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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PIED5547M Popular Culture: World politics, Society and Culture

30 creditsClass Size: 53

Module manager: Dr. Nick Robinson

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

How does popular culture shape our understanding of world politics? Does popular culture lead to increased violence? Does it denigrate women? Does it legitimate military conflict? Why do different countries produce such different types of popular culture? Why does the political establishment respond to popular culture the way it does and why do those responses vary so much? How do we understand the messages contained within popular culture and situate them in context? Popular culture is everywhere. Increasingly it is impossible to sustain the view that it is not absolutely integral to the political world in which we live. States are represented in popular culture and are frequently demonised in it. The people of the world are all consumers (and increasingly) producers of popular culture. Responding to this popular culture is being increasingly debated both socially and academically in terms of their impact and meaning. This module contributes to this debate, offering a combination of reflective thinking on how we understand the political, social and cultural impact of popular culture and considered debate into how we might better understand the messages contained within the popular culture. Perhaps, predictably an enthusiasm


This MA module is designed to allow for greater understanding of the importance of popular culture for world politics. It explores two key issues: (a) the political, social and cultural impacts of popular culture on world politics (b) and to help students to gain an ability to understand the meanings within popular culture artefacts such as films, novels, videogames, comics etc.

Learning outcomes
Specific Learning Outcomes as Mapped to Assessment Tasks:
1. Capacity to read meaning into popular cultural artefacts such as videogames, films, TV programmes, novels and comics, so probing what are the messages contained within them. [objective (b)]
2. Capacity to place popular culture in its social and political context , so asking why do particular popular cultural artefacts invoke particular political and responses [objective (b)]
3. Capacity to reflect broadly on the impact of popular culture in terms of politics, society and culture [objective (a)]
4. Capacity to reflect comparatively to understand differences between popular culture in different countries [objective (a)]


Syllabus: The module is made up of the following indicative content. The content is organised into two broad parts – these may be taught in either order.
• Introduction - What is popular culture and why should we study it in politics and IR? Sets out the origins of academic study of popular culture. Reflects on why it has been ignored by many scholars of politics and IR, covering for example the social construction of popular culture (e.g. popular culture as toys; popular culture as mass culture, as playthings vs. popular culture as the ‘new art’ etc).

Part A: Deconstructing Popular Culture in World Politics
• How to study the world politics and popular culture intersection? Sets out the key work to explore the limits of what we can learn about world politics from the study of popular culture. Covering for example the role of popular culture to expose IR theory; popular culture as shaping political understanding; popular culture a resource of state power; reflecting on the persuasive potential of popular culture; setting out a politics and IR approach to popular culture.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours277.00
Total Contact hours23.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

There are two key elements here.
(a) students are required to read the core and additional publications listed in the module bibliography in preparation for seminar discussions and coursework. This requires careful and reflective reading, note taking, summarising, preparation for class discussion, and developing a sense of a field of literature in addition to engagement with individual readings. Also, students are encouraged to use their initiative and skills of discernment in finding additional relevant material

(b) students are strongly encouraged to engage with popular cultural artefacts in order to both increase their awareness of illustrative examples for discussion in the seminars and essays. Also one of the assessment tasks requires the students to be able to offer a critical review of a particular popular cultural artefact. Thus the encounter with popular culture, and associated reading to enable them to both understand the meaning of particular popular cultural products and to place them in their political and social context will be essential
NB Students will attend just one of the four assessment workshops offered as a tutrorial.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored by attendance and participation in seminars; all students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft of both coursework assessments in advance of their formal submission. Dr. Robinson has been using audio feedback to help students with formative feedback for nearly a decade now – he is a USEF on the basis of this practice – and will continue to do this for all students. Students will also be offered the opportunity to make and appointment or attend office hours to discuss their work. Four tutorials on the assessment progress will be offered in addition to the academic curriculum (students attend one of these tutorials at a time of their choosing).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Critique1 x 2,000 End of Term assignment40.00
Essay1 x 3,000 End of Term essay60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The assessment is made up of the following: 1. Assessment 1: Is a critical review of a particular popular cultural artefact (taken from a prescribed list) in which the student is tasked with summarising its content, setting out the political, social and commercial reaction to that object, and then offering a critical review of the objects meaning. 2. Assessment 2: Is an essay which covers more macro-level themes which are central to understanding the role of popular culture in world politics.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 11:55:13


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