Communication and Culture | Senior Seminar in Communication and Culture (Topic: Photojournalism, Politics, and Public Culture)
C401 | 14251 | Lucaites, J.

MW, 2:30 PM-3:45 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 203

Instructor: John Lucaites
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 245
Phone: 855-5411

This seminar explores the relationship between photojournalism,
politics, and the production, dissemination, and circulation of
public culture.  We will begin with the question:  What does it mean
to see and to be seen  as a citizen in contemporary, liberal-
democratic public culture?   In addressing this question we will
focus attention on the role that photographic representation and
viewership play in constituting the habits of citizenship and, by
extension, the role(s) that they play in negotiating the problems
and paradoxes of living in a contemporary liberal-democratic polity:
how are we to understand and manage the tension between the
individual and the collective (i.e., the often fraught relationship
between “e pluribus” and “unum”); how might we understand the
relationship between leaders and “the people”; how do we identify
and engage “strangers” within our midst; how might we perform civic
identity in times of peace or repose (so called “ordinary times”) or
in the face of tragedy, whether man made (such as wars, economic
crises, etc.) or natural (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.); what are
the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable dissent in a
democratic polity, and so on.

We will address these issues with an enduring focus on
photojournalism as the central medium through which we encounter
our “visual democracy.”  Accordingly, we will treat photo-journalism
as a visual rhetoric that functions as both a conduit of information
and as a public art of display.  Students will be asked to develop
their visual literacy for viewing and critically engaging
photojournalism (and documentary photography more broadly).  We will
accomplish this by reading scholarly and journalistic commentaries
on the relationship between rhetoric, photography, and politics;
developing a vocabulary for examining the rhetorical forms and
functions of photographic display; and looking at and analyzing
numerous examples of contemporary photojournalism with an eye
towards developing a productive understanding and critique of
liberal-democratic polity.

Readings: I have not decided on the precise reading list for the
class as yet, but we will read from books such as Nancy West’s Kodak
and the Lens of Nostalgia; Wendy Kozol’s Life’s America; Robert
Hariman and John Louis Lucaites’s No Caption Needed: Iconic
Photographs, Public Culture and Liberal Democracy; Louis Kaplan’s
American Exposures and Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others.
We will also regularly read a number of blogs that focus on the
relationship between photojournalism and political culture including
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Class Format and Assignments:  The class will be conducted as a
seminar, which means that the focus will be on sustained class
discussion organized around a core of central questions, rather than
lectures.  Students will take turns leading class discussions.  Each
student will also write three or four short essays organized around
a specific theme of their own choosing (e.g., visualizing dissent,
war, community, or particular socio-political rituals, or social and
political difference, etc.) as it relates to course readings and in
the context of analyzing specific photojournalistic efforts.  Class
attendance is required.

If you have questions contact Professor Lucaites via e-mail: