250X: 005 Passion Of Images - Memory, Monuments, Struggles

Instructor: Alexei Yurchak

Time: Wednesday 10:00am - 12:00pm

Term: Fall 2018

Units: 4

In the past few decades, memory and history have become an arena of contestation and rewriting in many parts of the world. It seems difficult to be certain whose memories are to be understood as correct or ‘right’ and how history should be interpreted. Images, monuments, and other visual representations have played an increasingly central role in these clashes. Today we witness the invention of new rituals of image veneration and public commemoration and new forms of violent defilement of images and destruction of memorials. Monuments of Lenin are toppled in post-Soviet Ukraine, Confederate statues fall in the United States, apostate religious images explode in the Middle East, and European blasphemous cartoons cause injury and provoke violence. How can we make sense of these phenomena? What will be revealed about the meanings of these images and acts if we consider them in comparison to each other? This seminar in socio-cultural anthropology will focus on the politics of memory in the contemporary world and the role images play in it. We will consider several key contexts, from the post-communist spaces (Russia, former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe) to the contemporary United States, from Western Europe to the Middle East. The course will draw on anthropology, art history, history, political philosophy, religious studies, and memory studies.