Veranstalter  Lars Schmeink 
Thema  Pop/Culture/Politics: Ideology in Contemporary US Culture
Art der Veranstaltung  Seminar II
Zeit des Seminars  2st., Do 18–20 Uhr 
Raum  1219 
Beginn  Ab 07.04.16 


Seminar II am IAA der Universität Hamburg, Sommersemester 2016

Course Description

For John B. Thompson, ideology is linked to the production of meaning in hierarchical contexts and any investigation into ideology should thus be directed “towards the study of the complex ways in which meaning is mobilized for the maintenance of relations of power”. He goes on to argue that “the interpretation of ideology implies a critical potential: it opens a path for a critical reflection, not only on the everyday understanding of lay actors but also on the relations of power and domination within which these actors are enmeshed”.

The object of this course is to do just that – to investigate the critical potential of found in the power relations of everyday cultural objects, in our case specifically in contemporary US popular culture. We will start from the premise that mainstream mass-media objects are deeply entrenched in the making of “meaning in the service of power” (i.e. in ideology) and ideally suited to negotiate these struggles within US society.

The course will, accordingly, analyze issues of class, race, gender, capitalism, individualism, terror, refugees, and immigration as transported via US mainstream productions of literature, film, television, and comics. Students wishing to participate in the course should be willing to prepare a wide variety of primary texts as well as a theoretical text (varying in length and style) for each session. The seminar will be reading intensive and challenging.

Course Credit

  • Attendance (no more than two sessions missed)
  • Active participation – discussion is part of the course work
  • Sessions needs to be prepared – minimum of one text (book, film, series) will be assigned to be prepared by students on their own discretion. There will be no screenings of films/tv series. Films should be available on streaming services or in video stores. Additionally, one secondary theory text will be assigned for each session. All secondary text material will be provided as PDF via the Agora platform. Primary texts will need to be bought / rented.
  • Reader Cards: Each student will need to register with and write reader cards for the in-class sessions. For each session, reading responses of the critical texts will be required (instead of a presentation) – guiding questions/remarks will be provided. The reader cards should engage the critical texts, discuss possible questions/problems with the texts and can be ‘informal’ in style. Grading will be on intellectual engagement only, not on form.
  • Term Paper: Each student hands in a term paper (10-12 pages, PDF only) by Aug 29th via email ( Papers need to adhere to standards of academic writing (cf. handouts of the IAA) and develop a relevant thesis. Please run your topic by me first.
  • GRADE: Your grade will be a composite of the following:
    • Oral Participation and Reader Cards: 30% of grade
    • Term Paper: 70% of grade
  • AGORA Platform: Students need to register at (requires an email-address and a name; please use clear names). Search for “Pop/Culture/Politics” and register with the password “Ideology”. More info on Agora will be given in the first session.


Session Date Topic Films / Readings
I 07.04. Introduction


Selected excerpts in class
II 14.04. Ideology Varied scenes from pop culture

— Eagleton, Terry – “What is Ideology?”

III 21.04. Race Relations

(Guest Lecturer: Lima Sayed)

Crash, Dir. Paul Haggis (2004)

— tba.

IV 28.04. 9/11 and Terror Battlestar Galactica, Creat. Ronald Moore, Glen Larson (2003)

— Diken and Laustsen. “7-11, 9/11, and Postpolitics.”

05.05. Ascension Day / Fathers Day
V 12.05. Heroism and


American Sniper, Dir. Clint Eastwood (2014)

— Klassen, Alexander: “The Ethics of War Films”

19.05. Pentecost Break
VI 26.05. Authority and Lawlessness Robert Kirkman – The Walking Dead (Vol. 1)

The Walking Dead, “Days Gone By” (2010; S01E01)

— Nurse, Angus. “Asserting Law and Order Over the Mindless”

VII 02.06. Refugees and


Max Brooks – World War Z (2006) – excerpts

World War Z, Dir. Marc Forster (2013)

— Bauman, Zygmunt. “Are there too many of them?”

VIII 09.06. Sovereignty and Revolution Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games (2008)

— Pavlik, Anthony. “Absolute Power Games”

IX 16.06. Media and


The Hunger Games, Dir. Gary Ross (2012)

— Wright, Katheryn. “Revolutionary Art in the Age of Reality TV”

X 23.06. Colonization and the Indigenous Avatar, Dir. James Cameron (2009)

— Bennet, Bruce. “Loving the Alien: Indigenous Protest and Neo-Colonial Violence in James Cameron’s Avatar”

XI 30.06. Intersectionality and Ideology Frozen. Dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (2013)

— Hurley, Dorothy. “Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy Tale Princess”

XII 07.07. Violence and


Jessica Jones, Creat. Melissa Rosenberg (2015, S01 E01-E03)

— Loofbourow, Lili. “Shattering Exploration of Rape, Addiction and Control”

XIII 14.07. Underdogs and


The Social Network, Dir. David Fincher (2010)

— Read: Penny, Laurie. “Facebook, capitalism and geek entitlement”