Using the Film “Avatar” in Education

Between Pandora and Earth: A Guided Tour by Morgan Khanstein

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Abstract

This article serves as a guide for using the film “Avatar” in education. It is designed to help students explore topics related to global citizenship.

In an op-ed piece entitled The Avatar Decade, Susan E. Reed writes: “Power shifted this decade from the usual centers of politics and big business to the creative world, scientists and the masses…Nothing illustrates the shift more powerfully than ‘Avatar’.” [1] In the same vein, author and activist Naomi Wolf claims that “Avatarwill probably do more to exhume Americans’ suppressed knowledge about the shallowness of their national mythology in the face of their oppressive presence in the rest of the world than any amount of editorialising, college courses, or even protest from outside America’s borders.”[2]

Avatar, though, is more than just a critique of American culture and mythos. Set 500 years into the future, it draws us uneasily back 500 years into the past, an event which led to the fateful demise of the peoples of the Americas from a population estimated at 50 million to just 8 million a century later. [3] Avatar is the often forgotten retelling of the meeting of two worlds as the divulging of a secret – history has not ended. Instead, it is streaming forward.

Are we not reminded of the Santa Maria, Niña and Pinta making their way across the ocean, driven forward by the bitter gales of expulsion, inquisition, religious intolerance, ethnic cleansing and misogyny as we watch Jake Scully emerge from his cryo-capsule aboard an interstellar spaceship? Avatar presents us with the myth of our past but it also encapsulates the promise of our present. As the biggest grossing film of all time ($2.6 billion box office sales and 72 percent of which has been outside the United States),[4]Avatar has tellingly resonated with humanity, providing citizens of the globe with the story we want to hear.

For Avatar to achieve its transformative potential, guiding us towards the “Avatar Decade,” the film cannot simply move from theaters to DVDs to the eventual – now empty – shelves of Blockbuster, ending as a popular rerun on AMC. Nor is it enough to just passively wait for the packaged series of sequels and prequels that are certain to be released. Instead, the themes of Avatar must be dynamically engaged.The Global Avatar Ed Projectis a playful invitation for educators and students together, transformed into co-explorers of the social imaginary spheres of Pandora and Earth, to actively carry the film forward by co-examining and constructing the “big picture,” connecting seemingly disparate ideas while making broad “global” associations. The project is designed to foster an international discussion among teachers and students on the topic of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism.

Welcome: Between Pandora and Earth

Both of the project landing pages, Global Avatar – Pandora – Welcome and Global Avatar – Earth – Welcome,open with images of the respective planets in space. As we ponder these two planets, located at a distance of 4.4 light years from each other, we are drawn into reflecting on the vastness of the universe and our small place in it. Ultimately, we are reminded of our own shared planet, its smallness and finite resources. It was just four decades from today that humans first entered space and saw the miracle of the blue planet.

Behind the Movie and Behind the Scenes

On Pandora explorers will be able to view a short film (“Pandora Discovered) narrated by Sigourney Weaver describing Pandora and its world of “wonder and mystery, incredible danger and strange beauty.” This page is mirrored on Earth (at the Home and Earth pages) by clips from the films Home’and various film clips on the wonders of the planet. Watching them one cannot help but be equally amazed by Earth’s mysteries, dangers and strange beauty. Perhaps we feel as if we are pondering a planet we have never truly seen before, though we were born here? Both planets evoke a sense of wonder in us as we consider their topographies, creatures and demographics.

On the Pandora page “Behind the Movie” explorers will discover information on the cutting edge technology used to create the film. On Earth we are introduced to the sense that there is something amiss on the page Behind the Scenes“, where learners are introduced through clips from the film “Koyaanisqatsi” (Life out of Balance). Learners encounter the world’s elite meeting at Davos and are introduced to the alternative views of the World Social Forum. Pulling the curtain back, we find that in addition to views from the “top” and the “bottom,” millions of people, brought together through rock music, call for social justice. Not long ago students could easily identify competing thought models of the world (democracy v. Marxism). The page Behind the Scenesattempts to address this by presenting two models that posit how the world ought to be (neoliberalism and neoconservatism) and a model that purports to describe how the world is, namely Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization.” All three positions arise from the dominant “center” and are projections onto the “periphery.” Thus, a critical understanding of these three positions should form the background to much of the discussion around global citizenship and cosmopolitanism.

