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CMST 3RR3 Race, Religion and Media (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2020

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Faiza Hirji


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 305

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 21480

Office Hours: Wednesday, 1:30-2:30 PM or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description: This course examines how various media engage with the complex concepts of race and religion. It engages with issues that are of both historical and contemporary interest, helping students to investigate questions of identity and social cohesion and to apply these to current events. The course draws upon concepts of discourse, semiotics, media bias and social justice, and supplements these with specific discussions around the construction of race, the specific terminology and imagery used with regards to particular races and religions, and the social implications of these. Topics covered include representation of race and religion in news, film, television and social media, uses of online media by minority and diasporic groups, sociopolitical implications of newspaper reporting on minorities, and race and religion in the music industry.

Course Objectives: Students will acquire/enhance an understanding of theories related to race, religion and media, as well as relevant methodologies, and will be able to apply these in an analysis of different media forms. They will refine their ability to research and communicate such ideas through informal presentations and written assignments.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All readings for this course can be found online. 

Method of Assessment:

Participation: 10%, ongoing

News Analysis: 15%, due in class January 29, 2020

Quiz: 15%, in class on February 12, 2020

Casting Assignment: 15%, paper & summary slide due March 9, 2020

Essay: 25%, due in class on April 1, 2020

Final Exam: 20%, during the scheduled exam period

Note: Omitting to submit any of the above assignments may result in automatic failure.


Students are expected to attend class regularly and on time, and to participate in a manner that reflects knowledge of the assigned readings. This may include contribution to discussion, answering questions and completing in-class exercises, such as written responses to questions and film clips, group work or mock debates. Disruptive behaviour (which includes texting in class, using your laptop for non-course-related purposes and chatting during lecture time) and tardiness will negatively affect the participation mark. Attendance in itself is not enough to secure full participation marks.


News Analysis: Find a news story that has been covered in the last year and consider how it might have been covered differently in terms of race and/or religion. Obviously this exercise is easier if race or religion is invoked in the original, but you may find a piece where you think these aspects were not mentioned and yet they should have been. You could also complete this exercise by comparing a story that received lots of media attention to one that did not, perhaps because of a racialized/religious aspect. The story can be print, broadcast, digital. It can be Canadian or international. Include the story or a link to the story at the end of your assignment, which should be 2-3 pages, typed and double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point font, and should make reference to some of the concepts we have discussed in class. The analysis is due in class and on Avenue to Learn on January 29, 2020.


There will be a short quiz in class on February 12. This quiz will test students on examples and concepts learned to date. The quiz will include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and short answer questions.


Casting Assignment: Pick a movie or television series from the last five years and consider how you might recast it to make it more diverse in terms of race or religion. As you consider, you may find that other aspects of identity become important as well. Think this over and come up with a final cast list. Explain the rationale for your choices—is anything lost or gained due to the changes you’ve made? Did you find yourself making any assumptions about who is appropriate for particular roles? If you think your changes are positive, why is it that they were not made in the original version? Write a 500-word summary of shortcomings you saw in terms of diversity and how you tried to address these. Include relevant concepts discussed so far in class. Submit both the write-up and one PowerPoint slide highlighting important points to the instructor, and additionally, post the PowerPoint slide on the discussion board on our Avenue to Learn page, so that others can comment or respond online or in class. The write-up and PowerPoint slide are both due on March 9, 2020.


Research Essay:

Potential topics will be provided for the final essay, but students may also choose their own after consulting with the instructor. In each case, the essay will engage with subject matter discussed throughout the course, including theoretical concepts. The essay should include appropriate background on the topic, relevant theoretical perspectives and evidence supported by academic sources. The essay should be a maximum of 10-12 pages, including bibliography, and formatted using APA or MLA. The essay is due in class on April 1, 2020, and should also be submitted through Avenue to Learn.The instructor retains the right to require submission of written assignments to Turn It In (on Avenue to Learn).


NOTE: You must submit your own original work, completed independently. Work that has been submitted elsewhere, uses unattributed passages from the work of others, or that has been borrowed from another source, is considered plagiarism and the consequences may be severe. Please see below for further information regarding McMaster’s policy on academic integrity.


Final Exam:

There is a final examination for this course during the scheduled examination period. The exam will cover all content from the semester. The format will be explained in greater detail in class but it will be mixed-format i.e. short answer, short essay, etc.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date noted in the outline. E-mailed assignments will not be accepted.Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade for each weekday after the deadline (e.g. an A grade becomes an A-, a B- becomes a C+, and so on). For your own protection, always keep a copy of any assignment you hand in.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Integrity

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  • plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  • improper collaboration in group work.
  • copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Authenticity / Plagiarism Detection

Some courses may use a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. For courses using such software, students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and/or hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

Courses with an On-Line Element

Some courses use on-line elements (e.g. e-mail, Avenue to Learn (A2L), LearnLink, web pages, capa, Moodle, ThinkingCap, etc.). Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of a course using these elements, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in a course that uses on-line elements will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Online Proctoring

Some courses may use online proctoring software for tests and exams. This software may require students to turn on their video camera, present identification, monitor and record their computer activities, and/or lockdown their browser during tests or exams. This software may be required to be installed before the exam begins.

Conduct Expectations

As a McMaster student, you have the right to experience, and the responsibility to demonstrate, respectful and dignified interactions within all of our living, learning and working communities. These expectations are described in the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (the "Code"). All students share the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment for the academic and personal growth of all McMaster community members, whether in person or online.

It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g. use of Avenue 2 Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery), will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

Request for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work
McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar "Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work".

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances (RISO)

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

Copyright and Recording

Students are advised that lectures, demonstrations, performances, and any other course material provided by an instructor include copyright protected works. The Copyright Act and copyright law protect every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including lectures by University instructors.

