Communication and Culture | Media, Culture and Politics: Media, Social Movements, and the Politics of Representing
C445 | 14944 | Mary L. Gray
Topic: Media, Social Movements, and the Politics of Representing
Class number: 14944
Professor: Mary L. Gray
Office: 214 Mottier Hall
Scholars of communication and democratic practice suggest that the
exchange of dissenting opinions is essential to the health and
growth of an open society. Equally important is understanding the
unique role media play in registering and representing political
dissent of social movements working in and beyond the strictures of
the legislative process. Labor and anti-poverty organizing,
demonstrations against the WTO and other international political-
economic organizations, anti-war activism, the civil rights and
women’s movements, pro and anti-abortion activism, mobilizations
against police brutality, prison practices, and the death penalty,
AIDS activism, pro and anti-gay marriage efforts, and
environmentalism are among the most visible social movements. The
perspectives of these social movements are conveyed to the average
citizen primarily through media representations. Sometimes defiant,
sometimes accommodating, social movements voice political dissent
through strategies from nonviolent peace vigils and street guerrilla
theatre to murder. In complex ways, these strategies and their
public interpretation invariably engage the media. In this course,
we will examine readings organized around four questions: (1) what
is the relationship between media, public discourse, and political
dissent? (2) how are social movements organized as a form of
political dissent? (3) what strategies and tactics do activists use,
and how are they publicly interpreted vis-à-vis mass media?; (4)
what are the political, social, and cultural consequences and
possibilities of social movements’ strategic use of alternative
media? We will explore the above through a close reading of social
critics and social scientific writing on the sociology of social
movements and media studies with an eye towards current
controversies regarding uses of alternative media for political
dissent and cultural practice.
Because this is a 400-level course, it will provide a focused
interrogation of current scholarship in the field.
• Course will be a mixture of required, out-of-class film
screenings, lecture, small group discussion, and in-class individual
reflective writing; attendance will be taken and count towards final
• Authors studied will include Benedict Anderson, Wendy Brown,
Craig Calhoun, Douglas Crimp, Steve Epstein, Joshua Gamson, Nicolas
Garnham, Todd Gitlin, Erving Goffman, Larry Gross, Robert W.
McChesney, Alberto Melluci, Noël Sturgeon, and Sydney Tarrow.
• Continues themes and ideas presented in C304: Communication
and Social Conflict and C340: Rhetoric of Social Movements.
• Designed to improve students’ abilities to critically
examine the dialectic between media representations of social
movements and the possibilities for political dissent.
Assignments will include written daily reading responses, (1-2 pages
per entry), required out-of-class film screenings, group
presentations, and a final paper approximately 8-10 pages in length
or a pre-approved media production.