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Making the Invisible Visible through Popular Culture

Popular culture possesses a hidden power that can be easily overlooked. It shapes and frames how we see the world and ourselves. The things we watch, read, listen to, and play impact the organization of our internal and external worlds. Over time this relationship with our popular culture artifacts creates reverberations that blur the line between input and output. 

While this has been true for generations, as our society continues to move online, especially in light of COVID-19, there is a growing necessity to embrace new paradigms. We can see that human activity is changing; we are engaging with popular culture through image, stream, computer game–texts– in a mediated meeting place per se, the new living room. Thus, in the pandemic and post-pandemic digital gatherings, holiday dinner and cocktail parties are online and the media product is centralized. For example, we can consider the changing nature of engaging with popular culture through the new “Watch Party” feature on Amazon Prime Video or the 11 million people meeting for Island Tours on Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Zhu, 2020). Moreover, we can see new developments in storytelling through collective discussion amongst groups on specialized, digital distribution apps such as Discord. Sharing images and debating ideologies on social media platforms is nothing new, but in light of recent events, online calls for collective action and representation seem more immediate than ever before (Pinckney & Rivers, 2020). 

These evolving relationships reveal a unique opportunity for reflection. For instance, how can we as scholars and educators leverage the multivalent lenses generated by these deep conversations between people and media? How can we better understand such cultural products to learn for ourselves and also to teach others?

For those of us who critically engage with these ideas, it is easy to take for granted the ways in which popular media works to influence points of view or disseminate and process vital, sociocultural information. In general practice, long-held and long since disputed assumptions about the functions and utility of films, television shows, video games, etc. can impede a person’s ability to see these materials as fertile ground for identifying the encoding of culture. For many folks, the concept of passive consumption continues to cast these important items of reflexive messaging as bits of mindless entertainment. 

Often there is an urge to dismiss intent or agenda as a one-way process, perhaps even perpetrated by canny advertisers or authors. Yet, as we know, the consumer/producer/audience relationship is never linear (Fiske, 2010). People shape popular products they engage with whether consciously or unintentionally, by applying their own worldviews to an image or message. From this perspective, we are all in a teaching and learning relationship with popular culture. 

Along these lines, the contributors for volume seven, issue three of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy speak to central questions of popular culture: How to activate the teaching and learning relationship in meaningful ways? How to intentionally integrate and interrogate popular culture artifacts within our pedagogical practice? And what can be gained from such an intentional approach? The common thread across the articles is about making the invisible visible. Each author questions this binary of visibility by critically exploring the spaces where popular culture intersects with constructions of identity and ideology. There is a deceptively simple take away from these discussions: popular cultural texts have a lot to teach us about what we learn from popular culture texts.

In the first of the full-length articles featured in this issue, Visuality of Race in Popular Culture: Teaching Racial Histories and Iconography in Media, Joni Boyd Acuff and Amelia M. Kraehe address the long, repeating history of racist imagery in visual media and culture. The authors identify an absence in visual arts education often resulting in the reproduction of problematic iconographies that reinforces constructions of racial difference and social value in popular media. Uncritically perpetuated by cultural producers and accepted by consumers, these visual representations continue to code white supremacy as the normative socialization standard. Employing Critical Race Theory, Acuff and Kraehe investigate visual texts illustrating these processes and respond with practical pedagogical steps designed to support students in interrogating racial portrayals in popular culture, as well as their own racialized ways of viewing. As the authors explain, “Because popular culture is contested terrain, students can learn to be race-conscious consumers of popular culture today. A deeper awareness of visual codes and conventions can foster critical interpretations and creative responses to popular racial constructions.” To this end, Acuff and Kraehe provide a series of media site-based learning activities encouraging students to identify, analyze, react to, and reflect upon visualities of race as both consumers and producers.     

The next article similarly addresses the previously unseen, this time to reposition gender analyses of literature in the college classroom. Ramón J. Guerra and Joan Latchaw discuss how their experiences teaching Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek to undergraduate students led them to consider what representations of gender-based social oppression in literature can reveal about masculine navigations of destructive patriarchal structures. In Unmasking Male Voices in Woman Hollering Creek: Contributions to Pedagogy and Masculinity Studies, the authors centralize treatments of male characters in Cisneros’ texts to address often overlooked gaps in commonly applied historical and analytical frameworks. They reflect on a revision of their undergraduate course including explorations of “masculinity effects,” putting Cisneros’ work in conversation with Rigoberto González’s collection of stories, Men without Bliss. According to Guerra and Latchaw, “Such an approach would work to uncover the network of relations (history, geography, social structures, identity politics, personal values, family), that is, the context that explains gender construction and performativity. It also means avoiding essentialisms and moving away from the all too common fallback of hegemonic masculinity.” The outcome for scholars and students alike is a reconsideration of Latinx literature focusing on the intersectional realities of lived experience.

The third article in this issue also explores gender and representation, focusing on the dynamics of visibility and change in roleplay and collaborative storytelling. In D&D Beyond Bikini Mail: Having Women at the Table, Daniel Carlson considers how the increasing popularity of the fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons may be generating opportunities to address issues of representation (or lack thereof) as designers and new players reconsider the white, heteronormative assumptions of race, gender, and sexual identity built into the history of the product. Carlson’s research reveals that misogynistic origins, scaffolded by Eurocentric imaginaries, are challenged by new players and product developers as consumers and producers work toward gaming formats privileging inclusivity and collaborative storytelling. For the author, the low stakes, blank-slate nature of character and world-construction essential to tabletop roleplay gives players agency to experiment with representation and to reflect on what and why constructions of identity are commonly normalized, which are often left out. By applying Jacqueline Jones Royster’s concept of Critical Imagination to these rhetorical processes, the author suggests that the next obvious step for players is to imagine new representations that bring women, LGBTQ+ folks, and BIPOC players to the table. For Carlson, new initiatives introduced by developers and embraced by fans “have constructed a deliberate feminist intervention on [D&D] itself in order to expand the types of stories that can be told through it, who they are told by, and who they are told for; making it explicit that this game has been designed to provide players the option to play diverse characters that better represent their own life-experiences.”         

