New Course: Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor (Fall 2017)

Professor: Amin Husain

The election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States makes it imperative that we ask and be honest with ourselves, as Grace Lee Boggs had insisted on for years, What Time Is It On The Clock of the World?

There is a war being waged in the imagination and (most) people are losing. What if, when we speak of “art” and “activism” after Occupy, we put both under erasure? What if we strike art to liberate it from itself? Not to end art, but to unleash the powers of affirmation and radical imagination. What if we reject the -ism and look at what does it mean to live engaged lives and be engaged intellectuals? We revitalize real life by making it surreal. This surreal spirit is less that of Breton’s European vanguardism than Suzanne Cesaire’s freedom dream, informed as it is by the ongoing histories of slavery, imperialism, internal and external colonialism, and debt. Such art and engagement can defamiliarize life, asking us how we live – and why we live this way? It challenges us to respond with action as we simultaneously acknowledge that we ourselves are responsible for freedom and oppression, rather than any pre-existing institution, or ideology. And, what if, as we act we imagine a refugee camp collaged into the symbolic heart of finance capital. We imagine a self-organized commons installed at the ground zero of empire, or an empty minimalist plaza flooded with bodies and voices and cameras, a de-occupation of New York City, and a never-ending process of experimentation, learning and undoing, resisting and building in the unexplored terrain of an historic rupture.

This class will seek to interrogate current efforts at art-making and activism through decolonization as a process and framework for a shared horizon of liberation. The class will look at Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, No DAPL, Gulf Labor Coalition and Global Ultra Luxury Faction, as well as Direct Action Front for Palestine as case studies and examples. Select readings of texts and screening of visual materials, and visiting guests form the core of the class, which will be supplemented by field ­trips, and special guests. A major component of the course is a collaborative work project that combines research, aesthetics, organizing and action. Choice of practice and medium is open to students and can include multimedia projects.

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