KONY 2012 FREE POSTER

This semester, I’m co-teaching a human rights internship course.  Beyond providing some practical skills for students who are interested in working in the human rights field, the course aims to connect human rights theory to students’ experiences in their internships.  Needless to say, the Kony 2012 campaign was a perfect topic to discuss recently.  However, since Invisible Children’s Cover the Night event is coming up on April 20th, there is still plenty of time to discuss the campaign in class, and TSP has provided an additional tool (an episode of Office Hours discussed below) to aid in this discussion.

As many (if not all!) of you know, Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video quickly received over 100 million views.  Over night, it seemed like many people who had never heard of Joseph Kony were calling for justice.  However, the video sparked debate in scholarly communities, communities of human rights activists, and even among the broader public.

During the week the video went viral, my students were reading James Dawes’ book, That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity, which explores motivations behind human rights work as well as the relationship between story telling and human rights.  Specifically, the book’s emphasis on how human rights abuses are framed through stories made the book a perfect base for a discussion about the Kony 2012 campaign.

As a class, we started talking about the book with the basic question of what storytelling has to do with human rights.  After we established that we all learn about human rights abuses around the world through stories and representations on the news, in newspapers, and through various social movements and advocacy groups, we moved on to the Kony 2012 campaign.  Most students had seen the video, but I asked a student to give a brief review in case someone hadn’t seen it.  Then, we discussed the following questions:

1)   What is the purpose of the video?

2 ) In your opinion, was Invisible Children successful in fulfilling this purpose?

3)   Why did the video go viral?  (What properties of the video/tactics of the campaign influenced its popularity?)

4)   What are most common critiques of the video?

5)   What are the difficulties in representing human rights abuses?

 

TSP member Shannon Golden also recently interviewed Amy Finnegan, who has studied the relationship between Invisible Children and local Ugandan activists.  Amy and Shannon talk about the Kony 2012 campaign and Amy’s research in an episode of Office Hours located here.  This episode would be a great addition to the discussion or could be assigned as homework.  We know that many of you have also discussed this campaign in your classes and would love to hear about it!

As a way of teaching students about contemporary white privilege, many faculty members turn to the classic piece White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.  However, my peers and I have found that students often resist its content, in part because of the article’s date of publication.  The original piece was produced in 1988 making it older than many current college students. Nevertheless, it is clear that McIntosh’s article has a lot to teach contemporary students, if used the correct way.

The Activity

In order to thwart student’s immediate dismissal of McIntosh’s article as outdated, this activity encourages students to use their own knowledge and critical thinking skills to update the piece such that it fits with current race relations.  The activity consists of two parts taking place on two distinct days (unless you have a three hour block class): in part one students are expected to update McIntosh’s examples to match modern social patterns and, in part two, they add new, contemporary examples of white privilege to the list.  Please note, this activity is traditionally more successful if used later in the semester when students have reached some level of awareness of systemic racial discrimination.

Part One

For the first part of the activity students are expected to come to class having read McIntosh’s article.  Once seated, they are divided into groups of four to five students and handed a slip of paper containing eight of the twenty-six privileges. They are then asked to work together to select items on the list that they perceive to be outdated and/or want to discuss as a larger class.  Each group is responsible for choosing at least one item on their list and must be prepared to explain why they think the item is outdated and how they would change it to fit modern race relations.  After 20 minutes of small group conversation, we reconvene and discuss each groups’ chosen privilege to discuss.  As the instructor I am always prepared with current examples of blatant racial bias through anecdotes and statistics in all of these areas.  Discussion about intersectionality and geography are also important to extend the analysis of students on these issues.

Part Two

For the second portion of this activity, students are expected to add new examples of privileges to McIntosh’s list.  They are again placed in groups of four or five students and asked to brainstorm new items to place on the checklist.

Words of Caution

Over the past several years I have had great success using this activity to discuss the concept of white privilege.  However, there are a few common errors made by instructors that warrant words of caution.

One challenge with this activity, and in teaching in diverse classrooms, is to make sure that everyone is being intellectually challenged by the material without leaving any students behind. A second challenge is the tendency of professors to ignorantly exercise and reproduce the very elements of white privilege discussed in the article.  Students of color have distinct backgrounds and paths to a class on race relations relative to both their white peers and one another (some of the challenges faced by students of color in mostly-white classrooms are addressed in the chapter by Logan et al in this volume).  One of the most common transgressions committed by instructors is to, much like mainstream white society, assume that all people of a particular racial group have had similar experiences.  As a corollary, they often call on people of color to speak as “experts” for their racial or ethnic groups, a challenge mentioned by many students in the edited volume Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out (Lesage, Ferber, Storrs and Wong 2002) and an experience many of my friends in college were forced to deal with.  Through this activity, and any activity in class, it should never be assumed that a person of color can speak for his or her race, much like it should never be assumed that a woman can speak for all women or a man for all men.

Featured on The Society Pages last week was an edited interview with Annette Lareau conducted last year by Jack Lam (sociology graduate student at Minnesota) and I on her updated edition of her famous book Unequal Childhoods (University of California Press).

You can listen to and download the entire interview from Office Hours.

We highly recommend using this book in your classes: check out our post on a possible class activity to tie in with the book.

Even if you don’t assign the whole book, we recommend referencing her updated findings. Lareau’s important arguments are essential to any discussion on childhood, education, and class.


