Popular Music and Politics

Course code
Course fee (excl. housing)
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Can popular music subvert stereotypical representations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity? Or does pop instead reinforce white and heteronormative patriarchy? In this course we analyze a range of songs by some of the most popular musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj, and question whether their artistic output offers the potential to resist hegemonic social structures.

This course does not offer a comprehensive survey of popular music and its various political interventions. Instead, we closely examine a number of representative case studies and place these within the broader history of popular music and politics. The analytical scope will include careful attention to music, video, lyrics, and in particular to the interplay between these dimensions. To this end, we read a selection of cutting-edge academic publications by musicologists as well as by prominent authors from other disciplines, including bell hooks, Paul Gilroy, and Jack Halberstam.

Our analysis will be a collective and highly interactive endeavor. With open discussions, presentations, and position papers we open each other’s ears and eyes to different perspectives on the social position and responsibility of popular music. We will most likely not reach a conclusive synthesis with regard to popular music and politics; the primary aim of the course is to develop theoretical tools and critical insight to examine diverse case studies and their subversive potential.

NB: This course is part of the track 'Pop & Jazz in Society'.

Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)

Course director

Wouter Capitain, MA

Target audience

Students interested in popular music and politics, including students from music studies as well as from (for instance) gender studies, postcolonial studies, and cultural analysis. Basic knowledge of general music theory is recommended, since some of our course materials will include discussions about musical details.

Course aim

To develop theoretical tools and critical insight to examine how popular songs subvert and reinforce stereotypical representations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity.


Course fee:
Course + course materials
Housing fee:

Housing through: Utrecht Summer School.


For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

  • Motivation Letter

More information

Utrecht Summer School | E: info@utrechtsummerschool.nl | T: +31 (0)30 253 4400

Wouter Capitain | E: w.h.p.capitain@uu.nl

Recommended combinations
Jazz Improvisation and Social Interaction


Application deadline: 01 July 2020