Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Cultural Heritage: Theory, Practice, and Politics
Monday | Wednesday: 9:30 - 11:00am
This is the second course in the Reading and Composition series. We will focus on how to read critically, compose arguments, conduct research, and write a 10-12 page research paper using visual evidence and citing appropriate sources. In addition to reading texts, we will also learn how to critically “read” images, objects, and sites. Our visual and textual sources will be themed around the theories, practice, and politics of cultural heritage objects and sites.
We will begin with readings that ask, “What is cultural heritage?” and “Why do we think it is worth protecting?” We will examine the role of UNESCO in the canonization and preservation of world heritage sites. We will also look at instances in which heritage has been contested: Why did the Taliban blow up the Bamiyan Buddhas? Why are Confederate statues torn down in the South? As we explore the historical origins of preservation and how different communities conceptualize and practice heritage preservation, we will ask: Does Japan’s Ise Shrine reconstruction challenge the West’s emphasis on material authenticity? How should Notre Dame Cathedral be restored? We will weigh the political and cultural implications surrounding looted objects and their repatriation. Should the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, and the Benin bronzes to Nigeria? Finally, we will consider how artificially constructed sites nonetheless present us with a version of our cultural past. For example, how does Disneyland tell the story of America’s past, present, and future?