Imperialism is a reoccurring theme in history and the study of international relations. It is important for students to study this phenomenon of past events so that they can better understand the current state of the world we live in. Yet, I have noticed that there seems to be a disconnect between the student and the study of history. This has been my experience both as a teacher and as a student of the topic. How can this be changed so that students can engage in more meaningful ways?
The integration of science fiction in the classroom can help students connect to topics like imperialism and politics. As Saunders (2015) notes, many students have knowledge in this area of pop culture and it is this “intellectual shorthand that accelerates learning, facilitated critical analysis, and enables thoughtful discussion and debate” (p. 150). The establishment of European dominance over the First Nations people of North America is an imperialist example that is often discussed in social studies classes. When I have taught this topic, students will wonder what relevance past events have to their lives. A way to show them the correlation could be via science fiction. By comparing and contrasting to science fiction examples, student will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of such movements. For example, Avatar is a movie that has many similarities to the imperialism of North America (Saunders, 2015, p. 155). The reason for this is because the movie looked at how one group of people desired to take over land and not really care about he native inhabitants or how they would impact them. Such movies are a part of our popular culture and can help to make connections to actual historical events. Using such examples further supports increased engagement on the part of the student. Science fiction essentially offers teachers a way to help their students make personal connections and understand the significance of imperialism.
Saunders, R. A. (2015). Imperial imageries: employing science fiction to talk about geopolitics. In F. Caso, & C. Hamilton (Eds.), Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies (pp. 149-159). Bristol, U.K.: E-International Relations Publishing.