Materials

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As sociologist Jessie Daniels notes in a new TSP Special Feature, showing a film in class isn’t just a day off.  Instead, films are visual texts, and Jessie suggests many documentaries that could be used in the classroom.  Several readers commented, so we thought we would compile all of them into a single post.

 

Intro Soc Class:

“49 Up” (2005)

“The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America” (2001)

“Quiet Rage” (1991)

“The Devil’s Playground” (2002)

We Live in Public” (2009)

 

Globalization/Neoliberalism:

The End of Poverty?” (2008)

Garbage Dreams” (2009)

 

Gender:

“HIP-HOP:Beyond Beats & Rhymes” (2006)

“Southern Comfort” (2001)

“The Pill” (1999)

“Chisolm ‘72: Unbought & Unbossed” (2004)

“Heart of the Game” (2005)

 

Education:

Resolved” (2007)

The Lottery” (2010)

 

Prison Documentaries for Crime and Punishment Courses

Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (2009)

The Dhamma Brothers (2008)

The Farm (1998)

Writ Writer (2008)

Ghosts of Attica (2001)

 

Re-entry Documentary

Omar and Pete (prison reentry) (2005)

 

Death & Dying

Ikiru” (1952)

The Seventh Seal” (1957)

Of Gods and Men” (2010)

Tell Me a Riddle” (1980)

Dead Man” (1995)

 

Food/Labor

Harvest of Shame (1960)

American Harvest (2008)

The Harvest/La Cosecha (2011)

New Harvest, Old Shame (1990)

 

Various Others from TSP Readers:

From Nathan Palmer:

Race The Power of an Illusion Pvert 3: The House We Live In (2003)
My favorite film to show how historic and institutional racial discrimination is affecting us to this day. It does a great job connecting whiteness to citizenship and explaining red lining/block busting. I use it in my 101s and race & ethnicity classes.

The Color of Fear (1994)
An oldie, but a goodie. The film is a recording of 9 men of different racial ethnic backgrounds talking candidly about race. My only critique of the film is there are no women included and multiple racial groups are left out as well.

Food Inc. (2008)
More than anything I want my students in my environmental sociology class to understand how social inequality and environmental degradation are connected. The portion of this film dedicated to the mistreatment of farmers, factory workers, and the animals/land they use is priceless.

The Battle for Whiteclay (2008)
This independent film documents how 4 liquor stores in Whiteclay, NE (a town of 14 people) sell 12,500 cans of beer a day. The off-sale liquor stores take advantage of their proximity to the Pine Ridge Reservation, who banned alcohol sales and possession on their lands. Despite there being no legal place for the 12,500 cans to be consumed (Whiteclay only has off-sale establishments) there have been nearly no arrests while the liquor dealers make millions of dollars annually. The video is an excellent example of government corruption, exploitation, and selective law enforcement.

Inside Job (2010)
The 2008 credit crisis is a perfect example of how changes at the institutional level have a cascading affect all the way down to the individual. It also gets at how social problems are socially constructed. This film more than any other explains the complex crisis in a way that is approachable.

 

From Andrew Lindner:

Manufactured Landscapes” (2006), based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, it has some unbelievable footage from Chinese factories. Great for teaching about globalization and capitalism.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996) – a classic documentary on the (now recently freed) West Memphis Three. A powerful and disturbing illustration of stigma and social control.

The War Room” (1993) – an insider’s look into Bill Clinton’s path to victory in the 1992 primaries. I use this in my “Political Sociology” course to talk about rhetoric, political strategy, and political professionals.

Flow: For Love of Water” (2008) – a terrifying documentary on our dwindling water supply and how it is owned and managed by corporations for profit. Great for discussions of capitalism, privatization, or environmental sociology.

Secret of the Wild Child” (1994) – an outstanding PBS/Nova documentary on feral children, particularly the famous Genie case mentioned in almost every sociology text. Challenges many students assumptions about socialization.

 

Clip Ideas from Carolyn Liebler:

Little Miss Sunshine – for students to pick out examples of material culture, non-material culture, subculture, counterculture, face and face work, front stage, and back stage behavior.

