Even casual observers know that appearances matter politically and that the saturation of politics by visual technologies, media, and images has reached unprecedented levels. Yet the visual dimensions of political life are at best peripheral topics in contemporary political science and political theory. This seminar explores how our understanding of politics and political theory might change if visuality were made central to our inquiries. Treating the visual as a site of power and struggle, order and change, we will examine not only how political institutions and conflicts shape what images people see and how they make sense of them but also how the political field itself is visually constructed. Through these explorations, which will consider a wide variety of visual artifacts and practices (from 17th century paintings to the optical systems of military drones and contemporary forms of surveillance), we will also take up fundamental theoretical questions about the place of the senses in political life. Readings may include excerpts from ancient and modern theorists, but our primary focus will be contemporary and will bring political theory into conversation with other fields, particularly art history and visual studies but also film and media studies, psychoanalysis, cognitive science, and STS. Possible authors include Arendt, Bal, Belting, Benjamin, Browne, Buck-Morss, Butler, Clark, Connolly, Crary, Deleuze, Fanon, Foucault, Freedberg, Garland-Thompson, Hobbes, Kittler, Machiavelli, Mercer, Mitchell, Mulvey, Plato, Rancière, Sartre, Virilio, Warburg, and Zeki.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
regular, engaged class participation, several Glow posts, and three 7- to 8-page papers
at least one prior course in political theory, cultural theory, visual studies, or art history; or permission of instructor
Political Science and Art History majors (including students in the grad program); then qualified students from all disciplines welcome, space permitting
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PSCI Political Theory Courses