Course File for "Crossing Boundaries: Diversity and Representation"1

Beverly Seckinger
University of Arizona

This two-semester course was developed as part of the -ISM (N.) Project, an ongoing initiative of the Institute for Public Media Arts, based in Durham, North Carolina. -ISM (N.) 2 is a national curricular and faculty development project, begun in 1995. During the 1997-98 academic year, the national project enlisted seven campuses to create interdisciplinary courses integrating the critical study of "isms" (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) with video production. Participating faculty met for a 4-day intensive institute in the summer of 1997 to share resources and perspectives and create a network of colleagues, and then again in the summer of 1998 to debrief and evaluate the year. The -ISM (N.) staff also created a listserv to facilitate contact among faculty throughout the year, and a parallel listserv to initiate dialogue among students from the seven participating campuses. The ultimate goal of the Project was to develop and disseminate curricular materials piloted in these experimental courses, and this initiative continues at this writing.

Partnering faculty came from a variety of disciplines: Media Arts, Sociology, Women's Studies, English, Psychology, Rhetoric, Social Justice Education. The courses they created reflect these diverse orientations, and differ markedly, while still incorporating the "theory, action, self-reflection, and video-production" components of the -ISM (N.) model. At the University of Arizona, the teaching team was composed of myself, a video artist in a Media Arts department, with a background in anthropology, documentary, and alternative/activist media; a Women's Studies professor with a background in literature, creative writing, cultural studies, and experiential education; and a Media Arts graduate student commited to media literacy and media activism, pursuing studies in media theory and criticism. Our course, "Crossing Boundaries: Diversity and Representation," focuses on the media representation of "isms" and Otherness, and integrates three central components, described as follows in the syllabus:

  1. Theoretical Analysis of "-isms". Through readings, screenings, invited lectures, and panel discussions, the class will develop an understanding of multi-disciplinary theories and analyses of various "isms" and the powerful role that representation has played in their elaboration.
  2. Group Processing/Reflection. Working from Paolo Freire's notion of praxis, students will gain a personal understanding of group processes, power dynamics, tools for negotiating differences, and the ways in which these processes relate to personal and group identities. Because "isms" touch us all in individual, often powerful ways, this component of the course will offer tools for more effectively dealing with difference. Students are expected to be personally engaged.
  3. Video Production. Students will develop enough video skills to produce individual and group projects that offer research and analysis of the workings of "isms" in our own lives and on our campus.

Student assignments include readings, in-class and listserv discussions, ongoing written journals, in-class free writing exercises, a final paper and presentation, a series of video exercises and projects, and participation in screening events featuring their video work. Class time is divided between three hours of lecture/discussion/screening and three hours of lab (video production) per week.

The first semester of the course focuses on issues of identity and voice, and includes theoretical readings about identity, difference, and power; autobiographical fiction, essays and poems; and screenings of video diaries and personal documentaries. The primary video assignments for this part of the course are a found-footage montage editing project, examining and critiquing media stereotypes of one or more "isms", and a personal video diary.

The second semester moves from this focus on individuals to an examination of identity, community, and power relations at the institutional level, with particular attention to our own campus. Readings explore issues of difference and power at universities, including debates around multiculturalism, political correctness, the commercialization/commodification of public education, identity politics and "Other Studies" programs, hate speech, competing canons, and student activism. This semester's video project is a collaborative documentary, broadly conceived; formal experimentation is encouraged, building on the previous semester's work to develop distinctive expressive voices both in writing and in video.

Both semesters include a strong component of critical self-reflection, encouraged through readings, discussions, experiential exercises, and written journals. This dimension of the course reflects the fundamental principle of feminism, gay liberation, and other identity-based liberation movements, that the personal is political. In the interdisciplinary "Crossing Boundaries" class, this overtly political philosophy--our shared struggle toward social justice through the analysis of mainstream media, and the production of alternative, non-commercial representations--incorporates social analysis and video production into a dynamic experience of Freierian praxis with concrete, activist goals: making work that matters, and sharing it with audiences through on- and off-campus screenings. Personal reflection, theoretical analysis, and video production are interwoven and mutually influencing.

The product of this ambitious venture in the 1997-98 course was a remarkably diverse and intimate set of video diaries in the fall, and an equally impressive pair of collaborative tapes in the spring. These video productions were richly informed by the readings, discussions, screenings, and writing assignments which accompanied them.


Unit #1--Theoretical Starting Points: Framing/Being Framed/POV

We begin by introducing the central concepts of the course: Freire's praxis loop of theory-action-reflection, including the personal investment, structured reflection and facilitation which characterize "experiential education"; building on Freire, bell hooks' notion of a liberatory education which works to break down the conventional power dynamics between student and teacher, and rejects the "banking model" of education (static, passive, memorization-based) in favor of revisioning the class as an active "learning community"; critical media literacy aimed at analyzing mainstream/commercial representations of "isms" and Otherness; and the creation of oppositional representations which challenge these dominant images.

Jay Ruby's "Speaking For, Speaking About..." provides an ethnographic framework for discussing the power dynamics among producers, subjects and audiences through media texts: Who (producers, funders) makes what (textual analysis, stylistic and rhetorical conventions) for whom (audiences, exhibition venues), and how (relations of production, production strategies)? What happens when historical Others seize the means of production and make work about themselves, their cultures and communities, or alternatively turn their critical lenses on the Other-izers? Ben Bagdikian's The Media Monopoly supplements Ruby with a political economic analysis of the commercial media industries. This section of the course constitutes an introduction to media representation itself , and to the concepts of framing and socially situated point of view. In-class activities, as for the rest of the course, include discussion of readings, screenings, and free writing exercises.

At the same time, the first four lab sessions serve as a crash course in video cameras, tripods, storyboards, microphones, and editing. During Lab #1, after an introduction to video camcorders and tripods, students in groups of 4 storyboard and shoot a ten-shot in-camera editing exercise. Lab exercise #2 introduces microphones (dynamic hand-held, shotgun, and lavalier), and sends groups of students out to interview each other about aspects of their personal history (e.g., describe the neighborhood where you grew up; what holidays did your family celebrate, and how?). After another lab session devoted to learning the mechanics of off-line editing, the groups cut the interview material into one-minute talking head mini-documentaries. Students occupy and interrogate producer, subject and audience positions, and begin to explore the core course content regarding identity through collaborative video production.


hooks, bell. Introduction and "Paolo Freire." Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994.

" " "Making Movie Magic." Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Bagdikian, Ben. Prefaces, Introduction, Chapter 1, and Afterword. The Media Monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.

Boneham, Fiona. "Fiona's Handy Camcorder Tips." Roar! The Paper Tiger Television Guide to Media Activism. New York: Paper Tiger Television Collective, 1991.

Ruby, Jay. "Speaking For, Speaking About, Speaking With, or Speaking Alongside: An Anthropological and Documentary Dilemma." Journal of Film and Video 44: 1-2 (1992), 42-67.


Jason Simon's Production Notes re making of McDonald's commercial

Signal to Noise: Life With Television, excerpts (Cara Mertes), GPN, Lincoln Nebraska. 1-800-228-4630.

Unit #2--Representation and Responsibility

"The whiteness of whiteness is the blindness of willful innocence." (Jane Lazarre, "Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness" p. 49)

This unit of the course addresses multiple and intersecting privileges and oppressions, with particular attention to the cultural construction of whiteness, and invites students to examine their own experiences of advantage/dominance and disadvantage/subordination, according to race, gender, sexuality, religion, class and other facets of identity. It also explores the encoding of these power-inflected relations in media representations, along with possibilities for critiquing the status quo both through critical/oppositional readings, and alternative productions.

Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack" enumerates twenty-six examples of "the daily effects of white privilege in my life" (264), and discusses the obliviousness to systems of domination which typically characterizes the privileged. The "whiteness of whiteness," the maleness of maleness, the straightness of straightness puts the burden on the Other (the non-white, non-male, non-straight) to experience, identify, and fight inequality which is typically invisible and unacknowledged among its benefactors. While social change requires the participation of members of dominant groups in the dismantling of systems of domination, McIntosh argues that "it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily-awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base" (267).

bell hooks' "Artistic Integrity: Race and Accountability" supplements McIntosh's discussion of the politics of difference with an examination of the politics and ethics of media representation, and echos McIntosh's call for active resistance to structures of domination:

[D]emanding a change in what we see on the screen--demanding progressive images--is one way to transform the culture we live in. As long as no one makes this demand, we are not just held captive by the imagistic hegemony of the collective white supremacist capitalist patriarchal imagination, we will not have eyes to see the liberatory visions progressive filmmakers offer us.

Two screenings supplement these articles. DeeDee Halleck's The Gringo in Mananaland (1995) scrutinizes the representation of Latin America by the American media, primarily in classic Hollywood films, while my own videotape Planet in My Pocket (1995) critiques stereotypical representations of Africans, Mexicans and Native Americans in cartoons, narrative films, travelogues, toys, and other artifacts of American popular culture.

The primary lab project of this unit addresses the politics of media representation through the production of a two-minute found footage media critique montage. This assignment continues the ongoing development of critical media literacy skills, while giving students some practice structuring and recontextualizing images through editing. Students choose an "ism," explore its mainstream media representation, and create tapes which comment upon and deconstruct these images through structural strategies including recurring motifs and unexpected audio-visual juxtapositions.

Project steps include choosing and researching a topic (through watching television and/or renting films), recording and logging footage, creating a paper edit, including sound design, and editing. The media critique montage continues to develop the concept of point of view from the perspectives of both viewer and producer, and requires approximately one month, from initial assignment to screening and critique.


McIntosh, Peggy. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack." Women: Images and Realities, A Multicultural Anthology. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995.

Lazarre, Jane. "Color Blind: The Whiteness of Whiteness."Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Dyer, Richard. "White." Screen 29:4, Autumn 1988.

hooks, bell. "Artistic Integrity: Race and Accountability." Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Pratt, Minnie Bruce. "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart." Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism. New York: Long Haul Press, 1984.

Smith, Barbara, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."ibid


Planet in My Pocket (Beverly Seckinger, 1995), Seckinger, fax 520-621-9662

The Gringo in Mananaland (Dee Dee Halleck, 1995), Halleck, fax 914-679-7535

Unit #3--Creative Strategies in Autobiography

This unit features autobiographical readings and screenings that explore a wide range of rhetorical strategies and styles: poetry, essays, personal narratives, personal documentaries and diaries. Discussions focus on issues of structure and voice. An in-class writing exercise on the question, "What is your culture?" jumpstarts the process of exploring the multiple influences upon each student's sense of self.

A timeline/storyboard exercise connects autobiographical analysis with visual storytelling. Students create a timeline of significant events in their lives which have resulted in greater awareness of some aspect of their identity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.). They then choose one of these experiences, and create a 6-panel storyboard which depicts the event visually. Students share their storyboards with one another, and attempt to read each other's stories. This storyboard offers one possible starting point for the video diary assignment which follows.

The final video project of the first semester is a 3-5 minute video diary. This project draws on all the foregoing components of the course to create an expressive autobiographical piece exploring some aspect of each student's identity and/or experience. Focus is crucial. Some suggested structural strategies include:

  1. Significant event. Tell your story visually in a 1-2 minute rough cut. Clip on a microphone and tell your story spontaneously, or script a version of the story to perform orally. Integrate the two versions, adding further elements such as music or sound effects. 3
  2. Antidote to the media stereotypes explored in your montage tape. How might you counteract the sorts of stereotypes so familiar from popular cultural representations? What sort of image would you like to see replace these stereotypes?
  3. Poetic narration or other audio track (answering machine message, commercials, interview segments, etc.) accompanied by metaphorical imagery and audio.
  4. Multivocal p.o.v. collage which constructs your many-faceted identity through the way others interact with you, the camera/subject.
  5. A day in your life on campus (shot as a narrative? as an observational documentary? as a series of p.o.v. shots?)

In and out of class writing assignments provide useful means of developing project ideas and possibly voiceover material. Each step along the way, from initial treatment through drafts of narration, shotlists and storyboards, raw footage, and rough cut, is workshopped in labs, and the final tapes screened and critiqued in class, and then in public screenings organized by the students (see Spring semester).


Lorde, Audre. selections from Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1983.

Allison, Dorothy. selections from Two or Three Things I Know For Sure. New York: Dutton, 1995.

Balen, Julia. "La Ronde: Of Children and Mothers." The Intimate Critique: Autobiographical Literary Criticism, Eds, Diane P. Freedman. Olivia Frey, and Frances Murphy Zauhar. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993, 293-301.

Sapphire. "American Dream." American Dreams. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.

Ortiz, Simon. "Song, Poetry and Language: Expression and Perception." Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Oxenberg, Jan. "Pleased to Meet Me." Independent. August/September 1995.

