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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. The author also would like to thank Dr. Angela Espinosa for suggesting the term “Cruel Summer”; a popular song by Bananarama; a 1980s era English band. 

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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Queerly Cultivating Anti-Racist Feminist Pedagogy

Laurie Fuller
Northeastern Illinois University
Chicago, Illinois, USA    


Queerly Cultivating Anti-Racist Feminist Pedagogy raises questions and analyzes classroom practices based on adrienne maree brown’s (2017) Emergent Strategy, a radical self-help manual for our current political climate that calls for a paradigm shift in organizing work. A Black, mixed, queer, pansexual, feminist writer, pleasure activist, facilitator and sci-fi scholar, brown builds on a continuous tradition of women of color feminists resisting oppression to bring together science fiction and permaculture, biomimicry and organizing, pleasure and activism. She offers fresh perspectives on how to imagine liberation and provides dynamic ways to think about teaching and learning. Emergent Strategy provides principles to help us change and grow, essential for all pedagogical work, and asks us to imagine liberation. In fact, emergent strategy principles can be integrated into classroom teaching and educational practices to create more meaningful learning, engagement, and measurable success: Trust people, what you pay attention to grows, less prep more presence, never a failure always a lesson, and change is constant (brown, 2017, pp. 41-42).  This article addresses present moment classroom concerns using these five principles to explore why and how to cultivate anti-racist feminist pedagogy and to do it queerly. In this case, queer is an action, a verb, something to do, and something to do to counter normative approaches, to queer them. Thus, queerly cultivating anti-racist feminist pedagogy questions the status quo, and can be used to challenge taken for granted, problematic and oppressive classroom practices and educational theories.

Keywords: Feminist, Anti-Racist, Queer, Pedagogy, Privilege, Oppression, Organizing, Emergent Strategy, Teaching

Author Bio

Laurie Fuller’s feminist teaching and learning practices center the use of imagination as a key tool to transform the contemporary conditions of oppression and to engender new ways of being in liberated, free and accountable societies. As the Audrey Reynolds Distinguished Teaching Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northeastern Illinois University, Laurie uses anti-racist, queer and speculative texts in the classroom to cultivate transformative justice. She has published articles in journals such as QSE, GLQ, Radical Pedagogy, Radical Teacher and the Journal of International Women’s Studies.

Suggested Citation

Fuller, L. (2020). Queerly cultivating anti-racist feminist pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2)

Fuller, Laurie. Queerly Cultivating Anti-Racist Feminist Pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020.


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Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage

Angela D. Mack
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, Texas, USA


This essay examines Netflix’s Luke Cage as a rhetorical reading of racial embodiment and productions of the cultural identity of Blackness and People of Color, and the tensions they produce to help audiences understand the current climatic flux between racial hostility and American idealism. With only two seasons in the small-screen version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Cheo Hodari Coker’s adaptation of the 1970s Blaxploitation Power Man comic foregrounded the recent wave of superhero narratives that expanded minority/gender representation from both major comic houses (MCU and DC Extended Universe [DCEU]). This examination employs the lens of Afrosurrealism, a conceptual framework of understanding Blackness through its many complex manifestations of cultural and aesthetic representations in art across time. It is through this Afrosurrealist concept where references to race such as “Black”, “Brown”, “White,” and “People of Color” are applied to describe specific people groups/collectives throughout this essay. Using Afrosurrealism, I argue that Luke Cage can be analyzed through Aristotle’s three species of rhetoric: the judicial rhetoric of the past, the epideictic rhetoric of the present, and the deliberative rhetoric of the future. By using these three rhetorical branches, this analysis demonstrates a diasporic reading of race with Harlem as its bridge to the “realms” of New York City and beyond. This reading of a Black superhero’s world, Luke Cage’s “Harlem World,” thus brings about an awareness of a necessary racial presence, resulting in a grounding of racial realities, that subverts an ideal post-racial afterlife in the post-Obama “American” universe. By understanding the show’s characters and the setting of Harlem as another type of Americana manifestation, an America that from its origin to its current iteration is constructed through race, we can continue to learn the significance of representation and how working through issues of race for African Americans and People of Color impacts everyone. If we continue to resist the racial tensions and realities in our social climate, then we run the risk of contributing to the racial issues we say we would like to help heal. 

Keywords: Luke Cage, race, rhetoric, Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, Marvel, MCU

Author Bio

Angela D. Mack is a PhD student at Texas Christian University studying Rhetoric and Composition. Her research areas include poetry/poetics, rhetorics of performance, sound studies, and critical race and ethnic studies. She has taught composition and poetry courses incorporating popular culture and multimodality in her classrooms.

Suggested Citation


Mack, Angela D. “Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2.


Mack, A. D. (2020). Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 7(2).

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Hell You Talmbout: Mixtapes as method for online environmental justice pedagogy

Elspeth Iralu*
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Caitlin Grann*
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

*The authors wish to indicate that there is equal authorship on this article. 


