Exploring otherness within and between "Us" and "Them" through critical empathy in Petrovits-Androutsopoulou's "the Monsters of the Hill" and Yusafzai and Mc Cormick's "I am Malala".
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The purpose of this dissertation is to explore otherness in the books “The monsters of the hill” by Loty Petrovits-Androutsopoulou, and “I am Malala” by Malala Yusafzai and Patricia Mc Cormick, which delve into nationalist extremism and religious fundamentalism respectively. The images and the themes depicted in the two books are investigated with the aim of bringing the social and the political to the classroom, and in order to encourage understanding of different others, as part of Intercultural Education. The books are proposed to be taught in a middle school classroom in the context of the literature class, as adolescents constitute the appropriate target group for the exploration of the issues that the books raise. The dissertation serves as an evaluative case study, which is implemented when we deal with cultural constructs, in this case sameness and otherness, and cultural confrontation that takes place between the members of the in-group that are divided on account of their different ideological horizons. Racist dehumanizing practices divide the in-group in the first book, whereas different interpretations of religious beliefs and of participation in public life divide the in-group in the second book. It is suggested that readers are led to critically empathize with different or distant others through both narratives, which generate affective and cognitive forms of empathy. The books also open up possibilities for critical reflection by offering insight into the social and political realities that shape people’s lives. Therefore, the research questions center on the way that the books deal with the images and the notions of sameness and otherness that can lead to critical forms of empathy, which requires the exposure of the power differences that shape people’s cultural logics and lives. The methodology for the analysis of the books draws from the field of Imagology; textual, as well as intertextual and contextual features are analyzed with regard to self-images and hetero-images. Though the analysis shows that the books can potentially evoke empathy in the students, it, nevertheless, disregards their positionalities. For this reason, a pedagogical framework for teaching for critical empathy is proposed, which can be implemented in an actual school setting and ultimately prove or disprove the research hypothesis.