EGMT 1540: Political Myths - Then and Now

Political myths have been associated with authoritarianism, illiberal and populist regimes. Typically understood as political stories used to mobilize populations, political myths are easily dismissed as “false” stories only serving the purpose of political leaders to gain power. This course takes a critical approach to political myths, going beyond whether these stories hold truth value or not, and aims to interrogate why political myths exist and why they appeal to people. In the first part, through a critical analysis of historical and contemporary political myths, we will explore how these stories function as a means of legitimizing power, building national identity, and defining social norms. Through close reading of texts, visual media, and political performances, students will explore the ways in which political myths have existed and still exist in our society. The second part of the course will delve into more ethical questions about political myths serving as a source of one’s notion of what it means to live a good life and to reflect on political myths we hold. We will ask: are political myths only political? The course will focus on different countries, periods, and political regimes such as the founding of the European Union, founding myths of nation-states, the American Dream, the myth of the Aryan race, Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism in Turkey, and political Islam in the Middle East.