Anthropologist and English lecturer comment on popularity, cultural themes of ‘Planet of the Apes’

Paul Mullins 1227544_w296INDIANAPOLIS — Why does the idea of a dystopian world ruled by apes continue to pique moviegoers’ interest nearly five decades after the original “Planet of the Apes” debuted?

With the newest installment of the franchise, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” opening in theaters this weekend, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis anthropology professor Paul R. Mullins and IUPUI English lecturer Michal Hughes are available for comment on the popularity and cultural themes of the movie series.

The original series — a five-film saga — began in 1968 with Charlton Heston as astronaut George Taylor marooned on an ape-ruled planet. This year’s film follows the 2011 “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a reboot of the original series.

On the big screen, we’ve had seven films, with a third in the reboot series announced earlier this year. What piques our fascination and keeps us coming back for more?

Mullins: “The fundamental attraction of the series remains its dystopian narrative of the price of human folly and the potential that the meek may inherit the earth; in much of the ‘Apes’ franchise, we root for the apes and are indifferent to (if not actively rooting against) the humans.”

Hughes: “A large part is the desire for answers to our questions. Why do the apes hate humans so much? What did the humans do to stir that hatred? When did the animosity between the species of apes start? How and why did it start? What caused the apocalypse? How did the humans lose speech after the apocalypse? Ad infinitum. As a prequel to the original series, viewers are hoping to discover some of the answers to these and other questions.”

There has been a change of themes in the movies, reflecting changes in society, according to Mullins and Hughes.

Mullins: “The franchise was a bit more focused on race in the ’60s and ’70s and now addresses somewhat different costs of human agency (e.g., genetic engineering, environmental impacts, etc.).”

Given that “Planet of the Apes” debuted during the civil rights era, can we expect this movie to carry the same weight as a commentary on American culture and/or history?

Hughes: “To some degree. It should show us how the seeds of hatred were sown for both the hatred between apes and humans and the class struggle between the species of apes. (Science fiction) often masks subjects like this and is able to present it to a far larger audience than other genres of film or literature. I expect the film to distinguish the subtle differences and keep these issues in the background of the story.”

Michal Hughes teaches science fiction literature in the Department of English in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. His academic interests include science fiction and fantasy. Hughes’ writings include “The Confessions of a Science Fiction Reader: Notes upon values taught by Science Fiction and Fantasy” in “Reaching Young People Through Media.”

Paul Mullins, chair of the Department of Anthropology in the School of Liberal Arts and a popular culture expert, has taught a class that includes “Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race and Politics in the Films and Television Series” as a required textbook.

 

To arrange an interview with Mullins or Hughes, contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195 (office), 317-371-0437 (cell) or habrown@iupui.edu.

 

 

Open Society Foundations Invites Applications for Social Justice Photography Projects

logoThe Open Society Documentary Photography Project is accepting applications for photography projects that can be used as tools for social change.

The foundation’s Audience Engagement program supports projects that address a pressing social justice or human rights problems and provide concrete ways for photographers, organizations, and their target audiences to create positive social impact. Projects that inspire audiences visually, create meaningful interactions with an existing body of photographic work, and use photography as the basis for programming that moves people beyond the act of looking and directly involves them in activities or processes that lead to social change are encouraged.

Beginning this year, the program offers two tracks of support for individuals at different phases of their audience engagement projects:

1) Project Development: Grantees will receive funding to attend an Open Society–organized retreat in December 2014. The event will be designed in collaboration with Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, whose nationally recognized workshops provide participants with essential practical tools and strategies to help them move their project and career goals forward. Attendees will become part of a larger Audience Engagement grant cohort, with opportunities to connect both during the conference and after.

2) Project Implementation: Grantees will receive grants of up to $30,000 to execute (or continue executing) their projects as well as attend the December retreat.

Proposed projects should include partnerships between photographers and organizations recognized as tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Each project partner should have the skills and track record to realize the project and must commit time and resources to implement it.

See the Open Society Foundations Web site for eligibility and application guidelines.

Researching and Teaching Intercultural Competence and 8th Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse Conference

Nuetzel_Daniel_2010 June 6 and 7, 2014

 IUPUI Campus Center

 420 University Blvd, Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — International scholars will headline an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis conference, discussing the role of cultural knowledge and intercultural communication as well as the intersection of language and culture in community settings. The conference aims to help university teachers, school teachers and other professionals adapt the latest thinking about the integration of cultural studies into professional and second language learning settings.

The Researching and Teaching Intercultural Competence and Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse Conference will take place June 6 and 7 at the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd, Indianapolis.

The conference is organized by the International Center for Intercultural Communication, the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and the Max Kade German-American Center in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

This year’s conference also celebrates the memory of professor Daniel C. Nützel, who died in April 2013 at the age of 50. Nützel was associate professor of German, the Hoyt-Reichmann Scholar of German-American Studies and director of the Max Kade German-American Center at IUPUI.

“Professor Nützel was a well-respected colleague, teacher and scholar,” said professor Claudia Grossmann, conference co-organizer and interim director of the Max Kade German-American Center. “He was a proponent of expanding cultural and intercultural competence in communication as an aspect of interest across a range of academic disciplines, and this conference is a fitting part of his legacy.”

The conference focuses on studies of how writers and speakers with various linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds negotiate communication. The conference seeks to bring together current discussions of intercultural competence in language education, rhetoric and discourse research, and application in English and other world language teaching settings.

“Presentations will feature theoretical and empirical investigations of topics along with discussion of practical applications, including classroom practices, writing in business and other professional settings,” said professor Marta Anton, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures and a conference organizer. “The conference addresses a variety of topics, from the importance of teaching metaphoric meanings as an essential part of developing linguistic proficiency in a second language, to the development of intercultural competence during study abroad or the expressions of ethnicity among German Americans in early-20th-century Indianapolis, to name a few, and highlights cultural contact and language development.”

Plenary talks include:

  • “The Present and Future of Intercultural Rhetoric,” Ulla Connor, IUPUI, and Dwight Atkinson, Purdue University
  • “Metaphor: The Integration of Culture, Cognition, and Communication,” James Lantolf, Pennsylvania State University
  • “The Intercultural Complex and Its Assessment in Healthcare Communication,” Srikant Sarangi, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • “Impacting Teacher Use of Critical Sociocultural Practices in K-12 Classrooms,” Annela Teemant, IUPUI

“The conference was established to further research in intercultural competence, and intercultural rhetoric, and to create collaborations among leading research universities and organizations,” said professor Ulla Connor, conference co-organizer and director of the International Center for Intercultural Communication. “It also is intended to build connections at IUPUI and within Indianapolis and Indiana among those who teach in a broad array of disciplines.”

Researchers and teachers of second/foreign languages as well as scholars in second language acquisition, communication, composition and multicultural education, among others, are encouraged to participate.

For more information or to register, visit the conference website.