Episode 9: Nicholas J. Cull on Black Panther and the politics of popular culture

This week, we wrap up our consideration of the Black Panther phenomenon with an interview of our USC colleague, Nicholas J. Cull, who shares with us some of his experiences watching Black Panther at a conference in South Africa, and more broadly, the ways he thinks about popular narratives as vehicles for thinking about politics and power. Is there a link between the rise of the superhero film and the disempowerment many Americans felt after 9/11? How might we compare Black Panther to Lion King in terms of Hollywood’s representation of Africa? What do Tin Tin and James Bond suggest about the power fantasies informing their countries of origin? And how did James Cameron resituate Titanic for an era of technological enthusiasms?

Nicholas J. Cull is Professor of Public Diplomacy and is the founding director of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC. He took both his BA and PhD at the University of Leeds.
His research and teaching interests are inter-disciplinary, and focus on public diplomacy and — more broadly — the role of media, culture and propaganda in international history. He is the author of two volumes on the history of US public diplomacy: The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (Cambridge 2008), named by Choice Magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Texts of 2009 and The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American Public Diplomacy, 1989-2001 (Palgrave, New York, 2012). He is the co-editor (with David Culbert and David Welch) of Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500-present (2003) which was one of Book List magazines reference books of the year, co-editor with David Carrasco of Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border: Film, Music, and Stories of Undocumented Immigrants (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2004). His publications as a film historian include two books co-authored with James Chapman: Projecting Empire: Imperialism in Popular Cinema(IB Tauris, London, 2009) and Projecting Tomorrow: Science Fiction in Popular Cinema (IB Tauris, 2013).

Afterwards, Colin and I reflect more broadly on popular culture as a window into the civic imagination, a theme we have brushed across in several earlier episodes and one that is driving our interests across the podcast series.

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