2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Beyond Protest: The Art of Political Interventions


Spring 2013 quarter

Steven Niva political science, Middle East studies , Amjad Faur photography
Fields of Study
cultural studies, political science and visual arts
Preparatory for studies or careers in
humanities, communications, cultural studies, political-related fields, and social movement organizing.

We often think of political action as public protest, in which activists directly confront opponents and demand change. By contrast, this program will explore alternative forms of political action that take place through “interventions” in public space which seek to disrupt or reconfigure symbolic or physical relations of power through direct or indirect action. This program will focus on "interventionist" traditions and practices that draw from avant-garde artistic and political movements, such as Dada and the Situationists, as well as political artists working after post-modernism.  Examples of the latter type have recently made their mark in the Global Justice movements in the 1990s and the anti-war and Occupy movements of the last decade.  We will look at art work, performance art, culture jamming and pranks, tactical biopolitics and creating counter-publics, among other interventions undertaken by artist/activists and collectives such as Pussy Riot, The Yes Men, Critical Arts Ensemble and Reclaim the Streets, among others. A large portion of the program will hinge on the investigation of contemporary Middle Eastern artists and their dynamic roles in socio-political interventions and protest.  We will look at how artists and creative actors in this region and abroad engage and respond to the legacies of European colonial rule as well as their relationships to formalism, authenticity/identity, conceptualism and the “art market”.  The program will seek to critically understand how and why these traditions seek to go “beyond” traditional forms of art and protest to intervene within culture and the politics of everyday life, and assess their potential within increasingly commodified and militarized political spaces.

Students will engage these topics through lectures, seminar discussion, group projects and guest speakers engaged in new forms of political/art practice.  Students will be expected to undertake serious theoretical reading and to engage in critical thinking.  They will also be given the opportunity to imagine and construct their own campaigns and tactical interventions in political fields of their choice.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
October 17th, 2012 New program added.