The final two featured articles continue to engage the revelatory power of the media artifact. Both provide practical examples of how popular culture products can situate US political processes and underscore the role that this kind of literacy plays in civic engagement. In A Heartbeat Away, Jay Wendland discusses how fictional enactments of the 25th Amendment in television can help students understand the mechanisms of a constitutional process that they might otherwise never see play out. In the run-up and aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the 25th amendment has been broadly referenced in news media, but sections of the legislation have only rarely been invoked since its ratification. As a result, few Americans fully understand the complexities of presidential power and succession that the amendment addresses or the situational processes essential to its use. As Wendland points out, these same complexities and issues of circumstance make the 25th Amendment a favorite topic for popular culture treatments of political drama. Examples from television shows like West Wing, Madame Secretary, and Designated Survivor illustrate how fictional representations of non-electoral succession processes can contextualize the 25th Amendment’s intended function. For Wendland, this is particularly significant in the undergraduate political science classroom: “Traditional college students today do not recall Nixon’s resignation in 1974 nor Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. By using the depictions of presidential succession in the popular culture narratives… students are able to ground their conceptions of presidential succession in something they are able to actually see.” Here, the popular culture artifact explicitly acts as a pedagogical exemplar.             

In the last article, Laura Merrifield Wilson also highlights the value of the popular culture product in encouraging multilevel student engagement when teaching political science. In Pop Culture and Politics: Engaging Students in American Government through Art, Music, and Film, Merrifield Wilson discusses integrating a variety of media forms into the classroom ecology to bring students closer to a subject that often feels too hard to grapple with or beyond their sphere of concern. Notably, she points out that popular culture has long been entwined with political structures, processes, and actors. Taking this further, Wilson identifies popular culture’s often overlooked pedological merit as a site where ideas are negotiated and contested, not unlike the classroom itself. Leveraging this in practice involves making space for popular culture artifacts in all of their myriad forms. As Wilson illustrates, different cultural materials can be differently employed for different outcomes. Songs, sitcoms, memes, and even toys can be analyzed to “demonstrate relevance, serve as a generational translator, expose the bias of experience, and enable an expression of self.” The popular culture artifact brings political science concepts into immediate view and allows students to reflect on the social constructions informing their perspectives on civic engagement. This is yet another example of how popular culture can bring students into closer proximity with concepts that may otherwise feel beyond the scope of their lived experiences.

As a whole, this issue is a product of collaboration and a carefully coordinated group effort. During this time, we have made some shifts in the Dialogue team, expanding Karina Vado’s editorial role to include Interim Musings Editor in addition to Book Review Editor, welcoming in Rheanne Anderson as a new copy editor, and thanking Kelli Bippert for her years of service in editor roles. Thank you to other key contributors of the Dialogue team including Creative Designer, Douglas CohenMiller; Copy Editors, Miriam Sciala and Robert Gordyn; and our peer reviewers.

As 2020 comes to an end, we are pleased to share these works in (Un)Conscious Representation: Interrogating Structures of Race, Gender, Ideology, highlighting how through popular culture, the invisible can become visible. The works are an exploration of our implicit and explicit constructivist relationships with popular culture products. Across the articles, we can see a common engagement with what it means to be aware of these connections, to acknowledge that popular culture teaches audiences. This implies then that audiences learn, and learning is an active process. Being aware of the role we — and others — play in this exchange allows us to see what’s there, identify what’s missing, and reflect on what we take away. 

Kirk Peterson
Managing Editor
Anna S. CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

A word from the Editor in Chief

In this year, our community and many others around the world have faced challenges and heartbreaking times. Your presence and engagement are even more obvious and appreciated at such times.  I want to thank you all, the readers, the authors, and the whole Dialogue team for your investment, your passion, and commitment. As we move into 2021, I look forward to hearing from you, learning from you, and expanding this incredible community commitment — to understanding better and to sharing with others about the potential of popular culture and pedagogy. 

Anna CohenMiller
Editor in Chief


Fiske, J. (2010) Understanding Popular Culture. Routledge. 

Pinckney, J., & Rivers, M. (2020). Sickness or Silence: Social Movement Adaptation to Covid-19. Journal of International Affairs, 73(2), 23-42. doi:10.2307/26939964

Zhu, L. (2020) The psychology behind video games during COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies.

Suggested Reference Citation


CohenMiller, A. S. & Peterson, K. (2020). Making the invisible visible through popular culture Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3).


CohenMiller, Anna S. and Kirk Peterson. Making the Invisible Visible through Popular Culture Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3, 2020.

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Pop Culture and Politics: Engaging Students in American Government through Art, Music, and Film

Laura Merrifield Wilson
University of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA


Strategically and thoughtfully employing popular culture in teaching political science can enable students to better understand, analyze, and relate to the material. In a discipline that can be viewed by students as too boring, too distant, and too polarizing, the use of relevant music, TV/film clips, toys, memes, and other popular culture artifacts can engage otherwise unengaged students in a meaningful way. This paper argues that using popular culture in teaching political science can demonstrate relevance, serve as a generational translator, expose the bias of experience, and enable an expression of self. In demonstrating relevance, popular culture makes material fresh and applicable for students; by operating as a generational translator, the material transcends the time in which it originated; biased experiences are exposed through popular culture mediums through which students are comfortable projecting new and different ideas that challenge what they already know and believe; finally, students can learn to express themselves in relationship to the material by using these mediums with which they are already familiar but in a new and intentional way. Watching clips from the hit TV show “Parks and Recreation” (2009) can illuminate the complexities of the bureaucracy and the role of regulation in everyday life; likewise, listening to the award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton” (2015) with clever lyrics regaling the debates of federalism demonstrate the passion and ideas behind such constitutional conflicts. This paper first provides an overview that establishes the value of applying popular culture specifically to political science pedagogy before reviewing the relevant literature. It then charts the four ways in which popular culture can be beneficial to teaching and learning political science, concluding with a larger analysis of the advantages and potential for such approaches.

