Article List | V8 Issue 3

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Traversing Borders, Transgressing Boundaries in Popular Culture and Pedagogy

The concepts of border and boundaries center the way in which we can think about the articles shared in this issue, 8.3, for Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. As a popular working image deployed for interrogations of the multiplicity of identity, borders, though physical, cannot be reduced to a geographical or territorial boundary. Echoing this point, Gloria Anzaldúa writes in the preface to the first edition of Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza that borderlands “are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle, and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy” (Preface). Indeed, the very liminality of borders invites us to critically contend with the contradictions and negotiations that emerge from navigating or straddling cultural (ex. language and religion) and social borders (ex. race, gender, sexuality, and class). Yet while the image of borders habitually communicates notions of boundedness, dichotomy, exclusion, and stasis given the violent histories of oppression that belie it, borders, whether real or imagined, are open to contestation, disruption, and transgression. “Borders, after all,” as public intellectual and self-proclaimed nomadic performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña reminds us in his artist/personal website, “are there for us to cross.” In this vein, the four articles presented in this issue, Traversing Borders, Transgressing Boundaries in Popular Culture and Pedagogy, deal with traversing and transgressing borders and the myriad possibilities and limitations that such crossings and transgressions invite. 

In the first article in this issue, “Halfies, Half-Written Letters, and One-Eyed Gods: Connecting the Dots of Communicative Cultures,” Gregory Stephens traverses the seemingly intractable boundaries between communication studies, ethnographic studies, pedagogy, and popular culture to “distill the theory of communicative cultures as a tool for cultural analysis.” Defining “communicative cultures’’ as a “a set of shared commitments expressed through cultural means,” Stephens analyzes and explores the pedagogical potentialities of Jamaican writer Olive Senior’s short story, “Country of the One Eye God,” to “illustrate the necessarily unfinished and processual nature of cultural analysis.” In so doing, Stephens attempts to resist static conceptualizations of culture and essentialized notions of identity by enacting a practice of cultural analysis that “accounts for radical fluidity.” Animated by Abu-Lughod’s definition of “halfies’’ as a key group that, by virtue of their cultural and/or national in-betweenness, often “expose and challenge static concepts of culture,” Stephens adapts the term as a form of cultural analysis. Through this connect-the-dots analytical approach, Stephens suggests that teaching texts such as Senior’s “Country of the One Eye God’’ invites students to appreciate and “develop a sense of culture as relational, distributive, and attuned to the connections and interconnections of lived cultural processes.”

Using Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War as central case studies, the second article of this issue, “Crossing Over: The Migrant ‘Other’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” bridges media studies with migration studies to analyze how these films “reflect anxiety about the alien (migrant) ‘other’ through difference and crisis.” Contextualizing these films within our rife sociopolitical climate, one marred by renewed anti-immigrant politics and the increasing militarization of our  geographical borders, Casey Walker, Anthony Ramirez, and Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez argue that films/texts like Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War, while innocuous on the surface, are “symbolic of a creeping right-wing discourse that dehumanizes outsiders, refugees, and migrants in popular culture.” By adopting Symbolic Convergence Theory as their key analytical framework, Walker, Ramirez, and Soto-Vásquez not only perform close readings of the MCU films under consideration but also, and perhaps more importantly, explore how “analyzing texts situated adjacent to fan communities can reveal how meaning flows in our hybrid media environment.” Though Walker, Ramirez, and Soto-Vásquez do acknowledge the film director’s “good intentions” behind the making of these films—they include, for instance, snippets of an interview where the director shares that he sought to emphasize Thanos’ villainous god-complex—the authors foreground the creeping “emergence of Thanos-inspired eco-fascism thinking among well-intentioned people.” In so doing, Walker, Ramirez, and Soto-Vásquez ultimately reveal how the emergence of this Thanos-inspired eco-fascist rhetoric precariously informs the “real world” dehumanization of migrant subjects who are too often deemed “dangerous border crossers.”

The third article in this issue, “Media Literacy, Education, and a Global Pandemic: Lessons Learned in a Gender and Pop Culture Classroom,” explores the pedagogical risks and adaptations that both a student and educator took on in an upper-division course— “Sex: Gender and Popular Culture”—that was being offered amid what was then the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic (spring 2020). In response to bell hooks invitation in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom to “collaborate in discussion that crosses boundaries and creates space for intervention,” Lowell Mason (the course instructor) and Imobhio (one of Lowell Mason’s former students), offer readers a collaborative and dialogic essay that privileges pedagogical border crossings. Indeed, as Lowell Mason and Imobhio write in their essay, “in coming together, as student and teacher, [they] are deliberately collaborating, crossing boundaries and dismantling the power structure between teacher and student to create space for pedagogical awareness and change.” Moreover, in conceiving their dialogue as an academic and cultural text, Lowell Mason and Imobhio argue that they transgress the “boundaries of what is considered an ‘academic text.’’ Shifting to a discussion on how an ever-evolving crisis-informed pedagogy prompted a re-imagining of the course, Lowell Mason argues that “being deliberate and specific about the role of media literacy’s role in the course is the pedagogical intervention that the pandemic produced.” Peppering the essay with student media literacy project examples, Lowell Mason ultimately suggests that “A media literacy course, one that teaches students how to view, question, and better understand the world and representations within it, is an important place for us to dismantle the culture of silence and create better representation.”

