Politics of/as Representation

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This seminar will address issues of politics and representation. We will look at the political process within the traditional domain of governance and popular participation, using as our primary (but not sole) focus the fall election campaign. We will also examine the way processes of representation (in their duality, which will be addressed here later) constitute a highly charged, political practice. Representation is understood and addressed in this course both in terms of the presence of particular social groups in the arena of politics and political debate and in terms of the symbolic portrayal of different groups and issues in terms of discursive and visual modes of articulation. Given the intersections between the two terms/dimensions under consideration, students will be expected to stretch their analytical faculties to tie them together in ways that are not necessarily always available to us in conventional texts and/or analyses and/or transparent. We will begin by focusing on the 2012 elections as a means to arrive at a better understanding of the ways in which public discourse is constructed, focusing particularly on the mass media’s contribution to this process. Through this analysis, we will address methodological and theoretical issues relevant to the themes addressed in this course. Bear in mind that the analysis of the elections is undertaken here for expository purposes and not as the conclusive word on all US elections and their history. In this light, and given the often commented on similarity between sports and electoral coverage, we will also look at sports and, particularly, representations of the body—social, political, and sexual. This will allow us to shift away from “the political” in the formal, conventional understanding of the term toward a closer look at the ways in which politics is constructed and experienced in/through our everyday lives and through our social relations. This turn in emphasis will allow us to build on the analytical tools and insights gained earlier in the course and allow us to examine at greater length issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and international affairs in a diversity of arenas, including (but not limited to) the mass media. Our focus here will be on the multiple languages that lie at the heart of cultural constructions and aesthetic productions and their relationship to dominant and subversive, as well as oppositional, forms of representation.