Discussion Prompts

Week 14 (April 20 & 22)

  • What is the Panopticon and how does it function?
  • What importance does Foucault attribute to “visibility”? What role do visibility and invisibility play in panoptic structures of power?
  • What does Foucault mean when he says that societies of antiquity were “societies of spectacle” and modern societies are “societies of surveillance”? What are the differences? What historical events created such differences?
  • Is the United States a “disciplinary state”? Other than the police and military, what are our primary disciplinary mechanisms?

Schrader, Nopper & Kaba:

  • How has the militarization of the police connect to Foucault’s historization of societies of “spectacle” and “surveillance”?
  • How have globalizing processes affected the militarization of the police in the U.S.?
  • Can the events in Ferguson, Missouri be seen as part of larger global processes? Why or why not?


  • How does internet “content moderation” play into Foucault’s panoptican and the globalization of surveillance?


Hip hop:

  • What is the relationship between globalization, neoliberal capitalism, and the development of hip-hop music and culture?
  • How did hip-hop spread globally? Has hip-hop become a global form of resistance music, and if so, why?
  • Has hip-hop become appropriated and/or commodified? Do we see examples of commodification and appropriation in the Chang and Aidi articles? Given this, can hip hop still be a form of resistance (to capitalism, oppression, inequality, etc.)?
  • What forms of resistance have we encountered in previous course readings, and what happened in these situations? Resistance to what and how? What actually needs to be resisted – neoliberal capitalism, globalization, etc. or something more specific? And how has/should resistance actually occur?


Week 13 (April 15)
Edmunds; Nadeem:

  • Are personal appearance and beauty a kind of symbolic capital? Where do we see examples of this in both the articles?
  • What is the relationship between racial/ethnic histories and standards of attractiveness? Do these play out differently in India and Brazil?
  • What is the relationship between bodily transformations (such as lighter skin, plastic surgery) and ideas of self-esteem, self-worth, and personal empowerment?
  • Do “the poor have the right to be beautiful’? What is the connection between access to plastic surgery, self-esteem, and egalitarianism in Brazil?
  • What does it mean that we are critiquing of these practices from a privileged Western perspective?


Week 12 (April 6 & 8)
Zirin (Introduction, Chs. 1-4):

  • What have been some of the negative effects of the World Cup in Brazil? What specifically is Zirin critical of? Who does he see the World Cup as benefiting and why?
  • Zirin discusses mentions three specific spaces in Ch. 1 – The Museum of the Slaves, the Maracana stadium, and the Indigenous Cultural Center. What is his main point about each of these three spaces? Why do you think he chose these three in discussing the impact of the World Cup on Brazil?
  • What are some examples of police militarization in Brazil in preparation for the World Cup?
  • Why do you think Zirin ended his book title with the phrase “the fight for democracy”? What are some examples from the reading that connect to the idea of “the fight for democracy”?

Zirin (Chs. 5-7, Conclusion):

  • Who/what are FIFA and the IOC? Why do they have so much power?
  • Why do governments want to host sports mega-events like the World Cup and Olympics? What do they get out of it?
  • What is Zirin’s main argument about sports mega-events as “neo-liberal Trojan horse” and the “sports shock doctrine”?
  • What was the impact of the World Cup on the favelas in Brazil. How does these connect to Harvey’s idea about “accumulation by dispossession”?


Week 11 (March 30  & April 1)
City of God Film:

  • Story/narrative in the film itself – What do you think are the central themes of the film? What larger issues associated with globalization, capitalism, and industrialization are affecting the events that go on in the “City of God” favela?
  • Global cinema industry – How/why did this film find distribution beyond Brazil? Why would the Cannes Film Festival choose to screen this film? Why did Hollywood (i.e. the Academy Awards) pick this film for awards?
  • Global audiences – Why do you think this movie was so popular outside of Brazil? Why did it win so many awards? What do audiences get out of watching it? What is fun and pleasurable about viewing the movie? Does the film bring attention to the horrible conditions of favela life or glamourize the violence and life of a “hood” (or both)?

Favelization website:

  • Why do you think the favelas have come to be used to represent “Brazil” in global culture products?
  • What are the ethical issues associated with using favelas in film, fashion, design, etc. (especially luxury products)?


