Tartu, Estonia

The Politics of Popular Culture

when 28 July 2024 - 11 August 2024
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 EC
fee EUR 550

Though often dismissed as “just a bit of fun” (Way, 2021), popular culture’s role in influencing and reflecting broader political developments is finally starting to receive the academic attention it deserves. From Banksy’s street art, to the Olympic games, via Eurovision song contest and even our favourite food, popular culture is the medium through which we most often experience and consume politics as part of the “taken for granted everyday world” (Machin, 2013). Yet it is precisely this inseparability from the ideologies and power relations with which it is infused (Machin, 2013), that makes popular culture such a challenging and important subject for academic research. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Ukraine, where cultural fields including sport, art and music have been described by the British government as a crucial “third front” in the ongoing war with Russia (BBC, 2021).

This course provides an overview of the methodological tools required to assess a diverse range of research questions related to politics and popular culture, including Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Multi-modal Discourse Analysis (MMDA). Interactive seminars and lectures on the course introduce students to the key theoretical, practical and methodological issues affecting the ways politics interacts with popular culture. Students will also have numerous opportunities to apply the relevant theoretical knowledge and analytical frameworks to analyse concrete case studies in both group and individual tasks.

In 2024, the course will also take full advantage of the interactive and immersive learning environment in Tartu during the city’s year as European Capital of Culture, enabling students to explore some of the most important issues affecting the relationship between politics and popular culture in Estonia and beyond.

Course leader

Michael Cole, University of Tartu

Target group

MA/PhD and advanced BA

Course aim

Students completing the course will:

-Gain an overview of the ways politics and popular culture interact in a wide range of contexts.
-Be introduced to methodological tools, which can be used to examine relationships between popular culture and politics in academic research, including Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), and Multi-Modal Discourse Analysis (MMDA)
-Explore specific case studies of their own interest through a class project.
-Produce an optional written assignment with the opportunity to publish with an established online media outlet.

Assessment format: Group exercise (pass/fail): Students will give a presentation on a case study of their choice, which demonstrates and explores an aspect of the relationship between politics and culture.

For additional course credits, students can produce a short op-ed style assignment (Max 2000 words) on the same or a related topic for submission to a suitable outlet for publication.

Fee info

EUR 550: Course fee
EUR 245: Accommodation in the student dormitories for 14 nights.


Find out about the scholarships on our website.

In collaboration with DAAD, the University of Tartu offers 5 scholarships for German students.

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