Willie, Sarah. "Playing the Devil's Advocate." Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Mairs, Nancy. selections from Waist High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.


Thank You and Goodnight (Jan Oxenberg, 1992), American Playhouse/POV

Two or Three Things, But Nothing for Sure (Jane Wagner and Tina di Feliciantonio, 1997), Women Make Movies

In Harm's Way (Jan Krawitz, 1996), Women Make Movies

Bayou (Dina Ciraulo, 1997), Frameline

It Wasn't Love (Sadie Benning, 1992), Video Data Bank

ISM diaries from past classes

class montages (view and critique)

Unit #4--Border Crossings

This set of readings, screenings and in-class writing exercises and discussions move the class's analysis beyond identity politics and individual "isms" to grapple with the complexity of historically and socially situated constructions of identity. The course continues to explore the concepts of voice, style and structure in autobiography with readings and screenings which frame subject position as the confluence of multiple dimensions and dynamic, sometimes conflictual allegiances. Race, language, nationality, religion, and class are destabilized and deconstructed in analytical memoirs of immigration, inter-marriage, multilingualism, and multiculturalism.

Richard Rodriguez' discussion of the relationships among class and skin color, Sarah Willie's examination of her multiracial heritage, Lisa Kahaleole Chang Hall's essay interrogating the intersections of race, culture, geographic allegiance, and lesbian identification in her own life ("I am a woman who wants to go home but never figured out where it is or why to go there" [241]), all speak to a densely complex notion of identity.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena asserts the "demographic, racial, social, and cultural fact [of] hybridity" in the US at this historical moment, and argues for the necessity of adopting "more fluid and tolerant notions of personal and national identity" (70). Gloria Anzaldua elaborates the concept of a "mestiza consciousness" which embraces ambiguity and contradiction: "though it is a source of intense pain, its energy comes from continual creative motion that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new paradigm" (80).

These conceptions of selfhood directly counteract the often simplistic and stereotypical images of subaltern subjects which dominate the commercial media, and suggest approaches to autobiography which students might draw upon in the formulation of their video diary projects.

The screenings in this unit tread similar borderlands. Arlene Bowman's Navajo Talking Picture traces her experience as a Phoenix-born, English speaking UCLA student trying to make a film about her equally monolingual, Navajo grandmother on the reservation, and reveals a nearly insurmountable communicative gulf of language, culture and outlook between the generations. Joan Mandell's Tales from Arab Detroit looks at cultural and linguistic shifts across three generations of immigrants in America's largest Arab community.

Marlon Riggs' Black is, Black Ain't denaturalizes the concept of Blackness by demonstrating such profound internal diversity within "the Black community" (from skin color and hairstyles, music and religion, to conceptions of gender and sexuality) that we are left to wonder if Blackness is even a meaningful category; or, alternatively, to realize that the meanings of Blackness are multifareous, situational, strategic, contested, and dynamic.

Lab activities through the end of the semester continue to focus on workshopping the various components and stages of the video diaries.


Anzaldua, Gloria. "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Toward a New Consciousness." Making Face, Making Soul = Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. San Francisco: aunt lute books, 1990.

Gomez-Pena, Guillermo. "The 90's Culture of Xenophobia: Beyond the Tortilla Curtain." The New World Border: Prophecies, Poems, and Loqueras For the End of the Century. San Francisco: City Lights, 1996.

Rodriguez, Richard. "Complexion." Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures. eds. Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Cornel West. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1990.

Yamato, Sylvia. "Something About the Subject Makes it Hard to Name." Making Face, Making Soul = Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. San Francisco: aunt lute books, 1990.

Kahaleole Chang Hall, Lisa. "Eating Salt." Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Straayer, Chris. "The Public Private: Negotiating Subjectivity," in Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies: Sexual Re-orientation in Film and Video. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Viramontes, Helen Maria. "Tears on My Pillow." Chicana (w)rites on Word and Film. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1995.