Keywords: political science, politics; government, TV/Film, music, memes, cartoons, popular culture

Author Bio 

Laura Merrifield Wilson is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Assistant Director of the Strain Honors College at the University of Indianapolis. Her research specializations include American political behavior, campaigns and elections, and politics in popular culture. She hosts and produces “Positively Politics” on WICR 88.7 “The Diamond” as well as serves as a regular political analyst and commentator in various news outlets. She believes politics is important and should be accessible and easy enough for anyone to meaningfully engage. Wilson completed her Bachelors in Theatre (2008) and Masters in American Politics (2010) from Ohio University and her Masters in Women’s Studies (2014), Masters in Public Administration (2012), and PhD in Political Science (2014) from the University of Alabama. 

Recommended Citation

Wilson, Laura M. “Pop Culture and Politics: Teaching American Government through Art, Film, and Music”. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. vol. 7, no. 3.

Wilson, L. (2020). Pop Culture and Politics: Teaching American Government through Art, Film, and Music. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 7(3).

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D&D Beyond Bikini-Mail: Having Women at the Table

Daniel Carlson
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States.


Dungeons and Dragons represents a space that is often treated as an echo chamber for young (usually white) men to act out fantasies of power and control, which makes up for their inability to perform such actions in the real world. Using the work of Sherry Turkle and Michelle Dickey, I posit that this game is a nuanced location acting as a safe space for people to act out different aspects of their identity or life experiences in a low-risk environment enhanced by the connections made between the players and their characters. In this work, I have utililzed feminist frames of criticism and analysis developed by Gesa Kirsch, Jacqueline Royster, Sonja Foss, and Cindy Griffin to show how the developers of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons have made a feminist intervention on their own product. This feminist intervention, comprised of changes to rules and art policies, invites players to consider their preconceptions of race, gender, and sexual orientation. These challenges now materializing from within a space traditionally associated with the toxic masculinity of western popular culture are designed to make players think about the nature of the imagined worlds of gameplay while also considering the ways that their own world’s norms and expectations have been constructed. Hence, through this game, players are offered the opportunity to learn and understand complicated concepts that impact their daily lives. 

Keywords: Dungeons and Dragons, D&D, Invitational Rhetoric, Rhetoric, Strategic Contemplation, Critical Imagination, Role-play, Toxic Masculinity, Popular Culture, Critical Role 

Author Bio

Daniel Carlson is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who moved to New Mexico to pursue a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at New Mexico State University. He has cowritten two books with author Michael Rosen, Just My Type: Understanding Personality Profiles and Place Hacking: Venturing Off Limits. This article is an expansion of his interests in role-playing, Feminist rhetorics, and the ways that popular culture interacts with oppressive systems of power. More information can be found at 

Suggested Citation

Carlson, Daniel James. “Beyond Bikini-Mail: Having Women at the Table.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3.

Carlson, D. J. (2020). Beyond bikini-mail: Having women at the table.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3).

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Unmasking Male Voices in Woman Hollering Creek: Contributions to Pedagogy and Masculinity Studies

Ramón J. Guerra
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Joan Latchaw
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska, USA


In teaching Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek to undergraduates, we have developed a sociocultural and historical framework, beginning with the theoretical work of Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands and the concept of transfrontera feminism. With incidents of seduction and sexual abuse of women, spousal abuse, and patriarchal family structures, the collection of stories strongly indicates the oppressive representation of machismo. Scholars and teachers have drawn important critiques of Cisneros’s work based on destructive sociocultural forces on women. However, in rereading the text with an intended focus on the representations of male characters, we have surmised that Cisneros structured the stories in the text to reveal that men are simultaneously affected by sociocultural pressures. The male characters in this story collection play an important role beyond the characterization as oppressors.

Cisneros’s stories have helped us unmask important social forces that affect not only Chicana characters, but husbands, lovers, and even neglected fathers. Male characters in Woman Hollering Creek also have basic needs for food, shelter, love, and dignity, and they too suffer the consequences of politically charged borders. Furthermore, these masculinity effects may not often be acknowledged in teaching literature courses. The pain and struggle of male and female genders are aligned within this collection; there are several male characters who signify masculinity, and compassion, and beauty. Therefore, in revising our curricula, we intend to place some stories from Woman Hollering Creek and Rigoberto González’s Men without Bliss (2008) in conversation with each other. We do not intend to privilege one writer against another, but encourage students to consider the contributions and limitations of each in terms of theme, characterization, plot, and literary technique. It is our intention to teach students that Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek humanizes both men and women in their strength, frailty, and quest for love.

Keywords: Sandra Cisneros, Chicana Literature, transfrontera feminism, Woman Hollering Creek, Gloria Anzaldúa

Suggested Citation

Guerra, Ramón J. and Joan Latchaw. “Unmasking Male Voices in Woman Hollering Creek: Contributions to Pedagogy and Masculinity Studies.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3, 2020.

Guerra, R. J., & Latchaw, J. (2020). Unmasking male voices in Woman Hollering Creek: Contributions to pedagogy and masculinity studies. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3).

Author Bios

Ramón J. Guerra is an Associate Professor of English and Latino/Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His research focuses on the placement of Chicano and Latino Literature within the larger named American Literature, particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He specifically examines the significance of nonfiction witness accounts, oral histories, and memoirs all under the category of testimonio as a means to expand historiography through literature. His selected publications include works on Latinos and the American Dream, the early twentieth century Mexican American writer and scholar Américo Paredes, and contemporary Latina writer Sandra Cisneros.

Joan Latchaw is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, teaching and publishing in rhetoric and composition, specifically computers and writing. Other interests include Ethnic-American literature, Jewish-American Writers, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Feminist Rhetoric. She has worked with UNO’s sister institution in Nicaragua (UNAN León) in the teaching of ESL writing, for faculty and Master’s degree students. She has also given a keynote address at an international TESOL conference at UNAN León along with workshop sessions.

