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NYU Paris: Art’s Role in Race, Empire, and Universalism

Gallatin Study Away Course
IDSEM-UG 9356, 4 credits
Level: Undergraduate


This seminar begins with the conviction that the arc of modern history for both the U.S. and France has had a similar form. Both countries' Enlightenment ideals of stunning potential, as found in The Declaration of Independence and The Declaration of the Rights of Man [sic], have often been ballyhooed and ignored, actualized and  subverted. At the same time, we have remarked that the specificity of the ambivalent French entanglement with universalism, race, and empire is too rarely understood in the so-called New World. Our focus will be directed to art that in all its manifestations has had a critical role in this dynamic. It has been and continues to be deeply imbricated in the contradictory and reinforcing projects of universalism, race, and empire. But how exactly? What roles have objects played? This is the subject that the seminar will investigate. How have they functioned as symptoms, vectors, or agents in France and in dialogue with sites of French artistic and political ambitions and claims, including New France and Louisiana; the Caribbean; Egypt, North and West Africa; Tahiti and Viet Nam? And what has been their role when it comes to stateless people? Readings and discussions will consider fine art such as painting, drawing, prints, and sculpture, as well as other material objects and products of human and natural manufacture, such as books, the sea, obelisks, shells, textiles, makeup, and clothing.

For the most up-to-date course schedule details and for information about NYU Paris, visit the NYU Paris homepage.