Philosophy: My educational approach is based primarily on the "will to intelligence" as articulated by Ranciere in The Ignorant Schoolmaster and "dialogic, critical pedagogy" as outlined by Paulo Friere in, most notably, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I encourage teachers at all levels to adapt contextually appropriate teaching methods and to "think with multimodality", making the audiovisual part of classroom instruction as well as classroom assignments.
Social Change Through Participatory Filmmaking
Participatory Film was a unique opportunity for University of Pennsylvania students to work with students in a Philadelphia high school to create media projects that reflected the experiences of those in the Philadelphia-community and the dilemmas inherent in conducting participatory research. Co-sponsored by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and the School of Social Policy and Practice, the course challenged students to think beyond the borders of the university space by engaging with school communities to “learn through service” and create context-relevant filmic products which will be shown to students, parents, and teachers at their school-site. Each group of Penn students worked with 3-4 high school students and one graduate student teaching assistant to create a short film as part of a web series exploring a social issue of their choosing. Students engaged with two related areas of scholarship in the process of creating their media products. First, they got a “crash course” in participatory ethnographic research and unpacked the types of representational dilemmas that arose in any research-community engagement. What does it mean to conduct participatory research and what are its limits? How do we produce rigorous and useful research that engages with the specific interests and issues of those who we work with? Second, they explored the intellectual debates, ethics, techniques, and narratological strategies of “social change media”. How do we make films that reflect a strong, focused social change agenda while also maximizing the benefits of the audiovisual medium? How does change look as both process and outcome? What new questions might we ask “on camera” that we cannot through text?
Globalization and the City
Globalization has become one of the primary categories by which 21st century change is imagined. Scholars have used the concept to both justify and explain everything from increased social inequality to changing migration patterns to national growth to sectarian strife to corporatization to humanitarianism. Either implicitly or explicitly, rightly or wrongly, the city has taken on a renewed focus as the “site” in which these global processes take place, with airports, roads, multinational corporations, information technologies, supranational organizations, and financial centers facilitating global connection between cities. Yet, emerging cities in the Global South such as Sao Paolo, Lahore, New Delhi, and Newark have seen changes drastically different than cities such as New York, London, and Paris. These differences reflect complex histories linked to earlier colonial, racial, and ethnic relations. How, then, does globalization differentially affect these cities? Students will choose their own city upon which to conduct primary research and deepen their understanding of globalization as a process located in specific histories and spatial relations. They will do primary and secondary research using scholarly articles, news media sources, and documentary film archives to create 7-10 minute "found footage" films on their city of choice. By the end of the course, students will have the theoretical knowledge along with empirical case studies to critically respond to the question: What does the globalization of the city look like?
Urban Ethnography: Documenting the City of Brotherly Love
Course summary: How do qualitative social scientists study urban communities? What kinds of powerful tales can be told about urban lifestyles and social issues/conflicts in places like Philadelphia? This course will allow students to consider ethnographic treatments of urban communities in the United States using films, articles, TV serials, and books as guides for framing their own independent research on the streets of Philadelphia. Students will also form production teams of four or five people, and these production teams will be responsible for (i) identifying and researching an important urban issue in contemporary Philadelphia and (ii) turning that research into a 10-20 minute radio documentary
For 2012 podcasts click here.
Sociology of Education, Azim Premji University (co-taught w/ Dr. Indira Vijayasimha)
Course Summary: The sociology of education offers a special way of seeing education as an expression of much larger processes in society. The course will offer a way of grasping the connection between 'out of sight processes', the local context and the individual self. The emphasis throughout the course will be on historical and cross-cultural comparisons. We will engage with the policies and practices of the state as well as other powerful actors and seek a grounded understanding as well as aim at cultivating a personal praxis. Students will be expected to use fieldwork to engage with readings, critically articulating how various sociological factors, including class, caste, gender, and language play out in educational spaces. Students are expected to write fieldnotes and create audiovisual fieldnotes each week, using this data to participate in class discussions and to conceptualize their final audiovisual project. Their final project, an audiovisual essay, will address a sociological question within the school context.
Participatory Photography, 9th Standard, Adavisandra School, Karnataka, India
9th standard students in Kadajakasandra are learning how to use small handheld cameras to create short films and create photovoice projects. Students have the opportunity to represent their communities and the values within these communities, a process of "self-authoring" which complicates simplistic renderings of their lifeworlds (Vasudevan, 2006). Students capture audio, video, and photographs of their school site, of their homes, of their favorite film stars, of their parents' occupations, and of their educational aspirations. All the while they develop their auteurial sensibilities, challenging their own "ways of seeing". See examples of student photographs.
Visual Ethnography (TA w/ Dr. Stanton Wortham)
Course Summary: What happens when we represent the results of social scientific research in images and sounds? Do we have to change our theories about humans and their social worlds? Do we have to change the methods that we use to do social science? This course explores these questions. We will read about ethnography (as a social scientific method and a representational genre) and about film, we will watch weekly films (to be analyzed for formal properties and implicit assumptions about society), and we will learn the basics of digital video production. Students will put theory into practice by producing academic audiovisual projects.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Modern World (TA w/ Dr. Lisa Mitchell)
Course Summary: Sugar and Spices. Tea and Coffee. Opium and Cocaine. Hop aboard the Indian Ocean dhows, Chinese junks, Dutch schooners, and British and American clipper ships that made possible the rise of global capitalism, new colonial relationships, and intensified forms of cultural change. How have desires to possess and consume particular commodities shaped cultures and the course of modern history? From the role of spices in the formation of European joint stock companies circa 1600 to the contemporary cocaine trade, the course's use of both original primary sources and secondary readings written by historians and anthropologists will enable particular attention to the ways that global trade has impacted social, cultural, and political formations and practices throughout the world.