CULT202-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019

Cultural Politics/ Cultural Activism

15 points
Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2019
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2019
Withdraw Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty: Friday, 26 July 2019
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 27 September 2019


The course considers the strategic roles that culture can play in influencing political and social change, studying a wide variety of cultural texts and practices.

This course considers the politics of our everyday lives. It focuses on how 'culture' - as a process, as a practice, and as the production of meaning - functions as a battleground in the assignment of and struggle for social power. We will address how culture operates in terms of social control and resistance, and consider how we might ‘read’ culture. We will explore some of the ways that subjects and subjectivities are produced, and how bodies are shaped and controlled through discourse. Throughout the course, we will consider how these ideas inform various forms of cultural activism – a blend of artistic expression and activism grounded in the need for social justice and political change.

As Cultural Studies is interdisciplinary in nature, we will apply theoretical and practical debates to a wide range of contemporary cultural texts and modes, from films, television, museums, music, galleries, new media, performance and visual art, to everyday acts of social and political resistance like culture jamming. In the first half of the course, we will consider the history and origins of some of these forms of cultural activism, including Marxist theories of power and culture, key post-1968 cultural resistance movements such as the Situationist International, and debates about culture, industry and authenticity. In the second half, we explore contemporary approaches to space, bodies, identities, taste, and power. We will pay close attention to issues such as socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, and race. Students will be invited to apply theories and concepts to their own examples and experiences throughout the course’s classes and assessments.

While this course is offered by the English department and the Cultural Studies programme, it provides an excellent grounding in a broad range of the sorts of theories that underpin contemporary study in the humanities and so will be of value to students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. We regularly hear from students that this course has acted as an excellent foundational course for higher-level study. Students will also find that ENGL132 / CULT132 Reading Culture is a helpful precursor course, but it is not essential preparation. If you have queries about enrolment and pre-requisites, please contact the course coordinator.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1. explain how and why ‘resistance’, ‘control’, ‘identity’ and ‘authenticity’ are complex and problematic terms

2. demonstrate an understanding of some key works of critical and cultural theory by describing key concepts and applying them to a wide range of everyday cultural texts and practices

3. analyse and problematise ways that cultural forms and practices have, over time, been assigned meaning and value

4. evaluate some of the ways that subjects and subjectivities might be constructed, negotiated and contested

5. appraise the textuality and politicality of cultural forms and practices by developing analyses and arguments relating to examples of your choosing

University Graduate Attributes

This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


Either 15 points of ENGL at 100-level with a B pass, or 30 points of ENGL at 100-level, or any 45 points from the Arts Schedule


Equivalent Courses

Timetable 2019

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 13:00 - 14:00 A9 Lecture Theatre 15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 11:00 - 13:00 A9 Lecture Theatre 15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct


Erin Harrington


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
In-class quiz 10% A short answer and multi-choice quiz covering concepts from the first weeks of the course.
Media exercise 20% This assignment will ask you to apply some of the concepts from the first portion of the course to a media text of your choosing.
Research project 30% 1500-1800 words
Final take-home test 40% Two 1000 word essays on topics relating to cultural activism and the theorists covered in the second half of the course.

Please note: this course does not have a final exam.

Textbooks / Resources

All readings will be provided via Learn. This includes extracts from a variety of theorists and writers, including Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Guy Debord, Jean Baudrillard, Angela McRobbie, Mikhail Bakhtin, Tony Bennett, James Clifford, Michel Foucault, Dick Hebdige and Michel de Certeau.

(Image: "If graffiti changed anything it would be illegal - Banksy" by duncanc, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Cropped from original.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $761.00

International fee $3,188.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see Humanities and Creative Arts.

All CULT202 Occurrences

  • CULT202-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019