ANTH 212: Anthropology Goes to the Movies

Anthropology Goes to the MoviesSimon’s Rock is known for its small, discussion-based classes and the originality of its students and its professors. Several years ago, Nancy Bonvillain – Anthropology and Linguistics professor, and much-adored instructor – rolled out a new class offering a fresh angle on her discipline.

  1. The title of this class, Anthropology Goes to the Movies, sounds unique. What inspired it?
    The topic for this course developed from my dual interests, one in film and the second in understanding the history and contemporary lives of indigenous peoples. I was looking for a fresh angle for this field of study and a fresh approach that explores anthropology from a familiar starting point for students. 
  2. What separates this course from others as fun or effective to teach?
    The topic for this course developed from my dual interests, one in film and the second in understanding the history and contemporary lives of indigenous peoples. I was looking for a fresh angle for this field of study and a fresh approach that explores anthropology from a familiar starting point for students.
  3. Anthropology through a Hollywood Lens What’s the draw of this class that isn’t in others? 
    It is contemporary. Stereotypes and attitudes of the past are important, but here we use that past as background to see how it impacts contemporary issues. We focus on the ways in which current films continue many of these same stereotypes, how to notice and understand them, and what effect they have on the audience. But as the class can tell you, there have been changes in this too. Students are increasingly aware of the cultural and political implications of film portrayals on the way we think about indigenous and other non-Western peoples. They are very observant and thoughtful about the complexities of how we view other people and what this means in a world that is increasingly interconnected.
  4. How do you see a class like this affecting the students, as opposed to say, a book or essay based study?
    Students respond and are very much engaged because it's a different medium.  It's not just "entertainment." The class takes a medium the students are familiar with and shows the cultural and anthropological impact that medium has – making it real. It’s a learning experience…at least I hope so.

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