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“For Me, That Future is Jackson State University”: Travis Hunter’s National Signing Ceremony as a Symbol of Critical Pedagogy for Black Youth Resistance
Travis D. Boyce
San Jose State University
San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
Keywords: Travis Hunter, National Signing Day, Black youth, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, college football, Jackson State University
The Rhetorical Interlude in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity: Suggesting a Model for Examining Rhetorical Discourse in Film
The University of Texas at Tyler
Tyler, Texas, USA
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah, USA
This essay advances the concept of the “rhetorical interlude,” a means by which scholars and teachers may examine how rhetorical messages are embedded in films. To illustrate, this study includes an examination of the rhetorical interlude in the 2013 film Gravity (Cuarón, 2013) as the film’s protagonist, Ryan Stone, is visited by the apparition of her dead colleague, Matt Kowalski, who instructs her on survival in space and on the significance of moving on from personal tragedy. In a pattern of ghostly apparitions appearing in perplexing outer space situations, Gravity situates scientific complexity as capable of being transcended with the help of supernatural assistance. We examine the rhetorical purpose of the climactic speech in the film, which is a vernacular reframing of scientific complexity in order to make abstract concepts more accessible. We argue that the film offers a practical and understandable answer to scientific complexity, enhancing the film’s themes of humanity conquering mortality and the unknown through vernacular simplicity. Finally, we conclude that this method of uncovering the persuasive potential of cinematic speech is an excellent pedagogical tool for higher education teacher-scholars and their students to learn about rhetoric.
Keywords: Science fiction, Gravity, film, oratory, ghosts, speech
Brent Yergensen (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Communication at The University of Texas at Tyler. His research focuses primarily on the rhetoric of film and popular culture, and is published in Journal of Visual Political Communication, Explorations in Media Ecology, Journal of Religion, Film & Media, Popular Culture Studies Journal, Studies in Popular Culture, Journal of Religion & Society, and other scholarly journals and book anthologies.
Scott Haden Church (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is an Associate Professor in the School of Communications at Brigham Young University. His research primarily uses critical methods to examine popular culture and social media. His research has been published recently in Journal of Media and Religion, Explorations in Media Ecology, Public Relations Review, and Critical Studies in Media Communication.
Suggested Reference Citation
Yergensen, B, & Church, S. H. (2023). The rhetorical interlude in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity: Suggesting a model for examining rhetorical discourse in film.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 10(1). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v10-issue-1/the-rhetorical-interlude-in-alfonso-cuarons-gravity-suggesting-a-model-for-examining-rhetorical-discourse-in-film/
Yergensen, Brent, and Scott Haden Church. “The Rhetorical Interlude in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity: Suggesting a Model for Examining Rhetorical Discourse in Film.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2023, vol 10, no. 1, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v10-issue-1/the-rhetorical-interlude-in-alfonso-cuarons-gravity-suggesting-a-model-for-examining-rhetorical-discourse-in-film/
Embracing the Fiasco!: Roleplaying Games, Pedagogy and Student Success
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico, USA
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico, USA
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico, USA
This article explores the relationship between games and pedagogy through the example of the roleplaying game Fiasco!. Fiasco! is a part of a growing genre of collaborative roleplaying games (RPGs) that have important applications in the university classroom. Fiasco! is an innovative game system that upends the traditional model of Game Master-led RPGs to create a collaborative environment for players to create their own stories. This paper explores how the unique model embedded within Fiasco! can be employed as a pedagogical tool for active student-led learning.
To showcase the pedagogical innovations of a game like Fiasco!, we present classroom applications in English, Anthropology, and Sociology. Our experiences teaching with Fiasco! show how quickly and intuitively the game can be integrated into curricula with significant benefits for student engagement and learning. Roleplaying games that emphasize player agency, like Fiasco!, offer adaptive and innovative strategies for student-led learning in an interdisciplinary setting. Much as the structure of Fiasco! drives player engagement by making each player an equal participant in the generation of narrative content, using Fiasco! in the classroom allows each student an equal stake in developing course material. Beyond individual case studies, this article offers pedagogical inspiration for using Fiasco! in a variety of classroom settings that offer the possibility of an adaptive and interdisciplinary approach to student engagement.
