this is a nation

Screencapture from ZEF's This is France video

This is [A Nation]

Class size (ideal):​ anywhere between 20-30 students

Class time:​ 75-90 minutes


This activity is best suited for a class on globalization or media and identity (particularly national). Ideally, this is an upper-level class and students have already practiced the basics of close reading and textual analysis in other classes.

Preparation before class.

Students read articles on music videos and/or global hip hop. Some readings I have used that worked well include:

“Rap, Race, Revolution: Post-9/11 Brown and a Hip Hop Critique of Empire” by Nitasha Sharma

“Music Video as Catalyst” by Marwan Kraidy

“This is Everywhere” by Gavin Mueller

Students must also watch This is America on their own and take notes (in however form they choose) to bring to class.

[To make the most of the debrief/discussion, my class had previously discussed the following topics: cognitive mapping, genre as form of address, imagined communities.]

Learning Objectives.

  • Understand how music videos function as representational and communicative media, particularly as they circulate around the world.
  • Practice close readings skills in an interactive software.
  • Understand the importance of grounding interpretation of global media by researching local and national contexts.
  • Reinforce course themes about media, national identity, and counterpublics.

Activity Timeline.

Begin by debriefing on This is America:

  • What is the idea of the U.S. portrayed in the video?
    • Is this a dominant or resistant idea, and why?
  • Why does Childish Gambino use the declarative “This is”?
  • What events and figures does the video allude to? How do you know this?

Divide class into groups of 3-5 students. Each group must have at least one laptop. Assign each group one of the videos to analyze. I compiled some of these videos here, but there are many more.

Students work in groups for 40-50 minutes. Debrief as a class for 20-30 minutes thereafter.

Activity Prompt for Students.


Discussion questions for the entire class:

  • What were some similarities and differences across these videos?
  • What were some similarities and differences across the artists creating each video?
  • Where do the videos take place? Consider how Mueller analyzes the fact that This is America takes place inside a warehouse. Why do you think the adaptations replicate this or not?
  • What were the most difficult aspects of this activity? How did your group decide how to interpret symbols that were confusing or could have multiple interpretations?
  • What things can we conclude about the recurrence of This is America adaptations around the world?