In our collective imaginary the 1960s have acquired a talismanic quality, signaling everything from a sexual utopia to a revolutionary reordering of society. This era is marked by the charge of new forms of social organization, political tumult, and almost infinite promise already tinged with disillusionment. Although the 60s themselves are ill-defined and have become a heuristic device to talk about a variety of issues between the 1950s and 1970s, for the most part the term is associated with social movements in the US and France (and at a stretch Western Europe). Our seminar is designed to dismantle this myth; with a focus on non-Western sites we aim to illustrate that the energies of social change, radical revision of political life, the reorganization of spatial order, and the blurring of public/private were common themes around much of the world. Specifically our focus on visual culture allows us to understand how this zeitgeist is inflected with local, cultural nuances.
Through a focus on architecture, film/photography and art we will unpack signature features of this historical moment—the anxieties of modernism, the feminist, sexual and race-based movements, as well as postcolonial formations. The seminar is interdisciplinary and transnational in scope.
In today’s climate of global tumult, there is a tendency to invoke the 60s nostalgically as a utopic moment. Rather than cultivate a nostalgia without memory, our aim in this seminar is to remember the vitality and energy, the utopic yearnings, of this earlier moment. This looking back is meant to be instructive for imagining new possibilities; our readings are theoretical and historically grounded so we cultivate the practice of re-memory, as Toni Morrison phrases it.