Animal Farm as a Heuristic Tool for Classroom Teaching of Social Movements

  • Sweta Tiwari Mahatma Gandhi Central University

Abstract

Social movements are a part of the curriculum of Anthropology and Sociology in higher education institutions in India. Traditionally, these courses are taught via snippets of social movements accompanied by theoretical texts and there is little scope for individual teachers to change course content. While these texts are valuable, I found students struggled to make initial engagement with many of the prescribed texts and often became tense or anxious about the material. Students viewed social movements with antipathy and as a hindrance to stability, influenced by the political narratives and media representation of social movements as a disruption to solidarity. They often struggled to connect to the themes and issues of the Social Movement course, positioned within their own prisms of religion, caste, class, gender, and political sympathies. In this article, I vindicate the use of Animal Farm by George Orwell as a heuristic tool, taught alongside standard texts, to help students grasp the nature of social movements in theory and praxis. Teaching and learning social movements require a certain amount of empathy and openness to untangle students from their own biases. Turning to fiction can help because students can connect and become invested in the story, after which point parallels to the academic texts or real-life social movements can be drawn. Set in the animal world, Animal Farm is a parable that is equidistant to human orientations and consequently makes an excellent starting point to distance students from their preconceived ideas. This in turn helps students develop a reflexive understanding from which to engage with the core texts.

Published
2021-11-16
Section
Developing Teaching: Reports and Reflections