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Articles ❱❱ Studying a textbook or the Kardashians?

Studying a textbook or the Kardashians?

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Last November the most famous family on the planet made news and it wasn’t due to their regular antics. In a world first,
Brunel University held an academic conference on the Kardashians discussing the hypnotising effect the family has had on the Earth and those who inhabit it. Would you rather be studying a textbook or the Kardashians?

The Kardashians have established themselves within reality television, literature, beauty and fashion lines as well as creating an impressive number of fan clubs and hashtags. With their combined star power it is unsurprising that they had caught the attention of academics and scholars from across the globe gathered at Brunel at the end of November to discuss the ‘world’s most famous family’.

The conference titled: “Kimposium” took place on November 26th, and talks covered the cultural significance the family has had over the last decade as well as Kim Kardashian’s bottom which ‘broke the internet’. The conference ran all day, from 9am to 6pm and there was no charge.

Meredith Jones, conference organiser told Times Higher Education: “It is silly to think this subject is not worthy of academic’s attention” and “You may love them or hate them, but the Kardashian family must be examined”.

“Kim, in particular, displays a curvaceous, dark-skinned body with a black aesthetic, which has helped to change the idealised notion of womanly beauty, which was previously blonde and very thin,” she added.

Although society’s thoughts on the Kardashians seem to mirror those opinions on Marmite, is it time academics took popular culture more seriously when it comes to studying?

This is not the first time that popular culture has entered the higher education classrooms. A course focusing on black feminism at Rutgers University in the US titled Feminist Perspectives: Politicising Beyoncé was cancelled despite the class being oversubscribed. However, an MA taught at Liverpool Hope University, The Beatles, Popular Music and Society is still available in the prospectus.

During the Kimposium scholars discussed, trauma, labour, death, respectability and the digital world as well as themes of gender, beauty, body image and race. Students of culture, music, art, media, film and television may be hoping for relevant and innovating topics to study during their time at university, instead of focusing studies on old and irrelevant material.

Culture students may find themselves analysing texts and dates from before they were born, reading textbooks with yellowing pages and discussing events that they have no real connection with. Film students may often sit through screenings of black and white films featuring poor quality and plot lines in comparison to modern films, and reading journal articles that are as old as they are.

Popular culture is an interesting as well as important topic to discuss, analyse and incorporate into higher education and degree level. Students will most likely fully engage with the topic – whether they have a strong opinion for or against it – than with the old textbook that they waited three weeks to borrow from the university library.


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