SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Politics of Culture

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

The course shall examine debates in the discipline of politics about the role of “culture” in politics – as practices of meaning-making in politics; as a series of everyday practices and rituals with implicit (or overt) political content; and as cultural products (art, films, etc.) both whose making and content reflects a specific politics.  

To do so, the course will require three activities outside class:

  • A visit to the British Museum – as the basis of discussing Orientalism, but also Nationalism and empire in the politics of archaeology and artistic accumulation
  • A visit to a diasporic enclave in London – as the basis of a discussion of questions of identity-making, immigration, and the political economy of “cultural” practices (restaurants, specific shops catering to specific communities, etc.)
  • Selection of an overtly political film, or art piece, or theatrical production – to discuss what politics goes into the production of such artwork; the ways in which the overt and implicit politics that such artwork espouses can be critically understood and explained.

The course will also examine the role of meaning-making and semiotics in social movements and political mobilisation, in the production of hegemony, and critically assess outdated and problematic “national culture” or “culture of violence” paradigms. The great majority of the course will be either broadly theoretical or based on Middle Eastern examples, but students can choose their essays to address broader topics outside of the Middle East.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of a course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the themes, debates and issues around “culture” and cultural production in the discipline of politics
  • Examine critically and assess a form of cultural production and the politics it implicitly or explicitly espouses
  • Assess critically the role of theory and politics as context for creation of the arts or cultural practices
  • Produce critical writing about cultural practices and objects


  • 2 hour lecture per week

Method of assessment

Assessment is 40% unseen examination and three 1,000 word essays at 20% each. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules