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Professor George Bey Teaches Class on Disney

Millsaps Students at Disney WorldIn the fall of 2010, Dr. George Bey taught "Disney and the American Way of Life." This class, an offshoot of Dr. Bey's more frequently offered class "American Pop Culture" which has a Walt Disney component, focuses on the ways in which Walt Disney and his creations have impacted American society as well as how society has impacted Disney.

The course was created at the students' request. Students who had taken "American Pop Culture" and realized the importance of Disney's interactions with American society wanted to focus more on these issues in a higher level, seminar-style class. The course takes a historic perspective, exploring Walt Disney the individual, Disney as an industry, and how the company has evolved since Disney's death. Dr. Bey says, "We use Disney as a prism to look at America and the larger issues in American Culture."

 Some of the issues addressed in this course include Disney's impact on nature and how they portray it, how Disney constructs other cultures, and the impact on performative labor as well as urbanization, consumption, and contemporary art. The students, along with Dr. Bey, also look at the complex relationship between us as Americans, America, and all things Disney. The ideas of Disney as a religion ("What would Walt say?") as well as Disney World as a place of pilgrimage are explored.

 At the end of the semester, the students travel with Dr. Bey to Disney World to do some field research. Evan Parker, a senior anthropology major who took the class, said, "The Disney class was absolutely fascinating. I think Americans are very unaware of the extent to which Disney permeates our culture, and to fully grasp it, one must journey to Disney World. If one of the hallmarks of a globalized landscape is consumption, then Disney World would have to be its capital. That makes it a fantastic venue for anthropological inquiry."

Millsaps Students at Disney World