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A Heartbeat Away: Popular Culture’s Role in Teaching Presidential Succession

Jay Wendland
Daemen College
Amherst, NY, USA


 The role of popular culture in civic education is important. Many television viewers learn about the American political process through various dramatized depictions. The 25th Amendment has often received much attention from Hollywood, as it provides writers, directors, and producers a tool with which to further dramatize presidential succession. Through the television shows West Wing, Designated Survivor, Commander in Chief, Madam Secretary, and Political Animals, viewers are exposed to storylines revolving around the 25th Amendment. By viewing these dramatized versions of presidential succession, viewers are better able to understand the process and political science instructors are better able to elucidate the process in the classroom. 

Keywords: Presidential Succession, 25th Amendment, Popular Culture, West Wing, Designated Survivor, Commander in Chief, Political Animals, Madam Secretary 

Author Bio

Jay Wendland is Assistant professor of Political Science at Daemen College. He is the author of the book Campaigns That Matter (Lexington Press), which analyzes the role of campaign visits in presidential nominating contests along with several articles that have appeared in The Journal of Political Marketing, Electoral Studies, and The Forum. His teaching interests include American politics, campaigns and elections, public opinion, politics and the media, and politics and popular culture. He is currently working on a book-length project analyzing the representativeness of presidential nominating contests. More information regarding his research and teaching interests can be found at 

Suggested Citation

Wendland, J. (2020). A Heartbeat Away: Popular Culture’s Role in Teaching Presidential Succession. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3). 

Wendland, Jay. A Heartbeat Away: Popular Culture’s Role in Teaching Presidential Succession. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3, 2020.

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Visuality of Race in Popular Culture: Teaching Racial Histories and Iconography in Media

Joni Boyd Acuff
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio, USA

Amelia M. Kraehe
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona USA


The repetition of racist imagery from historical to contemporary popular culture is indicative of a lack of visual culture education among artists, designers, and other creative cultural producers working today. This paper addresses the dearth of resources for teaching visual codes and conventions of racial iconography that are recycled in popular media and contribute to the fabrication of racial differences, maintenance of racial hierarchies, and normalization of white supremacist ideology. Inspired by Critical Race Theory in art and visual culture education, the essay proposes teaching tactics and sites/sights that can support students in developing visual understandings of race in popular culture and the practices of racialized looking it invites. Because popular culture is contested terrain, students can learn to be race-conscious consumers of popular culture today. A deeper awareness of visual codes and conventions can foster critical interpretations and creative responses to popular racial constructions. We suggest key vocabulary for scaffolding dialogue and counter-visual strategies for deconstructing racial images and practices of looking. 

Keywords: race, representation, popular culture, art, visual culture, racial literacy, critical race theory

Author(s) Bio

Joni Boyd Acuff, PhD is currently Associate Professor of Arts Administration, Education and Policy at The Ohio State University. Her research attends to critical multiculturalism, critical race theory, Black feminist theory, and culturally responsive pedagogy, teaching and curriculum development in art education. Acuff is co-editor of Multiculturalism in Art Museums Today, published by Rowman & Littlefield. She is the co-author, alongside Amelia M. Kraehe, of the forthcoming Davis publication, Race and Art Education. For more about Acuff and her research, visit

Amelia M. Kraehe, PhD is currently Associate Professor of Art and Visual Culture Education at The University of Arizona. She researches and teaches about social justice in education, the arts and creative forms of agency, racism and intersectional processes of self-identification. Kraehe is co-editor of Pedagogies in the Flesh: Case Studies on the Embodiment of Sociocultural Differences in Education and The Palgrave Handbook of Race and the Arts in Education. Her current book, titled Race and Art Education and also co-authored with Joni Boyd Acuff, is forthcoming from Davis Publications. For more about Kraehe and her research, visit

Suggested Citation 

Acuff, J. B., Kraehe, A. M. (2020). Visuality of Race in Popular Culture: Teaching Racial Histories and Iconography in Media. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(3).

Acuff, J and A Kraehe. Visuality of Race in Popular Culture: Teaching Racial Histories and Iconography in Media. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 3, 2020.

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Cruel Summer1

Travis D. Boyce
San Jose State University 

Popular culture is an excellent medium to critique and understand our past as well as our present realities. For example, in 2019, the Home Box Office (HBO) critically acclaimed television series the Watchmen (based on an American comic book maxiseries) was reimagined and set to present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma. Significantly, Watchmen reenacted the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot in the series’ opening scene, thus resulting in a public discourse surrounding anti-Black racial violence in U.S. history (Sidner, 2019). Prior to the 1921 race riot, 15,000 Black Tulsans lived, worked, and played in a segregated, yet economically prosperous area of the city, the Greenwood District. Dubbed The Black Wallstreet, the Greenwood District had close to 200 businesses. These included a major hotel and a movie theater (Ogletree, 2009). Despite the economic success of the Greenwood District, the era that Black Tulsans lived in was one of the lowest and cruelest points of race relations the U.S. history. Two years prior to the tragedy, the nation was engulfed in widespread anti-Black race riots known as “The Red Summer” of 1919 (Krugler, 2009). 

But clearly even before The Red Summer, the United States was rife with racial conflict. In 1915, D.W. Griffith had released the controversial Birth of a Nation. This popular film portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes and African Americans as the villains –  lazy, corrupt, and rapists, and the inability to self-govern  (Berquist & Greenwood, 1974). Between 1882–1968, approximately 3,445 African Americans were lynched; to put things in perspective, 2,522 were lynched between 1889–1918 (Perloff, 2000). Anti-Black violence and other forms of institutionalized racism in the early twentieth century were carried out with the clear aim to maintain White supremacy. 

In Tulsa, the false sexual assault allegation lodged against Tulsa Black resident Dick Rowland on May 31, 1921, created the opportunity for its White residents to assault /kill its Black residents and ultimately destroy the Greenwood District with impunity. By June 2, the White mob completely leveled the District, leaving approximately 300 Black residents dead, and thousands of its survivors in financial ruin. Additionally, the White establishment overwhelmingly condoned this destruction and cruelty (Ogletree, 2009).  

