Ideology, Symbolism, and Popular Trials Essay
In democratic societies, the public trial is a pillar of the democratic principle of “transparency.” Although most trials are public, only some become “popular.” Reasons for their ‘popularity’ are varied, but generally we have argued in the course that popular trials engage the public’s sense of morality and/or imagination. What engages is not simply the legal issues of a case, but the deeper symbolic or ideological issues that permeate, and are often positioned adversarially in, a popular trial.
For your final paper, you are going to be researching and writing on the Trayvon Martin case. More specifically, you will be writing on the trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African-American high school student on the evening of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.
In your paper, you are to identify and critically discuss the symbolic issues of this case that engaged the public’s sense of morality and/or imagination. The Zimmerman trial was a site and an occasion for the dramatization of social norms. Discuss this. As we have seen in this course, often there are “competing” or adversarial norms in conflict in a popular trial. Insofar as the trial will have legal issues at stake, the popular trial has other social concerns that are in public contest. Discuss this. Lastly, as we have seen, the popular trial is a forum of social spectacle, it is a site of ideological contestation. Media plays an important part in this contest as they disseminate or broadcast particular aspects of the trial or of the controversies surrounding the trial. Discuss this in your paper.
Length: 12 - 15 pages. Usual essay format, that is, double-spaced, 12 pt font, one inch margins & the title page is not to be counted as page 1. Number your pages. You may use either footnotes or endnotes. The citation style may be APA or MLA as long as it is consistent. If you are unsure how to cite properly & write up your works cited page, please consult a style manual. It is critical to cite all your sources. It demonstrates good research skills and guards against concerns of plagiarism. See syllabus for information on academic integrity.
Academic sources: you must have at least 5 academic sources. While you may use newspaper or magazine articles, they are NOT counted as academic sources.