Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Images and Story-telling: exploring representations of the Third World
Originator Peter Hughes
Department School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sunderland, UK
Tel. +44 (0)191 5152730
Fax +44 (0)191 5152730

This activity seeks to expose issues around representation and perception of people in the Third World. It takes place in the opening 2 hour plenary teaching session for a level two module, Third World Geographies, and is essentially a 30-40 minute workshop delivered to 40-60 students which involves small group-based discussion and plenary feedback & discussion.

The tutor needs to collect a variety of photographs of people in the Third World from popular media: newspapers, magazines and travel brochures. For this activity, any caption or text is removed, and the photos are simply mounted on card as stand alone images. However, it is important that the tutor keeps a record/copy of the context in which the photograph was used, e.g .the article that was illustrated by the photo. It is helpful to gather images of people from a range of geographical areas, both rural and urban situations, and to include some 'outliers' like indigenous peoples in industrialised nations, or something from the students' own locale - I use a picture of coal pickers on the beaches of Tyne & Wear. No student preparation is necessary.

In the classroom, the pictures are numbered and displayed around the walls as available space permits. The activity works best in a flat room, and where there is enough space to move around, however it has been performed successfully in a tiered lecture theatre. Students are asked to form into pairs/threes and are given a sheet of paper with numbers corresponding to the images. They are then asked to visit each of the images, and to discuss amongst themselves who or what is 'the story' in each particular instance. The 'stories' are written onto the sheet. During this part of the activity the tutor can listen in, but not engage in discussion, and can guide the physical flow of students around the room. Once each picture has been visited and discussed by each group, the class return to their seats and the tutor leads a discussion, picture by picture, giving groups the opportunity to feedback their stories and the tutor to map that against the 'real' story that originally accompanied that image.

The basic theme of the teaching session is 'What is the Third World?' and this particular activity has served as an excellent device for exposing culturally inherited stereotypes, for example regarding race and gender, as well as something of the diversity of lived experience in the Third World. Students are ususally surprised how easily they fall into negative storylines, and recognise that they need to develop a much more complex and critical attitude towards various Third World Geographies. Academically, the activity also serves as a reference point for discussion of concepts like orientalism and representation later in the module. Pedagogically, it helps to set the tone for active learning and student participation within the plenary teaching sessions. Success depends upon the tutor taking a guiding rather than directing role. Student input is used as a key and creative part of the learning process. Moreover it is a fun learning activity that succeeds in engaging students with the key module themes.


Active learning
Analysing photographs
Third World

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