Now (2020) ninety-nine years later, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the United States of America, as well as the global community are living in an existential crisis, where anti-Black violence and institutionalized racism remain constant. At the same time, the novel corona virus (COVID-19) has ravaged the globe. There’s been divisive national leadership in the United States, supported by a following from the fringe far-right. Many U.S. citizens have embraced the idea that the virus is a hoax. But COVID-19 is no hoax, and it has vastly impacted poor and vulnerable communities. To date, the United States leads the world in total confirmed cases and deaths; and consequently, African Americans have disproportionately died of COVID-19 at alarming rates in comparison to other racial groups. Just as the political climate in the early twentieth century resulted in the Red Summer and the Tulsa Race Riot, today’s institutionalized anti-Black violence and normalization of White supremacy have overlapped the COVID-19 discourse.

Leading up to the ninety-ninth anniversary of the Tulsa Race massacre, we have witnessed cruelty and horrific anti-Black violent incidents at the hands of police or White citizens. Those heartbreaking events are reflective of our current turbulent times. On May 7, 2020, Gregory and Travis McMichael, two White Georgia residents, were arrested/charged on felony murder charges for the February 23 killing of Ahmaud Arbery (a Black man). As cell phone video footage revealed, Arbery was hunted down (while jogging) by the McMichaels in their pickup truck and subsequently shot to death. A few weeks later, over Memorial Day weekend in Central Park, New York City, Amy Cooper (a White woman) called the police on Christian Cooper (a birder and Black man), who had asked her to keep her dog on a leash (per park rules). His phone video showed her claim of being threatened by him was a lie. On May 25, in Minneapolis, George Floyd, a Black resident, was murdered during an arrest by police officer Derek Chauvin. In an 8-minute video, Chauvin is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, literally choking him to death. The juxtaposition of Floyd pleading for his life and stating, “I can’t breathe,” while Chauvin appears nonchalant, is a stark reminder of the nation’s long, troubled history, cruelty and racial violence against Blacks. 

The horrific murder of Floyd by officer Chauvin resulted in a pivotal political, social, and popular cultural moment in the United States and on the global stage. Floyd’s televised death legitimized a once-polarized #BlackLivesMatter movement and sparked a worldwide movement committed to dismantling anti-Black racism and White supremacy. From a popular cultural perspective, murals dedicated to Floyd and other forms of iconography can be found internationally, in places such as Syria. #BlackLivesMatter signs can be seen in White, gentrified neighborhoods of San Francisco. The protests and pressures applied to institutions and corporations, with the aim to support the Black Lives Matter movement, resulted in small and symbolic victories. Confederate monuments as well as monuments dedicated to racists and other problematic individuals have been removed or are coming down. For example, in Denver Colorado, the residents of the (Benjamin F.) Stapleton neighborhood voted to rebrand its name to Central Park (Tabachnik, 2020). Stapleton was the former mayor (1923-31 & 1935-47) of Denver and a member of the Ku Klux Klan (Goldberg, 1982). In Springfield, Virginia confederate general Robert E. Lee High has been appropriately renamed to honor the late congressman and civil rights icon John R. Lewis (Martin, 2020). Furthermore, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has banned the flying of the Confederate battle flag at racing events (Macur, 2020). Finally, companies such as Quaker Oats retired the racist mammy archetype image from the Aunt Jemima brand and the National Football League’s Washington Redskins retired its controversial “Redskins” name (Kesslen, 2020; Sanchez, 2020).  

Most significantly, the death of Floyd has shifted the discourse surrounding anti-Black violence to Black women as well. Like Floyd, Breonna Taylor (who was shot and killed by Louisville, KY police on a no-knock warrant on March 13) has emerged as an important cultural symbol during these perilous times. Thanks to robust activism on social media platforms supported by popular hashtags such as #SayHerName & #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor, the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) has dedicated its 2020 season to Breonna Taylor (West, 2020). Additionally, Taylor will be featured in the September issue of the Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine (O The Oprah Magazine, 2020). To date none of the officers who were involved in the shooting death of Taylor have yet to be charged or arrested. Nevertheless, the discourse surrounding her death as well as Taylor’s iconography serves as a daily reminder to both the Louisville Police to arrest these officers. It also serves as a reminder of the invisibility of Black women who fall victim to police and anti-Black violence.  

However, the commitment to White supremacy, cruelty, and anti-Black violence persist in the wake of Floyd’s death. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has refused to unequivocally condemn White supremacist rhetoric (this includes his policies) throughout his term, hosted a political rally on the weekend of Juneteenth (an African American holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States) in Tulsa, thus reopening old racial wounds of years past and perpetuating a Cruel Summer. Days later at a political rally in Phoenix, AZ; Trump referred to the corona virus as the “Kung Flu” with the insistence of a majority college-aged audience (Blum, 2020). It was at the same rally where Turning Point USA ambassador Reagan Escudé shared a gross misrepresentation of Nancy Green’s legacy (the original Aunt Jemima) in an attempt to defend the use of the racist Aunt Jemima /mammy archetype. The subtext of her speech in essence, was rooted in the defense of White supremacy offering a rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement. She concluded her speech thanking Trump for “never apologizing to the [liberal/cancel culture] mob” (President Trump Delivers Remarks At Student Convention – Aunt Jemima (2020). 

Yet, the outright rejection of and resistance to White supremacy has intensified despite the racial violence from Trump, his supporters and other White supremacists. Blackish actress Jennifer Lewis eloquently noted in a July 6 podcast interview that the current political climate has permitted White supremacy and cruelty to flourish resulting in the televised murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police (Hill, 2020). She further noted that people from all walks of life are waking up to this reality, “taking to the streets,” and are saying “No more!” (Hill, 2020). 

2020 has been one of the most eventful and consequential years in the United States as well as around the world. Along with COVID-19, the sociopolitical climate that has allowed White supremacy and cruelty to thrive consequently resulted in a Cruel Summer. As we reflect on this Cruel Summer, popular culture can serve as a powerful lens to understand history as well as our contemporary world.  We must remain vigilant and use our scholarship to push back against anti-Black racism and White supremacy. I look forward to your thoughts on this issue and hope you enjoy, Engaged Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Awareness, Understanding and Social Justice  


Berquist, G., and Greenwood, J. (1974). Protest against racism: “The Birth of a Nation” in Ohio. Journal of the University Film Association, 26(3), 39–44.

