In this unit, you will act as a sociologist, anthropologist, historian, or cultural critic who has been approached by Smithsonian Folkways to record a segment for a podcast that will be included as part of a forthcoming program that explores the intersections of popular music, social movements, identity, belonging, and history.

The project has two main components:

  • First, you will choose a song that has been used in some form by a social movement. The song might have been used for protest and dissent (i.e. Bob Dylan’s “Blowin' in the Wind”; Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”; Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”; or Bad Bunny and Residente's “Afilando los Cuchillos”) and/or as a way of affirming identity (i.e. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” as an LGBTQ+ anthem; The Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” as a Deadhead call to community; or Bob Marley’s “Zimbabwe” as a public voice of Pan-African Liberation). You can use songs that have been specifically written for a movement (or even a specific protest, i.e. Prince’s “Baltimore”), or songs that have simply been adopted by movements; or songs that have been claimed by contemporary movements after having already been associated with another movement (i.e. Bernie Sander’s use of “This Land is Your Land”).

To be clear, you are not limited to any of the songs listed above, these are just meant to be generative examples. You are not restricted to any time period or any specific political territory; don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and explore music and movements (or music and protests) from outside the United States.

  • Next, you will briefly contextualize this movement’s historical moment. Some questions you might consider include: when did this movement emerge? What else was happening, either nationally or internationally, during that same year/decade? Was the movement responding to a particular political (or cultural) event? What makes this a movement? What binds its members? How do its members represent (or see) themselves? How does the movement position itself in history? How is this movement represented (or remembered) today?


In this assignment, you are exploring the entanglements of people (protest/movements) with larger cultural trends (music/history) in order to better understand how social movements engender social change—either at an ideological or structural level—by mobilizing the power of music.

FEEDER 2.1.:

To start the project, you’ll conduct research on a particular song of your choice and explain its relationship to a social movement. Compile a list of ~4 sources, using at least one scholarly source (you may include popular sources, as long as they are informative and rhetorically efficient). Websites like “Genius” or “Wikipedia” can offer good starting points, as they both provide information about the song’s production and brief biographical details.

Next, write a short statement (between a paragraph and a page) discussing what you see the relation between the song and the movement to be. Do not be too concerned about crafting a fully fleshed out or fully crafted argument—this is meant to be an informal piece of writing that will help stimulate and facilitate the rest of the project.

Some questions you might want to consider include (again, you don’t have to answer all of these, they are just meant to provide springboards for thought): Why was the movement drawn to this song (or, vice versa, why was the song written in response to the movement)? What musical or social traditions is the song drawing upon? What impact did the song have on the movement? What role did it play in the movements protest efforts? How do we think about the song today?

DUE 10/6

FEEDER 2.2.:

Next, you’ll conduct research on the social movement’s historical moment and explore how the movement engages history. Compile a list of ~4 sources, using at least two scholarly sources—one more of these sources should come from a book you have found through the UNC library (this can be an e-book downloaded through the UNC Library website).

Next, write a short, semi-formal essay (~2-3 pages) that synthesizes your research. Take material from feeder 2.1 and explore its relationship to the new information you have found: how does the historical context shed light on the song and the movement? How are music, culture, and politics interacting?

DUE 10/22


Record a 8 - 15-minute podcast segment* that discusses your song, its role in a social movement, and the historical context that informs this movement (and, hopefully, its use of this particular song). You may use any recording software of your choice (i.e. the media resource center at the Undergraduate Library, Audacity on your computer, your phone’s “Voice Recorder” etc.).

Your information should be processed in an organized manner and should be accurate, relevant, and informative. In order to produce a podcast that is compelling and clear for a broad, non-specialist public you will have to approach the material differently from a traditional academic writing assignment; pay close attention to the sonic, aural and oral dimensions of this work.

In short, you will have to craft an accessible narrative based on the research you have conducted and convey this information in an engaging manner.

A few guidelines to keep in mind: clearly explain the relationship between the song and the movement, and between the movement and history; be compelling and creative; entertain and inform; try have a clean, crisp and articulate vocal delivery—this is an opportunity to practice your public speaking!

DUE 10/27

Created By
Emilio Taiveaho


Image of the O'Jays taken from the Michael Ochs Archives