Representational Politics and culture

Representational Politics: Knowledge and the Culture Industry

(In class video: Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow)

(I may email “Strange Fruit” chapter)


1). *Kim, Angela & Yeh, Christine. “Stereotypes of Asian American

2). Bassett, Patrick. “The Model Minority: The Interplay among Myth,
Stereotype and Reality.”

3). *Czerniak, J. “Black Slave Revolt Depictions and Minority Representations in U.S. History Textbooks.”

4). Who Owns the News Media (2012). Available at:
(Surf around.)

PROCESS: introductory lecture covering the readings; a viewing of the video; question and answer period about the concepts and theories covered; (if time) we will view Why We Celebrate Columbus in small groups and do a representational analysis of it to be presented to the larger group. We will also look at Lynn Cheney’s primer on patriotism, a corporate textbook that teaches Columbus in schools today, and E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Sequence of What Every 5th Grader Needs to Know look at Columbus, Scholastic’s “Did Columbus Really Discover America?”, and National Geographic’s Language, Literacy & Vocabulary’s “Columbus and the Americas”.

INTENDED OUTCOMES: we will explore the semiotic approach to understanding and analyzing meaning and how popular culture is pedagogical/formative in shaping identities and social agency. This will include key concepts: signifier/signified, denotation/connotation, representational politics, signifying systems (all of which lead into discourse), we will also extend the definition of discourse into the work of Foucault, Bourdieu, and Gee, and explore other key concepts: counter-discourse, how ideology works to fix meaning, historical engineering, stereotypes, model-minority stereotypes, subjectivity/intersubjectivity, being the product rather than the source of meaning, cross-cultural interpretations of images, and meaning being polysemic.

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