Blum, J. (2020, June 24). Trump Doubles Down on Calling COVID-19 ‘Kung Flu’ in Phoenix Rally. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Goldberg, R.A. (1982). Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Hill, J. (Host). (2020, July 6). Jemele Hill is unbothered [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from    

Kesslen, B. (2020, June 17). Aunt Jemima brand to change name, remove image that Quaker says is “based on a racial stereoptype.” NBC News. Retrieved from

Krugler, D. (2009). A mob in uniform: Soldiers and civilians in Washington’s Red Summer, 1919. Washington History, 21, 48–77.

Macur, Ju. (2020, Jun. 13). Bubba Wallace Thankful for Flag Ban, but NASCAR’s Fans Might Not Be. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Martin, M. (2020, Jul. 26). John Lewis Honored In Renaming of Virginia High School. [Radio broadcast]. NPR – All Things Considered.

O The Oprah Magazine. (2020, July 30). #BreonnaTaylor for our September Cover. Retrieved from /1288817636277727232?s=20

Ogletree, C. (2009). When law fails: History, genius, and unhealed wounds after Tulsa’s Race Riot. In C. Ogletree and A. Sarat (eds.), When law fails: Making sense of miscarriages of justice (pp. 50–69). New York, London: NYU Press.

Perloff, R. (2000). The press and lynchings of African Americans. Journal of Black Studies, 30(3), 315–330.

President Trump Delivers Remarks At Student Convention – Aunt Jemima (2020, Jun. 24). C-SPAN. Retrieved from

Sanchez, R. (2020, Jul. 13). NFL’s Washington Redskins to change name following years of backlash. ABC News. Retrieved from’s%20Washington%20Redskins%20have,in%20a%20statement%20on%20Monday.

Sidner, S. (2019, Oct. 21). The Tulsa race massacre in the Watchmen premier was real. Here’s 

what happened in the horrific event. CNN. Retrieved from

Tabachnik, S. (2020, Aug. 1). Stapleton residents vote “Central Park” as new name; “It really is a new meaningful first step.” The Denver Post. Retrieved from

West, J. (2020 Jul. 25). WNBA Dedicates Season to Breonna Taylor, Holds Moment of Silence to Honor Her. Sports Illustrated.  Retrieved from

Author Bio

Travis D. Boyce is the Chair and Associate Professor of African American Studies at San Jose State University. His areas of research interest are contemporary African American history and popular culture. Boyce’s publications have appeared in edited collections Campus Uprisings: Understanding Injustice and the Resistance Movement on College Campuses (2020), Racism and Discrimination in the Sporting World (2019), Documenting the Black Experience (2013), and Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction era politicians (2012), as well as the journals The Radical Teacher and Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society among others. He served as a guest co-editor for the Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture (Special Issue: Whiteness and Race in Popular – 4.2/2019). He is also co-editor of the book Historizing Fear: Ignorance, Vilification and Othering (2019) published with the University Press of Colorado.

Author’s Notes

I am deeply indebted to Dialogue’s editor-in-chief Anna CohenMiller for the opportunity to write the editorial introduction addressing and speaking to our current turbulent times.  

End Note

  1. In an attempt to draw historical parallels to the Red Summer of 1919, I define the Cruel Summer as an ongoing period beginning in late February 2020 (with the murder of Ahmaud Aubery) that was marred by racial violence, a climate of White Supremacy and right-wing authoritarianism, mass unemployment, and the intensification of COVID-19 in the United States. 

Suggested Citation 

Boyce, T. The Cruel Summer. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2).

Boyce, Travis. The Cruel Summer. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2,

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Can popular culture speak to issues of equity in educational spaces?

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.

– Malala Yousafzai

Undulating in murky waters. Treading. Looking for footing, for guidance, for air. Holding space for inspiration.

It’s July 2020.  Globally, we’re facing a pandemic, and systemic racial and gender-based violence. Holding space for action. 

The privilege of skin tone.
          Of language.
                    Of country of origin.
Unsubstantiated differences separating and allowing some to succeed easily while others suffer. Holding space for hope.

 Undulating in murky waters. Treading. Looking for footing, for guidance, for air. Holding space for change.

  holding space (CohenMiller, 2020)

We’ve started this editorial with a quote by Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace prize winner, who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for encouraging girls to get an education. She was 15 years old at the time. Her educational work, like that of others working as activists, can be seen through the lenses of popular culture and social media (Berents, 2016). While geographically distant for many of our readers, her quote loudly echoes injustices faced worldwide. 

These are touched upon in the poem above, as well as by the hashtags reverberating internationally of #MeToo, of #BlackLivesMatter, of #SayHerName, all amidst #COVID and #onlinelearning. The work speaks to the privilege experienced daily that affects all aspects of our lives, allowing some to thrive while others fight against inequality and violence that must be faced. In the classroom, educators seek to find inclusive ways to engage the diversity of students enrolled, striving to adopt new methods, tools, and pedagogies in the rapid transition to online environments.

Soon after the pandemic started, the US became immersed in a highly profound set of racial violence that set off protests and the advocacy to change the nature of law enforcement and the ways our communities work. Black communities and individuals were suddenly facing not only COVID-19 but also heightened violence, pressure, and valid fears. In “holding space” (CohenMiller, 2020), we can be reminded of bell hooks’ (2003) work and a focus on hope: 

It is my deep belief that in talking about the past, in understanding the things that have happened to us we can heal and go forward. Some people believe that it is best to put the past behind you, to never speak about the events that have happened that have hurt or wounded us, and this is their way of coping — but coping is not healing. By confronting the past without shame we are free of its hold on us. (p. 119)

Thus, in moving towards hope, our vision for this special issue of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy is reflected in the cover image of multicolored origami birds extending their wings and flying piecemeal higher into the sky. The birds are a metaphor for the variegated nature of the important issues of our time externally, and internally—a way to view the multifaceted nature of our pedagogical practices and our efforts to expand and move our awareness and abilities while working towards a more socially-just society. 

