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The Global and the Local: Art and Identity in a 21st Century World

ENGL 295.402

In the 21st century, questions of identity relate both to individuality and locality, as well as the world at large.  This course will explore how artists are responding to the complex boundaries between local, national, and global culture (i.e. where does the local end and the national or international begin?).  Is it possible to believe in the promise of a global culture, or will tensions between the local and the global continue to define the 21st century? 

Particular attention will be given to artistic projects that resonate and provoke responses across many contexts.  In an increasingly mediated world, local issues can have international ramifications, such as when controversial issues regarding gender and religion are represented in different cultural contexts.  We will begin with the period before the fall of the Berlin Wall, before focusing on contemporary post-9/11 cultural practices.  Throughout, we will foreground topics such as art and neighborhood values, state diplomacy, and censorship.

We will ask questions such as: what does it mean to be an Asian artist or a German artist?  What does it mean to be an African artist in a Turkish exhibition, or a Pakistani artist in an American gallery?   What does it mean to be an artist in exile?  What are the differences between aesthetic practices and experiences in a city like Philadelphia, New York, Moscow or Lahore?  Is what happens in Philadelphia or New York more important than what happens in Moscow or Lahore?   We will also read about the rise of the global art market, as well as the rise of local participatory art practices.  Are these two developments mutually exclusive?  Can they be reconciled, and at what cost?   Finally, we will set our sights on the modern museum and artistic careerism.

Throughout the course, we will engage directly with living artists and other cultural practitioners who are negotiating these issues in their practices.  We will also take advantage of exhibitions and performances in the Philadelphia area, including the activities and offerings of the Slought Foundation (, a cultural organization located on campus.  

Fulfills Cultual Diversity in the U.S. requirement.

fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major