Communication and Culture | Topics in Media, Culture, and Society (Topic: Town/Gown Conflict and Democratic Citizenship)
C204 | 12954 | Heusel, J.

MTuWThF, 10:30 AM-11:20 AM, C2 203

Fulfills College S&H Requirement

Instructor: Jennifer Heusel
Office: C2 285
Phone: 855-9046

“We rednecks are few … college paleface students are many. I counsel
—Cyril, Breaking Away

The Academy Award-winning film Breaking Away tells the story of
town/gown relations. In the film, four Bloomington high-school
graduates clash with Indiana University students. The film is
emblematic of the conflict at the foundation of town/grown relations
and interactions. Like nomads and gypsies passing through and
disrupting a country town, the temporary and transient features of
being a college student challenge the permanent and stable features
of being a town resident. Cyril’s call counseling “peace” because
the “college paleface students” outnumber the “rednecks” not only
highlights the significant influence gownies have on townies, but
also emphasizes the irregular power dynamics that often escalates as
conflict. This course attempts to look at the historical
relationship between Indiana University students and the City of
Bloomington residents in order to explore the opportunities and
constraints of social conflict in the maintenance and development of
a democratic culture. As a starting point, we will consider the
different values about social class, education, the economy, and
democracy that student nomads bring to college towns. As an
illuminating case study, town/gown conflicts throughout history
speak to the central questions of this course: What is the role of
social conflict in a democratic culture? What categories about
democratic conflict—as opposed to democratic consensus—emerge in the
study of town/gown relations?

Enacting the interdisciplinary spirit of Communication and Culture
and American Studies, this course reviews the histories of “nomads,”
democracy, and education, as well as addresses town/gown power
dynamics and counter-culture controversies. For example, we will
explore conflicting town and gown reactions to desegregation, the
Kinsey Institute on Sex Research, and free speech. In this course,
students will develop skills used in archival research, identify
strategies for addressing conflicts democratically, and contribute
to the cultural capital of IU and Bloomington. Readings include
essays from scholarly journals, chapters from biographies and
histories, and popular media articles. The course will proceed
through a combination of lecture and discussion. Required fieldtrips
to archival libraries on- and off-campus are scheduled during class
time. Assignments include short papers, annotated bibliographies,
two exams, and a final archival research project. Students are
encouraged to create a final project that can be presented to both
the IU and Bloomington communities.