Keywords: Active Learning, Gamification, Student Centered Education, Teaching Strategies, Interdisciplinary, Roleplaying Games, Flipped Classroom Introduction
Dr. Erik Stanley is an Assistant Professor of cultural anthropology at Eastern New Mexico University. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2015. His theoretical research interests in socio-cultural anthropology include pedagogy and popular culture, digital humanities, museum studies and student engagement, anthropology of science fiction/fantasy, human-environmental relations and the anthropology of religion. His ethnographic research focuses on the Mopan Maya of Belize, C.A. and is concerned with the transformation of cacao (Theobroma cacao) from a ritually and culturally important plant to a global commodity. His publications include the article Monilia ( Moniliophtora roreri ) and the Post-Development of Belizean Cacao in the journal Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment as well as Religious Conversion and the Decline of Environmental Ritual Narratives in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. For more information on his research, please visit https://enmu.academia.edu/ErikStanley
David Sweeten is an Assistant Professor of Early British Literature at Eastern New Mexico University whose primary scholarly work focuses on the intersections of economic thought, marriage, and gender in Middle English texts, including a chapter on inter-reliant economies and social capital in Wynnere and Wastoure, entries on wealth and money in The Chaucer Encyclopedia, and a larger book project on the economics of marriage, gender, and agency in late Middle English literature. In addition to his work in medieval literature, David Sweeten has also taught courses on fantasy fiction, comics, composition pedagogy theory, and critical theory. Each semester, his composition courses heavily focus on fandom, popular culture, and gaming to reach students where they are and develop stronger critical analysis, research, and writing skills. More information can be found at: https://enmu.academia.edu/DavidSweeten
Michelle Schmidt is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Eastern New Mexico University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2018. Her research interests include popular culture as pedagogy, community and environmental health, and transnational economic development. Her pedagogical research focuses on the implementation of active learning strategies in the classroom. She presents annually at the Southwest Popular/American Culture conference on using popular culture, media, and games to teach sociological theory. Her ethnographic research in Belize, C.A. focuses on the intersection of modernization with Indigenous agriculture, food, and health systems. She has an article in Agriculture and Human Values entitled Cultivating Health: Diabetes resilience through neo-traditional farming in Mopan Maya communities of Belize and a chapter Commodification and Respect: Indigenous contributions to the sociology of waste in The Handbook of Waste Studies. More information can be found at: https://enmu.academia.edu/MichelleSchmidt
Stanley, E., Sweeten, D., & Schmidt, E. (2022). Embracing the Fiasco!: Roleplaying games, pedagogy and student success. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(4). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/embracing-the-fiasco-roleplaying-games-pedagogy-and-student-success/
Stanley, Erik, David Sweeten and Michelle Schmidt. “Embracing the Fiasco!: Roleplaying Games, Pedagogy and Student Success”. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 4, 2022. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/embracing-the-fiasco-roleplaying-games-pedagogy-and-student-success/
“It’s Not My Immediate Instinct”: Perceptions of Preservice Teachers on the Integration of Popular Culture
Melinda S. Butler
University of Southern Maine
University of Southern Maine
Eva S. Arbor
University of Southern Maine
Popular culture curricula integration provides educational benefits for students (Morrell, 2002; Petrone, 2013); bridging students’ out-of-school popular culture knowledge with their in-school literacies promotes learning, engages students, and values students’ background knowledge (Dyson, 1993, 2021; Marsh, 2006; Morrell, 2002; Petrone, 2013). Therefore, teacher educators may consider the addition of popular culture education into preservice teacher’s preparation for teaching (Petrone, 2013). In this qualitative study, researchers were interested in asking the following questions: What popular culture texts did preservice teachers consume as children and adults? and How does preservice teachers’ previous popular culture text consumption factor into decisions to include or exclude popular culture texts in the curriculum? Preservice teachers in a graduate teacher education program participated in surveys and interviews about their popular culture text consumption (e.g., podcasts, television shows) as children and adults. Additionally, participants were questioned about the affordances and constraints of integrating popular culture texts into the curriculum. Data were coded using In Vivo coding (Saldańa, 2013), and analyzed through a sociocultural lens (Vygotsky, 1978). Themes that were generated from the findings were: 1) popular culture text consumption as both social and shared; 2) popular culture text integration as a way to entice and engage students in learning; 3) popular culture texts as engaging and relatable; 4) popular culture as digital texts; and 5) popular culture texts as unknown or unimportant. Although all participants spoke about the benefits of popular culture text integration, the preservice teachers who consumed more of them as children and adults spoke more favorably about including popular culture texts in curricula.
