PS140O: Projecting Power

Prof Wasow


Why Projecting Power?

  • Personal
  • Academic

About Me

Who am I?

  • Worked in traditional and social media for about a dozen years

  • Went back to grad school to study the rise of mass incarceration


Race as a ‘Bundle of Sticks’

How did nonviolent protests influence public opinion?


Projecting Power

Some Questions

  • Can we learn with mind and body?
  • Can we use film to travel across space and time?
  • Can we study films to better understand the power of media more generally?
  • Can we study narrative to understand the power of story?

More Questions

  • Can we use examples in films to illuminate and evaluate social science theory?
  • Can we use social science to better understand cases in films?
  • Can we use film to better see the role of the state (though often seemingly invisible)?
  • Can we use film to study how power operates?

Questions for You

  • Sit or stand
  • Pair up
  • Discuss any movie that moved you
  • What struck a nerve?
    • Was there a particular scene that touched you?
    • Were there characters who spoke to you?

Structure of Course

GSI: Jane (Mango) Angar

  • Comparativist focused on electoral violence and disability politics
    • implications of electoral violence on political accountability
    • sexual violence against women during political violence and effects on participation of women in politics as voters and as candidates
    • disability and citizenship

Course Requirements

  • Participation (20%)
  • Presentations (20%)
  • Quizzes (10%)
  • Midterm (20%)
  • Final (30%)

Weekly Overview

  • One film
  • Two primary texts
    • Approximately one from social science and one on media
  • Some short additional texts
  • Every week aim to put texts in conversation with film

Lecture Overview

  • ~1/3 Student presentations
  • ~1/3 Lecture and discussion
  • ~1/3 Facilitated discussion


Political Science &
The Battle of Algiers

Possible Themes for Week 1

  • Origins of nationalism
  • Master narrative and counter-narratives
  • Pros and cons of violent and nonviolent tactics
    • by both insurgents and state
    • terrorism, strikes, types of targets
  • Key players: FLN, military, civilians, press, UN…
  • Role of media, women in insurgency, children
  • Role of states in funding and banning film

Putting Film and Text in Conversation

“Narratives are important in providing both individuals and collectives with a sense of purpose and place. The shared stories of a culture provide grounds for common understandings and interpretation. But as such, they may become sites of cultural conflict when those common understandings are challenged.”

— Patterson & Monroe (1998, 321)

Putting Film and Text in Conversation

“When narratives of culturally acceptable success are not available or are beyond imagination for a particular group, subcultures provide alternative ways to make sense of one’s place in the world. (Folk tales provide one obvious instance of this. Indeed, nationalist movements often make use of folk stories in their attempts to unify a people.)”

— Patterson & Monroe (1998, 320)

Close Reading of a Scene (and/or Text)

  • What’s going on?
  • What’s conveyed?
  • What directorial choices shape our experience?
  • Does the scene serve as a kind of symbol or analogy for something larger?
  • How does power work in the scene?
  • Where is the state? Who wields “legitimate use of violence”?

Why a Politique du Pire?

“Ethnic and other insurgencies, for example, often adopt what is called in French a politique du pire, a politics of seeking the worst outcome in the short run so as to bolster their legitimacy or improve their prospects in the longer run.”
— Brubaker (2002), Ethnicity without Groups