GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs

Sources of Our Knowledge

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As Flint explains, “we all carry around ‘knowledge’ of countries that we probably know very little about.” (2013, p. 73) We gather information about these countries from a variety of sources including Hollywood movies, television shows, songs, jokes, comedy routines, comics, magazines, and so forth. These sources can paint an interesting picture or caricature of a group of people, a particular location, or a nation as a whole.

This list of ‘patriotic songs’ wasn’t created based on some rigorous scientific analysis with objective criteria establishing what patriotism is. A list claiming such qualifications would be questionable at best. The point of directing you to this list is to have you go through the list and observe what songs are on the (subjectively created) list and perhaps even look up the lyrics to a song of interest. What image is being created in this song? How are places (or people) constructed (or characterized)? What assumptions do you make about the topic(s) of the song and how might it inform your narrative about America?

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

This is not the typical patriotic song in that it actually questions American Nationalism. The song focuses on the conflicted physical/mental/emotional space of the “common man” – providing examples ranging from an American soldier returning from Vietnam to an ungrateful America, to factory workers who were being displaced while the nation was unable or unwilling to confront the domestic loss in manufacturing jobs to a new global economic order. The song’s chorus: "Born In The U.S.A." has become a rallying cry for US pride and patriotism. However, Springsteen’s intention was to question various political and economic trends underway in America and how they were impacting average Americans. (Born In The U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen Songfacts. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015)

To Watch

Watch the following The Daily Show with Jon Stewart clip titled, The Fourth Estate.

The video highlights the power of discourse and “knowledge” production. French philosopher Michel Foucault argues “experts” are given the authority to create “knowledge” which then becomes ‘common sense’ and normative behavior. In the clip from The Daily Show, Jon Stewart highlights how various media outlets have “succeeded” in creating “knowledge” and thus shaping our understanding of the world in particular ways.

Indeed, as Flint argues, pop culture references are ubiquitous—they are ever-present, everywhere. What we read, watch, and listen to all inform various aspects of what we “know.” In particular, Flint discusses how Reader’s Digest and the Bourne movies are an example of both the Gramscian and feminist definitions of power. Are there any other TV shows, movies, or fiction works that you can think of that might fit well into these categories?