So, what does this mean for this issue of Dialogue? Can popular culture speak to issues of equity in educational spaces? Over the years, Dialogue has highlighted work that critically examines popular culture and education with a focus on social justice (see Antuna et al., 2018; Church, 2019; Cragin, 2018; Harmon & Henkin, 2016; Propper, 2017; Rank, 2019; Spencer, 2018; Tinajero, 2020). In this special issue, Engaged Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Awareness, Understanding and Social Justice, 12 authors have taken the call and shared their insights, providing practical steps through the use of popular culture to improve teaching and learning in informal and formal spaces. 

These articles address how popular culture can be used to understand and to teach about the contemporary world as well as highlight practical, innovative, and theoretical ways to reinterpret and create a better conceptualization of political, environmental and social climates. So, we say yes. Popular culture can indeed address issues of equity in educational spaces. Working hand-in-hand with SWPACA, we are committed to advancing social and racial justice taking active steps to foreground the voices of those historically marginalized, in particular Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

As such, we have invited Travis Boyce, the African American / Black Studies area chair for the Southwest Popular / American Culture Association Society, to write a Guest Editorial for this issue. In it, he discusses how popular culture provides a medium to critique and understand our past as well as our present realities. Boyce likens the 1921 Tulsa Race riot (as seen in HBO’s Watchmen) to the present socio-political moment where the public death of George Floyd has sparked a worldwide movement that seeks to dismantle anti-Black racism and White supremacy. We are grateful for his keen insights which lay the foundation for the articles in this issue. Moreover, the authors in this issue demonstrate how they have sought new ways to speak to issues of gender bias, of racial stereotyping, and to broaden our ways of knowing and thinking. While they initially wrote their texts prior to the massive events erupting in the last few months, we have extended an invitation to incorporate these pressing issues. 

In the first of the full-lenght articles, Triple Threat or Triple Opportunity: When a Pop Culture Course Goes Online at a Community College, Lance Eaton and Alex Rockey critically position their experiences developing a face-to-face course for online-only delivery to illustrate how digital learning presents unique possibilities for inclusive student engagement and learning. By embracing asynchronous workflow, multimodal communication, and different interactivities inherent in online pedagogy, the authors focus on constructivist approaches to “create opportunities for students to interact with content to create their own knowledge.” This kind of flexibility, challenging to manage in face-to-face classroom ecologies, “can empower students who may have felt marginalized or out-of-place in more traditional learning environments as it emphasizes the importance of their experiences to their learning.” Pertinent to current pedagogical necessities,
Eaton and Rockey ground theory with practical advice for embracing a constructivist approach to online course development.

The next article similarly addresses urgent pedagogical concerns that are relevant at this time of radical change. Laurie Fuller’s Cultivating Anti-Racist Feminist Pedagogy Queerly is a call to transform the college classroom community. The author utilizes principles put forth by black feminist activist and science fiction scholar adrienne maree brown in her book, Emergent Strategy, to lay a critical framework for restructuring learning environments in ways that position social justice in the foreground. As Fuller explains, “emergent strategy principles can be integrated into classroom teaching and educational practices to create more meaningful learning, engagement, and measurable success: Trust the people, what you pay attention to grows, less prep more presence, never a failure always a lesson, and change is constant.” Change is an important keyword in Fuller’s work, in which “queer is an action.” In queering, uncritically accepted norms are challenged and remade. By embracing the energies of intentional change, educators and students can “imagine liberation” in tandem, connect more meaningfully in the classroom, and thus better advocate for a just future.

The third article examines how productions of racial embodiment in visual narrative media can reveal cultural tensions and upend notions of a post-racial American ideal. In Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage, Angela D. Mack uses the lens of Afrosurrealism to situate her rhetorical analysis of the Marvel series and identify “a diasporic reading of race with Harlem as its bridge to the ‘realms’ of New York City and beyond.” The author asserts that Luke Cage and his world vitally communicate the role race plays in the construction of place in America. Netflix’s Luke Cage shows audiences “the significance of representation and how working through issues of race for African Americans and people of color impacts everyone.”

The two final articles offer insights into pedagogical methods that leverage technology and popular culture to help students engage with critical issues including representation, power, and environmental justice. In Sexual Harassment Effects on Bodies of Work: Engaging Students Through the Application of Historical Context and Communication Theory to Pop Culture and Social Media, Bryan Vizzini and Kristina Drumheller provide a case study in the development and execution of a course that combines student analyses of current events with historical readings. The authors discover that asking students to consider contemporary cultural movements as they unfold facilitates their practical understanding of advanced concepts like Foucault’s challenges of power and Burke’s terministic screens. Vizzini and Drumheller argue that “variations on the theme of this course allow historical and modern popular culture to collide, demonstrating the significance of both in a fractured society.” The experiences outlined in this essay can help educators empower their students to recognize how theory pertains to lived experience as paradigms continue to shift. 

Finally, Elspeth Iralu and Caitlin Grann discuss the use of mixtape-inspired assignments in an online course focused on environmental and social justice. In Hell You Talmbout: Mixtapes as method for online environmental justice pedagogy, the authors connect the radical activist movements essential to the foundation of environmental justice to the anti-racist and anti-capitalist origins of the mixtape. In the social science classroom, “mixtapes serve as an analogy for the dialectic process of generating knowledge from within and outside of disciplinary traditions and norms.” Students identified how issues of race, class, and social and environmental justice intersect by creating multimedia compilations informed by the rhetoric represented in their mixtapes. The authors note that online course delivery can better reveal the connections between critical theory and popular culture as “students move between tabs on the computer screen” from scholarly text to music video upload.

In addition to the full-length articles, this issue also includes a special series of four short articles and a book review. The special series highlights the work of Bridget Goodman, who explores the pandemic through the lens of pedagogy in times of crisis, its effect on students, and the relationship it has to popular culture.  Lastly, Holly Chung reviews Anna Tso’s Hong Kong Stories exploration of the connection to one’s mother, culture, and identity.

