Theater for Social Change
Can theatre be an agent of social change? Our world is powerfully controlled by film, tv, social media, and virtual reality. Can a live performance still change hearts and minds? In this Social Justice College foundation seminar, students will first study how theatre has struggled for social justice and then create performances that address social and political problems today. As art, entertainment, and propaganda, the theatre has agitated for justice, advocated for the oppressed, influenced social attitudes, and contributed to social movements. Were these techniques successful? What worked, and what didn't? What strategies should we adapt as we devise performances to help change the world around us? By encountering complex, contrasting views of the process of individual and collective transformation, we will consider how social and cultural change occurs in real life. Students will write three research reports, devise three performances, and take at least one show on the road.
(Dis)Obeying the Law
What civic duty or moral obligation do we have to obey laws that we regard as unjust? What types of protest, resistance, or rebellion are legitimate in order to combat oppression and to further social justice? How effective are strategies of civil disobedience, and must they remain committed to nonviolence?
This seminar focuses on the topic of civil disobedience and its implications for issues such as the nature of social justice, the rule of law, and an individual's relationship to the state. We will begin by examining classical and contemporary debates concerning the conditions of a just society. We will then assess competing arguments concerning one of the primary problems of political philosophy: how to justify the moral duty of citizens to obey laws. Finally, we will analyze both historical and current examples of movements that have sought to advance social justice through forms of civil disobedience.
Revolution! A Global History
Since 1776, humans have initiated and participated in over 300 revolutions. This course will introduce students to the global history and theory of revolution in the modern period. Its basic premise is that revolution, and the attendant attempts to counter, cordon, or direct it, has defined the modern era of humanity. The course begins by asking a simple question: How did revolution become something that human beings can do? What made it possible for humans to first think about then enact an abrupt, transgressive, and intentional transformation of the society in which they live? From this initial question, the course will examine the viral spread of revolution across the earth over the past two centuries. Topics that we will engage with include: Changes in the meaning and practice of revolution, the relation of revolution to ideologies of nationalism, democracy, socialism, secularism, and religion; the emergence of people who call themselves revolutionaries (and conservatives); revolutionary spaces/time; and the concepts of permanent and counter revolution.
The Art of Social Justice
From Picasso’s painting Guernica to Warhol’s silkscreen Electric Chairs, artists have used their talents to draw attention to social injustices. Recently, however, artists like Pussy Riot and JR have pushed their craft in ways that go far beyond Picasso and Warhol. Their art not only depicts injustice, it actively engages with the social order itself. This course will explore the rich history of protest art, with a particular focus on the wide range of contemporary practices that today’s artists use to critique society and provoke change.