Note: Occasionally, as happens with all teachers, I’ll read something that will lead me to think, “With a little pushing/pulling/mulling over, that just might make for a good writing assignment for my students.” So, some of those will appear here under the “Teaching Idea” category that you’ll see over in the right-hand gutter. I don’t pretend that these are in any way finished; rather, these are more like my thinking “out loud” in this space, with a tacit invitation to whoever might be interested to weigh in with comments.
A couple of weeks ago, I read this article on micronations in Motherboard and immediately thought it might have potential for a research project for my Comp II students (that is the “research paper” composition class we teach at Butler). Almost immediately, other things came up that claimed my attention, and I didn’t do anything more with the idea until yesterday when an article on the Dominion of British West Florida popped up in my Facebook feed, and the next thing you know, I found myself adding some links to micronation websites over on the right-hand side of my blog as a future resource for my students. We in our department are moving toward demanding more research from our students throughout the Comp sequence, and I think that, at least as this half-formed thing looks in my head at the moment, it would certainly fulfill that goal. Also, I want to give those so inclined the opportunity to be creative and/or learn more about a topic or issue they think is important; the Motherboard article’s mention of Westarctica‘s serving primarily as a site to inform people of conservation issues and climate change made me see that this project could be serious as well as fun. Finally, the idea of micronations dovetails in interesting ways with my academic interests in the idea of place and, in conjunction with the book project, with the idea I’ve been writing about regarding the New World as a heterotopic space.
So here’s a tentative list of elements that I will require my students to address in this project.
- Students will build a website and set up a Facebook page for their nation. The two hard-and-fast requirements are that their nation be in locatable, physical space on this planet, and that they provide a map of it : it can be their bedroom or backyard; as with the Dominion of British West Florida, its location can be based on land claims made by groups of people or nations from the past; etc. The reason I want them to locate it in physical space on Earth is . . .
- The other hard-and-fast requirements: They must either create a history for their micronation that uses as its starting point the history of the lands and peoples adjacent to it, or identify and write about a cause or issue that is in some way connected to or associated with the lands and peoples adjacent to it; and they must give some thought to, at the very least, their system of government and their micronation’s economy (the latter being appropriate to the larger geographical region within which it’s located).
- All the rest of it–flags, currencies, the establishing of diplomatic relations with other micronations, etc.–is gravy, but it’s my hope that as they look at the websites of other micronations and give thought to and work on what’s required for their own micronation, they’ll be inspired to add those as well.
That’s about all I have for now. Again, I hope that anyone dropping by will add comments or suggestions. Two last things: 1) We offer 8-week and 16-week versions of Comp II, and I’ve already decided that the Micronation option will be offered only for the 16-week version; 2) My long-term goal with this is to see how it works with individual students for a couple of semesters and then, assuming it goes well, propose it as a Special Topics class that would allow for some genuine interdisciplinarity under the label of “English.”
Thanks again in advance for whatever comments and suggestions you might have. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more links to micronations to add.