2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description



Spring 2012 quarter

Eric Stein cultural anthropology , Julia Zay visual arts, media arts, photography, film studies, art history
Fields of Study
anthropology, art history, cultural studies, history, media studies and writing
Preparatory for studies or careers in
humanities, visual studies, history, and urban planning.

While the ruin can be a figure of antiquity, decay, or catastrophe, it can also function as oracle, canvas, and home. In this program, we will explore both the disordering and productive forces of ruins in our built environment, with particular attention to the ways that they become contested sites for the ownership of memory and history. We will also explore the ruin as a liminal space, not entirely present and not entirely absent, and often reclaimed by marginal cultures.What do the use and neglect of ruined sites and spaces tell us about our relationship to the events and forces that produced the ruin? How can we use the ruin as a crucible in which to invent a theory of the future?

Taking an interdisciplinary approach that draws from urban studies, geography, art history and theory, critical theory, cultural studies, political economy and history, our inquiry will center on case studies that allow us to explore the contingencies underlying the material and cultural production of ruins. Along the way we will hone a reflexive awareness of our own potentially voyeuristic impulses as we position ourselves in an inquiry into ruins.

We will consider the colonial and touristic romanticization of ancient ruins in Java and Cambodia, the memorialization of physical sites of catastrophe in post-WWII Poland and Germany, the working class emergence of punk subculture out of the economic decay of Thatcher's England, the segregation and collapse of Detroit and New York City in the 1970s, and the dislocations of post-Katrina New Orleans.

These case studies will inform our own fieldwork on ruins. Students will develop research skills using photographic documentation, ethnographic writing, and archival studies with the goal of completing a substantial inquiry into a local site of ruin. In addition to readings and films, we will travel to museums, archives, and urban centers to investigate the material histories of contemporary ruins.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$90 for an overnight field trip to Portland.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
October 4th, 2011 New offering added.