Keywords: Literacy/reading; preservice teacher education; qualitative research; popular culture
Melinda S. Butler, Ed.D, is an assistant professor of literacy in the Department of Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Southern Maine and the Director of the USM Summer Reading and Writing Workshop. Her research interests include popular culture texts, student access to texts, literacy clinics, and independent reading.
Nadine Bravo is a multilingual and multicultural second-year graduate student at the University of Southern Maine, pursuing two M.Ed. (ETEP and TESOL) and a Graduate Studies Certificate in Native American Studies at Montana State University. Her research interests revolve around the literacy of Native American English Language Learners.
Eva Arbor is finishing up her Master’s in Policy, Planning, and Management with the University of Southern Maine in hopes of one day opening a non-profit in Bangor, Maine, where she is originally from. Her interests are centered around advocacy, family planning, and access to mental health resources for marginalized individuals.
Butler, M.S., Bravo. N., & Arbor E.S. (2022). “It’s not my immediate instinct”: Perceptions of pre-service teachers on the integration of popular culture. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(4), http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/its-not-my-immediate-instinct-perceptions-of-preservice-teachers-on-the-integration-of-popular-culture/
Butler, Melinda, et al. ““It’s not my immediate instinct”: Perceptions of pre-service teachers on the integration of popular culture.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 4, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/its-not-my-immediate-instinct-perceptions-of-preservice-teachers-on-the-integration-of-popular-culture/
Tackling History in the Cultural Studies Seminar
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
While cultural theory developed in past eras was often marred by the biases of its privileged authors, we are still often required to teach the canon, so that graduate students can recognize past intellectual trends to which current critiques of the canon respond. In this article, a “History of Feminist Theory” course is employed as an example of larger principles of foundations course design that can be used in any cultural studies seminar to productively address the tension between old and new schools of thought. It provides suggestions for structuring syllabi and discussions in ways that productively engage with earlier texts, yet without reinforcing their canonicity. The author suggests that viewing “classics” through a comparative and predominantly historical lens can allow teachers to address current cultural issues such as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements via the use of older texts, constructively balancing the need to identify their oversights with the need to learn the history of a particular field. Students usually wish to analyze the popular culture of the present, sometimes resenting being obliged to take historical/foundational courses. However, these are courses we are often required to teach. The tension between obligations and interests can either derail a grad seminar or be harnessed constructively to help students critique the cultural studies canon more effectively.
Keywords: History, Foundations, Theory, Pedagogy, Canon, Classics
Becca Cragin is an Associate Professor of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She received her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from Emory University in 2002 and her B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College in 1992. Her research and teaching interests include gender and sexuality in television and film, in comedy and crime genres.