Week 10 (March 23 & 25)

  • What is the place of “global cities” is the current global capitalist system?
  • What are some of the similarities and differences between the “rapidly growing metropolitan economies of Asia, Latin America, and … Africa” and “the command centers of Europe, North America and Japan”? How does the Smith want to re-define the concept of “global cities”?
  • How have neoliberal policies affected global cities according to Smith?
  • How is gentrification specifically a tool of neoliberalism in global cities worldwide?
  • How can we connect Smith’s arguments to Harvey’s concept of “accumulation by dispossession”?


  • How has the globalization of capitalism affected urban spaces? What is similar and different about these affects historically and in current times?
  • What various “push” and “pull” factors contribute to urbanization?
  • What is “urbanization without growth” according to Davis? How does it connect to the globalization of neoliberalism?


  • How does Engels’ description of the slums of the “great towns” of England during the industrial revolution compare to Davis’ description of modern slums? What are similarities and differences between the two?


Week 9 (March 16 & 18)

  • In the first three pages of the Introduction Said begins an extended definition of “Orientalism.” What are his three main “meanings” of the term?
  • What were some of the stereotypes of Arabs and “orientals” that Said is describing?
  • Who was and is responsible for Orientalism, according to Said? Who is “producing” this discourse?
  • What harm does Orientalism do, according to Said?


  • DuBois writes of having a “double-consciousness,” what does he mean by this?
  • What does DuBois mean by the “veil” of separation?


  • How does Sekula define “discourse” in relation to photographs?
  • What argument is Sekula making about the “naturalness” and “neutrality” of photography?
  • According to Sekula, how does a photograph attain meaning?


Week 6 (Feb 23 & 25)
Klein (Introduction & Ch 14):

  • What is Klein’s argument in the Introduction?
  • What are the connections between neoliberal economic policy and militarism/war?
  • How does Chapter 14 illustrate Klein’s argument.
  •  Can we use Klein to make sense of wars going on in the present day?

Schlosser & Bernstein:

  • Enclosures: The Privatization of Prison

Week 5 (Feb 16 & 18)

Marks (Ch 6 & Conclusion):

  • What does Marks account for the “Great Departure” ecologically, economically and politically?
  • What does Marks mean by world history being “greater than the sum of its parts”?

Steger & Roy:

  • What is neoliberalism? Is neoliberalism a set of specific policies, an ideology, or both?
  • How does neoliberalism contrast with managed capitalism?
  • How have neoliberal ideas spread globally?


  • What is the central force behind the emergence and spread of neoliberalism in Harvey’s view?
  • What are some ways that neoliberal philosophy and actual practices diverge?
  • How are neoliberal policies spread and maintained through coercive measures according to Harvey?
  • What is accumulation by dispossession?
  • How can you relate Harvey’s analysis of neoliberalism to Chapter 6 of Origins of the Modern World?


Week 4 (Feb 11)

  • What is post-colonialism? Whose perspective does it privilege?
  • Why do you think Young uses a number of scenes and montages throughout the book? Do you think it’s effective?
  • What is the relationship between post-colonialism and globalization? How would globalizing processes be viewed from a post-colonial perspective?


Week 3 (Feb 2 & 4)
Marks (Chs. 4-5):

  • How does Marks tell a polycentric history of the Industrial Revolution, its global impact, and the development of “the gap”?
  • What role did the state play in the development of industrial capitalism in countries in the 19th century?
  • What was the role that colonialism and imperialism played in the development of “the gap”?
  • Do you see any parallels between the social consequences of industrialization that Marks discusses and the effects of globalization today?

Marx and Engels:

  • What defines all epochs of history for Marx and Engels?
  • Why do you think Marx and Engels see the mid-19th century world as defined by struggled between the bourgeoisie and proletariat?
  • When describing the rise of the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels seems to describe many globalizing processes. What are these, and how are they similar and different to globalization today?


Week 2 (Jan 26 & 28)
Marks (Introduction, Chs. 1-3):

  • What is the main argument Marks makes in The Origins of the Modern World? How does he use the concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjunctures to develop that argument?

Linebaugh and Reddiker:

  • What is “hydrarchy from below”? How did it offer resistance to the developing global capitalist system?
  • Why do you think that popular culture representations of pirates and piracy are so appealing in contemporary times?


Week 1 (Jan 21)
I suggest reading (or rereading) at the very least Chapter 1 of Steger’s Globalization: A Short Introduction.