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Censorship, Culture Wars, and Controversy in Art

CHUM 375
Spring 2024
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: CSPL 374, ARHA 262
Course Cluster and Certificates: Queer Studies

Art history is marked by various forms of state, community, or institutional censorship. Such events can be flash points in culture wars, as in the United States in 1989, when four artists--most of them queer--were denied funding from the National Endowment for the Arts after their work was deemed "obscene." Sometimes art that unearths sensitive cultural histories can lead to calls for destruction, as in Sam Durant's 2012 work Scaffold, which referenced state violence against the Dakota people, leading tribe members to protest what they felt was Durant's insensitive handling of the subject. Events like these raise key questions within art and broader society: Who should have the authority to decide which art should be exhibited, and to what audiences? What constitutes censorship? When might censorship, or the curtailing of speech, be justified?
This course will examine these questions focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries in the United States, but also global contemporary art. We will consider such issues in the wake of a recent spate of museum exhibitions canceled due to controversial content, the dismantling of monuments to colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade, as well as today's culture wars as conservative book bans make headlines and hate speech abounds. We will also explore new channels for arts funding, exhibition, and publishing that emerge in response to censorship. In addition to important texts by art historians including Sarah Parsons, Aruna D'Souza, and Rosalyn Deutsche, among others, we will also read interdisciplinary legal scholars like Sonya Katyal and Amy Adler who write from the perspective of law and policy. We will also read the landmark Supreme Court case NEA v. Finley. Assignments include an in-depth case study of a canceled exhibition.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA CHUM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (HRAD-MN)
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on JUN-20-2024
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