Huerta, Joel. "Walmart America Quartet." ibid


Black Is, Black Ain't (Marlon Riggs, 1995), California Newsreel

Navajo Talking Picture (Arlene Bowman, 1986), Women Make Movies

Tales from Arab Detroit (Joan Mandell, 1995), New Day Films

Khush (Pratibha Parmar, 1991), Women Make Movies

Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989), Third World Newsreel

Unit #5--Resistances: Silence and Voice

The final unit of the first semester takes up the question of how both strategic silence and developing one's expressive voice--in writing, in video, in other media--can serve as acts of resistance. Autobiographical readings and screenings provide diverse examples of breaking traditionally enforced silences and "coming out" about race, religion, sexuality, feminism in ways that confound received definitions, categories, and terms of debate. Speaking about the contradictions and inextricability of being both African-American and gay (Tongues Untied), a lesbian daughter of a virulent anti-gay fundamentalist Christian father (Family Values), or of both African-American and Anglo-American heritage (Family Name), these works take up all of the central themes of the semester: the act of enunciation is simultaneously personal and political, countering stereotypes with subjective specificity.

With the completion of the video diaries, the class organizes screening events to share their work with a wider public, and thereby continue the trajectory from analysis, through articulation, to social action. This move to organizing and activism becomes a central focus of the second semester of the course.


Lorde, Audre. "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.

hooks, bell. "Coming to Voice." Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Boston: South End Press, 1989.

Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue." Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/aunt lute books, 1987.

Alarcon, Francisco. "Silence." Chicana (w)rites on Word and Film. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1995.

Cantu, Norma. "Se me enchina el cuerpo al oir tu cuento..." ibid

Millner, Sherry. "Bargain Media: Taking Control of Our Images--And Lives." Roar: The Paper Tiger Television Guide to Media Activism. New York: Paper Tiger Television Collective, 1991.


Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989), Frameline

Family Name (Macky Alston, 1996), First Run/Icarus Films

Family Values (Pam Walton, 1996), Filmmaker's Library

class video diaries


Unit #1--(Experimental) Documentary Forms, Collaborative Strategies

Continuing the course's examination of difference and power, the second semester shifts focus from the individual to the institutional level (specifically, the institution of higher education--our own university), and from the personal diary to a collaborative mode of production. The emphasis on alternative textual strategies expands to consider alternative production and exhibition strategies as well. Bill Nichols' "Performing Documentary," and his well-known concept of the "voice" of documentary, provide an analytical framework for examining contemporary documentary forms, along with critical vocabulary to help students develop treatments and proposals for their group productions.
Working in production groups of 2-4, this project asks you to draw on class readings and discussions, and all the video production and editing skills practiced in labs, to construct a 10-minute videotape which explores some aspect of identity, community, diversity and/or intergroup relations within the institutional context of this university. As for the diary project, focus is crucial, and will continue to be reconceptualized and refined throughout the course of the production.

Before forming production groups, students develop initial one paragraph proposals describing a subject, perspective, and aesthetic/rhetorical approach. After workshopping these proposals, production groups form around topic ideas, and then continue to develop these initial proposals into treatments. When treatments are approved, groups go on to create production plans, and more specific timetables, plans for allocating responsibilities and tasks, equipment lists, and other pre-production materials.

In comparison with traditional production courses, Crossing Boundaries devotes considerable critical attention to the relationship between production practices and the texts which result from them. Whereas a typical narrative production course, for example, teaches students how to work in hierarchically organized crew positions without pausing to question that model, the ISM class includes critical analysis of a variety of modes of production, and explores some experimental options (modeled after the media collective practices of pioneering groups like Newsreel, Ant Farm, TVTV). In keeping with the course's guiding principle of liberatory education, each production group is charged not only with making a project, but designing their own relations of production and decision making strategies. The production process itself becomes subject to the same sort of Freirian praxis (theory-action-reflection) as the rest of the course.

It is also important to note, however, that in view of this enormous student responsibility for designing their own projects, it is crucial to establish and adhere to deadlines for raw footage review, rough cut, and final cut. It is also advised that production groups be comprised of a maxium of four members.

Though already a bit dated (for undergraduates with short memories), Jim Klein's Letter to the Next Generation (1989?) is an excellent introduction to another of the semester's central concerns: current possibilities for student activism.


Ruby, Jay. "Speaking For, Speaking About..." (reread from Fall)

Nichols, Bill. "The Performative Documentary," Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Rea, Peter and David Irving. "Crewing."Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video. Boston: Focal Press, 1995.

Coover, Virginia, et al. "Working in Groups." Resource Manual for a Living Revolution. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1978.


