, John (2010) Mass Media, Politics and Democracy, 2nd edn. (London: Palgrave).

Street, John, Sanna Inthorn, and Martin Scott (2016) From Entertainment to Citizenship: Politics and Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

Tagliarina, Daniel, and Robert Glover (eds.) (2013) Teaching Politics Beyond the Book: Film, Texts, and New Media in the Classroom (London: Bloomsbury).

Van Belle, Douglas (2013) A Novel Approach to Politics:  Introducing Political Science through Books, Movies, and Popular Culture, 3rd edn. (London: CQ Press/Routledge).

Van Munster, Rens, and Casper Sylvest (2015) Documenting World Politics: A Critical Companion to IR and Non-Fiction Film (London: Routledge).

van Zoonen, Liesbet (2004) Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge(Lanham MD: Rowman and Littleman).

Weber, Cynthia (2014) International relations theory: a critical introduction, 4th edn. (London: Routledge).

Wolfsfeld, Gadi (2011) Making Sense of Media and Politics (London: Routledge).

A detailed list of required readings will be provided during the seminar.

BA level in political science, international relations, or similar competences and an interest in reflections on popular political culture.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28