Race, Ethnicity, and Popular Culture

Regina Arnold

RHET 295
Core A2

Course Description:

Since the presidential election of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008, the word “post race” has been used to describe American society. But recent events in Arizona around issues of immigration, anti-Muslim hearings in New York City, and frequently invoked tea party ideology all argue that race is still a category that shapes the way we experience the world. This class will begin by examining the historical contexts, institutional biases and social practices that shape how race has traditionally been configured in America, before going on to see how popular culture practices – including music, art, poetry, and literature -- can work to undo those prejudices and stereotypes.

The class will be governed by two overarching themes. First, students will need to understand how race gets ‘done’ in America, and second, how popular culture can work to either reinforce and/or intervene with that process. Ideally, students will come away from this class with a better understanding of how the arts can be used to redress inequalities and bring about social justice.

Faculty Bio:

Regina Arnold holds a B.A. in mass communications from U.C. Berkeley and a PhD. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. She is a former journalist and pop culture commentator who has contributed in the past to many publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly, and she is the author of two non-fiction books on St. Martin’s Press, Route 666 (1993) and Punk in the Present Tense (1997), as well as an upcoming book, Exile In Guyville, Continuum Press, 2012.