Teachers’ Guide: Basic Primer on How to Use Avatar

The Global Avatar ED Project (see “Teacher’s Guide“) is designed to provide a format for instructors to assist students in exploring and coming to understand the unique cultural perspectives of people from other countries. In doing so, we envision a structure where two classes in two different countries, connected via satellite, would discuss the film Avatar and the various themes embedded within it.For example, students studying English in Cairo and Arabic in Los Angeles, or social studies in both Paris and New York, would connect and engage in discussion and dialog with each other. The Global Avatar Project’s curriculum, because of its broad but interconnected themes, works best in an interdisciplinary setting (e.g. foreign language, social science, biology or earth science, and philosophy instructors working together with students, if possible).

Each thematic page (on “Pandora“), which will be explored below, includes discussion topics and role-play activities. At the end of each page there is a link back to “Earth” for further exploration and reflection. Instructors in both groups should encourage students to listen to the other. We believe that it is important to move beyond the dichotomy of win-lose debates where the loudest orator carries the day. For global transformation towards cooperation to occur in this age of dwindling resources, climate change and the potential for mass casualties and perpetual war, it is necessary that we refine our ability to understand the points of view of other individuals, peoples and cultures.

It should also be kept in mind that most of today’s students simply do not have the patience to slowly plow through material. Thus, we advise against having students investigate each link or provided source. Instead, the entire project is designed to lend itself to using the provided examples to further discussion, encourage students to create their own responses to the film, situations and themes (e.g. Youtube videos, games, etc).

We understand, though, that not all schools have the luxury or technology to connect with students via satellite in other countries. A slightly scaled back format could include using social networking sites, such as Ning or Facebook, to connect participants through discussion boards and the sharing of student designed projects. Where it is not possible to connect with international students, the Global Avatar ED Project may serve as a means for students to explore issues related to globalization, global citizenship and cosmopolitanism in a self contained setting. Because much of the material provided on “Pandora” is visual, imaginary and based on simple sentences it can be easily scaled up or down by grade level from senior AP high school to adult learners, including students who are preparing to transition to post-secondary education as many of the themes presented are studied in depth at the collegiate level. The project, thus, would provide a “road map” to students desiring to pursue advance studies. It should be noted that some of the provided links may contain disturbing images and may not be suitable for younger learners.

As we explore the cosmos presented to us through Avatar, it should be kept in mind that this project is not so much about unpacking or dissecting the film (the “reel” as we shall call it) as it is about co-creating a social imaginary space. David Carrasco, professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard, tells us that through his time with Toni Morrison he learned from her that it was not so much about what was on the page that matters but what is left unspoken. It is the space that has not yet been filled in.[5] The project encourages students to co-construct these open spaces within the social imaginary by probing the “backstory,” examining what we will call the “side reel” – those issues the film has masked and/or mirrored, things which are taking place off screen while we gaze at the screen, and playing out across the globe – and consider issues that take the “future reel” as their jumping off point. For example, backstory discussions could include questions such as,what happened on Pandora prior to Jake Scully’s arrival? How did the first humans to explore Pandora classify the Na’vi? Were they seen as persons?”Side reel” discussions would focus on the theme in a contemporary context. For example, a “side reel” step would be to move from the colonization of the Na’vi to the history of colonialism [on earth]. Discussions that take off where the film ends might question whether or not humans, having been defeated, will return in greater numbers and greater force? If so, would the Na’vi be able to defeat humans a second time? If learners do not believe the Na’vi can win a future battle against humans, than the overall efficacy of violence is brought into question and learners could be encouraged to explore alternative means of conflict resolution.

Global Learning and Exploratory Communities

Gaining awareness of issues related to global studies is critical to becoming a global citizen and developing cosmopolitan sensibilities. We have provided students with links to both graduate student developed websites on global studies, international think tanks, government sites as well as online international news sources at our “Learning and Exploring Together”resource page.

The project seeks to foster the development of an international exploratory community to continue constructing the social imaginary of what global citizenship and cosmopolitanism may entail by linking both students and instructors. To this end, we have identified three key resources that instructors may wish to read and have provided brief Powerpoint presentations at ourLiterature Notespage to help facilitate engagement with these texts. We also encourage instructors to use the social networking site “Goodreads” to dialog on these books, including:

    Cosmopolitanism (2006) by AnthonyKwame Appiah; Educating Citizens for Global Awareness (2005) by Nel Noddings; Global Citizenship Education: Philosophy, Theory and Education (2008) by Michael A. Peters, Alan Britton and Henry Blee (Eds).