Letter to the Next Generation (Jim Klein, 1989), New Day Films

Unit #2--ISMs on Campus: Conflicting Paradigms

This unit takes up a number of current debates about higher education, being waged both within and outside the academy: the "victim's revolution" (DiSouza) versus "neutral universalism" (Duster); challenges to established canons of scholarship; arguments about the concept of "hate speech" and its proscription on campus; and the opportunities and dangers of increasing corporate infiltration into higher education. A series of structured class debates offers an effective method for interrogating the conflicting arguments about these politically explosive topics. Dividing students randomly into debating teams charged with arguing the merits of an assigned position pushes them to explore as fully as possible the internal logics and assumptions underlying these different positions.

Discussion in this unit also examines "Other" studies programs (e.g., Women's Studies, Chicano Studies), and identity-based student organizations (e.g., the Native American Student Center, or gay student union), as indicators of a campus's approach to diversity. What are the advantages and liabilities of recognizing, and even institutionalizing, difference, as opposed to utopian, homogenizing, "we-are-all-the-same" discourses and policies which deny historically formative differences, and render some identities invisible?

In lab sessions, students move from conceptualization and planning to production, workshopping their raw footage and continually evolving treatments between shoots. Principle photography must be completed early enough to allow not only for sufficient post-production time, but also to leave a few weeks at the end of the term for screening events which include this semester's collaborative projects. Individual written journals may be redirected to serve primarily as project journals, in which students reflect on the production process and their group's working relationships. Periodic examination of these materials by the instructors offers a way to monitor a group's collaborative process, and in turn to suggest strategies for addressing conflict, if necessary.


DiSouza, Dinesh. "The Victim's Revolution on Campus." Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. New York: Free Press, 1991.

Duster, Troy. "The Political Magic of Claims to Neutral Universalism." Advocacy in the Classroom: Problems and Possibilities. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Matsuda, Mari. "Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim's Story." Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment. Boulder: Westview Press, 1993.

Lawrence, Charles R. II. "If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech on Campus."ibid.

Gates, Henry Louis. "The Master's Pieces: On Canon Formation and the African-American Tradition." Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Soley, Lawrence C. "Underneath the Ivy." Leasing the Ivory Tower: The Corporate Takeover of Academia. Boston: South End Press, 1995.

Wilson, John K. The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.

Unit #3--Progressive Pedagogies

The materials presented in this unit provide examine innovative strategies for changing classroom power dynamics, particularly with respect to issues of difference and diversity. After spending several months actively engaged in exploring alternative structures of classroom interaction, the class can now evaluate the pedagogical discussions in these articles within the context of their own experience.

In "The Pocahontas Paradigm," Maia Ettinger discusses the conflicts which arise in discussions of race, class, gender and sexuality among "unsilent Others" and those she terms PLAs (People Lacking an Agenda): "people whose interest in race, class, and gender is grounded in something other than the need to survive in an alien culture and/or to assess in good faith their own position in the multiple systems of subordination that constitute the culture" (51). Ettinger unearths assumptions that both camps bring to such discussions, and offers tools for moving beyond disinterested theoretical sparring on the one hand, and guilty or accusatory dead ends on the other, toward a riskier, more personally and socially engaged interactive analysis.

In a related article, Estelle Freedman outlines a class structure which integrates small group discussions of personal experience ("in order to understand the larger social context for te experience and to transform one's intellectual or political understanding of it"[35]), within a large lecture format course. Both articles speak to the ISM class's project of connecting each student's personal experience to a broader analysis of difference and power.

In addition to discussions of these articles, class time during this unit is used to workshop final paper ideas from initial outline through rough draft. Students give final presentations on their papers during the last week of the course. Lab time is used to produce and workshop the first rough cut of the group video projects.

Final Paper assignment:

This paper should reflect in depth on a key issue from the course and develop with consideration of the readings, screenings, discussions, journals, and video productions, as useful to your project. You need not incorporate ALL of these elements, but make use of as many as appropriate to develop your topic." Sample topics: liberatory pedagogy, theory-practice loop (praxis), alternative/activist media, voice and silence, collaborative strategies, articulating identities/social point of view/situated knowledge (a perspective that integrates social analysis with subjectivity and agency); production of stereotypical media representations vs. independent/personal/non-commercial representations.


Zuniga, Ximena and Mark Chesler. "Teaching with and about Conflict in the Classroom." Multicultural Teaching in the University. Westport: Praeger, 1993.

