Culture and Violence


Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 quarters

Taught by

international politics, political science, Middle East studies
Spanish language, Latin American literature

Periods of war and violence are also periods of immense cultural production. Those who engage in war and violence often draw upon and rearrange existing cultures and forms; at other times, they invent new cultural traditions and forms to legitimate and facilitate their actions. At the same time, others draw upon resources in the existing culture or invent new cultural forms to respond to, contest, and resist war and violence. If war and violence can be made through culture, they can also be unmade through cultural practices.

This two-quarter program will examine the production of culture in a variety of wars and violent contexts drawn largely from the Middle East and Latin America in the 20 th and 21 st centuries. Utilizing theoretical perspectives and methods from political science, cultural studies, and literature, we will examine questions such as:  What forms does violence take? What cultural forms facilitate violence? What cultural forms are produced by violence? What cultural forms can respond to or resist war and violence? We will examine diverse types of war and violence in the modern period, from interstate war to new forms of warfare and violence. We will focus on case studies of insurgency, civil war, counterinsurgency, and the “drug wars” in places such as Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico, as well as the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and forms of violence in Israel-Palestine and Lebanon. In all of these cases, we will study representations of violence in literature and art, as well as cultural production and resistance by artists observing and responding to violence. For example, we will look at how a mayor used performance to lower rates of urban violence in Bogotá, Colombia, how an Iraqi performance artist used his body to question war, and how a rebel-poet in Chiapas, Mexico, has led a revolution of indigenous peasants largely through literary production.

The primary learning goals of the program include obtaining a thorough knowledge of cases of war and violence in the present period; furthering an understanding of cultural production in Latin America and the Middle East; and developing skills in literary and artistic interpretation, critical thinking, analytical and creative writing, and cross-cultural communication.

The program will explore the meaning and practice of violence through a variety of formats and media, including novels and testimonies, films and video, and historical and analytical texts. Exercises and assignments will include class presentations, role-plays, writing workshops, and analytical papers. The program’s objective is to push us to think more deeply about how violence can transform cultures and how cultural production can be mobilized to disrupt cycles of violence. The program will provide a stimulating context for political and intellectual dialogue and guidance on writing, research methods, Internet research, and approaches to challenging texts and ideas.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

international politics, Latin American studies, Middle East studies, cultural politics, and literature.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Advertised schedule: First winter meeting time: Tuesday, January 5 at 10am (Sem II D3105)


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$100 in fall for an overnight field trip.


Date Revision
November 30th, 2015 This program will accept new winter enrollment with signature.
May 6th, 2015 $100 fall fee added.
May 5th, 2015 update to online learning: enhanced instead of none.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10207
So - Sr (16 credits): 10210

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students interested in Latin America, the Middle East, or in the relationship between culture and politics who want to join this program will need previous academic experience with literary and cultural analysis.  Set up an interview with the faculty by email or at the Academic Fair.  Students will be contacted regarding their placement within a week of their interview.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20099
So - Sr (16 credits): 20100

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