Image by karen horton via flickr.com

I posted last month about The Society Pages’ Roundtable entitled Laughter and the Political Landscape  but realized I didn’t link to the Office Hours interview with Heather LaMarre. The interview is a great addition to the Roundtable because it addresses two main points that I think are crucial for using this in the classroom:

1. that political humor is not made or consumed exclusively by political liberals (11:15), and

2. she asks what effect this type of political humor may have on the way young people participate in politics? (17:52)

Image by david_shankbone via flickr.com

“The big question is going to be whether people under 30, since they’ve sort of grown up in this era of political satire and entertainment…are themselves as a generation developing a sense of humor about politics that’s good for democracy or a disgust about politics that’s bad for democracy? And that remains to be seen.”

What do your students think??

 

Jail cell at the Southborough Police Department

The TSP Office Hours team just posted their first “Drop In,” which are shorter versions of Office Hours Podcasts.   Drop Ins (about 10 minutes) would make great assignments or are even short enough to listen to in class.  In the first Drop In, TSP talks with Matt Snodgrass about his work on the relationship between time served in prison and reoffending.  Here are some questions you could assign or discuss in class:

1.  Why might some people expect that there is a relationship between the amount of time spent in prison and reoffending after release?

2.  Snodgrass talks briefly about his methodology.  What makes this type of study tricky, and what did he and his colleagues do to get around this?

3.  What are the policy implications of the results found in this study and similar studies?

 

Check out this post AND They Eat Quicheon our sister blog about constructing a lesson plan on Pinterest and feminism.

The folks over at Sociological Images, have collected some great examples of the commodification of Black History by companies to market products like kool-aid, hair relaxers, BET, fried chicken and collard greens.

Image by gavdana via flickr.com

We suggest using these types of ads as a teaching tool in your classroom. First guide the students through the pictures posted on Sociological Images during class. Then, at home, have them find another example of a company using racial stereotypes to sell products (an ad, commercial or something like the image here) and write up a short summary of what stereotypes they believe it portrays. They could email them to you or post links to the class website. This activity would work best after students are familiar with the concept, but early enough in the course that it can inform their thinking for the rest. Sharing these images in class will start a great discussion, as well as get students to pay more attention to this type of racism in the media.

If students are having a hard time finding images, you could direct them to blogs that often post on this topic. For example…Sociological Images, The Color Line, Racialicious, Feministing…and many more!

Prisoner of the Heart

TSP’s Sarah Lageson recently sat down with Megan Comfort to talk about her research on women in relationships with incarcerated men.  You can read a summary of the fascinating interview here and listen to the entire interview here.

This interview would be particularly useful to demonstrate the effects of prisons beyond the incarcerated individual.  Below are a few discussion questions that can be used with the interview.

 

 

1. Briefly explain “presence creation” in your own words and provide an example.

 

2. What were some of the key things that women in Comfort’s study valued about their relationships with incarcerated men?  Did any surprise you?  Why or why not?

 

3. Can you think of any examples of secondary prisonalization that you’ve seen first-hand or heard about through friends or family?

Abe Lincoln statue sw park blocks

Earlier this week, a guest on NPR noted that Abraham Lincoln took second (to Jesus) in the number of books written about a modern historical figure.  Wow!!  It’s clear that he is one of the most remembered U.S. Presidents.

The TSP Reading List suggestion for Presidents’ Day, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” explores how Abraham Lincoln is remembered in the U.S.  This would be a great article to assign during a unit on collective memory.  Before the students read the article, have them each quickly write about how/why they remember Abraham Lincoln.  Afterward, survey the class to see if they remember him as the Great Emancipator (the primary memory found in the article), the Savior of the Union, the Man of the People, the Self-Made Man, or the First Frontier American.  This article would go well with Gary Alan Fine’s “Reputational Entrepreneurs and the Memory of Incompetence: Melting Supporters, Partisan Warriors, and Images of President Harding.”


The Society Pages’ first White Paper, published earlier this month, focuses on the intersections of politics and sport. White Papers are in-depth explorations of relevant topics in the social sciences and  will be an ongoing part of The Society Pages. We recommend using this White Paper, “Politics and Sports: Strange, Secret Bedfellows” by Kyle Green and Doug Hartmann, in your classroom as a great overview of the politics of sports…and the sport of politics. Score

This easy-to-read and informative paper explores many topics relevant to your students. Here are a few:

  • Do sports play a role in maintaining racial stereotypes, in particular the athletic prowess and intellectual deficiency of black men?
  • Similarly, how do gendered stereotypes of ability and interest in sports get reproduced? And how can such stereotypes be understood damaging for women?
  • Should sports be understood as a site where boys learn how to “perform” a hegemonic brand of dominant and physical manhood?
  • Are sports the “opiate of the masses”—something mindless to occupy the working class’s time and energy, which might otherwise be invested in creating drastic political change?
  • How can we understand the infusion of sports language and metaphors in politics? Why do politicians use such language and what are the possible repercussions of this type of language?
  • How should we understand the display of anthems, flags, and military personnel (or fighter jets) at sporting events of all kinds (e.g. standing for the national anthem)?
  • Should tax dollars be used to fund professional sports stadiums? How has this taken-for-granted link between state government and for-profit sports teams been formed?