The recording of lectures, tutorials, or other methods of instruction may occur during a course. Recording may be done by either the instructor for the purpose of authorized distribution, or by a student for the purpose of personal study. Students should be aware that their voice and/or image may be recorded by others during the class. Please speak with the instructor if this is a concern for you.

Extreme Circumstances

The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster email.

Topics and Readings:

(Schedule & readings subject to change)


January 6: Introductions, overview

January 8: Race Matters: The Difference that Race and Religion Still Make

Readings: Este, David, Sato, Christa, and Lorenzetti, Liza. (2018). “The colourblind society” (pp. 1-18). In D. Este, L. Lorenzetti, and C. Sato (Eds.) Racism and Anti-Racism in Canada, Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Hacking, Ian. (Winter 2005). Why race still matters. Daedalus, 134(1): 102-116.


January 13 & 15: Birth of a Nation: Media Myths We Still Believe

Reading: DiAngelo, Robin. (2012). What does it mean to be white? Developing white racial literacy. Counterpoints, 398: 105-132.


January 20 & 22: “All Lives Matter…”: News Coverage of Minorities

Guest lecture on January 22 by Sonya Fatah.

Readings: Fatah, Sonya. (2019). Where are the Kashmiris? Caught between two extremes. The Globe and Mail,

Jeyapal, Daphne. (2013). “Since when did we have 100,000 Tamils?” Media representations of race thinking, spatiality, and the 2009 Tamil diaspora protests. The Canadian Journal of Sociology, 38(4): 557-578.


January 27 & 29: Been Around the World: Diasporic Media

Reading: Mahtani, Minelle. (2009). The racialized geographies of news consumption and production: Contaminated memories and racialized silences. GeoJournal, 74: 257-264.

Boutros, Alexandra. (2015). Religion in the Afrosphere: The constitution of a blogging counterpublic. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 39(4): 319-337.

**News Analysis due January 29**


February 3 & 5: Blurred Lines: When TV & Film Make the News, Part I

Readings: Chao, Jenifer. (2015). Oppositional banality: Watching ordinary Muslims in ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie.’ NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, 4(1): 27-45.

Huh, Jinny. (2014). Race in progress, no passing zone: Battlestar Galactica, colorblindness, and the maintenance of racial order. In S. E. Turner and S. Nilson (Eds.), The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America(pp. 320-343). New York City: NYU Press.


February 10 & 12: #OscarsStillSoWhite? TV & Film Part II

Reading: Ito, Robert. (2018). ‘Crazy Rich Asians’: Why did it take so long to see a cast like this? The New York Times, August 8,

Simcovitch, Maxim. (1972). The impact of Griffith’s Birth of a Nation on the Modern Ku Klux Klan. Journal of Popular Film, 1(1): 45-54.

Smith, Stacy L., Marc Choueiti, Ariana Case, Katherine Pieper, Hannah Clark, Karla Hernandez, Jacqueline Martinez, Benjamin Lopez and Mauricio Mota. (August 2019). Latinos in film: Erasure on screen & behind the camera across 1,200 popular movies.

**Quiz February 12**


February 17 & 19: Winter Break!


February 24 & 26: Missing Voices: Indigeneity in Mainstream Media

Guest lecture on February 24 by Dr. Amber Dean

Reading: Jiwani, Yasmin. (2013). ‘Bare Life’: Disposable bodies, race, and femicide in the trial coverage of Vancouver’s murdered ‘missing’ women. Synaesthesia, 1(4): 88-128.


March 2 & 4: Diff’rent Strokes: Race and Religion in Children’s Media

Readings: Breaux, Richard M. (2010.) After 75 years of magic: Disney answers its critics, rewrites African-American history, and cashes in on its racist past. Journal of African-American Studies, 14: 398-416.

Ryan, Erin L. (2010). Dora the Explorer: Empowering preschoolers, girls, and Latinas. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54(1): 54-68.


March 9 & 11: Fight the Power: Race and Religion in the Music Industry, Part I

Guest lecture on March 11 by Dr. Christina Baade

Readings TBA

**Casting assignment papers & slides due on March 9 **


March 16: More than Skin Deep: Findings from the Casting Assignment


March 18: Fight the Power: Race and Religion in the Music Industry, Part II/Essay Questions


March 23 & 25: When the Personal is Always Political: Debates on Social Media

Readings: Chun, Elaine W. (2013). Ironic blackness as masculine cool: Asian American language and authenticity on YouTube. Applied Linguistics 34(5): 592-612.

Cobb Payton, Fay, and Kvasny, Lynette. (2012). Considering the political roles of Black talk radio and the Afrosphere in response to the Jena 6. Information Technology & People, 25(1): 81-102.


March 30 & April 1: Unlikely Heroes? Race and Religion in Comedy and Comic Books

Readings: Deb, Sopan. (2019). Roy Wood Jr. is following in the footsteps of Dick Gregory. The New York Times, January 25,

Landis, Winona. (2019). Ms Marvel, Qahera, and superheroism in the Muslim diaspora. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 33(2): 185-200.


**Essay due on April 1**


April 6: Exam Review & Preparation


**Final exam will take place during the scheduled examination period**

Other Course Information:

Use of Avenue to Learn

In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn (A2L). Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.


Please note that assignments submitted on A2L may be subject to a plagiarism/similarity check through

Respect and Inclusivity in the Classroom

In this course, we discuss subject matter that may be sensitive or controversial. Students may hold strong opinions on some of the topics that will be discussed. Our classroom should be an inclusive and welcoming place. Please be thoughtful and respectful of others in your comments.