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New Undergraduate Course Supplement 2022

ANTH 50.51 Aesthetics and Power

This course explores the relationship of aesthetics to power across artistic media, public spectacles, and in daily life. European modernity has tended to posit images, sounds, and performances as signs of a world “out there” that recreated in ritual contexts facilitate individual transcendence through an almost spiritual experience. We will examine how West African and African diasporic notions of modern aesthetics tend to offer a counterpoint by enacting theories of representation that are more explicitly performative and socially dialogic. In the 1950s and 1960s people across Africa and African peoples in the Americas and the Caribbean fought for political rights and sovereignty. Aesthetic forms were crucial to these projects. Political power was contested in economic and institutional ways, but people experienced it through their bodies and senses. The power to control political and economic order is enacted in the realms of signs, desires, and value. Moral dichotomies between beautiful or ugly, expensive or cheap, important or illegible, appear to be about aesthetics alone but are in fact ways that power is produced, naturalized, and contested. We examine art media as well as political and social forms as a way to understand how broad forms of power shape both everyday and spectacular experiences and how individuals and collectives use expression as a way to contest the terms of power. In political terms, we explore rituals of state as events through which power is produced and contested in embodied ways. Producing loyal citizens requires a nation-state to create rituals that orient people to feel like they are part of a shared collective experience. This course will draw upon transdisciplinary approaches to understanding aesthetics including ethnographic, literary and theatre studies, political analysis, performance analysis, musicology.

Distributive and/or World Culture

Dist:INT or SOC; WCult:NW

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.