Cragin, Becca. “Tackling History in the Cultural Studies Seminar.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/tackling-history-in-the-cultural-studies-seminar/
Cragin, B. (2022). Tackling History in the Cultural Studies Seminar. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/tackling-history-in-the-cultural-studies-seminar/
Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education
Recognizing how we absorb ourselves with popular culture offers potential for learning more about ourselves and enhancing teaching and learning. Yet seeing our practices can require purposeful effort. Over time, scholars and advocates have promoted increasing our awareness of the popular culture we consume and what influences, ideas, and values are produced and reproduced. For example, to unpack gender in media, the Bechdel-Wallace Test is an exemplar of raising awareness of women’s presence (or lack thereof) (Hooton, 2015). The test asks audiences to consider: if there are any women in the narrative, if the women have names, and if the women talk to each other about something other than a man. Through a simple analysis, viewers are prompted to engage in a simple critical reflection of the work.
A simple analysis of the presence of women in media echo organizational and governmental work through gender audits and gender mainstreaming. Such work aims to unpack how gender is represented and ways to embed considerations of gender from the onset of teaching, learning, research and other work. Looking into curriculum for instance, a gender audit can be a simple tool to review the authorship of assigned readings. How many are authored by a certain gender? Who is missing in the authorship? And what does the potential emphasis on one gender say about the production of knowledge? Often the result in assigned readings in curriculum showcase an emphasis on male thought and authorship, suggesting men own knowledge (CohenMiller & Lewis, 2019; Lewis & CohenMiller, 2022).
We are pleased to announce our fall issue, “Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education” of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. With a special double issue in February, this issue marks a unique fourth issue of the year. In the first article of this issue, Becca Craigin emphasizes the importance of syllabi and what they evoke and suggest to learners. Cragin describes how she works with students to engage them and lead to generation of ideas through studying the historical canon of feminist theory. She further notes how the prejudices of the past can be implicated in today’s teaching and learning if not carefully unpacked and addressed.Ultimately, Cragin guides readers through the importance of syllabus development and the ways in which our choices are “building cultural theory today.”
Framing a class with a syllabus offers an essential path towards teaching and learning. Likewise, understanding examples of classroom practice suggest insights for pedagogical practice. In our second article of the issue, Erik Stanley, David Sweeten, and Michelle Schmidtunpacks how games can be embedded within the formal classroom. Drawing from experiences of using one game, Fiasco!, they explain the utility of its application across disciplinary fields of English, anthropology and sociology.
Just as we can consider how gender is represented in popular culture and pedagogy, we can also work to increase our understanding of the intersectional nature of our lives. The ways we enter the world and the way others see us often intersect with our perceived ethnicity, region of world, socioeconomic status and class/caste/tribe, gender identity and presentation. These topics reflect our cultural and historical context.
In the third article of this issue, Melinda Butler, Nadine Bravo, and Eva Arbor explain in their article, “It’s Not My Immediate Instinct”: Perceptions of Pre-service Teachers on the Integration of Popular Culture,” how sociocultural theory can help explain how our backgrounds influence our today. Specifically, the researchers examine preservice teachers’ consumption of popular culture and how their unique experiences with popular culture (or lack thereof) may color their openness to and/or hesitation over integrating popular culture texts into their curriculum. Butler et. al., in turn, observe five key themes that emerge across their interviews with pre-service teachers as related to questions of the incorporation of popular culture in the classroom: 1) Popular culture as social and sharing; 2) Popular culture as a way to hook kids; 3) Popular culture integration and engaging and relatable; 4) Popular culture as digital texts; and 5) Popular culture as unknown and unimportant. Through a robust exploration of these themes, Butler et. al. reveal the invaluable benefits of integrating popular culture in the classroom. Further, they offer suggestions on how to encourage the active and intentional use of poplar culture texts on the part of teachers and how this incorporation can lead to a more generative and “permeable” curriculum.
In addition to the three robust articles in this issue, this issue also includes connections to a recent online publication of Tyler Sheldon’s Review of The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching, by David Gooblar. Sheldon emphasizes Gooblar’s points about the critical need for drawing in students through active learning especially in extracurricular learning.
