Tags: government/the state, historical sociology, inequality, knowledge, nationalism, political economy, race/ethnicity, religion, social construction, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, war/military, benedict anderson, edward said, 21 to 60 mins
Access: PBS Video
Summary: Part of the PBS series "Black in Latin America," this short film featuring Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores issues of race and identity in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two countries that share the same island of Hispaniola, yet share little else in terms of language, economic opportunities, relations with colonial nations, and identification with African ancestry and heritage. This clip is excellent for illustrating how racial classifications are a social construction, as meanings of blackness shift across the two countries. The island's history of race relations also demonstrate how, as Edward Said shows, race is constructed in reference to a racial (and national) "other," as Dominicans have historically understood themselves as "not Haitian" and therefore "not black." Students can see how knowledge about national racial identity has been deliberately cultivated by national elites in the Dominican Republic through selectively told histories, national memorials, holidays, and monuments. This racially motivated nation-building effort articulates well with Benedict Anderson's work on imagined communities. Finally, the video chronicles how Haiti became the first-ever black republic, and the pivotal role that religion played in the slaves' fight for liberation. However, ever since winning independence, outside nations, including the United States, have imposed policies that have made it near impossible for Haitians to develop a robust economy and political infrastructure, evidenced today by the poverty and political corruption that plague the country, but which is always challenged by Haitians' rich and complex belief system and artistic culture. The video is divided into six chapters, allowing instructors to easily screen shorter segments of the film if they wish.
I would like to thank Jean François Edouard for suggesting this clip.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: disability, gender, historical sociology, lgbtq, media, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, sex/sexuality, war/military, ableism, collective memory, homophobia, media literacy, propaganda, public memory, racism, remix, representation, revisionism, transgender, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: (Trigger warning: this clip depicts violence and includes explicit language) One of the criticisms sociology instructors occasionally field from students is the accusation that we are over thinking a particular issue or reading too deeply into some phenomenon. Similarly, when we draw attention to, say, the racist subtext of a fictional film, one common response is that the film is mere fantasy, the audience knows this, and therefore, there is no harm done. In this remix of the film 300, Craig Saddlemire and Ryan Conrad powerfully illustrate the way morally corrupt characters and those with deep flaws unfailingly match a type. These "bad guys" are often characters with disabilities. They are typically played by Black and Brown actors, and in many instances, the characters are gay, transgender, and/or effeminate men. As is true of 300, the hero's story is one typically told from the perspective of a powerful white man. By exposing these stereotypes and the way they are drawn upon to create the familiar characters that populate Hollywood films, the remix reminds us that movies can reinforce a worldview which values people differently based on race, sexuality, disability, and gender. At the two-minute mark, the remixers introduce the additional argument that "300 follows in a long tradition of US military propaganda," and to visually make this point, the remixers splice together scenes from Frank Capra's famous WWII propaganda films, which sought to answer the question of "Why we fight." Capra's answer was to save democracy, but instructors could provocatively ask students to consider the influence of propaganda and its depiction (demonization?) of the enemy.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: historical sociology, nationalism, race/ethnicity, war/military, 21 to 60 mins
Access: clip 1; clip 2
Summary: I find that when teaching nationalism, it is sometimes necessary to begin by making a case for why nationalism is an important phenomenon for sociologists to study. There is a tendency among my students to regard the nation and its nationalism as timeless and therefore unremarkable, but the power of nationalism is due in large measure to its ability to evade scrutiny. To make my case, I begin by showing a short clip from the 1989 movie "Glory," which stars Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington. The movie tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War, one of the first units to be made up entirely of African Americans. The clip I show is of the film's climactic scene, which depicts the 54th's perilous assault on Fort Wagner. An inspirational score plays in the background and is only broken by the percussion of cannon fire as the soldiers bravely march on the fort. The odds, however, were stacked against the 54th and we learn in the epilogue of the film that they never succeeded in taking the fort. Following the clip, I encourage students to contemplate their own nationalism and the fact that the filmmakers counted on it when depicting the assault on Fort Wagner as the emotional climax of the film. Using the clip, one can further draw students into a discussion about the way nationalism intersects with race, as when a nation is imagined along racial lines or even when soldiers set aside racial differences for the greater purpose of a nationalist struggle. While the sociological concepts in the clip may need to be spelled out for students by a well prepared instructor, the emotional tone of the clip is excellent for making otherwise disengaged students sit up and join the discussion.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: art/music, historical sociology, media, race/ethnicity, collective memory, discourse, lynching, museum, public memory, racism, representation, signification, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This clip is described on YouTube as “A ten minute video about how two female artists of African descent dismantle the myths of the historical photo.” There is a narrated discussion, which asks viewers to consider questions such as “who took the photo?” and “How was this photo possible?” This clip would be useful for introducing students to the topic of representation through visual media, as it encourages them to question the idea of the photo as an objective representation of reality. The clip reminds viewers that photographs are necessarily captured and presented in particular contexts which have important implications for meaning making. For more of Carrie Mae Weems' art, check out Artsy’s page devoted to her work.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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