The Hunger Games: Theorizing Opportunities for Peace Education

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Abstract

The roles of popular books and films in influencing beliefs and teaching both awareness of injustice and the costs of violence are important to consider by contemporary peace educators. These media are powerful in cultural reproduction, shaping young people’s identities, and, potentially, in social and transnational bridge building. This paper discusses a popular fiction series about children and armed conflict and its implications for peace education. A massive fandom has grown up around Suzanne Collins’ young adult (YA) trilogy The Hunger Games (Collins, 2008), Catching Fire (Collins, 2009), and Mockingjay (Collins, 2010). Describing economic inequality, government oppression, torture, war, revolution, and children as combatants, The Hunger Games series explores harsh realities of contemporary world politics and its impact on children. But these novels also point to sources of resilience and healing and a vision of peace rooted in gender equity, rejection of violence, and remembering the costs of war. This paper explains how educators can draw out these themes through classroom discussions and activities. The paper shows how The Hunger Games series can be taught as a vehicle for coming to terms with “the other in ourselves” (Reardon, 1996, p. 51), recognizing our own capacity for violence, but also our capacity for empathy and for transcending violence, polarization and gender stereotypes. Additionally, it shows that the series has inspired and been used by young activists involved in struggles for social justice, and argues that a potentially important but underutilized vehicle for peace education is found in such fandom practices.

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