For students in Comparative Politics of the Middle East, political science is much more than theories and texts: it’s a transatlantic interaction that will become an innovative multimedia tool. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav and with the support of a CTL Grant, these students have spent the semester working with Brooklyn-based filmmaker Adam Hootnick to develop an interactive and web-based curricular supplement for his film, “Unsettled.”
The documentary follows six Israelis in their early twenties, each from a different religious and political background, through the implementation of their government’s decision to dismantle Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005. The film has raised powerful and controversial questions as it has toured college campuses and film festivals across the U.S. and Canada.
Philbrick Yadav explained that, “By telling this complex story from six disparate perspectives, we get six different takes and are able to better unpack the political, religious and social ideas at the core of the film and the conflicts that it captures.”
After a screening of the film on campus last spring, Philbrick Yadav was inspired by the impact it had on her students in a previous political science course. “I was astounded by the lively engagement and critical questions posed by students after seeing the film,” she explained. “In speaking with Adam after the screening, he explained that sees his film primarily as a tool for teaching.”
She continued, saying, “From a pedagogical standpoint, he was tremendously interested in what students would need, both before and after the film, in order to get more out of it.”
To help answer Hootnick’s question and to offer students a more active and in-depth understanding of course material, students in Philbrick Yadav’s course are helping Hootnick to better understand the kinds of questions students have about the film and to develop short videos and other forms of multimedia to generate responses to these questions.
Part of this process included a videoconference session in which HWS students posed their questions directly to five of the six Israeli participants in the documentary. “In these interviews, students were able to find out what has gone on in these Israelis’ lives since the filming ended and assess what impact the unsettling of Gaza has had on each of these young Israelis and the various political movements with which they are involved.”
Emphasizing the importance of the students’ contribution to Hootnick’s project, Philbrick Yadav said that, “Students often make the best teachers of other students: they know the questions that they want to have answered and they additional knowledge that they need. The next step comes through research. After posing a series of questions, and discussing them with the Israeli participants in the film, students have begun the work of researching more thorough and comprehensive answers and developing interactive formats for presenting what they’ve learned about the history and politics of settlement and unsettlement in Gaza and the West Bank.
Some of the students in Philbrick Yadav’s course will have their hard work integrated into a web-based supplement for use in other colleges and university campuses across the country, furthering the peer-to-peer educational model.
Philbrick Yadav received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Smith College. She received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was titled “Islamist Parliamentary Practice and the Remaking of Democracy: Hizballah and Islah in Comparative Perspective.” Most recently a research fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, she was earlier awarded a dissertation fellowship from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and has teaching experience as a visiting professor at Harvard University, Mount Holyoke College, and as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2003-2006, she lived and worked in Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen, studying the impact of Islamist participation in the reconfiguring of national politics in Lebanon and Yemen and has continued her fieldwork there in 2008 and early 2009. This summer, along with Assistant Professor of Political Science, Vikash Yadav, she will co-teach a three week course on the Political Economy of Development in Egypt, based in Cairo.
The photo above features independent filmmaker, Adam Hootnick, teaching William Smith student Alison McCracken ’11 how to use his equipment to film a “Question and Answer” session with Philbrick Yadav’s Comparative Politics of the Middle East course.