The course title Politicizing Beyoncé is a bit of a misnomer now, since Beyoncé herself has injected more explicit politics into her work over the years (and she never needed anyone to “politicize” her from the get go). I created the class in 2010 at Rutgers University, before politics were a readily apparent facet of her visual repertoire. I’ve taught it over a dozen more times since then, always incorporating the newest Beyoncé creations.
The class isn’t about learning trivia, memorizing lyrics, or practicing dance steps. The reading list is rigorous and the foundation of the course is cultivating an intersectional feminist lens (one that stresses the various ways that power and privilege function, especially around race, gender, and sexuality) to view pop culture and the world around us. To create conversations and interaction. To see the world in new ways and be better people in the world. Beyoncé’s work just serves as case study.
Songs and videos are paired with particular black feminist work to highlight different contemporary and/or historical issues, politics, and histories. We don’t read about Beyoncé; we place her work into a longer trajectory together. The class is about what Beyoncé’s work can teach a wide audience when we analyze the layers she constructs, dive deeper. It’s also about exposing and negotiating the various ways many of us are complicit in the same systems of power Beyoncé’s work seeks to critique. It’s about becoming critical thinkers and critical fans while having a lot of fun!
I’ve never been interested in the more “traditional” or “disciplinary” forms of education and always wanted to take the Politicizing Beyoncé curriculum beyond the walls of formal classrooms. The class started at Rutgers, but I’ve traveled to other schools across the country and venues around the world in the past years to facilitate interactive guest sessions not only in lecture halls but at arts festivals, community spaces, even in bars and clubs. I’m super excited to begin this online community classroom version and hope you’ll join me! (There’s a Politicizing Beyoncé book forthcoming too; content in the online classroom will highlight songs and videos not featured in the book.)
More on me: I’m originally from Utah and have advanced degrees in both American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. I do freelance writing and speaking on pop culture more generally, teach a bunch of different courses as an adjunct, was an indie musician for many years, host the semi-regular “Bey-Ond Pop Culture” podcast, and was a featured contributor on MSNBC Shift’s “So POPular w/ Janet Mock!” You can learn more about any/all my work at www.kevin-allred.com. I hope I’ll see you in the classroom!