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Cultivating Audiences: Filmbildung, Moral Education, and the Public Sphere in Germany.

By Susanne B. Unger


This dissertation investigates the moral education of young citizens in early 21st century Germany through the study of Filmbildung (film education) efforts. While the beliefs and practices informing film education and moral education may not appear closely related at first sight, this dissertation reveals a number of important connections, and analyzes their implications. German politicians, public intellectuals, and educators promote film education programs for students by arguing that media competence or film literacy are crucial abilities for fostering communicative competence, analytical skills, and the ability to actively participate in the public sphere. However, in practice they rarely specify these claims. I identify several factors that enable disjunctures between official rhetoric about film education and their everyday articulation, and argue that these are partly due to a hegemonic belief in the value of Bildung. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with institutions promoting film education programs for children and teenagers, this ethnography traces the historical and cultural trajectories that inspired the emergence and proliferation of film education programs and their disjunctive implementations. Current film education efforts build on a tradition of self-cultivation, edification, and transformation through the engagement with written texts and the German tradition of the Bildungsroman. However, these understandings of literacy and film literacy do not acknowledge the ways in which film education efforts may unwittingly reinforce social inequalities. This ethnography allows us to identify local and national understandings about the relationships between film, Bildung, and the ability to articulate political and social concerns—understandings that are presupposed by many who attempt to implement Filmbildung. My analysis reveals how talk about film both reflects and co-constructs social and political practices, and investigates the moralizing practices that inform beliefs about education and civic participation. This work speaks to anthropological research on literacy and civic participation, on the relationship between audiences and publics, and on moral education

Topics: Youth, Education, Germany, Media, Film, Publics
Year: 2011
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