Themes and Explorations

Whenever possible we introduce and entwine all fourteen themes presented on Earth with popular Hollywood films and music videos. We have done this as a way of connecting students to the themes and as a platform so that students may consider the relation between the views they hold and the construction of those views in the popular media. For most people, the social imaginary is constructed by a chorus of voices in the marketplace, scholarly works being perhaps the quietest.

Journeys in Global Citizenship

Themes Drawn from the Film

Animal Rights and Welfare is the first theme we encounter. Both planets are inhabited by a variety of creatures. Global citizenship and/or cosmopolitanism entails relations both intra-species (human to human) as well as inter-species. The reader may recall the scene where Neytiri reluctantly rescues Jake Sully from the viperwolves and then scolds him for his human-all-to-human joy. On the page on Pandora, discussion topics include issues related to how humans first classified the “tall blue monkeys” they came into contact with, and the killing for slaughtering of creatures. Those traveling back to Earth will be introduced to the question of non-human persons by examining the behaviors and intelligence of various animals.


Colonization and Colonialism.
The second theme we explore on Pandora is “colonization” and the related theme page “colonialism” on Earth, both of which are central to global citizenship education. On Pandora learners will consider issues concerning the rules governing inter-planetary contact, the Na’vi’s cultural transformation as a result of contact with humans, the role of scientists such as Dr. Grace Augustine in furthering the exploitation of the Na’vi and the ethical responsibilities scientists have towards their “subjects,” the potential classification and treatment of Na’vi who resist, and relations among peoples who face exploitation. Back on Earth learners are introduced to the history of colonialism in Africa as well as key intellectual figures who consider the colonialism, including Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Stuart Hall.

Conflict is at the core of the story of Avatar. The story revolves around the conflict between the humans and the Na’vi. The film also presents conflict as a part of nature itself as the planet is inhabited by a variety of ferocious predators. On Pandora explorers are introduced to a variety of questions, including: loyalty to ones group when one’s sympathies change, as in Jake Sully’s case; alternatives to war the Na’vi may have had but failed to consider, if any; what limitations, if any, should be placed on a non-governmental organization such as the Resource Development Administration, which has monopoly rights on the planet; and possible arguments to halt or constrain the colonization of the planet. On Earth learners are introduced to the problem of conflict itself, and then are encouraged to examine the topic of war, with a focus on wars engaged in by the United States and the former Soviet Union and now Russia, including current and recent wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as the Global War on Terror and the War on Drugs), wars of the 1990s, 1980s, and 1960s-70sas well as possible future wars(such as a war with Iran or cyberwar). We have particularly highlighted the new phenomena of “militainment” or war as games and veterans responses to war. We have focused on wars conducted by the “center,” but against or in (as proxy wars) the “periphery.” Thus, we have not explored the many wars that have taken place between “peripheral” states. Learners should be encouraged to pursue questions regarding the linkages between globalization and war, and whether globalization can be untangled from war. A focus of discussion could include questions of how global security may best be achieved?

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 terrorism has become a global focus. Much of the popular attention in the USA has been on Islam as a source of terrorism. Our page on terrorism provides a more balanced view of global terrorism as learners are introduced to a variety of terrorist groups of various religious affiliations. Students are also introduced to Weber’s position of the state monopoly of violence, which underwrites much of the discussions on who may or may not legitimately use force, and therefore are legal or illegal combatants.We have also presented a related page on violence, which attempts to present a balance of “right wing” and “left wing” groups and persons who advocate or use violence to achieve political ends. The page also presents the issue of hate crimes and groups that advocate hate of the “other.” We have also presented as page onriots(from Watts to Tehran)In addition, the page provides an introduction to religious violence, with a focus on inter-religious violence and violence and the Abrahamic Faiths.

