Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Critical Perspectives on Human Rights: Human Rights and Spectatorship



Course Schedule:

Fall 2023 | Wed 4:10 7:10 PM Berlin (UTC + 2)

Professor: Denis Skopin
Semester: Fall 2023
Course Level: 500
Number of Bard Credits: 4
Course Title:  Critical Perspectives on Human Rights: Human Rights and Spectatorship
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: Wed 4:10 – 7:10 PM Berlin (UTC + 2)
Distribution Area: Meaning, Being, Value
Program: Human Rights
Cross-Listing(s): Philosophy, Art History
Language of Instruction: English

This interdisciplinary course combines the study of scholarly texts on human rights with media theory and political philosophy analysis. The goal of the course is to explore the relationship between human rights and spectatorship. Students will be invited to read key texts about the origin of human rights and contemporary political violence. They will also be encouraged to participate in the debate about the capacity of images to prevent or stop this violence.

Should we consent that today’s spectator, overwhelmed with visual information, typically remains indifferent to documentary records showing the suffering of others? Or, conversely, accept that the idea of human rights exists as a response to the spectator’s emotional shock caused by a picture of suffering? Through the study of textual and visual documents pertaining to several cases of violation of human rights, including colonial oppression in Africa, Stalin’s Gulag, Shoah, and the Rwandan genocide in 1994, we will try to find out what is the difference between bearing a witness through narratives, photographic records and documentary footage, and what are respective limitations of each medium in terms of representing trauma experienced by each victim.

We are no longer accepting applications.