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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Postgraduate Course: Archives of Dissent, Repertoires of Resistance: Photography and Civil Rights (HIAR11131)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course engages a range of inter-connected issues concerning photography, citizenship, representation, memory, futurity, and the archive. Through a series of ten, weekly two-hour seminars, class discussion will revolve around key texts on these topics, such as for example Ariella Aïsha Azoulay's The Civil Contract of Photography (2008), engaging the multi-faceted scholarship on photography, protest, and decolonisation that has emerged in recent years across a number of fields from art history to visual anthropology and sociology.
Course description From historic anti-colonial liberation struggles, to contemporary social movements, from the Nicaraguan Revolution, and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, to the '89 revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring, and more recently the pro-democracy movement in Chile, photographs have been mobilized to demand justice, and have participated in processes of re-negotiating the public sphere. Questions concerning the political imagination and recursivity have come to the fore in recent protests and civil disobedience movements around the world, creating insightful, albeit complex connections with post-colonial and decolonial theory. This course will consider the variegated ways in which different audiences create and engage with such images, both within public space, and within the realm of social media.

We will consider the idea that images have not only social, but also political life and can develop multiple meanings and interpretations as they engage with memory at different points in time. Throughout our seminar sessions we will explore how photographs gain political meaning, often retroactively, and into the future. Specific case studies are likely to vary from year to year, but may include for example examination of found archives, and cases where human rights abuses were unveiled in the aftermath of conflict; re-appropriations and interventions into the colonial archive; reading photography against the grain, as well as occasions when non-evidentiary, photographic materials have been re-signified or re-contextualized by individuals or civic groups in denouncing abuses or issuing demands for change. We will examine the way in which domestic and community-oriented uses of photography, for instance, may show deliberate attempts at self-presentation, perhaps in acknowledgement of one's potential political agency. As Jorge Coronado has argued with regard to popular photography from the Andes: 'agency can be read across a large number of practices that are not necessarily revolutionary or rebellious, but rather disrupt or appropriate subordinating norms' (Coronado 2018). Further destabilizing the canon, we will explore the expansion of vernacular photographic practices through digital means, a phenomenon equivalent to what Hito Steyerl has termed the rise of the 'poor image' (2009).

Moving away from Euro-American centered narratives, the seminar looks at scholarship that spans Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, areas that demonstrate ample histories of photography. Contemporary engagements with the medium, including via social media, are being actively reconsidered through the lens of transnational 'people power' as well as localized indigenous and/or diasporic discourses. Instead of looking for coherence amongst these sites, the course will encourage participants to identify an analytical vocabulary, a repertoire of dissent (with a nod to Diana Taylor's scholarship), inspiring new directions for the study of contemporary civic-oriented photographic practices.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x 4000 word essay 100% - submitted weeks 8-11
Feedback Students are given feedback on FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT as follows:
You will be asked to prepare a spoken presentation to deliver to the class, and will be supported to develop this in a one-to-one meeting beforehand, and will receive verbal feedback at a second one-to-one meeting afterwards. The work done for the presentation will contribute directly to the essay.

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Written feedback on student essays will be provided, in addition to the opportunity for a one-to-one meeting towards the end of semester.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of the ways in which photography has shaped and contributed to specific political movements and helped to construct political agency.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to understand and apply theoretical ideas relating to photography and its relationship to specific political movements and communities.
  3. Successfully analyse and develop arguments in relation to photography's contribution to specific political movements, and its constitution of agency and community.
  4. Present ideas clearly and well in writing and in debate.
Reading List
Azoulay, Ariella Aïsha. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone Books, 2008.

Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia. Ch'ixinakax Utxiwa: On Decolonising Practices and Discourses. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2020.

Sealy, Mark. Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time. London: Lawrence and Wishart Limited, 2019.

Strassler, Karen. Demanding Images Democracy, Mediation, and the Image-Event in Indonesia. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.

Taylor, Diana. ¡Presente! The Politics of Presence. Durham, London: Duke University Press, 2020.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis; Clear thinking and the development of an argument; Independent research; Presentation and communication skills; The ability to articulate ideas clearly in writing; Organisation and planning; Teamwork through group discussion
KeywordsPhotography,protest,activism,anti-colonialism,liberation struggles,archives,human rights
Course organiserDr Ileana Lucia Selejan
Tel: (0131 6)51 5800
Course secretaryMr Nathan Ross-Hammond
Tel: (0131 6)51 5880
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