Overall, the power of popular culture is clear. According to Pew Research (Pew Research, 2018), those who live in the US spend the vast majority of their waking hours looking at screens, averaging 11 hours per day consuming media of some form (Nielson, 2018). And while some may be passive recipients, the authors of this issue push their readers to actively engage with ideas to change discourse. These articles come together at the intersection between popular cultural texts, broadly conceptualized, and providing an understanding and solutions to issues in contemporary society.

The set of authors for this issue have engaged with challenging topics and broad concepts to harness the power of popular culture. They have attempted to identify what is missing in the conversation—in the dialogue about popular culture and pedagogy and invited us to make a difference. 

As a whole, this issue came together through great efforts and work of a full team who found the time and space to work despite a global health crisis and major unrest. We would like to thank the following people: Book Review Editor, Karina Vado; Educational Editor, Kelli Bippert; Copy Editors, Miriam Sciala and Robert Gordyn; Creative Designer, Douglas CohenMiller; and our authors and peer reviewers. A special thank you goes to Miriam for her insights and feedback on this editorial. 

We are pleased to share these texts that speak to our inherent ability to grow as individuals, as educators, and as communities. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and to moving forward together toward a more just and equitable society through Engaged Popular Culture and Pedagogy to bring about Awareness, Understanding and Social Justice. 

Anna CohenMiller Kirk Peterson
Editor in Chief Managing Editor




Antuna, M., Harmon, J., & Henkin, R., Wood K., & Kester, K. (2018). The Stonewall Books: LGBTQ-themed young adult novels as semiotic beacons. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 5(2).

Berents, H. (2016). Hashtagging girlhood: #IamMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and gendering representations of global politics. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 18(4), 513-527

Church, S. H. (2019). Resistance, race, and myth: A critical survey of American popular music culture in the 20th century. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 6(3).

CohenMiller, A. (2020). holding space. [poem]. 

Cragin, B. (2018). Grounded aesthetics: Pedagogy for a Post-Truth Era. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 5(3)

Harmon, J. & Henkin, R. (2016). The power of books: Teachers’ changing perspectives about using young adult books to teach social justice. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 3(2).

hooks, b. (2003). Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. Routledge.

Nielsen (2018). The Nielson Total Audience Report. Retrieved from

Peacock, J., Covino, R., Auchter, J., Boyd, J., Klug, H., Laing, C., & Irvin, L. (2018). University faculty perceptions and utilization of popular culture in the classroom. Studies in Higher Education, 43(4), 601-613.

Pew Research (2018).Adults using social media including Facebook is mostly unchanged since 2018. Retrieved from

Propper, T. (2017). The pedagogy and politics of racial passing: Examining media literacy in turn-of-the-century activist periodicals. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 4(1).

Rank, A. D. (2019) Scarlett O’Hara, Solomon Northrup, and Ta-Nehisi Coates: Helping Students Grasp the Relationship between Popular Culture and Contemporary Racial Politics. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 6(1).

Spencer, H. (2018). Social justice from the Twilight Zone: Rod Serling as human rights activist. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 5(1).

Tinajero, R. J. (2020). Relandscaping the Rhetorical Tradition through Hip Hop. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(1). Retrieved from 


Suggested Reference Citation

CohenMiller, A. S. & Peterson, K. (2020). Can popular culture address issues of equity and inclusion in educational spaces? Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2).

CohenMiller, Anna S. and Kirk Peterson. Can Popular Culture Address Issues of Equity and Inclusion in Educational Spaces? Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020.

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Reading Hong Kong in a New Light: Anna Tso’s Hong Kong Stories

Holly H. Y. Chung
The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Book 1: Culinary Charades
Alpha Academic Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-1948210010

Book 2: The Summer of 1997
Alpha Academic Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-1948210027

Book 3: Unforgettable Neighbours
Alpha Academic Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1948210034

Book 4: Taming Babel
Alpha Academic Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1948210041

Book 5: Herstory
Alpha Academic Press, 2019. ISBN:978-1948210058 Continue Reading →

Sexual Harassment Effects on Bodies of Work: Engaging Students Through the Application of Historical Context and Communication Theory to Pop Culture and Social Media

Bryan Vizzini
West Texas A&M University
Canyon, TX USA

Kris Drumheller
West Texas A&M University
Canyon, TX USA 


Rarely do professors have the opportunity to branch out and create a course that is literally shaped by the day’s news. The mediated unveiling of sexual predators in the summer of 2018 provided  an opportunity to teach an honors seminar that wrote itself over the course of five weeks. Professors from the communication and history disciplines drew on theory commonly used in the communication discipline and used historical readings to frame a discussion of popular culture and its relation to current events. Each week, a film was incorporated  for discussion and student projects were drawn from examples of popular culture, creating a course that allowed a historical and modern popular culture to collide. Students articulated the significance of both the historical context and rhetorical relevance in a fractured society. The course and its content continued to be discussed  well after it ended.

Keywords: sexual harassment, Orwellian, LGBTQ+, #MeToo, framing, terministic screens

Author Bio

Bryan Vizzini, PhD (University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill) is a professor of history at West Texas A&M University where he has taught since 2001. Cold War pop culture, representations of Latin America in film, and inter-american relations form the basis of his research agenda.

Kristina Drumheller, PhD (University of Missouri-Columbia) is a professor of communication at West Texas A&M University where she has taught since 2006. Organizational crisis communication, emotional labor and intelligence, and leadership have been at the forefront of Dr. Drumheller’s research, particularly as these concepts intersect with popular culture, gender, and queer studies.

Suggested Citation

Vizzini, B. & Drumheller, K. (2020). Sexual harassment effects on bodies of work: Engaging students through the application of historical context and communication theory to pop culture and social media. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2).

Vizzini, Bryan and Kris Drumheller. Sexual Harassment Effects on Bodies of Work: Engaging Students Through the Application of Historical Context and Communication Theory to Pop Culture and Social Media. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020.

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