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 course begins 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 course uses the theoretical insights and analyses to explore and understand four themes in popular political culture – economy, society, environment, and conflict. The course 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 Popular Culture

3. Theorising Political 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-course Group Presentations

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. Practical Critical Social Theory

14. Final Group Presentations


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS

Learning outcome

[1] Knowledge and understanding of the discipline of political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Popular Political Culture’ encourages students to know and understand why popular culture is so important to the discipline of political science. Masters’ students studying this course will become knowledgeable with critical theories in order to understand how the powerful ideologies shape the discipline of political science, contemporary politics, and popular culture.


[2] Practical competence in employment-related activities in political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Popular Political Culture’  enables students to become competent in employment-related activities involving understanding how popular and political culture are interrelated; analysing the role of mass media; recognising popular representations of the economy, society, environment, conflict, and politics; and making sense of the ideological direction of contemporary popular political culture.


[3] Intellectual and transferable skills in political and social sciences

The masters’ elective course in ‘Popular Political Culture’ helps students develop critical thinking, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills through group-based Active Learning activities.


This masters-level Active Learning elective course requires Preparation, Participation, and Positive attitude:

Preparation means that the course uses Active Learning pedagogy with a constructive alignment between learning goals, learning activities, and assessment. Students will participate in weekly learning activities designed to ensure constructive alignment and must prepare accordingly.

Participation means that students will be participating in course-long learning activities and draft assignment writing activities.

Positive attitude means that students will constructively participate in the weekly group learning activities which form the core of the course.

Masters’ students who do not wish to learn through a constructive alignment of learning goals, learning activities, and assessment should not take this course.

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


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


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


Crow, Deserai, and Maxwell Boykoff (eds.) (2014) Culture, Politics and Climate Change: How Information Shapes our Common Future (Routledge).


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).


Eaglestone, Robert (ed.) (2018) Brexit and Literature: Critical and Cultural Responses (Routledge).


Funnell, Lisa, and Klaus Dodds (2017) Geographies, Genders and Geopolitics of James Bond (Palgrave).


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. (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).


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


Poole, Steven (2013) Trigger Happy 2.0: The Art and Politics of Videogames (Amazon).


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


Richardson, Kay,  and Ulrike Meinhof (1999) Worlds in Common?: Television Discourses in a Changing Europe (Routledge).


Robinson, Nick, (2017) Videogames, Popular Culture and World Politics (Routledge).


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. (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.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free 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

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28