Overall, the scholarship offered in volume 9, issue 4,Provoking awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education, speaks to “diversifying the narrative” (Cragin, this issue) about popular culture and pedagogy. Ultimately, we can work and learn from one another about consciously increasing our awareness and practices for enhancing research and teaching and learning.
We want to thank the incredible team of collaborators including the authors featured in the issue and willing peer-reviewers who made the scholarship possible, insightful Copy Editors (Arlyze Menzies, Miriam Sciala, and Robert Gordyn), Reference Editors (Joseph Yap, Yelizaveta Kamilova, and April Manabat) and Production Editor and Creative Director (Douglas CohenMiller). In reading the articles and Book Review in this issue, we hope you are engaged to consider and actively take steps to provoke new thinking and practice in teaching and learning in popular culture and pedagogy.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue and look forward to your submissions for future issues as we move into our 10th year in 2023!
Editor in Chief
Karina A. Vado
Managing Editor & Musings Editor
CohenMiller, A., & Lewis, J. (2019). Gender audit as research method for organizational learning and change in higher education. In V. Demos, M. Segal, & K. Kelly (Eds.) Gender and Practice: Insights from the Field (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 27), Emerald, pp. 39-55. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/S1529-212620190000027003/full/html
Hooton, C. (2015). Please stop calling it the Bechdel Test says Alison Bechdel. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/please-stop-calling-it-the-bechdel-test-says-alison-bechdel-10474730.html
Lewis, J., & CohenMiller, A. (2022). Gender audit as pedagogical tool. In Kitchener, M. (Ed). Handbook for the Promotion of Gender Sensitive Curriculum: Teaching and Learning Strategies. Available from: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/ocsld/publications/.
Suggested Reference Citation
CohenMiller, A., & Vado, K. (2022). Syllabi, games, and teaching in higher education: Provoking awareness and practical applications in popular culture and pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(4). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/provoking-awareness-and-practical-applications-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy-syllabi-games-and-teaching-in-higher-education/
CohenMiller, Anna, and Karina Vado. “Syllabi, Games, and Teaching in Higher Education: Provoking Awareness and Practical Applications in Popular Culture and Pedagogy.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 4, 2022. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-4/provoking-awareness-and-practical-applications-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy-syllabi-games-and-teaching-in-higher-education/
Teaching for Change
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This axiom was aptly expressed by Nelson Mandela, a renowned political leader who taught by the example he set through his words and his deeds to an audience of 40 million South Africans. The axiom ties well into the theme of the current issue of Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy which deals with the act of teaching through the elucidation of known phenomena in order to affect the thinking of members of the public and bring about an element of personal growth and social transformation. Such pedagogy is present in various forms both inside and outside the traditional classroom. Yet Mandela’s lesson of peace and reconciliation was a challenging one to absorb and to live by in a post-apartheid South Africa that was rife with racism, white supremacy, and structural violence. But to maintain peace in the country, and to enable its citizens to move towards the transformation of the oppressive social, political and economic realities that had been experienced by Black South Africans, it was crucial that Mandela’s message reach a mass public. Hence, by strategically utilising his political platform to lead controversial conversations within the public sphere, Mandela succeeded in employing rhetoric with the potential to impart knowledge to South Africans of all stripes, and was aimed at modifying their perspectives and bringing about transformative peace and stability within the country.
Education has to do with the types of conversations we choose to lead as educators and the methods we use to engage others in the conversation. It is about the pedagogical tools we employ, and its effectiveness relies on the skillful use of the platforms that are available to us. Regarding out-of-classroom platforms, these have been numerous and diverse throughout the ages. For instance, ancient Greeks had the Pnyx, a hill with a platform on which rhetoricians stood to address their listeners. Preachers had their pulpits and religious reformers their pamphlets. And today, we have various art forms, social media platforms, differing forms of satire, and late-night talk shows, among others. The wide reach of our current-day platforms impart a host of possibilities for personal and social change as these can be used to engender a conversation among diverse groups of people. Through them, an “educator” can elucidate a perspective on certain phenomena or further explain, approve of, or even ridicule a particular politico/socio event. Also, by using platforms such as comedy or satire, a public personage can spread their message in an entertaining way. This can be a powerful pedagogical tool. Yet as with all forms of communication, there are limitations that could lead to a particular message being diluted or provide room for misinterpretation.
