Leola A. Johnson

301A Humanities



Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 9 to 10,

Friday 9 to 11 by appointment

Clay Steinman

301C Humanities



Hours: Tuesday 2 to 4, W 10-11,

and by appointment


Advanced Topics Seminar:

Whiteness and the Media

Spring 2001/W noon-4 p.m./HU 102

(additional screenings TBA)


Course Description:

For most of the past decade, the burgeoning literature on race, racism, and the media has focused on the "Other," that is, on representations of Blacks, Latinas/os, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in journalism and in commercial culture generally. This capstone seminar offers advanced experience in an increasingly important but still inadequately investigated area of racism and the media, study of the unmarked category of race, in representations and understandings of Whites and Whiteness. This reorientation makes visible what has long been invisible, namely that White identity is also "raced" in its representation–and has a history and politics. We trace the development of the category of Whiteness in the European colonial project and study its function in the racism of the Southern United States as well as in Northern cities, where different immigrant groups negotiated an uneasy relation with dominant White culture. Then we look at the survival of White discourses in neo- and post-colonial environments, where they flourish, generally invisibly, long after the original colonial projects that spawned them have been overthrown or exhausted. We look at the survival of these discourses in films, clothing styles, and the audiences and texts of television. And we consider alternative forms of representation that challenge the privileged vantage point of what Stuart Hall has called the "whites of their eyes." Prerequisites: Ideally, students in the course will have taken at least one course in media studies and another in either Comparative North American Studies or African American Studies or a course in International Studies that focuses on race. Other students will be admitted with permission of one of the instructors. Junior or senior standing is required. Non-majors welcome. Signature required, preferably by the end of registration for Spring 2001.

Required Texts

(Available at Ruminator Books)

(listed by author/editor in boldface in the schedule)

Recommended Texts

(Available at Ruminator Books and Ordered for 2-Hour Library Reserve)

Background Texts

This is an advanced course. If you have not had a previous course in media studies or are unfamiliar with media theory informed by cultural studies, you should read Stuart Hall’s Introduction and "The Work of Representation" in Hall, 1-74. If you have not had a previous course or have not read much material dealing with Whiteness and race from a cultural studies perspective, you should read Maurice Berger’s White Lies (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998), which is widely available. Together, these books introduce the key concepts we shall be working with this semester. If you would like additional background reading, or want to discuss any background reading you have done, please see us. In addition, if you haven’t already seen them, you should look at Marlon Riggs’s Ethnic Notions (1986) and Color Adjustment (1991), on reserve on VHS in Media Services.


Grades will be based on:

--1 midterm essay examination (take-home) (25 percent).

--1 3,500-4,000 word paper (40 percent). Guidelines will be distributed.

--1 oral presentation of your paper to an invited audience at the end of the term (10 percent). Guidelines will be distributed.

--Class participation, including discussion leadership (25 percent). Please do not hesitate to ask questions, or to disagree with us, with the readings, or with other students. However, since most people do not have extensive experience talking about race in a way that might involve disagreements, it is essential that we create an atmosphere in the class in which all of us feel welcome to express our views without fear of personal attack. (Again, this does not mean that we all need to agree.) Crucial to this process is organizing our conversations around developing shared understandings rather than individualistically making points, especially at others’ expense. If you find at any time that you are uncomfortable with the atmosphere in the class, please let us know. Exceptional participation will be rewarded. If you have not yet read an assigned text or seen an assigned film, you might not want to comment on it. Also, please be considerate of other students’ conversational styles and do what you can to offer everyone an equitable opportunity to speak and to be heard. We expect regular attendance and participation based on the reading assignments. Students whose attendance is irregular (more than one unexcused absence since the class only meets once a week) or who are routinely late or unprepared risk a reduction in their final evaluation of up to one letter grade

We urge you to call on us for help with your papers and to work with other students, as long as you do not plagiarize their ideas.

You must complete the exam and the paper to pass the course. Grading will follow the "Guidelines for Papers" at the end of this syllabus. We expect that on average the course will require about eight hours per week of work outside of class. You might want to read ahead or complete projects early to even out the course requirements and balance them with those of other classes.

Late Papers:

Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each class day or portion late (for example, a "B" paper submitted one class late would receive a "C"). Call one of us if you are going to miss a class or deadline due to illness or other unforeseen circumstance (you can always leave a message). Failure to call in advance or lack of documentation of disability may result in your work being considered late or your absence unexcused.


Discussion Leadership:

You will be responsible for working with one or two other students to lead a discussion of a week’s reading. These discussions should not repeat what is in the reading but rather interrogate the arguments and assumptions behind the arguments you encounter. Relating the week’s readings to others in the course is especially helpful, as is bringing in independently found textual (print, video, audio, Web) examples useful in considering the readings. Every student is required to send a discussion question to one of the leaders by midnight Sunday of each week. The discussion leaders should use those questions that they believe will make for the most productive discussions.


The class is scheduled for four hours to allow screenings of relevant media materials. We plan for three hours of discussion per week, so sometimes class will end before 4 p.m. Screenings of films for outside viewing will be announced.

