HISTART 216-001

Contested Spaces

3600 SKB
T Th 11:30 AM 01:00 PM
4 Credit Lecture

Cross listed: WGS 215-001, ARCH 216-001

This course encourages students to think critically about how specific sites and objects have participated in the construction of class, race, gender, body ability, and other socially constructed markers of difference. Building on the histories of art and architecture, the course proposes the category of "space" as an alternative to the geographic, aesthetic, and analytic categories that have shaped the canons of these two disciplines. We address the architecture of those excluded from these canons by examining how objects and sites structure social relations and broader networks of power.

Each week we address a type of "space" central to the formation of modernity in the Americas. We discuss these spaces through on objects and sites from different historical times and geographical locations across the region. The course first introduces notions of forum, commons, and protest as a primer to the course's own policies of inclusion and and participation. The first part of the semester we focus on notions of otherness as they breach public and private spheres. We start in 1492, a moment of encounter that generated contacts, trade and exchange and led to the construction of modernity and its myths. We trace the networks of colonial trade and slave exploitation, connecting distant sites and reciprocal influences through the spaces of the colony and the plantation. We explore the kitchen as a source of both community and segregation, the closet as a metaphorical construction of secrecy and forbidden sexuality, and slum as the outcome of systemic racism. In the second half of the semester, we turn to institutional spaces, putting together the critique of Michel Foucault and Tony Bennett with more recent discussions on abolitionism and immigration to examine the border, the prison, the school, and the museum.

The use of a core spatial construct as the base of each lecture enables the course to range broadly within a long date span while also offering students concrete, in-depth knowledge of key objects and sites, concluding with a contemporary point of view. By examining these contested spaces, we challenge canonical narratives and reveal the fundamental role of class, race, and gender struggle in the construction of modernity.

*This course was designed by FAAC (Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative: Tessa Paneth-Pollak, Olga Touloumi, Martina Tanga, Ana María León) and has been modified by Ana María León for use at the University of Michigan.

HISTART Distribution Requirements: Europe and the US, Latin America, Early Modern, Modern and Contemporary

Intended Audience: Undergraduate students interested in the ways in which space and its representation informs, enforces, and potentially upends difference in race, class, gender, and body ability.

Class Format: Lecture in combination with small group discussions, class conversations, and collective exercises.

This course fulfills the Humanities and Race and Ethnicity requirements at the University of Michigan