Jen’s Workshops for Videregående Students

All workshops function best for smaller groups of 30 (or fewer) and aside from “Studying American Nationalism through the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” involve the use of students’ personal technological devices (such as a smartphone or tablet)

American Leaders and Body Politics:
Myths about historical figures prevail, such as George Washington had wooden teeth. Washington’s dentures weren’t wooden, but a reality was that he was a fantastic minuet dancer, something critical to his leadership abilities. Leaders’ physicality and presence has impacted American politics from the start and accordingly, this workshop examines how political bodies and political thought converge in campaigning, in speeches, and at political events. By participating in a simulation campaign trail game based on America’s most renowned politicians, we’ll peruse primary documents, asking: What makes an American leader? How do politicians perform national values, desires, and tensions?

Get in “Formation”: African American Histories through the Lens of Beyoncé’s Choreography:
Drawing on Beyoncé’s pivotal music video, “Formation,” (Rolling Stone ranked it the #1 music video of all time), this workshop explores African American culture and history within West African diasporas. We will examine the social dances, food, and histories that comprise Creole and Southern Black culture while also thinking through Black performances as political acts, especially why Black Lives Matter. Engaging in an interactive activity, students utilize their personal technological devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) to unlock special contexts associated with Beyonce’s music video and the controversy surrounding it. 

Indigenous Cultures: Land, Mobility, Citizenship:
American history is often told through Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, of rugged, pioneering individualists spreading across the country while pursuing a supposed God-given right to claim the land. What if we considered an eastward trajectory and Indigenous American perspectives instead? What does American land, migration, and citizenship look like then and importantly, what does it then mean to be American? This workshop explores such questions interactively, asking us to ponder how we fundamentally learn about and conceptualize national history, culture, and identity. 

Leisure, Materialism, and the American Dream:
Norwegian-American Thorstein Veblen’s 1899 term “conspicuous consumption” is still relevant, demonstrating how Americans express status through material goods and leisure. This workshop, steeped in interactive gaming and discussion, explores how American leisure, like shopping and social media, are rooted in broader American values and debates, especially the American Dream. We ask: What is the American Dream; how do people achieve it (do they?)? Drawing on students’ own experiences, we question how fashion, music, etc., shapes Norwegian culture and potentially reflects a national ideal. 

New Orleans Mardi Gras—Teenage Rituals in Motion:
1.5 million visitors annually attend New Orleans Mardi Gras for “The Greatest Free Show on Earth.” In this workshop we dig into Mardi Gras’ rich culture by examining teenager’s roles in elite pageantry and various street rituals. By participating in a virtual Mardi Gras scavenger hunt, students explore race, gender, and class while investigating the seriousness of play, asking how their own “playful” rituals (like the Rus) generate and solidify important cultural symbols and information.

Studying American Nationalism through the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU)–the highest grossing film franchise of all time–spectacularly confronts sociopolitical issues, enabling us to investigate American nationalism, especially through their most popular characters. Take for instance Falcon, who asks if the country is ready for a Black Captain America—or if a Black man wants the job. Alternately, Thor: Ragnarok addresses colonialism, privilege, and refugees. MCU examples become a springboard to engage with issues in America, such as cultural imperialism and civil rights, highlighting issues’ ongoing, complex histories.