Bringing together video games studies and composition and writing pedagogy, Joy Sterrantino’s article, “It’s Dangerous to Learn Alone- Play This: Video Games in Higher Education, particularly in the Composition Classroom,” focuses on the importance of incorporating texts in the writing classroom that push the boundaries of what is understood as “proper dialects” (or, academic language) and what is considered a “suitable” academic text and/or teaching format. Though video games have, as Sterrantino’s makes clear, their own dialects and lexicons, ones that society oft-times dismisses as elementary and time-wasting, Sterrantino argues that video game dialects may be “the best way to teach students the material and skills we want them to learn.” Indeed, Sterrantino writes that “applying gaming language and structures to a class, a language many students already know, professors can use game structures to make students feel like insiders; students will then be more committed to what they are learning.” Putting to practice calls for the gamification of the higher education classroom, Sterrantino shares a preview of a collaboratively developed composition course where “gaming” elements will be integrated into the course’s content/Canvas page. By centering what game studies has to offer writing pedagogy (and higher education, more broadly), Sterrantino shows how coming to understand gaming (and its dialects)  as a valid pedagogical tool disrupts the idea that students need only “learn the conventions of this [traditional] classroom or leave.”

Across the articles in issue 8.3, Traversing Borders, Transgressing Boundaries in Popular Culture and Pedagogy, audiences see the potential for thinking about popular culture and pedagogy through the complicated notion of borders, whether in constraints or the opportunities such as suggested in cultural analysis, in film, and through innovative practice integrating social media, dialogic work, and video game dialects in teaching and learning. As 2021 comes to a close, we can look back and see the challenges we collectively have learned from and moved through, for good, bad, and all the layers in between. This issue was made possible by a strong team of individuals, including the authors and peer reviewers for these articles, Copy Editors – Miriam Sciala, Robert Gordyn, and Arlyce Menzies; Reference Editors – Joseph Yapp and April Manabat; Creative Director – Douglas CohenMiller. We hope that there is something in these articles that encourages you to think about popular culture and pedagogy in new ways, offering potential for traversing border and transgressing boundaries in your thinking and practice.

Karina Vado
Managing Editor
Anna CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

 

A note from the Editor in Chief

I would like to thank Karina Vado for her insightful and incredible work across positions at Dialogue from Book Review Editor to Musings Editor. For this issue, it was my honor to have her come aboard as Managing Editor, making this a stronger, more robust issue because of her work.

Anna CohenMiller

 

References

Anzaldúa, G.A. (2007). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (3rd ed.). Aunt Lute Books.

Gómez-Peña G. (n.d.) Publications. https://www.guillermogomezpena.com

hooks, b. (2014). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Suggested Citation

APA

Vado, K., & CohenMiller, A. (2021). Traversing borders, transgressing boundaries in popular culture and pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/traversing-borders-transgressing-boundaries-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy/

MLA

Vado, Karina, and Anna CohenMiller. “Traversing Borders, Transgressing Boundaries in Popular Culture and Pedagogy,” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021.  http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/traversing-borders-transgressing-boundaries-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy/

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Halfies, Half-Written Letters, and One-Eyed Gods: Connecting the Dots of Communicative Cultures

Gregory Stephens
University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
gregory.stephens@upr.edu

Abstract

This essay distills the theory of communicative cultures as a tool for cultural analysis. Nadine Gordimer’s line about the difficulties of returning to “half-written letters” is used to frame anthropology’s critique of “bounded culture” or “container cultures,” predominat in Cultural Studies. Anthropologists Lila Abu-Lughod and Kirin Narayan have described “halfies” as in-between peoples who can help us understand fluid, processual cultures as normative. Building on this stance, and the work of rhetorical genre scholars, Stephens defines communicative cultures as “a set of shared commitments expressed through cultural means.” This approach to cultural analysis, in which literature is viewed as an “ethnographic resource,” is illustrated through an analysis of Jamaican writer Olive Senior’s story “Country of the One Eye God.” The repeating patterns in Jamaican culture which this approach reveals, it is suggested, point to the wider utility of communicative cultures as an analytical concept.

