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Among Us: Politics of Representation in the United States 

Department: Literature and Urban Studies and Planning         

Instructors: Joshua Newton and Haydee Smith
Instructors' Emails:;
Prerequisites: none 
Section ID: 155012

Schedule: Mon. - Fri. 12 - 1PM PST


Course Description

We are living in a moment of political conflicts around gentrification, Islamophobia, police brutality, the Mexico-United States border, LGBTQ civil rights, and women’s choice. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter, the MeToo Movement, and Right to the City are organizing around identities and issues to affect political change in the public arena. However, while people work together in narrowly defined groups to amplify their collective voices, identity formation and representation is a more complex process. How do people navigate the intersectionality of their multiple identities? How do people represent themselves individually through writing, art, and social media? How do people reconcile their individual identities within group articulations of identity? How are the political, personal, public, and private spheres interlocking and mutually constitutive? How do groups represent themselves through collaboration and conflict in the public sphere? And, how does the state (in)validate collective and individual identities?


This course traces the methods and content of individual and group cultural and political representation in the United States from 1920 to the present. We will focus on three time periods—1920 to World War II, 1950s-1970s, and 1990s to present--primarily through the lenses of race and ethnicity, gender, class, disability, and sexuality. By exploring how individuals represent themselves, how groups assert identities and advocate issues, and how political collaboration and conflict occurs, we will come to a better understanding of our own

standpoints and the vast spectrum of political and cultural representation in the United States.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

  • Learn how individuals represent their complex mix of identities to the broader public through memoir, art, and social media.
  • Develop an understanding of how group identities are composed, communicated, and coopted in the public sphere.
  • Gain knowledge of how identities are enacted in urban places and harnessed into political action.
  • Engage firsthand with multiple cultural sources including memoirs, art, music, fashion, and social media.

Content and Evaluation

We will utilize lectures, small group discussions, and videos. Students will be required to complete course readings, worksheets and quizzes, a mid-course project, and a final project. Worksheets will be short and will help students absorb course content and facilitate small group discussions. The mid-course project will allow students to explore and engage with methods of individual representation such as memoir, art and/or social media. The final project will be a group project where students delve into the practice and politics of group representation by presenting on a burgeoning social movement.

Topical Outline

  • Taxi Dance Halls
  • Jazz culture and Zoot Suits
  • Lowriding culture
  • Rap/Hip-hop culture
  • Drag performances
  • Documentary and Reality Television
  • Hollywood cultures and the Motion Picture Production Code
  • Symbolic Annihilation and Cultural Imperialism
  • Standpoint theory
  • Civil Rights Movements (African-American, Chicano, Asian American, and Native American, LGBTQ Rights, Disability Rights, Women's Liberation)
  • Protest movements (Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Me Too Movement and Women’s March, Right to the City and Anti-Gentrification movements)
  • Counter protest movements (Men's Rights Movement, Straight Pride, Unite the Right, and Antifa)
  • First, Second, Third, and Fourth-Wave Feminisms
  • Postfeminisms
  • Pop culture vs. academic feminisms
  • Supreme Court Cases (Including but not limited to: Buck v. Bell (1927), Edwards v. People of State of California (1941), Korematsu v. US (1944), Loving v. Virginia (1967), Roe v. Wade (1973), Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc (1999), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), US v. Windsor (2013), R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (present/2019)


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students. Courses have been modified for online teaching.