By Craig Fortier
Social change happens on many levels: politically, economically, socially, emotionally, and culturally. This course focuses on the interaction between the radical imagination of movements for social justice and the realm of popular culture. During the term we will explore instances of this interaction to understand how radical movements insert or find themselves in the popular imagination and how popular culture itself influences the radical imagination.
By examining popular culture in the radical imagination, we will investigate how radical subcultures enter the mainstream; how social movements resist and push back against the appropriation, corporatization, erasure, and sanitization of their material, social, and cultural production; and how individuals involved in mainstream popular culture interact with grassroots political movements.
Investigating text, video, audio, and other mediums of communication, this course seeks to develop student’s critical capacity to investigate aspects of popular culture in a social and historical context.
This course is developed under the premise that knowledge is created and generated in multiple ways (i.e. through oral traditions, poetry and music, film, sport, land-based traditions, lived experiences, spirituality & ceremony, scientific & academic research, lost traditions, fiction and science fiction etc.) and that we must resist the colonialist limits of Western ontologies that delegitimize other ways of knowing and being. As such, the readings, activities, videos, and assignments that I have curated in this course will draw on these various ways of knowing and learning. Each week will combine a mix of reading, viewing/listening, discussion, case studies, etc. These will be put into conversation with academic research, empirical evidence, and peer-reviewed journal articles.
Your lived experience and interactions with other humans, non-human beings, and the earth are foundational to engaging with the course materials. This engagement could be rooted in the communities in which you have developed relationships (i.e. work, family, social circles, social organizations, activist groups, ethnocultural and/or religious communities, recreational/artistic/sporting communities, etc.). It might also develop through active engagement in social movements/groups.
I would like to create a classroom space that opens up discussion between you and your classmates. This will be a place to grapple with the course materials in a respectful and thoughtful manner – it is not the same as Twitter or comments on Facebook – but rather a space for careful, humble, and serious discussion and debate. It should be a place where you are open to being challenged about your politics and positions, but also a space where your critiques should be tempered by your understanding that folks are entering this space with a desire to learn and change. This means that we should attempt to create a space of care, mutual respect, accountability and trust – this is very difficult to do in any social space.
While this is a space of learning, it is also a space that seeks to resist the structures of oppression that permeate our day-to-day interactions. As such, I urge all students to be self-reflexive about behaviours or comments that have been identified as patriarchal, misogynist, classist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, et cetera. This self-reflection applies to me as well. We are all in a process of learning and unlearning these logics that dominate our society, so there is no expectation here that anyone is self-actualized and perfect – all I ask is that you are mindful that how what you think, say and/or the way in which you interact with others is circumscribed by these forces.
COURSE OBJECTIVES AND LEARNING OUTCOMES
Upon successful completion of this course, students should:
a) Have knowledge of the ways in which popular culture and grassroots social movements are interrelated and influence each other.
b) Be able to produce an original piece of work that is publishable in a peer-reviewed academic journal or blog for upper level undergraduate students.
c) Have the ability to synthesize various forms of popular culture and situate them within a broader structural and intersectional social context in relation to grassroots social movement.
d) Be able to mobilize knowledge through creative workshops and skill sharing practices.