Sunday, 4 October 2015

Week 4: Imperial Imaginaries: Employing Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics

 In his piece, Saunders outlines how science fiction (sf) can be used in the classroom in order to teach international relations and geopolitics by facilitating students’ connections between real life and the realm of science fiction. He describes films, novels and television shows that outline one society attempting to achieve dominion over another, and explains that sf employs allegory to promote an understanding of real-world global conflicts and/or situations.

I found the fluency of Saunders’ (2015) writing a bit difficult. His word choice and phrasing made for stilted reading and I had to look up a number of words. For example: “autarky” (p. 151) – which means self-sufficiency or economic independence; “auto-didactic” (p. 153) – self-taught. On the other hand, I like words and learning new ones, so that would be the benefit, despite the staccato flow of the reading.

“Science fiction is the genre of the unknown, but imaginable, and as a result contemplates possible futures” (Gunn, 2014, p. 34 as cited by Saunders, 2015, p. 151). Brilliant line! This entire paragraph on page 151 of the chapter frames the legitimacy of the genre of science fiction in the classroom.  Saunders (2015) explains (through referencing) how science fiction mediates real social dilemma, and how it critiques the actions and ideologies (or lack thereof) of current national and international leaders. And so, proposing why sf can be used for teaching connections – a tenet of all curriculum documents currently in Ontario. 

I know that Saunders (2015) is speaking primarily to higher education courses in International Relations, but I could transfer what he was saying to the context of the secondary school classes with which I work. In fact, reading about how he uses film (Star Wars) and television series (Star Trek) (p;. 153, 154) to help students understand imperial geopolitics has made me think about how secondary teachers use film in their classes. Many parents get quite upset when they find out their kids are ‘watching another movie’ and often students will sign out, particularly on a Friday afternoon, telling their parents “We’re just watching a movie…”  Like anything, this medium can be misused – but, if teachers follow the model and pedagogy that Saunders describes, then film can be a very effective tool. Saunders (2015) cites Weber (2001, p. 282): “Not only do I find that the current generation of eighteen-to-twenty-year olds are better readers and writers of visual images than I am, I also find that they understand how to approach these media critically”.

This week’s reading has given me something to think about and consideration for a possible topic for the essay for this course. I also might not be quite as critical of my colleagues who seem to show movies 4 days out of 5 – without investigating how they (the movies) are helping students connect to the curriculum.

Saunders, R. A. (2015) Imperial imaginaries: employing science fiction to talk about geopolitics. Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, and Pedagogies. 149-159


  1. This is a great post, Janet!

  2. I think we can use movies and original texts, comics, quotes, etc, from popular SF to get the kids engaged, such a great topic!