Politics and Popular Culture POLITIC4179

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course begins from the premise that politics is everywhere. It is not just conducted at parliaments or at international organizations. Rather, there are political ideas and arguments in the music, books, games, films and television programs that we consume every day, and political leaders regularly make use of these cultural objects to advance their causes. Why do presidents and prime ministers compare themselves to Marvel superheroes? What can Disney movies tell us about the British Empire? How does adapting a novel into a film change its political meaning? This course introduces students to the politics of popular culture, examining how political actors have used popular culture to achieve their goals, how scholars can use popular culture to understand political movements and ideas, and how to use the tools of critical theory and cultural studies to interpret different kinds of media as political texts.


 This course may not be running this year. For further information please check the Politics and IR Moodle page or contact the subject directly.

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Essay, 2500 words (50%): a written essay, applying the methods and approaches of cultural analysis to answer an essay question interpreting the relationship between political ideas and popular culture in a particular political context. Students will be given a list of essay topics to choose from.


Group project (50%): a group project to create and produce a pop cultural text in a medium students choose (e.g. music video, film script, photo exhibit) to advance political analysis, accompanied by a one-page written reflection, demonstrating their understanding of how popular culture is or can be deployed politically.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses


Course Aims

■ To introduce students to the key schools of critical theory and cultural analysis

■ To introduce students to critical and interpretative schools of politics and international relations scholarship which draw on approaches from cultural studies

■ To enable students to observe and interpret the political meaning of texts from popular culture

■ To enable students to observe and interpret how popular culture is deployed by political actors

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Demonstrate a critical understanding of the key schools of critical theory and cultural analysis, and how they differ in their approach to interpreting cultural texts.

■ Critically analyse the political implications and meanings of cultural texts in audio, visual or textual media using different theoretical approaches

■ Critically analyse and explain the means by which and purposes for which political actors make use of cultural objects

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.