Art and Art History 298. Experimental Courses
Mainstream films, television programs, and video games in the United States have been central to the cultural reproduction of images of Islam as the “other” to and enemy of the so-called West. Yet, the increasing visibility of independently produced media has provided alternative ways for Muslims living in the US to offer counter-narratives to hegemonic stereotypes, and instead promote humanistic representations of Islam. This course will examine the spectrum of media created by and about Muslims living in the United States and the Middle East in order to develop a better understanding of how media shapes global perceptions of Islam.
This course begins with a historical approach to already familiar media images that have saturated our field of vision. Class readings will offer critical frameworks to re-view and discuss selected films, television programs and other media as they relate to political justifications for war and the perpetuation of a “Clash of Civilizations” discourse. Next, the course examines media practices and circulations within the Muslim Middle East. From hip-hop performances to graphic novels, and Ramadan serials to political organizing on Facebook, we will engage with the multitude of ways that contemporary media informs, transforms, and represents the everyday lives of Muslims from Cairo to Tehran. The course concludes with an engagement with recent media interventions by Muslims living in the United States. These interventions seek to counter the normalization of the “terrorist” stereotypes that dominates the media. Together, we will assess how successfully these humanistic, humorous, and heroic portraits of Muslim-Americans challenge the dominant narrative.
Architectures of Islam
This course is a survey of histories of the built environment in the Islamic world from 7th century until the present. Our main objective is to gain a foundational understanding of core questions at the heart of this intellectual journey: What is Islam? Why do we describe architecture or cities as “Islamic”? Is all Islamic architecture necessarily religious? What factors have shaped formal and informal built environments in contemporary Islamic countries and communities?
In the first part of the course, we will examine the origins of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula. Next we will trace the spread of Islam and the monumental religious and secular architecture produced during periods of Islamic rule that stretched from Persia to the Iberian Peninsula. Finally, the course will conclude with modern perspectives of the social, economic and cultural factors shaping the built environment in relationship to Islamic identities during periods of nation building and globalization in the Middle East and South Asia.
Global Modernisms: 1848-1914
This course will focus on the influential period in time that introduced the concepts of Modern Art and modernism to the world. After defining modernity, Modern Art, and modernism, we will study how the aesthetic ideas of originality, formal innovation, and individuality that are the major characteristics of modernism are related to the deep-seated societal changes and values that defined modernity: the rise to power of the middle classes, secularism, faith in “progress,” and the rise of capitalism as a primary social and economic structure. The major themes of the class will include the concept of the avant-garde, urbanization, industrialization, colonialism and imperialism, and the functions of the artist in society. Artworks from around the world will be examined to show the various ways that global cultures adopted and challenged the tenets of modernism and Modern Art.
Cities of the Middle East
Chaotic souqs, monumental mosques, exotic natives, and labyrinthine streets: this image of the timeless medina, or Arab City, has been a source of fascination in western visual cultures for centuries. In this course, we will flip the script on orientalist narratives of urban life in the Middle East to better understand the political, social, economic, and cultural histories that have shaped representations and transformations of modern urban space and urban life in the region. Throughout the semester we will combine critical readings and case studies from art, architecture, urban planning, and film to examine a range of cities.
We will travel from colonial urbanism in Algiers, modernist planning in Kuwait City, and gentrification in Jaffa, to “star-chitect” ambitions for Abu Dhabi, military occupation in Baghdad, and urban uprisings in Cairo. The course is organized around four main themes: (1) the myth of the medina, (2) colonial urbanism, (3) manufacturing urban heritage, and (4) contesting urban space. Special attention will be paid to the visual representation of cities in the Middle East in order to develop critical observations of the role that art, media, and film play in shaping knowledge of the region.