Whether on Pandora or Earth conflict appears to be intrinsic to life. On Earth we introduce this theme by presenting clips from “Naqoyaqatsi” and the seemingly eternal feud between lions and hyenas. The question is not if conflict might one day wholly cease, with both planets returning to an Edenic state, but if there are other strategies for resolving conflicts other than war, terrorism, or violence? For Jake Sully the only means of contesting the RDA’s exploitation of Pandora is to organize violent resistance. Probing the “side reel” we find a variety of non-violent responses that neither Jake nor the Na’vi seriously explored (other than Jake’s spontaneous act of attempting to stop the RDA’s bulldozer). Explorers will want to consider whether or not the Na’vi could have tried a non-violent strategy? Likewise, learners examining issues on Earth may want to discuss possible non-violent strategies both the Israeli’s and the Palestinians could pursue to resolve their long-standing historical pursuits.

We begin by introducing learners to the concept of non-violence by introducing learners to key figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Mahatma Gandhi, and learn of Bacha Khan. Learners then proceed to examine various strategies that support non-violent resistance, including the great variety of social protest music, international marches and uprisings, and the use of activist theater. Learners may consider how the history of these strategies and, working from Earth to Pandora, whether Jake Sully could have led the Na’vi on any other path or resistance?

Finally, we present a page on peace and reconciliation where students are introduced individuals such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dali Lama to name just a few. Learners are also encouraged to explore South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation as well as several groups working to promote peace.

Corporate Soldiers. Following our exploration of conflict we move to the issue of corporate soldiers on both planets.Anyone who has seen the film will immediately recognize Col. Quaritch and recall his speech where he warns his new arrivals that “everything that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for juju beans.” Our Pandora page on corporate soldiers opens with a video podcast speech from the the colonel and then asks explorers to consider several scenarios, including, how working for a security contractors is different from the military? Whether she or he would join an active mission rather than defensive? If any limitations should be placed on security outfits? The corporate soldiers page on Earth introduces learners to private security contractors, such as Blackwater (Xe Services), and their role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The page reintroduces Weber’s concepts on state monopoly of violence, presented earlier in the page on terrorism, and thus draws into question the entire neoliberal project of strengthening the role of corporations by weakening states.

Corporations. Next we take up the closely connected theme of corporations. On Pandora we are introduced to the Resource and Development Association (RDA), which we are informed is “the single largest non-governmental organization in human space” and “its power is such that it outmatches most Earth governments in wealth, political influence, and military capability.”[6]Explorers are introduced to intergalactic business ethics as they consider questions such as, should a corporation pursue actions if they negatively affect the Na’vi? How legitimate are the Na’vi’s claims of land ownership? What conditions, if any, should be placed on the RDA, or other companies, working on Pandora? Should Na’vi religious beliefs concerning an area provide legal protection for that place? What should one do about toxic dumping on Pandora? Our corporations page on Earth learners are introduced to the RDA’s counterparts: the East India Company and the the Dutch East India Company. The page also presents some of the key disasters committed by corporations, including Bopal and Exxon’s Valdez oil spill. Corporations are the target of much criticism, Noam Chomsky’s voice being foremost. However, criticism of corporations is balanced with presentations and round table from Davos, including a speech by Bill Gates, calling for a positive role on the globe for corporations. Learners are also introduced to John Mackey’s vision of “conscious capitalism” as well other views of socially responsible business practices.


Global Citizenship.
We begin our Pandora page on global citizenship with the question of how humans react to the discovery of life on Pandora. Suddenly, we are not alone. What is our obligation to alien civilizations? How important is studying Earth-Pandora relations in his or her choice of college? Once at college, what would he or she choose to present if Earth-Pandora relations was the topic of an assignment? And if she or she could develop a curriculum on Earth-Pandora relations, what would she or he propose that K-12 children study?