This paper takes on the mixtape as a pedagogical method for approaching urgent and critical topics within the undergraduate online classroom. Drawing on two case studies from different sections of an introductory course on environmental and social justice taught in an American studies department, we demonstrate how mixtape-inspired assignments offer a method for theorizing and enacting the connections between popular culture and critical scholarship around injustice in the humanities and social sciences while
also altering the space of the classroom to promote deeper student engagement, comprehension, and reflection. We argue that introducing popular culture as both content and method within an undergraduate course not only strengthens student understanding of key concepts and the relevance of these outside the classroom, but also acknowledges the importance of time and context within the space of the online course. Popular culture, a component of this context, enriches the online learning experience and responds to contemporary issues and events that students encounter in the material world. Mixtapes serve as a conceptual tool for understanding the contents of a syllabus and as a pedagogical tool for assessment. The practice of making mixtapes within a course on environmental and social justice opens the possibility for radical expression.

Keywords: mixtape, environmental justice, online classroom, online teaching and learning, popular culture, pedagogy

Author Bio

Elspeth Iralu is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the department of Community and Regional Planning at the University of New Mexico, where she teaches courses on Indigenous planning, environmental and social justice, and decolonial politics. Her research brings transnational American studies into critical dialogue with Indigenous geographies. Her writing has appeared in The New Americanist, the Journal of Native American and Indigenous Studies, and the American Association of Geographers Review of Books. 

Caitlin Grann is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico. Her current research explores the relationality of avant-garde and alt-country via a reimagined North American Southwest as it exists in the archive of artist Jo Harvey Allen. Caitlin makes photographic artist books in tandem with her scholarly research. Several of her pieces are in permanent collections of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Suggested Citation


Iralu, Elspeth and Caitlin Grann. “Hell You Talmbout: Mixtapes as method for online environmental justice pedagogy.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 1. 2020


Iralu, E. & C. Grann. (2020). Hell You Talmbout: Mixtapes as method for online environmental justice pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2).

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Triple Threat or Triple Opportunity: When a Pop Culture Course Goes Online at a Community College

Lance Eaton
North Shore Community College
Lynn, Massachusetts, USA

Alex Rockey
California State University, Bakersfield
Bakersfield, California, USA


Teaching popular culture comes with many opportunities and challenges in a traditional classroom, but equally interesting and valuable are the possibilities that teaching such a course online can provide. This article explores how “Popular Culture in the US,” an online course at a community college, embraces some key attributes of the digital world such as multimodal communication and Web 2.0 interactivity. Evolved from a face-to-face community college course, the online version has increasingly developed to move from an instructor-centered to a student-centered approach that relies upon various engagement strategies. By using student choice, OER-enabled pedagogy, and constructivist approaches, the instructor engages students by leveraging the Internet to educate students, empower them as creators of content, and support critical participation in popular culture. The article illustrates how teaching within the online space can enhance teaching and learning, particularly for courses that have a disciplinary focus on popular culture and media.

Keywords: pop culture, online course, constructivism, community college, universal design for learning, open pedagogy, open educational resources, interaction, multimodal

Author Bios

Lance Eaton has been teaching at North Shore Community College for over 15 years. He has Master Degrees in American Studies, Public Administration, and Instructional Design. He is currently a PhD candidate at UMASS Boston in the Higher Education program and his dissertation focuses on how scholars engage in academic piracy. He is also the Educational Programs Manager at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a part-time instructor at Southern New Hampshire University. He has given talks, written about, and presented at conferences on open pedagogy, hybrid flexible learning, and digital service learning. His musings, reflections, and ramblings can be found on his blog:

Alex Rockey, PhD, is an instructional design consultant for the teacher education department at California State University, Bakersfield. Alex also will teach and supervise emerging educators at CSU-Bakersfield in the fall. She has experience both as a teacher in K-16 contexts and as an instructional designer. Her research focuses on the ecology of feedback in online courses that considers instructor and student perceptions as well as the impact of mediating technologies. She curates her work on online education on her website:

Suggested Citation 


Eaton, L. & Rockey, A. (2020). Triple threat or triple opportunity: When a pop culture course goes online at a community college. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 7(2).


Eaton, Lance and Alex Rockey. Triple Threat or Triple Opportunity: When a Pop Culture Course Goes Online at a Community College. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020.

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When the Crisis Hits Home: Helping Students Cope with Illness and Death

Bridget Goodman
Nazarbayev University
Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

In the previous three columns, I highlighted ways in which social media is providing resources, platforms, and inspiration to continue to educate our students and/or our children during this pandemic.  The presentation of these offerings has been driven by my view, influenced in part by early positive reports out of China, that continuing to teach online can provide structure and a sense of “normalcy” to students and teachers who are forced to remain at home. Continue Reading →