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UBC Theses and Dissertations

If you wrong us, shall we not revenge? daring entertainment to challenge ideologies of the Arab-Israeli conflict Chalmers, Dana Lori


Can entertainment challenge the ideologies that contribute to violent conflict, mass atrocities and genocide? This study explores audience responses to entertainment created for this purpose. Theoretical approaches including those of narrative persuasion, theatre for development, applied theatre, and genocide studies suggest that such a production – if sufficiently transportive – would encourage audiences to reconsider their views. This study developed a theoretical approach to creating Ideologically Challenging Entertainment (ICE). (‘Entertainment’ defined as narratives that audiences consider engaging, interesting, and ‘transportive’ as described in narrative persuasion literature). It focused on mainstream theatrical approaches while presenting multiple perspectives, using an adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, (Two Merchants) aimed at confronting some of the ideological underpinnings of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Each performance included two versions of the adaptation: a Jewish dominated society with an Arab Muslim minority, contrasted with an Arab Muslim dominated society and a Jewish minority. A mixed-methods study of audience responses explored whether this production inspired audiences to shift their ideological views to become more tolerant of differences, and more aware of the ideological persecution that contributes to violent conflict. The results support the hypothesis that entertainment can challenge ideologies and inspire the moral imagination. Of audience members who did not initially agree with the premise of the production, 40% reconsidered their ideological views, indicating increased tolerance, greater awareness of their prejudices and recognition of the persecution faced by others. In addition, 86% of the audience expressed their intention to discuss the production with others, thereby encouraging critical engagement with, and broader dissemination of the material. Perceptions of the production as ‘high quality’ and ‘entertaining’ were the primary factor associated with changing ideological views. Furthermore, qualitative responses offered insight into aspects of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in Canada. The research also contributed to the refinement of audience response research methods in mixed-methods studies. These outcomes suggest that high quality entertainment – as defined by audience responses to it - can become a powerful tool in the struggle against the ideologies of hate and fear that contribute to prejudice, discrimination, violent conflict, atrocities and genocide.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada