Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Art and Crisis in Neoliberal Senegal
Monday, Wednesday: 2:00-3:30pm
Senegal has long been a beacon of art and culture on the continent. In the 1960s, the government of Leopold Sedar Senghor—poet, philosopher, and first president of independent Senegal—famously claimed to have dedicated 25% of the state budget to art and education, and it hosted the first World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar in 1966. The global economic crisis of the 1970s and the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s—which contributed to a decades-long national crisis—dealt a crushing blow to state investment in the arts. Interestingly, both the retreat of the state and the prolongation of the crisis have enabled all kinds of artistic innovations and interventions, and Dakar has remained a hub of creative production. In this course, we will examine artworks and cultural practices that engage with the crisis and imagine futures beyond it. We will also explore exciting recent developments in Dakar’s art ecosystem—such as the expansion of the Dak’Art Biennial, the opening of new museums, and the proliferation of alternative art collectives and spaces—which may signal the beginning of a “post-crisis” era for the arts.
As we work through the course materials, you will be exposed to and practice increasingly complex methods of visual analysis, and you will learn how to conduct research that can productively inform your interpretations of African artworks. During the second half of the semester, you will develop a research project culminating in a 10-12 page paper on a topic related to the course.