In an era in which mainstream pundits and purportedly counterhegemonic postmodernist discourses continue to disarticulate culture and social movements from their historical and material contexts, thereby obfuscating the structural dimensions of power relations, waves of scholars, artists, and activists are engaged in a productive critical dissensus about the current conjunctural moment. This course proposes to place in dialogue various counterhegemonic paradigms—Marxist, Neo- and Post-Marxist, Postcolonial, Post-Postcolonial and Decolonial—pursuant to a comparative explication of key concepts that offer productive holistic insights into the intersections between culture and politics broadly defined.
The course begins with a basic overview of historical materialism, the theory that human society is shaped by politico-economic conditions in a dynamic process that involves conflicts, ruptures, and reassemblages. We will explicate key elements of Marxist theory—base and superstructure, dialectics, commodification, fetish, value, ideology, alienation, and agency—that will enable holistic analyses of the political economic conditions of the production and consumption of art and coterminous evolution of important past and current social movements. The course continues with critical attention to myriad neo-Marxist and post-Marxist theorists who have sought to synthesize new paradigms of culture and politics beyond static teleological base-superstructure models, in addition to complex expansions of categories of social class, particularly the multitude and biopower. The course concludes by placing in dialogue various “first-wave” post-colonial theorists with post-postcolonial scholars regarding the nation, mimesis, hybridity, subalterity, resistance, transgression as well as power and counter-power vis-à-vis decolonial theorists and cultural worker reconceptualizations of the human, posthuman, gender and sexuality spectrums, along with the broader ongoing search for decolonized discourse and praxis.
The course will be anchored with primary materials that include cinematic and literary texts as well as archival materials that focus on Chicanx and Latinx populations, in addition to select works from the global south and subaltern Europe. Together they offer an expansive yet coherent stream of cases studies as frames of reference. Students thus will develop new vocabularies and also exercise hermeneutics, research project design techniques, and polemics.
This course is open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students from all disciplines and departments, in addition to students from all University of California campuses and non-UC universities. The course is open to auditors, but all student enrollments require the graded option (no pass/fail), with attendance at all class sessions mandatory. (Distance participation remains an option pending circumstances and instructor approval.)