Political Popular Culture


The course is designed for students who are at the beginning of their Master’s degree and have completed two to four years of study in the humanities and/or social sciences. The course is relevant to students interested in cultural studies, media and communication, film and television studies, popular culture studies, music studies, literature, gender studies, politics, global politics, sociology.


The course on Political Popular Culture explores how popular culture and social media influence politics in contemporary transnational digital culture. We will critically evaluate methods and consequences that the mediatisation and digitalisation of popular culture have had for political debates, issues, values and practices.

The course approaches the relationships between culture and power from a multidisciplinary perspective. The focus is on intercultural encounters where political ideas transcend the borders and become international and transnational practices through popular culture and everyday media behaviour. We ask why politicians should care about popular culture, and why the argument that popular culture is 'just entertainment' has been transformed into notions of 'pop politics'. We seek answers to such events as why Beyoncé tweeted to the Finnish Prime Minister about poverty issues or why a fictional African country of Wakanda has become a part of black political culture.


The course is led by Dr Outi Hakola, University of Helsinki, who is a specialist in media and cultural studies. The multidisciplinary group of teachers represent such fields as political history, political theory, gender studies, communication studies, film studies, and music studies.


After taking this course, the students can understand how and why popular culture has such a decisive role in contemporary political debate and rhetoric. The students are familiar with such concepts as transnational, mediatisation, digitalisation of culture, and affective political culture. The course will increase students’ intercultural competence in understanding different political cultures and interaction within global politics. They will also gain skills to study popular culture materials and get experience in using digital research methods.


The course offers lectures and discussions with leading Finnish and international scholars. The students will work within groups, give presentations, organise debates and engage in reading groups in order to formulate their interests and thoughts. Excursions to political and popular culture institutions will add a pragmatic perspective into intersections of politics and popular culture. The course will utilise digital learning tools and research methods.


Grading scale: 5 = excellent 4 = very good 3 = good 2 = average 1 = poor 0 = fail. Assessment is based on participation in lectures and excursions (20%), group exercises (40%), case studies (20%) and a learning diary (20%).


City Centre Campus

Preliminary schedule (pdf)


Course readings consist of topical research articles on popular culture and politics. The material is distributed electronically (Moodle) and is accessible before the beginning of the course.