Typically historians use images and examples from the popular culture to illustrate a point they are making that is drawn from more traditional sources. Rarely do they use cultural products from the popular arts – television, radio, film – as primary sources for conceptualizing historical questions and framing their analysis. This panel brings together three scholars whose work is centered on the popular arts as lenses into larger historical questions, leading to new interpretations. The panel includes scholars working in Latin American, European, and American history. Each paper focuses on a key analytical or theoretical issue in their respective fields, and at the same time uses the media, and the institutions that surround modern communications systems, to present fresh ways of answering key historical problesms. Megan Feeney of St. Olaf College looks at film and film criticism as key to the development of revolutionary consciousness in pre-1959 Cuba. Thomas Wolfe of the University of Minnesota History Department explores how the media was central to the successful creation of the European Community. Lary May of the University of Minnesota will examine how the unprecedented rise of violence in movies of the post-World War II era signal a shift in national ideas about solving global and domestic problems.
Taken together, these papers demonstrate that the use of media and popular culture as primary sources leads to new historical interpretations. Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, who has used popular culture as a source in much of his scholarship on military culture, will serve as commentator. Judith Smith of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, will chair the session.