The pedagogical tools used by public persons with large followings can also generate unfruitful misunderstandings and controversies. In some cases, the tools such influential personalities select to promote specific points of view can lead to a misinterpretation of their intended meaning, inciting their followers as well as their dissenters to remonstrate in ways that are potentially harmful to their reputations or to their cause. What’s more, the negative conversations and comments that come up may have less of a focus on the message delivered than on the actual character of the person delivering that message.
The four articles and the musings on pedagogy and practice featured in Critique and “Controversy” in Pedagogy and Pop Culture, highlight the ways that pop culture and social media provide platforms that promote critical thinking, dialogue and debate, and the type of questioning that underpins a socially aware and politically engaged citizenry. For instance, in our first article, “Perils and Promise of Virtual Reality in Inclusive Teaching”, Michelle VanNatta examines the possibilities, and potential difficulties, of employing virtual reality (VR) as a classroom tool to support inclusive education pedagogy. The author presents a specific VR project that was employed in a criminology university class and provides the views of the students regarding the benefits and limitations of the exercise. Through VanNatta’s article, we learn that via the use of VR, which has the technology to simulate real environments in a completely embodied and immersive experience, students are given the opportunity to experience the reality and point of view of others. It is this that renders VR technology relevant in the inclusive classroom. The adage that states that “you have to walk in another someone else’s shoes before judging someone” rings true, and the shoes of others provided by the VR experience include those of members of diverse societal groups whose experiences in society differ from members of the dominant and more privileged ones. Allowing university students to experience the lives of different individuals from the latter’s point of view enhances their understanding of the current realities of their lives. Vanaetta illustrates the use of VR technology in her classroom via a study where, subsequent to the activity, students answered a survey where they shared their opinion on the effectiveness of the exercise as well as some limitations that would need to be addressed.
Our second article, “Will the Odds Ever Be in Her Favor? Katniss Everdeen and the Female Athlete” demonstrates a pedagogical strategy employed by the writer Tom Kemerly where the popular dystopian film The Hunger Games was brought into a “Culture of Fitness” class to generate the interest of the students, a technique that proved successful as it gave rise to thoughtful discussion and comparisons between the role of the female athlete both in the real world and in the film. Among Kemerly’s students, which included several female athletes, the discussions became honest and very meaningful as these students described the gendered divisions they are forced to navigate within their sport and how these divisions affect their athletic performance as well as their conduct outside of practice and competition. These conflicts, in turn, mimic the reality of the female athletes in The Hunger Games. Hence, the same restrictions for female athletes exist in both spheres, the real and the make-believe, and interestingly, it was the film reflecting the reality of the female athletes in the classroom that enlivened the course and generated awareness of a situation in sports still lacking in fairness and equality.
With “Don’t Sweat the Technique: Rhetoric, Coded Social Critique, and Conspiracy Theories in Hip Hop”, John Chase takes the reader out of the traditional classroom and into that of the real world. As the title suggests, the article discusses the role conspiracy theories play in hip hop and the way the intent underlying their use can be misinterpreted by those who either follow or critique these various hip hop artists. Chase calls our attention to the consequences of hip hop artists infusing conspiracy panic into their work. Essentially, these artists employ lyrics related to conspiracy theories as a rhetorical technique, embedding these words into the essence of a song. Frequently, however, such lyrics are used to demonstrate the fallaciousness of the conspiracy theory, and thus do not reflect the artist’s point of view. Listeners and critics, however, frequently misunderstand the rhetorical nature of the song, reductively ascribing these views to the artist. Chase uses examples from hip hop lyricists Rakim, Tupac, and Nas to illustrate this tendency and to demonstrate how these misguided social critiques may ultimately delegitimize both the artist and their art, denying the artist’s scope to widen their own individual outlook to produce a work of art.
