ARTH 594
Traveling Seminar: Slavery and the Dutch Golden Age
Last Offered Spring 2021
Division I
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

This course takes as its starting point the exhibition at the Rijksmuseum opening in September 2019: Slavery, an exhibition. With this installation, the curators of the Rijksmuseum seek to correct dominant narratives of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Dutch history, which have absented the role of slavery in determining the economic, social, and visual history of the Netherlands. With a Travel Grant awarded by the College Art Association, the students in this seminar will travel to the Netherlands to visit this exhibition and other relevant cultural institutions in order to examine the possibilities and limits for ‘decolonizing’ the museum. This course will study how slavery is imbricated within the mythic construction of a ‘Dutch Golden Age’ while also examining what happens when the history of enslaved peoples becomes translated into the space of a museum and exhibition. We will consider a revisionist history of Dutch artistic production, accounting for slavery in determining the Dutch economy and visual production while also asking what happens when slavery becomes narrated in the space of one of the nation’s history museums. We will read contemporary black feminist theory such as Sylvia Wynter, Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, and Christina Sharpe as a means to struggle with how the space of the exhibition chooses to activate and write those missing histories, and we will examine if it is even possible to responsibly tell the story of slavery over two centuries when the majority of the subjects have been completely defaced, removed, and excised from the historical record, and their voices are often the ones still absent. In the words of Saidiya Hartman, we will ask: “Is it possible to construct a story from the ‘locus of impossible speech’ or resurrect lives from the ruins?”
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 5013
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation in class travel, class participation and presentation, research paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: MA art history students, by application if overenrolled
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800 Courses

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