Keywords: Communicative; cultural analysis; ethnography; repeating patterns; generations; structure of feeling; literature as ethnographic resource

Author Bio

Gregory Stephens is Associate Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, where he has taught Creative Writing to STEM students since 2014. His book Three Birds Sing a New Song: A Puerto Rican Trilogy about Dystopia, Precarity, & Resistance was published by Intermezzo. Short fiction includes “Taming the Mountain: Two Views of Gabriel,” Wild Roof Journal (2021), and “Close to the Bone,” Obelus Journal (2019). Literary nonfictionincludes “Going South,” Barely South Review (Fall 2020), and “Through the Window in St Lucia,” with co-author Janice Cools, Rigorous: A Journal by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (2021).

Suggested References

APA

Walker, Gregory. (2021) Halfies, half-written letters, and one-eyed gods: Connecting the dots of communicative cultures Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/halfies-half-written-letters-and-one-eyed-gods-connecting-the-dots-of-communicative-cultures/

MLA

Stephens, Gregory. “Halfies, Half-Written Letters, and One-Eyed Gods: Connecting the Dots of Communicative Cultures.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/halfies-half-written-letters-and-one-eyed-gods-connecting-the-dots-of-communicative-cultures/

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Media Literacy, Education, and a Global Pandemic: Lessons Learned in a Gender and Pop Culture Classroom

Jessica Lowell Mason
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York, USA
jlmason1@buffalo.edu

Ebehitale Imobhio
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York, USA
ebehital@buffalo.edu

Abstract

In Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, bell hooks writes that “to engage in dialogue is one of the simplest ways we can begin as teachers, scholars, and critical thinkers to cross boundaries.” Hence, this paper explores, through narrative dialogue, teacher and student perspectives on the pedagogical impact of the global pandemic on the process of engaging with and learning about media literacy. By naming and narrating teacher and student experiences and perspectives from a course on gender and pop culture that took place during the Spring 2020 semester, the paper aims to demonstrate the way that crisis can both expose certain pedagogical issues as well as generate pedagogical opportunities. It narrates and reflects on the ways in which moments of crisis create opportunities for educators to think differently and more expansively about pedagogy by demonstrating its occurrence in one course, and how the combination of factors specific to the crisis required both the instructor and their students to re-situate themselves in relation to the course content. Through a teacher-student meditation, the paper argues that media literacy is a subject that leads to increased pedagogical deliberation and experimentation in the study of pop culture. It suggests that the experiences described might provide wisdom for further pedagogical development on the subject of media literacy, more broadly, positioning and inviting educators and students to engage in dialogue in order to shift paradigms according to the moment of crisis at hand. The broader aim of the article is to encourage educators to follow the example of the students in the gender and pop culture course who felt empowered to create innovative and social-justice-focused media literacy projects as a way of exercising agency, and of confronting and dealing with the harsh realities of global circumstances. 

Keywords: Media literacy, media, pedagogy, pop culture, pandemic, education, gender, gender studies, gender and pop culture

Author Bios

Jessica Lowell Mason, Lecturer at Buffalo State College and Doctoral Candidate in Global Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University at Buffalo, is serving as Editor and Accessibility Fellow with the Northeast Modern Language Association. During the 2020-2021 year, she was a graduate fellow with the College Consortium and the Coalition for Community Writing’s Herstory Training Institute and Fellowship Program, Teaching Memoir for Justice and Peace, a year-long program in partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University. Some of Mason’s poems, articles, and reviews have been published by Sinister Wisdom, Lambda Literary, Gender Focus, The Comstock Review, IthacaLit, The Feminist Wire, SUNY Buffalo’s Romance Studies Journal, and Praeger. Her research, pedagogical, and literary interests and practices center, broadly, on identity and language, but more specifically on representations and constructions of madness within archival documents as they strive to assert identity and self-fashioning under systems of oppression that seek to silence and erase them. She is also the co-founder of Madwomen in the Attic, a feminist mental health literacy and advocacy organization in western New York.

Ebehitale Imobhio is currently completing her masters degree in Community Health and Health Behavior in the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo. She is currently a member of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Council and the co-founder of the Envision Mentoring Program for undergraduate students of color in the program. She is passionate about bridging the gap between academia and communities through the use of accessible language.

