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ERIC Number: ED549713
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 384
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2672-8746-5
Narratives of Injustice: Measuring the Impact of Witness Testimony in the Classroom
Legere, Susan Elena
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Boston College
Can a vivid presentation about a tragic chapter of history elicit in viewers an empathetic reaction, as well as evidence of the telescopic perspective Mills[1] ([1959] 2000) described as the "sociological imagination"? Does the addition of victims' voices make a noticeable difference in their response to the historical event, as well contemporary controversies? Some scholars propose that oral histories, especially witness testimonies, have the potential to reach audiences more deeply than facts alone. "Narratives," as K. Slobin observed, "unfold with flesh and blood...encouraging empathy, identification and a humanization of content" (in Bochner and Ellis, 1992:171).[2] But, little systematic research has examined how or to what extent personal testimony may encourage empathetic understanding and a broader, more nuanced understanding of social problems. In an era where entertainment content skews toward "reality" programming and technology supersedes face-to-face interactions, the challenge to pierce cultural white noise is great. Educators, then, must figure out ways to counteract the desensitization, apathy and cynicism that follow these trends--but in ways that are proven, effective and lasting. My research sought to discover if victim narratives help students connect intellectually and emotionally with lessons about social justice. Thirteen undergraduate classes were exposed to three variations of a fact-based, multimedia presentation about Japanese internment in America during WWII. Each presentation included the same photographs, newsreel, and factual information. Presentations varied, however, in their use of survivor testimony and in the manner of its incorporation (video versus written accounts). Two groups of the sample were exposed to survivors describing their experiences in the internment camps. All groups completed surveys, and 21 participants gave extensive interviews. Data analysis examined information recall, sociological perspective, emotional response, empathetic identification and predictions of future behavior. The experiment generated much-needed empirical data on the efficacy of testimony and its ability to shape attitudes, broaden world view, and possibly influence behavior. These findings will assist educators in anticipating outcomes associated with various heuristic strategies, especially those including witness testimonies. [1] Mills, C. Wright. 1959. "The Sociological Imagination." New York: Oxford, 2000. [2] Bochner, Arthur P. and Caroyln Ellis. 1992. "Personal Narrative as a Social Approach to Interpersonal Communication." "Communication Theory" 2(2)165-172. Comment from K. Slobin is listed as a personal communication with the authors in February 1991. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A