ANTH 235 A: Global Feminist Art

Meeting Time: 
photo of sasha Welland
Sasha Welland

Syllabus Description:


Instructor: Professor Sasha Welland

Course Website: (to be updated)

Syllabus: GWSS235_Syllabus_Winter2016.pdf

Office: Padelford B-110P Winter 2016
Office Hours: M 3:30-5:00 Time: MW 1:30-3:20
Email:* Classrooms: MGH 389 (M) & FSH 120 (W)

*Please note: Every effort will be made to respond to email within 72 hours. 

  • Can art move you to understand the world in different terms?
  • How have feminist artists and critics looked power in the eye?
  • Do women really have to be naked to get into the Met?
  • Is the Met really the place for feminist intervention?


In 1989 the U.S.-based group of anonymous artists called the Guerrilla Girls issued the following question with their Metropolitan Museum poster campaign:

Guerrilla Girls.jpg

Guerrilla Girls ads like this one have been published in magazines, pasted on signboards for street protests, and plastered on bathroom walls in museums and theaters. Their work, which involves image making, performance, and institutional critique, serves as one example of feminist art practice. Feminist art cannot be classified as a style, like impressionism or cubism; nor is it bound to a particular medium, like painting or quilting; nor is it simply art by women. Feminist art challenges norms and conventions; it embraces multiple media; it critiques inequalities rooted in gender, sexuality, race, class, and nationality; it proposes alternative, experimental ways of seeing the world. In other words, feminist art is an epistemological field of practice rather than an object, event, or project, in which thinking relationally, in terms of social hierarchies, aesthetic form, and ideology, is foundational. This course takes that premise to the global level, asking: 1) how social categories like gender and sexuality are constructed in similar and different ways across cultures, as well as through transnational cultural encounters; and 2) how the work of feminist artists responds to these powerful formations shaped by local and global forces. Rather than assuming that feminist art begins in the West, as origin stories like the formation of the Guerrilla Girls sometimes suggest, we explore an art history of innovation and intervention emerging from centers like Johannesburg and Mumbai, Tehran and Beijing to also ask if women have to be Western to get into textbooks of feminist art.

The first two weeks of the course addresses foundational questions such as “what is feminism,” “what is art," "what is visual culture,” and “what is feminist art.” An overview of how feminist art has been institutionalized focuses our attention on critical sightlines occluded by canon formation. After that, each week of the course presents a case study that introduces students to debates about gender, sexuality, nation, and artistic representation based in specific cultural, historical, and political contexts. With this background as interpretive lens, we then explore the work of specific artists and the configurations of power their artistic practices challenge. An emphasis on feminist transnationalism throughout unsettles static understandings of gender, culture, and identity. While this is a lecture course, close-looking exercises in the classroom are designed to sharpen students’ visual analysis skills and spark further discussion in TA-led sections. Students will be tested on their comprehension of core concepts in relation to the artists and artworks introduced in class; they will also complete assignments that explore and contribute to the project of feminist knowledge production.

Course objectives

  • To explore how art shapes and transforms understandings of gender, sexuality, race, class, culture, and power on local and global scale.
  • To develop close looking and visual analysis skills through written, oral, and visual forms of communication.
  • To develop competencies in digital media for research, analysis, and knowledge production and sharing.
  • To develop collaboration and presentation skills, with an emphasis on responsibility, intellectual rigor, and creativity.
  • To practice an interdisciplinary feminist approach to art through course assignments that guide students to analyze visual form together with the social, political, and economic dimensions of art objects.

For More

Please follow the link above to preview or download a full pdf file of the syllabus.

See the Policies and Resources page for details and links that pertain to the university and this class.

Catalog Description: 
Introduces feminism as a way of thinking about visual art practice in terms of social hierarchy, aesthetic form, and ideology. Explores how feminist artists working in diverse locations and cultural traditions challenge, at the local and global level, artistic conventions and representations of gender, sexuality, race, class, and nationality. Offered: jointly with GWSS 235.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:50pm