Spring 2016

Photography and Political Violence

Listed in: Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-358

Moodle site: Course


Brianne C. Cohen (Section 01)


This course will examine historical and contemporary photographic images of political violence from around the world. How have artists, photojournalists, and citizens worked to make visible forms of state repression and censorship, human rights violations, genocide, terrorism, and violence against broader ecosystems? How have they historically used lens-based witnessing to resist such violence or to participate in political protest? This course will not only investigate the circulation of iconic photographs of war and state aggression (from the Holocaust and the atomic bomb to Abu Ghraib), but it will also examine the ethics of photography-based documentation in the aftermath of such atrocities. What kind of truth claims can photographs make as evidence of organized political violence, whether in the courtroom or in the larger public sphere? What are the stakes of using photography to lend visibility to self-determination movements and human rights struggles? Visual analysis will be supplemented by close readings of interdisciplinary texts from an array of scholars, artists, and critics. Due to the sensitive nature of much of the material, the class will also involve extensive in-class discussion and debate. Two 80-minute classes per week.

Requisite: Previous courses in ARHA or permission of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Cohen.

If Overenrolled: Priority to ARHA majors, then seniors, with the aim to engage a diversity of students from across disciplines.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016