Honors | Visualizing Citizenship (HON)
H204 | 10957 | John Lucaites


H204 Visualizing Citizenship
MW 11:15am-12:30pm
Place: TBA

This class begins with the fundamental premise that a vibrant and
effective democracy requires productive, responsible, and virtuous
citizens. This assumption begs a much larger question: what is good
citizenship?  Philosophers and academics have devoted a good deal of
energy to theorizing the virtues of citizenship, but unfortunately
(or maybe not) the vast majority of people don’t read philosophy or
academic theory. And so the problem remains: How does the ordinary
member of the polity know the good citizen when s/he encounters one?
We will address this question by asking another: What does it mean
to see or to be seen as a citizen? That is, we will focus our
attention on how a democratic public culture relies upon visual
media to model citizens and citizenship, and in the process schools
its members to see the world through the lenses of citizenship and
to be seen (i.e., to perform) as citizens. Citizenship is visualized
in numerous and often conflicting ways, using a wide variety of
media, including paintings and poster art (e.g., Norman Rockwell
prints), television programming (e.g., The West Wing, My Name is
Earl, Survivor), movies (e.g., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Legally
Blonde), and monuments and memorials (as one might find in any
Midwestern town square or in the national Mall in Washington, D.C.).
While we will have occasion to consider all of these resources and
the ways in which they provide visual models of how to see and be
seen as a citizen, our primary focus will be on photojournalism, the
quintessential public art of democratic public culture.

In particular, we will examine the ways in which photojournalism
contributes to the production and (re)production of the political
norms of citizenship through its capacity to constitute identity,
shape beliefs, and motivate action during both periods of normalcy
and crisis. We will explore the rhetorical and performative
dimensions of photojournalism both topically and historically by
identifying a number of recurring problems of citizenship in
twentieth- and twenty-first century public life  (e.g., the relative
status and responsibilities of the individual v. the community, the
differences between public and private life, performing patriotism
and dissent, etc.) and considering the ways in which
photojournalistic practices both contribute to these problems and
provide resources for engaging them. Our emphasis will be on
photographs in newspapers and magazines, as well as their
remediation in digital technologies such as the World Wide Web.
This emphasis reflects the assumption that “print” media continue to
function as a significant component of the infrastructure of U.S.
public culture and that photography in particular plays an 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 even amateur or popular
photography. The course will thus include (and in fact begin with)
the study of the use of photography in everyday life in general as
it underscores the relationship between rhetoric, media, and civic
culture.

We will read and discuss a broad range of books and articles on the
relationship between democratic public culture, citizenship, and
visual media. Students will prepare several brief essays and develop
an original research project that advances the themes of the course
with an eye to contributing to the public dialogue on what it might
mean to be a “good citizen.”