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The Sociology of Mass Media and Popular Culture

Jennifer Lena
Columbia University
Hiphop Inclusive
Before 2005

We will begin this course by examining the historical development and political ramifications of the (traditional) sociological distinction between high and popular culture. Our week on “Foundations” will historicize the development of mass media, while the following week’s reading focuses on the evolution of sociological conceptualizations of culture, mass culture and production, and consequent stratification. A second week of theory extends the work of our disciplinary progenitors into current fields of interest, and on July 22 we’ll conclude the broad overview by reading essays that contrast these approaches. We’ll wrap up this half of the course by examining the potential for counter-hegemonic action in the cultural field.

The second half of the class is structured as a series of case studies. We begin with printing and then spend a week looking in-depth at music making in the United States. On August 5th, a guest speaker will lead a discussion about television and film as mass media and popular culture. The following class period will be spent examining the role of media in the construction of events and meaning associated with last year’s terrorist attacks. We’ll also spend a week looking at tourism as a manifestation of popular culture. The final class meeting will be devoted to a final exam.



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