unit eleven

Tommy and the Nike Swoosh: The Semiotics of Class & Race



case study guidelines


Nike & The Scandal of Sweatshop Labor

Hip Hop Style: Class, Race & Chic in Global Culture


1) You will begin preparing your case study research by first reading all the assigned materials for that class day. These are the texts everyone in class will read in advance of your session. These reading will introduce you to some important concepts, terms, and ideas. These will be your primary texts as this unit contains very dense and in-depth readings. We will need your help in raising these issues in class. Spend a good portion of your time with these readings and then create some limited research on that basis.

  • Alex Kotlowitz, "False Connections" (1999) in The Consumer Society Reader
  • Goldman and Papson "Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning" in Consumer Society Reader
  • bell hooks, "Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance" in Consumer Society Reader

2) You will want to preview the video we will be screening in class, No Logos, which addresses some of the intellectual issues. The first chapter of Klein's book is also online in pdf form.

3) Your cases study should choose and research only ONE of these three issues. Note: You may want to include semiotic analysis of actual advertisements for these companies.

  • Nike & The Scandal of Sweatshop Labor

    There is extensive research on the issues of global sweatshops and the production of luxury fashion items (Nike shoes) for the 1st world. You will want to research and present the social, global and economic issue of the production of fashion goods. See Adbusters The Smell of Swoosh

  • Hip Hop Style: Class, Race & Chic in Global Culture

You will want to observe, analyze and research the social meanings of "ghetto chic" as well as the issues of consumption and consumer status in poor communities. Bell hooks' article will help you understand some of the critical issues involved in mainstream culture's appropriation of blackness. Kotlowicz's article will help raise questions about hegemonic narratives of status in poor communities. You may want also to look at the way these products are marketed and analyze their advertisements.

  • Marketing with Colonial Chic (Banana Republic)

You will want to do a case study of "colonial chic." To get a basic idea of this see the section of bell hooks' essay on the Out of Africa syndrome. You might want to research the basic concept of colonialism. Then, go the websites and stores of chains that sell using these motifs (such as Ethan Allen's colonial furniture line and Banana Republic). Spend your energy analyzing the semiotics of these marketing experiences.