Ettinger, Maia. "The Pocahontas Paradigm, or Will the Subaltern Please Shut Up." Tilting the Tower: Lesbians, Teaching, Queer Subjects. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Friedman, Estelle. "Small Group Pedagogy: Consciousness Raising in Conservative Times."ibid.


Skin Deep: College Students Confronting Racism (Frances Reid, 1996), Iris Films

Unit #4--Student Empowerment and Action for Social Change

The class culminates in a series of student-organized screening events which presentvideo work from both semesters. These screenings extend the project of the course beyond the boundaries of the classroom as student artists become media activists, sharing their tapes with on- and off-campus audiences and generating dialogue about difference and power, media representation and reception. There are innumerable opportunities for screenings of student work, and a variety of thematic programs can be created from each class's productions and tailored to particular venues (e.g., elementary schools, campus residence halls, community groups, identity- or issue-based organizations).

It is often a considerable political feat to garner the necessary cross-campus support to make institutional space for an interdisciplinary, resource-intensive course such as this one. Funding multiple instructors, allocating adequate credit for their labors, securing access to video equipment, classifying and advertising the course so it will appeal to a diverse group of students, and "count" in a variety of academic programs--all of these maneuvers require institutional savvy, diplomacy, patience, and not a little luck.

Under these circumstances, it seems clear that one importance screening audience would be the collection of administrators who have supported the course financially and institutionally. However, since the project of the course in the second semester is in many ways the critical assessment of the very institution in which it takes place, these administrators must be prepared to witness the results of the development of critical consciousness among their students. In this way, the university itself may engage in its own Freirian praxis loop, as the class which is a part of the university works to develop a critical analysis OF the university, in the hopes of improving it (theory, action, reflection).


Vellela, Tony. "Examining the Strategies" and "Student Empowerment." New Voices: Student Activism in the 80's and 90's. Boston: South End Press, 1988.

Juhasz, Alexandra. "Making AIDS Video as Radical Pedagogy," Radical Teacher. 50, Spring 1997.


From an institutional standpoint, it may be difficult to offer a year-long course, and equally problematic assigning credit to multiple instructors. At some schools, it may more feasible to structure the ISM experience as two separate, co-convened courses, each taught by a professor under her/his home department's rubric, with all students and teachers present at all class sessions. But while it can be a difficult bureaucratic juggling act to make a team-taught class happen, the experience of interdisciplinary teaching is both challenging and exciting. The "Crossing Boundaries" course provides an opportunity for media production faculty to teach courses which truly integrate theory and practice. Similarly, it offers an interesting opportunity for students from other disciplines to try their hand at media production, and for film and video students to expand their conceptions of independent, activist media.

The integration of personal/political social analysis with video production is the distinguishing feature of "Crossing Boundaries." While many courses in identity-based disciplines such as Women's Studies, Gay/Lesbian Studies, or Ethnic Studies provide students with opportunities for personal exploration and discovery through a combination of social analysis and personal reflection, it is unusual for such courses to include a video production component. Conversely, while theoretically-inflected, small-format courses in video production (i.e. courses informed by the aesthetics and politics of independent media making, rather than commercial broadcast genres) encourage students to draw upon their own experiences to make powerful, innovative tapes from the heart, such courses rarely incorporate sustained theoretical analysis of identity, difference, and power. The interdisciplinary "Crossing Boundaries" course gives equal weight to both.


1 This syllabus is a revised version of the syllabus we developed for the 1997-98 offering of the course at the University of Arizona. While all three members of the teaching team contributed readings, screenings and assignments to that syllabus, it was graduate student Marisa Vitiello who did the lion's share of the work researching references and putting the final reading list together.

Thanks also to Lenay Dunn, who checked all the references on the final manuscript.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the -ISM (N.) project for helping us to develop and teach this course: the terrific IPMA staff, my "ISM Sisters"/co-teachers Julia Balen and Marisa Vitiello, the ISM faculty from the other institutions during the 1997-98 academic year, the University of Arizona administrators who supported the course, and most of all our diverse, enthusiastic, engaged students who did so much to make this first experimental offering an unforgettable experience for me.

2 For further information, contact the Institute for Public Media Arts, 115 Market Street, Durham, North Carolina, 27701. ph 919-688-0332; fax 919-683-3194;;

3 Thanks to Susan Hamovitch for this variation.

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© 1998 Institute for Public Media Arts
115 Market Street
Durham, NC 27701