Topics in Political Thought


This course provides an exploration of the connections between popular music and contemporary politics. We explore four main themes in the course, taking care to learn about the political/historical events that inspire the music. 1. We start with the experience of the United States in the Vietnam War. Vietnam was central to both the politics and culture of the 1960s and 1970s and it thus had an outsized impact on the direction of innovations in popular music. Vietnam is also noteworthy as it is the first war where combatants had ready access to popular music while in combat, which led to interaction between music and war-fighting that was unprecedented. We will take a close look at the conflict itself in addition to reading, listening, and thinking critically about the music its participants produced and "consumed." 2. We focus on race and politics in the United States, exploring the role that protest music has played and continues to play as a mode of expression and contestation. After discussing the persistent role that race plays in American politics, we cover some key protest songs, how they were influenced by events as well as how they influenced the processes they criticized. 3. We undertake a sweeping exploration of soul music in America, and its interaction with race and politics over several decades. The scope of the treatment is quite comprehensive, as we start with early forms of gospel and blues, subsequently moving through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and into more contemporary musical movements with political relevance. 4. We next tie music and musical events that span borders. We first examine several prominent pieces of global protest music, paying special attention to three songs from Nigeria, Chile and Jamaica. We conclude the course with a discussion of how musicians have formed and participated in transnational advocacy networks (TANs), covering the "boomerang" model of transnational advocacy developed by Keck and Sikkink and using this framework to thin
Course Attributes: EN S; BU Hum; AS SSC; FA SSC