Critical Studies

Critical Studies

Gene Ray
Start: October 2, 2017, 10am

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the genocidal and ecocidal logics of modernity are confronted by growing public knowledge of their unsustainability. Enforced by wars, debt and austerity regimes, unprecedented surveillance and militarized policing, the current global social process produces continuing economic growth, but also deepening inequity and precariousness, climate chaos, and cultural and biological extinction. Are we finally seeing the endgame of capitalist modernity? What is emerging within this emergency? In this context, the critical studies seminar investigates the possible roles and agencies of critical and decolonizing art practices. Major trajectories of critical theory and models of radical art are surveyed (Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Guy Debord and others); through these, the complex functions of art in contemporary society are illuminated. The urgent cultural politics of the anthropocene (or, as others contend, the ‘capitalocene’ or ‘anthrobscene’) are explored through new theories of ‘refugia’ and ‘multispecies community’ that push beyond the biases of anthropocentrism (Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Jussi Parikka and others). The limits of critical theory are also reflected on, through a consideration of Indigenous knowledge and struggles of resistance to ecocide and cultural genocide (Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Winona LaDuke, Sandy Grande, Linda Hogan and others). The seminar includes close reading of texts, images and film/video works; group exercises and derives; and one writing assignment.