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ARTH 663 Art History and Social Justice: Dark Aesthetics

  • Mondays, 2:45-5:45 pm
  • EV 3.760
  • Instructor: Dr. Balbir Singh

This seminar will explore the concept of “dark aesthetics” as an intersectional and internationalist mode of engaging art and visual culture using critical ethnic studies methods. Critical ethnic studies, emerging as a field formation out of the student-led social movement that founded ethnic studies in the late 1960, is founded on theories and practices that center the historic and ongoing struggles of Black, Indigenous, and Third World peoples. Specifically, we will explore theory, film, visual art, and direct action projects that center struggles for global racial justice, including those against surveillance, policing, prisons, borders, and war; as well as struggles for abolition and decolonization, in all of their expansive potential. Units in the class will span a number of fields, including foundational texts in anti-colonial theory; documentary film; Black studies in art and visual culture; Asian and Arab diasporic art and theories of embodiment; as well as futurist orientations in art and culture writ large. 

Ultimately, this seminar will be a way to explore questions that center race, colonialism, empire, and social movements in the context of thinking about art, cultural production, and cultural theory. Furthermore, our conversations will always hinge on understanding the historical and material conditions at hand, conditions that are defined primarily by structural violence; and how such conditions structure how the authors we engage are writing and crafting their own argument; and, too, how the artists and cultural practitioners that they, in turn, engage are responding to such conditions through varying creative modes and strategies. The stakes of such work are necessarily high, as they reflect the tensions on the ground and underground, for the people and with the struggle.  

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