Wedding Crashers – as a way to apply the following theories of deviance: rational choice, labeling theory, differential association theory, and obligatory action.

The beginning of Ghostbusters – to apply the three major tenets of ethical research methods

Fiddler on the Roof – to play “spot that social institution!” and talk about how social institutions are interrelated.

 

From Joe Soss:

At the River I Stand

Merchants of Cool

Occupation: Dreamland

Stonewall Uprising

Inside Job

 

The Society Pages’ second Roundtable, Laughter and the Political Landscape, asked media and communication scholars to reflect on political humor and satire. The Roundtable would be a great resource in any class or section on media and politics. I may be outing myself here as a complete addict of The Daily Show, but how can you not use The Daily Show for a section on political humor?!

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are very lefty (even though Stephen Colbert’s bit is as a staunch conservative), but wherever your students are politically, these shows serve as a great example of using satire in a surface way (focusing on a politician’s physical characteristics, for example), as well as a tool to criticize their character and politics.

The Roundtable poses the question of how political humor works to engage young people in politics. You could use the Roundtable discussion to get a conversation going in your class about how students understand and digest political humor as well as their perceptions of its potential for encouraging political engagement.

Evil Chase?

The first of many roundtables on TSP explores how social scientists study social movements.  It would be a great complement to a discussion on social movements or a discussion of research methodology.  And, to give you more ideas on teaching social movements, Professor Ron Aminzade was kind enough to provide us with a syllabus he has used in the past.  The syllabus is from 2004, so adding this roundtable and some other new literature would be a good step.  Download it here!

I just had to repost this video, shared on Sociological Images –a National Geographic documentary which genders animals’ sexuality. It’s worth the watch! (read the whole post here!) This would be an effective video to show in a section on normative gender roles, illustrating the broad reach of our deeply held notions of appropriate masculinity and femininity and the dangerousness of deviation.

 

In need of some last minute ideas for your sociology 101 course?  Nathan Palmer has compiled a great set of lecture slides, activities, syllabi, and assignments that you can download for free!  Here is the link.

This blog post, written by Lyndi Hewitt, originally appeared on the Mobilizing Ideas blog and appears here with the author and institute’s permission. We liked it so much we just had to share! 

 

For those of us prescient enough (wink) to plan a social movements course for this semester, it’s been quite a ride.  I’ve been teaching a first year seminar on global justice movements and, like many other instructors, altered my carefully planned syllabus in response to the unexpected wave of activism that emerged before our very eyes.

As the students in the course simultaneously processed core social movements scholarship and news coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, I was particularly struck by the fact that many students had very specific and often inaccurate ideas about who the protesters were (and what it cost them to be there) even after extensive, theoretically informed class discussion and news analysis.  So I decided to invite the students to join me for a visit to Zuccotti Park.  Newly equipped with social movements concepts, along with requisite iPhones and video cameras, the students and I ventured into the park on a chilly Saturday evening in early November.  We observed a general assembly, discussed the various issues and frames represented among the signs, and interviewed protesters about their views.  Despite the fact that most of the students were initially skeptical of Occupy Wall Street, they exhibited both intellectual curiosity and great respect for the protesters.  One especially enthusiastic student prepared a short video documenting the protesters’ responses to his questions (which I share with his permission):

The two gentlemen featured prominently, both veterans, had a significant impact on the students. Their remarks around 5:50 encapsulate the disruption of students’ pre-existing assumptions: “I’m tremendously excited by what I see here. These people are extremely sophisticated people. They’re very intelligent people. They’re not bums. Don’t believe the media that we have nothing better to do, okay. We would like to be productive members of society. We were at one time and we would like to be again. We have a lot to contribute.”

Although we’d been discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests and applying social movement theories in the classroom for weeks, the experience of being in the park, seeing the encampment alongside the police, and talking with protesters proved to be a far richer learning opportunity for students. It blew the students’ minds that OWS protesters could be older, hard working, and patriotic; moreover, hearing movement grievances articulated face-to-face catalyzed a depth of understanding that wasn’t achievable simply through reading and watching video clips about those same grievances. Interestingly, our debriefing after the field trip revealed that over half the students had changed their opinions of the protesters as well as the legitimacy of the movement as a whole (all, it turned out, from an unfavorable to a more favorable opinion).

