Does popular culture serve to divide or unite peoples and societies?

My project proposal tackles whether popular culture can bring people together or separate them. I am looking into this through the lens of the NFL's response to 'Black Lives Matter' movements

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Popular culture is an extension of the beliefs and practices that a society upholds, and at present we are living through such tumultuous times that this is an exceptional opportunity to see these beliefs and practices come to the fore. My project hopes to look into whether popular culture serves to divide or unite peoples and societies. The overriding aim of this project is to gage a level of understanding behind how communicative mediums can promote either division or unification. I will look into how the National Football League in the United States of America responded to the 2016 ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in opposition to its response to the current 2020 wave of the same movement. This is in the hope that this comparative piece will generate the necessary discussions key to highlighting and furthering the current focus on racism as one of the outstanding problems in our society today that must be addressed.

Throughout the project, I will focus on different aspects of the NFL to gain an insight into how popular culture can be as stripped back as a touchdown on a football field, and still serve to unite or divide people. This even manifests into the management of black athletes being arguably a ‘popular culture’ in itself.1 Therefore, this project will tackle theories of race, marketing and black athleticism to understand the themes of white anxiety, ghettocentrism, and the NFL’s blackballing policy amongst many other things too.

Ultimately, the lens of the sporting world and the NFL itself showcases a physical, and metaphorical, arena of whites appeasing whites through the black man. An exemplary playing field to analyse the complex effects of popular culture.

Sophie Catherine McNally

Student, University of York

Hi there! I'm a University of York undergraduate studying History. I'm really passionate about anything to do with History or Politics, and I love to learn about others' backgrounds, cultures and ways of life! I speak French to an intermediate level, and I compete in both rowing and other sports and societies like Model UN. I'm really easy going though so I'd be interested in whatever anyone else has to say/is passionate about :)) My research project is looking into whether popular culture divides or unites peoples and societies.