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The Politics, Ethics and Aesthetics of Photography

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1856
Section 001
Instructor A.B. Huber
Days TR
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM


Open to sophomores only.


The seminar begins with a short critical history of photography, and a consideration of its advent as something of a misfit art, before focusing on its increasing use as an instrument of visual evidence. We turn then to a series of case histories, from the early use of photography as a forensic tool at 19th century crime scenes, to the counter-forensic visual reconstructions of contemporary drone strikes in Pakistan, or recent police violence against unarmed civilians of color in the US. In each instance we ask how photography shapes what becomes visible or legible as violence, and what kinds of suffering—and what modes of resistance—move us affectively, ethically, politically. The seminar will introduce students to key theoretical works on photography (Benjamin, Kracauer, Sekula) as well as more recent critical interventions that help us reckon our own, and others, increasing exposure to surveillance and its neoliberal logics (Farocki, Steyerl, Weizman). How might the ubiquity of cameras inure or blind us to photography’s work? The seminar seeks to help students better understand the complex linkages between perception and understanding, and how photographs, as the modern visual form par excellence, shape our sense of the political world and our place in it. The course presumes an interest not only in photography, but in political and aesthetic theory.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)