Seeing the OWS protesters through the eyes of my students reminded me how powerful a teacher experience is, and that more time spent in the midst of the action would be valuable for most of us.

Magazines geared towards teens are some of the best examples of illustrating gender norms for students new to Sociology. We recommend this activity for an Intro to Sociology class or to begin a course on the Sociology of Gender:Seventeen

Have students read “Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity” by Amanda M. Gengler in the Spring 2011 issue of Contexts. Then, have them look through magazines aimed at young women or men (print or online) with a new eye for spotting the underlying messages about femininity and masculinity contained in the images or articles.

Send them home with a worksheet with these questions repeated 4-6 times so they can answer them about each image/article they find:

1. What message does this image/article portray about femininity or masculinity?

2. Do you believe this message has the potential to be harmful to young men or women? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

3. Imagine you are talking to your younger brother/sister/cousin/daughter/son about this image or article, what would you say?

SeventeenHave them bring their examples into class and form small groups for a “Gender Workshop” (this could definitely work in a large class!) They’ll take turns describing their finds to the other members of the group. After they’ve all had their turn, they’ll have a guided discussion about their experience, addressing these questions in a small group discussion:

1. What was this experience like for you? Was there anything surprising about looking at these magazines in this way?

2. Do you believe that absorbing gender norms like the ones discussed today could have negative consequences for young men and women?  If so, how?
Give examples:

3. Whose responsibility is it to manage such messages about gender norms? The publishers of the magazines? The authors of the articles? The advertisers? The parents of the teens? The teens themselves?

 

That wayThe grand majority of  the undergrad students in our classes will not end up working in academia, and many will ask, “What can I do with a degree in Sociology?” We recommend our “Embedded Sociologists” feature–where Hollie and Kia, as well as Suzy Maves McElrath and Sarah Shannon take a closer look at sociologists who work outside of the academy–to help your students get a sense of a sociological perspective  and what a background in sociology can offer them in the job market.

We think this article would work well in an Intro class because it offers a rich description of how a sociological imagination can be used outside of the classroom in future careers. It would also be a good addition to a senior thesis class, for those students who want to go to graduate school, but may not want to work in academia. We hope this article will also be useful to graduate students thinking about taking an alternative path.

Read the full text online!

A few questions to get a discussion of this article started:

1) Were you surprised at the range of careers sociologists can have?

2) According to the sociologists interviewed in this article, how can the sociological imagination be used to address real-world problems and solutions?

3) What are some ways that you have used your sociological imagination outside of the classroom?

4) Why have academic sociologists and non-academic sociologists generally not worked together? According to the authors, what are the possible consequences of such a disconnect?

 

Undredal Church
Tensions between religion and science are not new.  Today, many people assume that scientists are athiests, but little is actually known about their religious and spiritual views.  To learn more, Elaine Howard Ecklund conducted a study of religion among scientists.  She explores the results of the study in the 2008 Contexts feature “Religion and Spirituality Among Scientists.”  Below are a few questions to accompany the article.

1)    Does the finding that scientists often hold religious views surprise you?  Would you assume it varies by discipline? Why or why not?

2)    Why do you think a greater proportion of scientists are atheists than the general population?

3)    Considering that 69% of social scientists surveyed identified as spiritual, how might you explain a reluctance to discuss religion in an academic setting?

 

Chips

Joel Best’s 2009 Contexts feature “Sociologists as Outliers” takes a look at how sociologists can learn from Malcom Gladwell’s ability to translate research to a wide audience.  In the classroom, students can discuss what sociology contributes to the understanding of social behavior and how we can make our contributions known.

1)    Pick a success in your life and identify the social factors that played a role in the chain of events that helped you succeed.

2)  The hockey league example illustrates that circumstances can change outcomes. Think of another example where structural forces shape individual outcomes and describe it briefly.

ACTIVITY: Find a news article on the web that quotes a sociologist (see our sister blog, Citings & Sightings).  Why was a sociologist particularly well-suited to comment on the topic of the article? What did sociology bring to the discussion that another field might not?