COOL CLASSES: “Artists Under Policing Gaze of the State: Politics, History, and Performance”

This course, which is crosslisted in both comparative literature and peace, justice, and human rights, investigates what permanent surveillance meant and means historically and today for society at large and for individual artists living under its pressure.

Class nameArtists Under Policing Gaze of the State: Politics, History, and Performance”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Aniko Szucs


Here’s what Szucs had to say about her class:
“Artists under the Policing State” is a class that investigates the ways in which artists and activists respond to state-sanctioned surveillance and repression. In the first part of the semester, we look at dissident artists from Eastern Europe and South America, who created artworks and organized art events despite the violent state repression of the 1970s and 1980s. Later, we discuss and analyze the recent history of surveillance in the United States, from the policing of the civil right movements to the workings of the House of Un-American Committee, and to the recent incidents involving the NSA. We keep our focus on artists and artistic movements in the American context too; we analyze surveillance performances and radical street actions that criticize the state’s infiltration into the private sphere.

This class should help students better understand the political and social histories of the 20th century totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. I encourage students to consider the complex embodied experience of living under permanent surveillance, and to think of the ways in which the mental state and physical well-being of individuals are challenged if they are constantly watched and therefore are also forced to watch the others. Lastly, students in this course grapple with the concepts of surveillance—both historical and contemporary—censorship and self-censorship, and dissidence and compliance in many of our classes.


See what other courses the Bi-Co Department of Comparative Literature is offering this semester.

Photo: (cc) Raphaël Thiémard/Flickr

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.