In the final article of this issue, Marissa Lammon examines the conflation of comedy and politics in the creation of satirical sketches and their influence on public opinion about controversial phenomena. The primary example in “Cake and Conclusions: Rhetorical Roots in ‘Sheetcaking’ and Fallacious Community Responses’’, is that of comedian Tina Fey’s hotly debated sketch on Saturday Night Live, where she ridiculed President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and urged privileged middle-class women to eat sheetcake instead of participating in rallies held in response to the protests. Fey’s sketch prompted debate and controversy as many listeners misinterpreted her underlying message. Lammon uncovers the nature of the public’s misunderstanding of the sketch and consequent outrage, demonstrating the role such satirical comedies play in moulding public opinion and satirizing public personages. The structure and nature of late-night talk shows is laid bare, showing their capacity to inform viewers of political issues and perspectives through humor and satire, and by so doing, leading to the formation of society’s understanding and resulting opinion of political issues.
In this issue’s musings, Florencia Garcia-Rapp reflects on the scholar’s need for tolerance and an acceptance of ambiguity while researching issues in popular culture. In “Teaching and Learning Popular Media Cultures: Fostering Enquiry Journeys within the Messy World of Human Social Life’’, Garcia-Rapp illustrates the potentiality of popular media culture pedagogies for enhancing anthropological discussions of today’s society. Indeed, for the student and/or researcher of the social sciences to attain an understanding of modern culture, it is crucial that social phenomena are interpreted in the spirit of openness towards diverse interpretations. It has to do with entering the discussion with the expectation of encountering contradictions and differing viewpoints, which ultimately enhance the scholar’s understanding of cultural phenomena and enables them to contribute meaningfully to the conversation. Furthermore, Garcia-Rapp highlights the import of bringing in elements of popular culture into the classroom through the processes of zooming in and zooming out as a way of allowing the educator to truly understand their students and providing students the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the cultural artifacts they engage with on a daily basis.
Ultimately, we should have these conversations, regardless of the discomfort brought about by potentially difficult dialogues. It is therefore necessary for educators and rhetoricians of any stripe to take on these pedagogical risks and that the ensuing conversations be held in an open and accepting manner. This is the type of education that will enable us to actualize a more liberatory society for all.
The overarching theme underlying Critique and “Controversy” in Pedagogy and Popular Culture is the conversations that are generated by educators in the traditional classroom and rhetoricians on popular culture platforms that are geared towards heightening awareness of current politico/socio issues and bringing about heightened tolerance and empathy towards individuals from other social groups. The current issue has come about through the collaboration of our dedicated team of individuals which include all authors featured in the issue and our peer-reviewers: Managing and Musings Editor, Karina Vado; Copy Editors, Robert Gordyn, Arlyze Menzies; Reference Editors, Joseph Yap, Yelizaveta Kamilova, April Manabat; and Production Editor and Creative Director, Douglas CohenMiller. In reading the articles and Musing in this issue, readers will gain an understanding of the merits of introducing studies of popular culture into the classroom, and conversely, the impact of popular culture in shaping and enhancing opinions and sensitivities regarding the controversial issues of the politico/socio sphere.
We look forward to your engagement with this issue and working with you in the future!
