Distinguished Lecture by Henry Jenkins

23 January 2018 at 13:15-15:00 in Lecture Hall 2, Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10, Uppsala

Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination

The distinguished lecture by Henry Jenkins is available on video:

Source: Medfarm Play, video 7581, length 01:48:13


Across this talk, Henry Jenkins defines civic imagination as the capacity to imagine alternatives to current cultural, social, political, or economic conditions; one cannot change the world unless one can imagine what a better world might look like. Beyond that, the civic imagination also requires the capacity to see one’s self as a civic agent capable of making change, as part of a larger collective which has shared interests, as an equal participant within a democratic culture, and as feeling solidarity with others whose perspectives and experiences are different than one’s own.

Research on the civic imagination has represented a space where the humanities meet the social sciences, where we can explore the political consequences of cultural representations and the cultural roots of political participation. This definition consolidates ideas from various recent accounts of the public imagination, the political imagination, the radical imagination, the pragmatic imagination, creative insurgency or public fantasy, each of which seeks to explain how our dreams, even our daydreams, inspire social change. In some cases, ideas about the civic imagination are grounded in beliefs about how the system actually works, but Jenkins has a more expansive understanding of the concept, one which stresses the capacity to imagine alternatives, even if those alternatives take the form of a fiction that could never become literal truth. These fictive imaginings can nonetheless speak to larger truths and prompt us to rethink our current conditions.

This talk draws on a range of examples taken from a forthcoming Casebook on the Civic Imagination and Popular Culture drawn from political and social movements around the world. The talk explains and illustrates the concept with a particular focus on the ways popular culture has become a central resource inspiring movements for social change and provoking participants to push for political alternatives.


Henry Jenkins is Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education, at the  School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, USA.

For general enquires, please contact Deqa Farah-Asbury