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Pedagogy and Popular Culture, Distiguished scholar lecture


Written by Professor Jack Holland

Last week, I jumped on a train for the long journey up to St Andrews (so old, it pre-dates the apostrophe, and so expensive, nobody actually lives there). Lovely though, with plenty of American students keen for a UK-version of the liberal arts experience and to meet a royal.

I’d been invited up to deliver the teaching forum and ‘Distinguished Scholar Lecture’, which is sufficiently prestigious that I felt compelled to take a jacket. To be honest, I had assumed my invite arrived by mistake (perhaps they thought I was the Northern Irish journalist or Bromley’s midfielder – I wish). The previous invitees were some of IR’s better-known names; there wasn’t a single former speaker where I didn’t know their work. I can only assume they were sat in their offices reading Selling the War on Terror in reciprocation.

Distinguished Scholar and Mark Imber Lectures

Distinguished Scholar Lectures

  • March 2023, Jack Holland from Leeds University, Pedagogy and Popular Culture: International Relations and the (Small) Screen
  • May 2019, Robbie Shilliam from Johns Hopkins University, Decolonizing the Episteme: Empire, the Academy, and International Relations
  • March 2018, Amitav Acharya (American University), Is global International Relations possible?
  • April 2017, Cynthia Enloe (Clark University), Feminism in the Age of Trump
  • May 2016, Chris Brown (London School of Economics), Sovereignty versus human rights in a post-western world
  • May 2015, James Der Derian (University of Sydney), Travels in quantum realities
  • February 2014, Stephen Krasner (Stanford University), School seminar

For the teaching forum, my remit was ‘informal and interactive’ (we had those bumper car chairs to move around and crash into each other). So, I chinned off the plan and, inspired by an innovative ISA panel, decided to explore the role of comedy and humour in our teaching. There’s a burgeoning literature on humour, spearheaded by James Brassett and work at Warwick, but not much has turned to consider its role in the classroom. By the end of the session, St Andrews had been transformed into a meme factory, with genuinely funny and insightful jokes on IR theory and discussion of how to empower students to create their own.

For the Distinguished Teaching Lecture, I played it a little safer and spoke about something I have some claim to expertise in (rather than just blagging it). Judging by the volume of questions, this seemed to work. After the lecture, we chatted for a good hour about two pedagogical papers I’d published (in Politics and International Studies Perspectives) which show how students make use of different video types in their learning, as well as the fact

that students develop critical evaluative skills and visual literacy through the integration of fictional TV into their curricula. This led to conversation around my 2019 MUP monograph on fictional TV and US politics, which is a great cue for people to ask about the politics of their favourite show – from Sex and the City to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Overall, then, a good trip. I’m very grateful for the invite and hospitality which more than made up for St Andrews’ seagull-led morning chorus (pretty sure it needs an apostrophe there).