Book Review Editor
Sciala, M. (2022) Teaching for Change. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/teaching-for-change/
Sciala, Miriam. “Teaching for Change.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 3, 2022, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/teaching-for-change/Download as PDF
Don’t Sweat the Technique: Rhetoric, Coded Social Critique, and Conspiracy Theories in Hip-Hop
University of Louisiana Monroe
Monroe, Louisiana, United States
Conspiracy theories are once again a topic of heated debate in both popular and scholarly media. Critics on one side of this debate often take for granted an “underlying assumption that conspiracy theories should be subdued if not eliminated” (Uscinski 444). Other scholars have expressed concern over the ways the “conspiracy theorist” pejorative stifles dissent and regulates political rationality (Rankin; deHaven-Smith). Bratich argues that social anxieties about issues like emerging technology and race “get managed” through the public debate about conspiracy theories as an “object of concern” (160–61). This paper asks, what are the consequences when “conspiracy panic” spreads beyond concerns about dubious claims by government officials and political pundits and begins to shape the critical response to artistic productions? An answer to this question can be found by examining the relationship between conspiracy theories and hip-hop. As a genre, hip-hop has a longstanding interest in conspiracy theories, particularly among artists known for their engagement with social issues (Beighey and Unnithan; Gosa). I start by contextualizing the conspiratorial lyrics of two historic MCs: Rakim and Tupac Shakur. I then examine a recent release by the rapper Nas. Several critics cited the perceived conspiracism in Nas’s lyrics as reason for their lukewarm response to it. I offer a counter-reading that situates the lyrics in question within Nas’s broader rhetorical strategy of giving “voice to things to which nature has not given a voice” (Quintilian 161). Ultimately, this paper makes two claims: first, hip-hop artists deploy conspiracy theories as a rhetorical technique for addressing social and political anxieties; and, second, by adopting a strict literalist frame for interpreting lyrics, we echo earlier attacks on the genre and risk undermining hip-hop’s legitimacy as a genre and as a powerful tool of what Shane Miller calls “coded social critique” (40).
Keywords: classical rhetoric, hip hop, popular culture, conspiracy theories, social justice
Josh Chase is the L.M. McKneely Endowed Professor of English Literature at the University of Louisiana Monroe, where he teaches rhetoric and technical communication. His research examines conspiratorial rhetoric in public discussions of popular culture, ideology, science, and technology.
Chase, J. (2022). Don’t sweat the technique: Rhetoric, coded social critique, and conspiracy theories in hip-hop. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/dont-sweat-the-technique-rhetoric-coded-social-critique-and-conspiracy-theories-in-hip-hop/
Chase, Josh. “Don’t Sweat the Technique: Rhetoric, Coded Social Critique, and Conspiracy Theories in Hip-Hop.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 3, 2022, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/dont-sweat-the-technique-rhetoric-coded-social-critique-and-conspiracy-theories-in-hip-hop/
Cake and Conclusions: Rhetorical Roots in “Sheetcaking” and Fallacious Community Responses
University of Colorado Boulder
The convergence of politics and comedy within political entertainment has created a new environment, dissemination of information, and formation of public opinion. In response to white nationalist rallies, comedian Tina Fey utilized her political comedy platform to satirically comment on the inaction of several privileged consumers. Community response to the satirical skit reflected the complexity of satire as rhetorical strategy, notably when present online and within popular culture discourse, and the cognitive demands that result in fallacious tendencies. The following examines the fallacies that arise in response to Fey’s satirical message and the implications for political entertainment media.
Keywords: Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey, fallacious rhetoric, political satire, social activism, political entertainment, political discourse, popular discourse
Marissa Lammon is a PhD student in Media Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. She spent her undergraduate degree in psychology studying adolescent development and has used this background as a foundation while researching media throughout her graduate program. She specializes in psychological concepts in animation, specifically how media presentations and messaging can shape child and adolescent cognition and socialization.
Lammon, M. (2022). Cake and conclusions: Rhetorical roots in “sheetcaking” and fallacious community responses. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 9(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/cake-and-conclusions-rhetorical-roots-in-sheetcaking-and-fallacious-community-responses/
Lammon, Marissa. “Cake and Conclusions: Rhetorical Roots in “Sheetcaking” and Fallacious Community Responses.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 9, no. 3, 2022. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v9-issue-3/cake-and-conclusions-rhetorical-roots-in-sheetcaking-and-fallacious-community-responses/