Pedagogies of the Popular: Critical Perspectives on Education and Entertainment

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Olaf Hoerschelmann--Eastern Illinois University
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Pedagogies of the Popular:
Critical Perspectives on Education and Entertainment

Television has a long history of being used for educational purposes. News broadcasts, documentaries, soap operas, children's programs such as Sesame Street, and, more recently, various types of reality television programming have all been touted as providing educational content to their audiences. This anthology is specifically focused on programming that declares an educational mission. Such programming is usually labeled 'entertainment-education' or 'edutainment.'
Entertainment-education has existed since the 1970s and has predominantly been employed in developing countries to support health-related campaigns. Entertainment-Education campaigns (or 'interventions') are predominantly financed by Western institutions and defined by distinctly Western concerns, but have traditionally been targeted at developing countries. This practice has largely gone unchallenged. Recently, Entertainment-Education has also been incorporated in a variety of US television programs (e.g. Grey's Anatomy and Law & Order: SVU). Nevertheless, the ideological underpinnings and theoretical claims of Entertainment-Education have surprisingly never been critically analyzed in a systematic manner.
Edutainment is a term that is frequently applied to reality television programming, especially to those programs that claim to produce certain instructional, educational, or learning effects. Popular programs in this category include The Biggest Loser, What Not to Wear, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ten Years Younger, or Supernanny. Over the last decade, entire television channels have organized their schedule around edutainment programming, for example TLC (The Learning Channel), HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and The Food Network. A number of researchers have pointed to the close ideological connection between edutainment and neoliberalism. Nevertheless, many of the ideological and pedagogical implications of edutainment need to be explored more thoroughly.
This anthology will incorporate scholarship that critically analyzes discourses of education in entertainment-education and edutainment. It will bring together scholars from different disciplines (media studies, critical pedagogy, education, sociology, health communication, anthropology and others). The anthology will fill a significant gap in the literature of mass communication and education.

Submissions from a wide range of disciplines are welcome. Topics addressed could include:
–A critique of the theoretical underpinnings of Entertainment-Education.
–Entertainment-Education and the subaltern.
–Ethical issue in Edutainment and Entertainment-Education.
–Analyses of ideologies and values embedded in Entertainment-Education interventions.
–A critical assessment of the effects of Entertainment-Education campaigns.
–The audience reception of Entertainment-Education and Edutainment programming.
–An analysis of Entertainment-Education interventions from a Health Communication Perspective
–An analysis of the educational philosophies of Entertainment-Education or edutainment.
–Edutainment's relationship to Foucault's technologies of the self.
–Governmentality, neoliberalism and edutainment programming.
–The unintentional pedagogies of Entertainment-Education: What is being taught outside of the intentions of an 'intervention'?
–The politics of knowledge on edutainment channels such as TLC, HGTV, The Food Network.

For consideration, please submit a brief (700-1000 words) prospectus and a brief bio to Olaf Hoerschelmann by June 30, 2010 (

Olaf Hoerschelmann, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
Media and Cultural Studies
Graduate Coordinator
Dept. of Communication Studies
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Avenue
Coleman Hall 2060
Charleston, IL 61920