Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Teaching Terrorism and Genocide through Films

Michael W. Smith.

The teaching of terrorism and genocide by sociologists is grounded in the theoretical study of historical circumstances influencing social forces and social structure; of individual and collective memories and behavior leading to social movements; of social groups, group dynamics and group identity; of conflicts of ideology, race, ethnicity, religion and social class; and of the motivations and sources for terrorism and genocide. (Smith 2003; MacDougall and Elder 2003; Abowitz 2002).

The use of films in teaching an undergraduate course on terrorism and genocide personalized these incomprehensible events to students in ways that are difficult to convey through lectures and texts. For students, visual images carry surplus, are susceptible to a wide range of interpretations and provide the students with socio-historical "connection to lives in process and a fuller range of contextual details". (Valdez and Halley 1999:287). As cultural products of American society, the socio-historical context and content of these films become an important source for understanding cultural ideas, beliefs, norms, myths, stereotypes, and values of that population in that time period. (Dowd 1999:330).

This paper evaluates the application of sociological theory and concepts to the following six films used in this undergraduate course: "9-11," "Pretty Village, Pretty Flame" "9-11 Saudi Eyes," "Triumph of the Will," "Nazi Concentration Camps," and "Beirut to Bosnia: Muslims and the West."


Michael W. Smith  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Sociology Department
Saint Anselm College

Ph.D. & J.D. Northeastern University
Professor for Boston University & U. Maryland throughout Europe and Middle East [1981-1992]. Since 1999, teaching at Saint Anselm College and practicing law.

  • Terrorism
  • Genocide
  • Sociology of film

(30min Conference Paper, English)