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At the heart of this class is the question, how do artists and organizations use the performing arts to effect social change in their communities? Drawing from a number of case studies from throughout Africa and the African Diaspora, we will first endeavor to understand and contextualize issues related to education, social uplift, the environment, and the economy as they relate to specific communities. We will then examine how a series of organizations (from grassroots campaigns to multinational initiatives) utilize the performing arts in response to those issues.
Among the issues we will discuss at length are:
-How do performers and organizations navigate the interplay between showcasing the performance talents of individuals and groups and foregrounding an issue or cause? More broadly, what dilemmas emerge as social and aesthetic imperatives intermingle?
-What are the dynamics between people acting on a local level within their communities and their various international partnerships and audiences?
-How can government or NGO sponsorship help and/or hinder systemic change?
By the end of the semester, students will be equipped with conceptual frameworks and critical vocabularies that can help them ascertain the functions of performance within larger organizations and in service to complex societal issues. Throughout the course, we will watch and listen to a variety of performances from traditional genres to hip-hop, however this class is less about learning to perform or analyze any particular genre than it is about thinking through how performance is used as a vehicle for social change.
Case studies will include youth outreach and uplift in Tanzania through the United African Alliance, campaigns to promote girls’ education in Benin and Zimbabwe, community-wide decolonizing initiatives through the Yole!Africa Center in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the cultural reclamation of a mining town in Suriname through the arts organization, Stichting Kibii.
Format: seminar; This is a remote course.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Four case study profiles, midterm essay (5-7pages), and a final project. Regular participation in class discussion.
If the course exceeds the maximum enrollment, selection will be made based on students explanations for why they want to take the class.
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course interrogates on a fundamental level issues of power and equity. Using the performing arts as a critical lens, we discuss a series of social and environmental challenges that communities of African descent face. These are in direct dialogue with global systems of power and economic factors. Issues include: environment, education, local communities' interactions with multinational corporations, and representational politics in performance.