Communication and Culture | Media, Culture and Politics
C445 | 1089-1090 | John Lucaites

C445 Media, Culture, and Politics explores the relationship
between photojournalism and liberal-democratic public culture as it is
manifested in the United States, both historically and at the present
time.  As a form of political life, liberal-democracy articulates a
tension between the privatized demands of individuals and the public
or civic needs of communal or collective life – a tension that is
almost invisible during “normal” times, but which becomes especially
pronounced and fractious during times of “crisis.” One of the primary,
twentieth-century resources for expressing and negotiating this
tension in American democratic public culture has been
photojournalism.  The role that photojournalism played in
(re)constituting the U.S. in the wake of 9/11 – think about how your
reaction to this event was mediated by photojournalistic practices –
is only a pronounced example of an otherwise ordinary and everyday

The focus of this course is to examine the ways in which
photojournalism contributes to the production and (re)production of
political norms through its capacity to shape beliefs, motivate
action, and constitute identity during both periods of normalcy and
crisis in the United Stated.  We will explore these rhetorical and
performative dimensions of photojournalism both topically and
historically by identifying a number of recurring problems in 20th
century public life that underscore key tensions in liberal-democratic
public culture (e.g., individualism vs. collective identity, the good
war vs. the bad war, national identity v. dissent, progress v. public
risk) and considering the ways in which photo-journalistic practices
have provided resources for representing and negotiating them.  Our
emphasis will be on photographs in newspapers and magazines.  This
emphasis reflects the assumption that such media continue to function
as a significant component of the infrastructure of American public
culture and that photography in particular is playing an increasingly
important role within these media in the development of political
norms and models of civic identity.  Of course, such photojournalistic
practices cannot be divorced from the larger visual culture in which
they appear, including the conventions and resources of television
newscasts, commercial advertising, film, and popular photography.  The
course will thus include study of the use of photography in everyday
life in general as it underscores the relationship between rhetoric,
media, and political theory, as well as a variety of critical theories
and perspectives that should be useful in interpreting a wide range of

Course assignments will include 50-75 pp. of reading per
week, a number individual and group reports, and a final individual
project on “Photojournalism and American Public Culture.”