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Sustainability and Popular Culture

MESS56, 7.5 Credits

Discourses of sustainability are increasingly embedded within culture in all of its multiple dimensions, including different worldviews and values, ways of life, and other forms of cultural expression.

This increase of sustainability discourses in the daily practices of society might contribute to shifting the current unsustainable trajectory.

For this course, popular culture is defined as the entirety of attitudes, ideas, images, perspectives, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given Culture. The most common pop culture categories are: entertainment (movies, music, television, games), sports, news (as in people/places in news), politics and fashion/clothes.

The overall aim of this course is to increase the students’ awareness and understanding of popular culture and its different representations of sustainability and nature. The course is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1 will provide an overview of the competing theories and concepts surrounding popular culture and its linkages with sustainability.
  • Part 2 will examine a series of case studies such as sustainable fashion, food, political campaigns and advertisement, and critically analyze the way they represent sustainability. In this part, the complexities of popular culture are in greater focus. Examples of questions that can be discussed: How advertisement and entertainment influence the ways we imagine nature and the environment; and how ideas about sustainability are communicated in politics through political campaigns.
  • Part 3 will ask what strategies sustainability studies can learn from popular culture, for example by analysing media strategies of successful sustainability initiatives. The course will, as an example, analyse visual data to understand how visual methods such as photography and documentary film create arenas for the public to engage in and discuss sustainability.

Literature list

Literature list, established 2021-05-20 PDF (361 kB)

The course definitely complements and advances my previous knowledge, both from the governance course but also from social theory. This course really helped me realize how useful the social theory course is/was.


Student, Batch 23