Comparative Political Communication

Syllabus (pdf)

This course introduces some of the central issues in the field of political communication from a comparative perspective. We concentrate on the United States and the People’s Republic of China as primary cases, but students are welcome to bring up examples from other countries. The course does not require any previous knowledge about China or the US. However, students in the past have found it helpful to take a general introductory course on Chinese politics beforehand (for example, “Political Reform in East Asia” in block 2).

The course covers two overlapping themes: First, we discuss the relationship between communication and democracy. What is democracy? Are so-called “non-democracies” more than a residual category? What is the role of communication in democracy? What is the role of communication for democratization? Second, we examine different forms of political communication, including the mass media and citizen deliberation. What is the role of mass media in politics and how do the media affect citizens’ political attitudes? How do citizens talk about politics in an existing or emerging public sphere? During the discussion we will critically examine the evidence and methods presented and generate new hypotheses and research topics.

The course has two basic goals. The first is to introduce students to the major themes, debates, and puzzles in the study of political communication. The second is to allow students to grow familiar with some of the methodological challenges of studying political communication (through evaluation and critique of the text) and then to develop a research proposal of their own that sets out a research question and a research plan for answering that question. The course is designed around engaged and lively debate on the issues; therefore, student participation is absolutely necessary. Each student will have an opportunity to lead the discussion during the semester.

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