Course: THEA 10.2/WGST 59.03/AMES 25: Unveiling the Harem Dancer
Instructor: Maral Yessayan
As part of the course Unveiling the Harem Dancer, the students were divided into working groups and asked to produce a video (2-5 minutes long) that creatively challenges stereotypes commonly associated with Arabs and Muslims. The course material for “Unveiling the Harem Dancer” focused on the role that visual media has historically played in creating a repertoire of images that sustain stereotypical descriptions of Arabs and Muslims. In response, I encouraged the students to use the same tool, i.e. the visual text, and capitalize on its ability to unsettle some of the stereotypes associated with Arabs and Muslims today. In my opinion, the projects were a great success. A focus on the visual medium seems to have enhanced the students’ understanding of the extent to which societies rely on visual difference to perpetuate ethnic, religious, and cultural stereotypes. The videos allowed students to actively engage in a dialogue with the prevailing discourse about Arabs and Muslims, which in turn enabled them to participate in a cross-cultural dialogue promoting values of tolerance and coexistence.
This video assignment also required each group to maintain a “Group Diary Blog,” which were made available to students on Blackboard. The purpose of the “Group Diary Blog” was to create a space for the students to flesh out their ideas, identify their research question, and define the vision of their video project in writing. It served as a productive forum for the students to brainstorm ideas, respond to one another, manage group meeting times, share information/graphics/links, organize and cite research material, and discuss the progress of their video project. It also provided me insight into the nature, process, and development of each of the groups’ video project, and allowed me to be more effective in directing and guiding the students whenever they had questions or faced challenges. Each group followed the “Video Project Proposal – The Pitch” and “Treatment Plan for Student Video Projects” guidelines provided by the JMC for their midterm. As part of their pitching presentation, however, I also encouraged them to create a preview video to practice using imovie software and to have a better feel on how to divide production tasks among group members for the video project. The groups screened their final videos at the end of week nine as part of an open public event that was followed by Q&A. The grading criteria for the final video project included three components:
Video Quality Production (from Concept to Creation) – 80 points
Video Supporting Group Paper – 10 points
‘Behind the Scenes’ Group Presentation – 10 points