Communication And Culture | Media, Politics, and Power
C620 | 1216 | Roopali Mukherjee


Topic: The State as Cultural Text
Class meeting: W 4:00-6:30 pm MJ112
Screenings: W 6:30-8:30 pm MJ124

Crosslisted with Culture Studies and American Studies

Whether or not we may be witnessing its death at the hands of global
capitalism as some have argued, the state remains a profoundly mythic
entity. Beyond its politico-economic apparatuses of power, popular
imaginaries of the state as oppressor and benefactor, as vulnerable
and valiant, as heroic and villainous locate the state as a creature
of cultural discourses and popular imaginations. How might we
approach the range of cultural positions that the state occupies to
make sense of how they have come into historical being, in what ways
they have changed over time, and why they command such profound
emotional legitimacy? What is it about these imaginings, as Benedict
Anderson has asked, that makes people love and die for nations, as
well as hate and kill in their name?

We begin with theoretical readings on the concept of the state and
state power by Marx, Gramsci, and Althusser. Weber and Habermas offer
clarity on the concept of state rationality, and Foucault informs our
understanding of state apparatuses of security and discipline. Here
we address feminist critiques and writings by race theorists to glean
critical vocabularies on concepts of liberal democracy, citizenship,
and nationalism as they survive within the contemporary global
economy. Next, we consider a variety of cultural texts that circulate
familial metaphors of the state as mother, father, and most notably,
as Big Brother, cultural imaginaries of self and other as they have
played out from empire to nation, and mythologies of war and violence
that have lamented cultural infiltration, celebrated national
healing, and which have ultimately served to secure the mythic
stature of the state in the popular imagination.

Course readings work with a series of scheduled screenigs that
include: Triumph of the Will (Leni Reifenstahl, 1934), Mr Smith Goes
to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939), Black Narcissus (Michael Powell &
Emeric Pressberger, 1947), 1984 (Michael Anderson, 1956), The Battle
of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965), Memories of Underdevelopment
(Tomas Alea, 1968), Bush Mama (Haile Germima, 1976), the Marriage of
Maria Braun (Rainer Fassbinder, 1979), Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford
Coppola, 1979), Home and the World (Satyajit Ray, 1984), Brazil
(Terry Gilliam, 1985), Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987),
Nasty Girl (Michael Verhoeven, 1990), Land and Freedom (Ken Loach,
1995), Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999).