Readings are due on days noted. We expect you to bring copies of readings to class. As you read, look up definitions of unfamiliar terms. We would be happy to go over any of the reading with you outside of class, either individually or in small groups. The syllabus is not set in stone. Feel free to suggest changes.

W 1/31 Dyer, Introduction and "The Matter of Whiteness," xiii-xv, 1-40.

Shohat and Stam, Introduction and "From Eurocentrism to

Polycentrism," 1-54.

W 2/7 Black Athena (1991, United Kingdom, Christopher Spencer).


F 2/9 Last day to register/validate.

W 2/14 Shohat and Stam, "Formations of Colonialist Discourse," "The Imperial

Imaginary," and "Tropes of Empire," 55-177.

Stuart Hall, "The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the

Media" [1981], The Media Reader, 1st ed., eds. Manuel Alvarado and John O. Thompson (London: BFI, 1990), 7-23 (on E-reserve for COMM 34).

F 2/16 Last day to add/drop a class/change grading option.

W 2/21 Hale.

W 2/28 Jacobson.

W 3/7 Lutz and Collins.

Take-home midterm examination assigned.

M 3/12 at noon. Take-home midterm examination due in HU 301.

W 3/14 McClintock, "The Lay of the Land: Genealogies of Imperialism," "Soft-

Soaping Empire: Commodity Racism and Imperial Advertising," and "The White Family of Man: Colonial Discourse and the Reinvention of Patriarchy," 21-74, 207-257.


Sa 3/17-S 3/25 Spring break.

W 3/28 Entman and Rojecki, Preface, "The Racial Chameleon," "White Racial

Attitudes in the Heartland," "Culture, Media, and the White Mind: The Character of Their Content," "The Meaning of Blackness in Network News," "Violence, Stereotypes, and African Americans in the News," "Benign Neglect in the Poverty of News," xi-xv, 1-106. While we will show video clips relevant to the reading, we ask you to bring in at least one relevant print example.

W 4/4 Entman and Rojecki, "Affirming Discord," "Black Power," "Prime-Time

Television: Whiter and Whiter," "Advertising Whiteness," "Race at the Movies," "Reflecting on the End of Racial Representation," 107-225. While we will show video clips relevant to the reading, we ask you to bring in at least one relevant print example.

Shohat and Stam, "Stereotype, Realism and the Struggle Over

Representation," 178-219.

F 4/6 Last day to withdraw from a class.

W 4/11 Peter Hamilton, "Representing the Social: France and Frenchness in Post-

War Humanist Photography" and Stuart Hall, "The Spectacle of the ‘Other,’" Hall, 75-150, 223-290.

Shohat and Stam, "Ethnicities-in Relation," 220-247.

F 4/13 Good Friday holiday.

W 4/18 Dyer, "Coloured White, Not Coloured" and "The Light of the World,"


Th 4/19 Optional travel to Cornell College.

F 4/20 Cornell College 2nd Annual White Privilege Conference: "Understanding,

Respecting, and Connecting with the Changing Faces of America."

M 4/23-F May 4 Fall 2001 class registration.


W 4/25 Dyer, "The White Man’s Muscles," "There’s Nothing I Can Do!

Nothing!," and "White Death," 145-223.

Shohat and Stam, "The Third Worldist Film," 248-291.

F 4/27 St. Thomas Undergraduate Communication Research Conference,

Minneapolis, 8:30-4:30 p.m. (The plenary speaker is Judith Martin of Arizona State University, who is speaking on "Understanding Whiteness in the United States." We are planning to propose a panel composed of volunteers from the class.)

W 5/2 Shohat and Stam, "Esthetics of Resistance" and "The Politics of

Multiculturalism in the Postmodern Age," 292–362.

Concluding remarks.

Course evaluations.


TBA Oral presentations of research.

W 5/9 at 4 p.m. Final papers due in HU 301.

Su 5/20 Baccalaureate and Commencement.


Papers must be double-spaced, stapled, responsive to all aspects of the assignment, including length (put a word count on the front page), and follow the MLA system of documentation and style (except that your name should appear only on the back of the last page). Make sure you document every reference, whether quotation or paraphrase, including page numbers whenever possible. Feel free to write in the first person. Support claims not common knowledge with evidence and conclusions with argument. Avoid hyperbolic words like "extremely." Take time to plan your papers, and to rewrite them. Always keep a second copy of your work. Define all terms whose definitions are controversial or obscure. Assume your reader has not taken this course. When discussing reception, avoid claiming without evidence that all viewers respond identically to any text. Instead of using such potentially misleading terms as "we" or "the viewer," discuss your own encounter with the material (using the first person when appropriate), and try to analyze just what in the material--and in your ways of seeing it--might have structured your response. Include as much detail as you need to support your argument.






Failure to follow any of the above guidelines will result in a lower grade. Otherwise, here are our standards:

A paper may combine characteristics of different levels of work. In that case, the grade will depend on the paper's overall demonstration of knowledge of the material and of college writing skills. Please see us if you have questions about our standards or about any of your grades.

Plagiarism will be handled according to the Macalester document, "Some Notes on Academic Honesty," with which you should be familiar.