Images in Conflict: A Visual History of Violence
The critic Susan Sontag wrote that "to collect photographs is to
collect the world." How should we collect these photographs when so
much of what we experience in the media today documents conflict and
war? What is our responsibility as students and citizens to these
images? What is the responsibility of the artist, journalist, art
historian, or curator? How are we implicated by events we have not
experienced and by the pain of others?
This course will explore the power of images to shape and aestheticize
the viewer's experience of history. We will trace the production and
circulation of these images, through a variety of readings situated at
the intersection of visual culture and representations of conflict.
Students will be introduced to war photography and the ethics of
representation through the work of artists such as Robert Capa,
Matthew Brady, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, and Kevin Carter.
We will also discuss artistic representations of conflict prior to the
advent of photography, in the work of artists from classical antiquity
to the mid-nineteenth century.
The course will culminate in a final project about the Nepali civil
war (1996-2006). Students will have the opportunity to learn about
the impact of the war on the people of Nepal, and how individuals
throughout the country have come together to create a public archive
of the war. Students will curate their own collection of these images
and then develop a teaching guide in partnership with collaborators in
Nepal and Slought Foundation, a cultural organization on campus. In
addition to weekly readings and responses, students will also be
expected to attend a series of associated events on the topic of
violence at the Penn Humanities Forum during the semester.