International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 36: Gender and popular culture
The argument on popular culture presented here is located within the discipline of international relations (IR). It addresses how and why the gendered dynamics of popular culture are important to the study of world politics. There has been much interesting research conducted within cultural studies, women’s studies, postcolonial studies, anthropology, film studies and other disciplines. However, while the themes, methods and assumptions of traditional IR have been challenged by scholars from diverse critical approaches over the last 30 years, this has not always led to increased attention being paid to the importance of popular culture within the discipline. Moreover, gendered analyses of popular culture have suffered under a ‘double burden’ of apparent irrelevance and consequent marginalization. It is essential to study the dynamics of popular culture, and specifically the gendered dynamics, if we are interested in global political processes. An obvious cluster of examples includes those cultural texts that states deploy as recruiting tools and to ‘sell’ war and military intervention, for example Frank Capra’s early 1940s Why We Fight film series or America’s Army: Online. Among other things, these rely heavily on overtly gendered logics of strength, power and nationalism.
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