Insights from Film into Violence and Oppression: Shattered Dreams of the Good Life

Insights from Film into Violence and Oppression: Shattered Dreams of the Good Life

Insights from Film into Violence and Oppression: Shattered Dreams of the Good Life

Insights from Film into Violence and Oppression: Shattered Dreams of the Good Life

Synopsis

This book brings specialists in religious studies, African-American studies, history, and political science, together with a media librarian to examine violence as it is presented in films and how instructors can use films to teach about violence. The object of inquiry is the vulnerability of socially oppressed people to physical violence and to institutionalized patterns of discrimination, herein termed structural violence. The susceptibility of women to violence provides an example that is discussed in detail, revealing both merits and weaknesses in film treatment of gender. The full effect of violence is considered, from the abuse of the individual to the wartime mobilization of entire societies. Chapters also look at the benefits and problems of using films in the classroom and provide resources helpful to instructors, such as sample discussion and study guides, a bibliography, and a filmography.

Excerpt

This is a book about the shattering of dreams. One can find evidence in virtually every society of the modern world of dreams of the "good life." The specific elements that constitute "the good life" vary enormously, of course, not only across cultures but also across subcultures. Moreover, if a privileged few sometimes are able over a period of years to sustain the pursuit of their dreams, for most people harsh realities intrude. The latter experience tends to be the characteristic fate of oppressed segments of society, the focus of this book. More precisely, the focus is on the violence, from domestic and international sources, to which the socially downtrodden are especially vulnerable. It is not only physical violence that can transform dreams into nightmares but also "structural violence," or institutionalized social structures and patterns of discrimination that thwart human potential.

Motion pictures and videos, as the various chapters in this volume reveal, have the potential for bringing to life otherwise abstract concepts that teachers find important in explaining social phenomena. Through film, the student is able vicariously to share experiences he or she might otherwise find remote and therefore puzzling. As authors of the chapters that follow make clear, the pedagogical value of a skillfully crafted film lies not only in its portrayal of injustice through the experiences of individuals with which students can identify, but also in its capacity to provide some vivid and memorable lessons in strength of character, courage, and acts of selflessness in the face of adversity.

Domestic and international violence are objects of concern in numerous college and university courses in the social sciences and humanities; in vari-

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