Race And Representation In The Media and On Tell-Lie-Vision!

Part 1


Dr Lez Henry

Part 1 of this 3 part 5 week course taught by Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry explores the notions of race and representation by evaluating their key roles in the construction of identity in contemporary British society. These roles will be examined via an interdisciplinary approach, which will focus on social theory, history, music, fashion, advertising and various types of mass media as sites for the production of particular forms of gendered and racialised difference. These themes will be further developed in parts 2 & 3 of the course.

The course requires no prior knowledge of the subject area and no formal qualifications are necessary as we will take a critical approach to identity and racial representation, using our personal knowledge and experiences as the starting point. This will ensure a learning environment that will encourage full participation and as such the course will be useful to anyone who is seeking to improve their written or verbal communication skills, or perhaps considering further or higher education. For this reason the sessions will be highly interactive and feature several group based, as well as individual, activities and there will be insights provided on delivering PowerPoint presentations.

The course will be suitable for anyone 16+ who is interested in understanding how our ideas of self and other are influenced in ways that are designed to divide and rule us all, based on race, class and gender.

The course aims:

1. To introduce students to a range of approaches and arguments that have been used to interpret and understand ‘real’ or ‘imagined’ forms of racial identity.

2. To encourage students to think critically about key concepts such as ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’ and gender, demonstrating how an understanding of the history of these concepts aids a better understanding of contemporary British society.

3. To critically assess the argument that our ‘lifestyles’ are influenced by our immersion in an information society that promotes new forms of inclusion and exclusion.

4. To consider how popular, expressive, cultural forms such as black music can be regarded as tools of resistance and transcendence in alternative public spaces.

Learning outcomes / objectives: 

1. Students will have grasped and understood the strengths and weaknesses of the theoretical approaches used in social theory to interpret meaningful human behaviour.

2. Students will have developed their analytical skills and will thus be in a position to critically assess what is at stake in an interpretation of social life.

3. Students will be able to link various forms of knowledge and thus widen their appreciation, in a practical sense, of inclusion and exclusion based on the history and politics behind racial discrimination.

Key themes:

  • Identifying Difference: The Sociology of Race
  • The politics of culture, Image and Identity
  • ‘Popular’ culture and ‘unpopular’ identities in the media
  • Whiteness as power – Blackness as fashion 

Essential Readings: will be provided at the first session all of which will feature during the course and will cover:

  • The construction of identity within sociology, anthropology and cultural studies. 
  • How social theory understands and interprets meaningful behaviour and how this impacts on our own sense of identity as racialised and gendered subjects. 
  • An Africentric approach to understanding white supremacist thought and action 
  • How the mainstream media influences our ‘commonsense’ understandings of black life in a racist society like the UK?

Students are encouraged to draw on and include your own resources to enhance our collective learning experience.

Method of Assessment: This will be ongoing as individual students (voluntary or my choice) will be required to critique each reading on a weekly basis as we journey through the course. By the end they will be in a position to undertake a critical engagement with social theory and deliver an oral presentation (5 – 10 mins) to demonstrate what they have learned from the sessions.

Presentation Topics

  1. Human behaviour is learned rather than based on instinct. Discuss.
  2. What do we mean by ‘popular’ culture?
  3. Are ‘races’ real as in ‘natural’? Or are they social/political/cultural constructs? Discuss.
  4. Does ‘popular’ culture influence our social, cultural, or racial identities?
  5. Is there such a thing as an objective reality?
  6. Do you believe it is now possible to go shopping for an identity? Discuss.
  7. Can ‘popular’ cultures be used as alternative sites of resistance? 
  8. Is there a relationship between identity and culture? Discuss.
  9. Can identity only exist in relation to notions of difference? 
  10. How can we think about music as politics? Discuss with examples.
  11. How can we think about ‘culture’ as a ‘way of life’?
  12. What makes a woman a ‘woman’ and a man a ‘man’? Discuss with examples.
  13. Discuss the ways in which women can actively resist a dominant masculinity.
  14. Discuss the relationship between the cultural and the economic in the context of racial stereotypes in ‘popular’ notions of identity.
  15. How can we think about the media as a site for institutional power and racism?
  16. Identify examples of black resistance on television and in other forms of media.

Course Content

  • Session 1: Introduction to race and representation 
  • Session 2: Identifying Difference: The Sociology of Race
  • Session 3: The politics of culture, image and identity. 
  • Session 4: ‘Popular’ culture and ‘unpopular’ identities in the media
  • Session 5: Whiteness as power – Blackness as fashion

Course Information:


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Here are some comments from evaluations forms completed by past students:

“It has opened my eyes to critical analysis in the media where I couldn’t see before”

“The opening of my third eye. Increased knowledge. Exposed me to new authors/ books/ articles”

“I enjoyed the fact that it provoked more thought and analysis of what is in the media”

Places on these courses are limited. Places are available on a strictly first come, first served basis and we anticipate that there will be a lot of demand for this course. If you would like to attend this course, please contact us for an enrolment form.