Pedagogy and Pop Culture: Pop Culture as Teaching Tool and Assessment Practice


This article is an excerpt from E-IR’s Edited Collection, Popular Culture and World Politics.
View all of E-IR’s Publications here.

Popular culture is today an intrinsic element of social and political life in many societies, particularly those that have reached advanced stages of industrialisation and development. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we are exposed in one way or another to elements of popular culture. The development and advancement of communication networks and technologies, particularly the internet, has only hastened the spread and penetration of popular culture into our everyday lived experiences. As Webber (2005, p. 389) notes, we live in a world of fantasy, exposed to a massive array of both interactive (video games) and passive (movies, TV) fictional entertainment. This is not a particularly novel claim and has been recognised many times before elsewhere, both within and outside the discipline of IR (for example, see Grayson, Davies and Philpott 2009; Ruane and James 2012). The discipline of International Relations (IR) has been generally lethargic, however, in recognising the value of popular culture for both learning and teaching and the production of knowledge about the international.

Still, today there is a growing literature that interrogates the intersections of popular culture and global politics (for example, Der Derian and Shapiro 1989; Weldes 2006; Neumann and Nexon 2006; Carver 2010), and the work of scholars such as Ruane and James (2012, p. 8) has made a strong case for employing popular culture in the classroom. As they and others (Tierney 2007; Dougherty 2002) have argued, using popular culture as a teaching tool can aid in stimulating students and developing their excitement about both the IR courses that they take and the content that is delivered within them. It can also help teachers to ground content (such as relevant IR issues, theories, concepts and events) in a way that is potentially more relatable and accessible to students.

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