Hybridity.
Part of the world-wide appeal of the film is the ability of Jake Sully to fully explore Pandora through an avatar. In this section we take up the issue of hybridity. In addition to examining the constellation of world affairs (e.g. role of nation-states, non-governmental organizations, multi and transnational corporations, etc.), global citizenship studies examines the ways in which individuals are blurring and bending the previously imagined hard lines between peoples, cultures and civilizations. OnPandorawe are introduced to five possible hybridities: (a) the merging of humans and avatars; (b) the symbiosis of man and machine; (c) the connection between Na’vi and mountain banshee; (d) the merging of individual consciousness with the World Tree consciousness; and (e) the merging of human and Na’vi. Explorers are asked to reflect on a number of issues, including how they would change if they spent considerable time in an avatar and thus separated their sense of self from the body? Whether or not it is ethical for a scientist to use an avatar to interact with the Na’vi? What the Na’vi might have to gain by allowing humans to join them? And, if there is something like a “pure” culture that needs to be protected against contamination? Our page on hybridity on Earth opens our investigation of hybridity by looking at one example of how the Maori have adapted a traditional cultural item to a modern setting. Learners then encounter Afghans who are incorporating a non-Afghanistan cultural item (Kung Fu) into their lives. President Obama introduces us to the concept of a post-racial society, and we include the concept of post-gender for consideration. Music is a key to learners exploration of hybridity. The page presents various artists who explore the boundaries between the “orient” and the “occident,” and in the process call Huntington’s thesis into question. For example, Robert Plant’s rendition of “Whole Lot of Love” builds on Led Zepplin’s earlier incorporation of North African influences by blatantly including Arab voices and rhythms. We are also treated to Arabic responses to Michael Jackson’s music, who himself pushed the borders of fixed identity in his work. We have highlighted Chicano music, which represents a powerful hybrid cultural creation at the frontier of “white American” and Mexican cultures. From South Asia Janoon provides a gateway to the confluence of various seemingly disparate cultural streams, viz. the merging of Western rock music with Muslim/Sufi poetry. Moving beyond culture, we pick up themes presented in Avatar by introducing learners to the merging of humans and machines and animals. Much of hybridity, but not all, is being driven forward by diaspora communities, and introductory links are provided. Advanced students will find introductory comments by Stuart Hall on race, Tariq Ramadan on European Muslim identity, and a debate between Samuel Huntington and David Carrasco following Huntington’s attack on Mexican immigration to the U.S. The page concludes by introducing learners to the neuroscience that makes sympathy with others possible.


Indigenous Rights.
We continue our exploration of Avatar by taking up the issue of indigenous rights. At our page on Pandora explorers are introduced to the question of what rights the Na’vi might claim following a second invasion and conquest. Explorers also consider ownership of Na’vi artifacts and remains as well as the question of settlements and sacred grounds. At our age on indigenous rights on Earth learners examine United Nations’ declarations on indigenous rights. Learners are also introduced to indigenous groups that have taken a firm stand against exploitation. The page presents a video podcast of native responses to the film Avatar.


Languages.
The study of language should be closely aligned with both the history of colonialism and indigenous rights.Language appears as an issue in the film where RDA employees offer the Na’vi English and think of it as an equitable exchange for land.

At our Pandora page on languages explorers take up the question of whether or not the Na’vi should learn English. In addition, explorers consider the dilemma Na’vi are faced with, in the future following the second conquest, when children no longer speak Na’vi. Explorers are also asked to consider whether it is necessary that a “pure” Na’vi, free of English influences, is worth preserving? At our languages page on Earth learners are introduced to the role European languages played in colonization and the problem of language death, which has affected a considerable number of the languages of indigenous peoples. The page also presents multilingualism and bilingualism and presents a few constructed languages, such as Na’vi.


Natural Resources.
At $20 million dollars per kilogram, the quest for unobtanium drives the feverish exploitation of the planet. At our Pandora page on natural resources explorers open their discussion by considering the ethics of trading something of little value for something of great worth. Other questions include, whether, as a mineralogist, it is okay to pursue work on Pandora when one knows that it will lead to environmental damage, and consideration of mining practices that do less harm to the environment but are more expensive. At our natural resources page on Earth learners are introduced to various forms of resource exploitation (e.g. strip mining, clear cutting, etc) and resource wars. Learners are also confronted with thinking about a connection between resource wars and consumer consumption.


Refugees.
The issue of refugees does not play a major role in the film. The Na’vi are quickly driven from their homeland, but recoup and stage armed resistance. However, we can imagine their displacement, their anguish and how other tribes would have reacted if they had arrived, especially during the second invasion of Pandora. At our Pandora page on refugees explorers take up the aforementioned questions while at our refugees page on Earth learners are introduced to the realities of various refugees around the planet.

