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Simpson Center for the Humanities

The Arts of Politics: Cultural Agency, Memory, Resilience

Collage art piece. A blue and white arena shows the back of a male-presenting speaker gesturing with open arms to a red and white audience. This is overlaid with a women-presenting figure in brown, red, yellow, and more. It is a side profile view of her facing the left, hair braided, red cloak drawn around her, with a pensive expression.

HUM 597 B

The Arts of Politics: Cultural Agency, Memory, Resilience

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: MarÍa Elena GarcÍa (Comparative History of Ideas)


This micro-seminar explores the political importance of art in responding to the violence of dictatorship, war, and extractive economies. It is organized around the spring 2020 visits of four scholar-artists from Puerto Rico and Peru. Puerto Rican visual anthropologist and filmmaker Patricia Alvarez Astacio is an Assistant Professor at Brandeis University. Her films and written work critically explore the Peruvian alpaca wool supply chain analyzing how, through the intervention of development projects, Indigenous women arti- sans and their aesthetic traditions are interpolat- ed into “ethical fashion” manufacturing networks. In their individual and collective art projects, Peruvian artists and activists Karen Bernedo, Jorge Miyagui and Mauricio Delgado reveal the connections between ongoing colonial process- es, the political violence of the 1980s and 90s, and contemporary manifestations of gendered, racialized, and other forms of structural violence. Their collective Museo Itinerante Arte por la Memoria, a mobile museum for art and memory, won the 2014 Prince Claus Award for “outstanding achievement of visionaries at the front-line of culture and development.” The seminar will meet four times and explore the power of art in uncovering and contesting the hidden foundations of violence. We will explore how art can create and sustain political and cultural counternarratives that resist racial capitalism, patriarchy, and the ongoing marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Peru. We will read texts that address the particular context of Peru, as well as broader theoretical works about art, cultural agency, memory, and politics.

Course Meetings:

Apr. 9, Apr. 23, May 7, May 21
10:30am - 12:00pm | Zoom (Synchronous)

Events (registration and related info forthcoming):

April 20 | Patricia Alvarez Astacio Screening & Discussion
Apr. 22 | Patricia Alvarez Astacio Visual Anthropology Workshop
May 18 |  Peruvian Artists Panel Discussion

For questions about this course, please contact MarÍa Elena GarcÍa at