Suggested Reference

APA

Lowell Mason, J. &  Imobhio E. (2021). Media literacy, education, and a global pandemic: lessons learned in a gender and pop culture classroom. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/media-literacy-education-and-a-global-pandemic-lessons-learned-in-a-gender-and-pop-culture-classroom/

MLA

Lowell Mason, Jessica, and Imobhio, Ebehitale. “Media Literacy, Education, and a Global Pandemic: Lessons Learned in a Gender and Pop Culture Classroom.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/media-literacy-education-and-a-global-pandemic-lessons-learned-in-a-gender-and-pop-culture-classroom/

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Crossing Over: The Migrant “Other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Casey Walker
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX, USA
caseyjoewalker@gmail.com

Anthony Ramirez
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX, USA
arramirez@tamu.edu

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez, Ph.D.
Texas A&M International University
Laredo, TX, USA
arthur.soto-vasquez@tamiu.edu

Abstract

Two mainstream films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) reflect anxiety about the alien (migrant) “other” through difference and crisis. In this article, we explore how refugees and “shithole” planets form a major plot point in Captain Marvel (2019). At the most extreme, alien exclusion is articulated in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), from the villain’s perspective, as a Malthusian need for extermination of lives to preserve environmental balance. Seemingly innocuous, these narratives are symbolic of a creeping right-wing discourse that dehumanizes outsiders, refugees, and migrants in popular culture. Inspired by the call to consider how film and new media converge, and to bridge the gap between media and migration studies, we assert that the representation of and rhetoric about migrants deserve study in popular culture beyond their mere textual representation. Symbolic convergence theory (SCT) is used to do a close reading of the texts and the fandom communities around them, drawing out discourses and themes that resonate in popular discussion. We find translations of anti-immigrant narratives bleeding into fan communities, mediated through irony and internet culture.

Keywords: Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Other, Migrant, Symbolic Convergence Theory, Captain Marvel, Avengers Infinity War

Author Bio 

Casey Walker is a PhD student in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies how sci-fi and monster films (such as Monsters (2010), Arrival (2016), and Star Wars Episodes VII and VII (2015, 2017)) are reacting to the rise in visibility of white nationalism in the 2010s.

Anthony Ramirez is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. He studies Latinidad in popular culture and media, representation of immigration and issues of the U.S./Mexico border.

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Communication at Texas A&M International University. He studies digital media, identity marketing, Latinx political communication, and visual culture. 

Reference Citation

MLA

Walker, Casey, et al. “Crossing Over: The Migrant “Other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/crossing-over-the-migrant-other-in-the-marvel-cinematic-universe/.

APA

Walker, C., Ramirez, A., & Soto-Vásquez, A.D. (2021). Crossing over: The migrant “other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/crossing-over-the-migrant-other-in-the-marvel-cinematic-universe/.

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It’s Dangerous to Learn Alone – Play This: Video Games in Higher Education, Particularly in the Composition Classroom

Joy Sterrantino
Southern Utah University
Cedar City, Utah, United States
sterrantino@suu.edu

Abstract

When people think of educational games, they often just think of ones geared towards kids:  these might include spelling and vocabulary games like Scribblenauts, creative games such as  Minecraft , as well as historical games such as Carmen [Sandiego]’s Ancient Caper, but according to the Entertainment Software Association in 2019, 65% of adults play video games (almost half of which are female), the average gamer is 33 years old, and 63% of all gamers are playing with others at least one hour a week (“Essential Facts” 4, 5, 8). This means that the majority of the population plays video games of one type or another. Video games are part of most people’s discourse today, so it is odd that they are virtually ignored as a pedagogy once students enter middle or high school, and they certainly are not considered as a viable learning method in college. However, since games may be the key to how the majority of people of all ages learn best, it is a tool worth utilizing in higher education. I believe in particularly stressful classes, such as freshman composition, gamifying the classes can help reduce student stress and help achievement by couching complex and unfamiliar ideas in a fun and familiar structure. 

 Thus, dialect is important because we often get caught up in “proper dialects,” academic language and in this case, traditional academic formats. And while these are important to learn, students can learn them better when working by adapting an already-effective language to new and often intimidating information. Gaming has been proven to be one of the most effective methods of motivation and feedback to exist which is exactly what students need.

Keywords: video games, higher education, composition, writing, dialect, English, game, gaming, university, fun

Author Bio

Joy Sterrantino is an English professor at Southern Utah University, where she teaches a Writing About Video Games composition course; she also teaches composition classes about Big Brother, conspiracy theories, art, and science fiction, as well as teaching Science Fiction literature and Shakespeare classes. Her interests in video games include the prominence of the dystopian genre, the creation of fictional cultures, and game structure as a means of motivation in higher education. She is currently working with a team to gamify her composition class through the Canvas education management system.

Suggested Reference

MLA

Sterrantino, Joy. “It’s Dangerous to Learn Alone- Play This: Video Games in Higher Education, Particularly in the Composition Classroom.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/its-dangerous-to-learn-alone-play-this-video-games-in-higher-education-particularly-in-the-composition-classroom

APA

Sterrantino, Joy. It’s Dangerous to Learn Alone- Play This: Video Games in Higher Education, Particularly in the Composition Classroom. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. vol 8, no. 3, 2021. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/its-dangerous-to-learn-alone-play-this-video-games-in-higher-education-particularly-in-the-composition-classroom/

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