Spirituality. As we watch the film we are initiated into a spirituality that appears distant from our own. Connectedness is at the core of spirituality on the planet as the Na’vi are able to merge with both other creatures and the world tree, which unites all with all, in an awareness of both the connectedness and the sacredness of all beings and things. For the humans who appear on Pandora there is a sense of alienation from this, yet as we, the viewers, watch the plot unfold, do we not feel our own sense of connection to the inhabitants of Pandora, which in turn is part of the sense of wonder that the film evokes? At our Pandora page on spirituality explorers begin by considering what Na’vi beliefs and the challenges a future teacher on Pandora would face if she or he wished to include those beliefs in the classroom. Explorers then consider the differences between spiritual beliefs on Pandora and Earth based religions, if any. The possibility of inter-religious dialog is put before explorers, which opens the door to considerations of what dialog entails and how it might differ from proselytism. At our spirituality page on Earth learners are introduced to a number of key individuals who attempt to foster either religious tolerance or consider inclusion of the earth as a concern. For example, a podcast of a speech by Swami Vivekananda leads off, calling for understanding, and is followed by speeches on the earth, and compassion.

Spirituality is a key component of the film’s presentation of life on Pandora. The same can be said for Earth. For Samuel Huntington it is the world’s major religions that form the tectonic plates known as civilization upon which cultures, nation-states and individuals derive their identity. Following 9/11 religion, particularly Islam, came sharply into focus. With a large part of the world’s populations counted as members of Christianity and Islam, our presentation throughout our site on Earth has been to include the Abrahamic religions whenever possible. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that most Americans”believe that religion has at least a fair amount to do with causing wars and other conflicts in the world. Three-quarters say religion has a great deal (40%) or a fair amount (35%) to do with most wars and conflicts in the world. These attitudes are essentially unchanged from 2003, when 79% said religion had at least a fair amount of responsibility for causing most global wars and conflicts.”[7] In both our page onviolenceand the page onterrorismwe find adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths performing acts of violence and terrorism. We also find the opposite to be true, with adherents of all three Abrahamic faiths taking an active role in promoting non-violence and peace and reconciliationon the planet.

One of the key issues that the film raises (in the “side reel”) is whether or not the Abrahamic faiths are doing enough to recognize the dangers we face as a result of a devaluing of the earth for heaven?If are focus is on heaven, does earth lose its value?If there is a sacred and a profane than does it follow that we can devastate the profane without consequences? Is there an Eden of pleasure and bliss and an outside of weeds and thistles? Are followers of the Book called on to be stewards or consumers and masters of the earth? These questions are touched upon in our pages on spirituality at both Pandora and Earth.


The Environment.
The film brings together a spirituality that is anchored in the environment is central to life on Pandora with the threat posed by humans through the RDA. At our Pandora page on the environment we further the dialog by asking explorers to consider several scenarios, including what one would do if one discovered that toxins were being dumped into a river, one’s reaction to plans to “develop” Pandora, and responses on Earth to Na’vi wanting to share their ideas on the environment. On Earth learners revisit their earlier studies of the planets’ natural resources, corporations and animal rights by taking a closer look at climate change, pollution, species collapse. The page also introduces learners to various religious responses to ecological destruction.

The Self. We complete our journey through the core themes of Avatar with an exploration of the self. The deep mysteries revealed in the film seem to guide us towards a threefold realization of “the self”: (a) your self is connected to all other beings; (b) we come to know ourselves through the other, namely: “I see you…now I live through you and you through me…I see me through your eyes.” The message appears to be that the “self” is a relational self, know in community, realized through the other; and (c) the “self” is mutable, it is not essentially human or Na’vi, and it is not essentially embodied in a particular space. Our Pandora page on The Self presents these concepts for explorers to ponder. On Earth we present another view of The Self. Here we present a view of the self steeped in existential dread, and riddled by self doubts of one’s existence. A self that is highly unstable and without roots in our postmodern world.

Where now?

There are a number of themes that were not picked up by the film but should be included in an exploration of global studies includes the oppression of women in the world (see: “Half the Sky” for more information), international crime syndicates, international human trafficking and slavery, immigration and immigrant rights, global pandemics, the free flow of information and the attempt of states to censor it, international diaspora communities, and religion and postmodernity.

As we have seen, wrestling with Avatar can be both an incredible experience of self exploration and a monumental challenge of our collective world-view. Once we have been to Pandora and learned from the Na’vi it may be no longer possible to think of our selves and our cultures as hermetically sealed.As intergalactic beings coexisting on a finite planet in an infinite universe we truly come to know ourselves through the other, connecting at the level of “I see you” and “I see myself through your eyes.”

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