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Art, Protest, and Politics

Session A: July 6 - July 16, 2021
9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Philosophy and Society
The Arts
Kate Kramer

Abstract Graphic art has been used to protest tyranny, inequality, and war around the world for centuries, in print and digital cultures. We will survey social movements (with an emphasis upon 20th and 21st centuries), make and design protest art at the Common Press at Penn Libraries, analyze academic research and popular media, and explore strategies for presentations. This discussion-based seminar will introduce students to academic standards as they pursue self-directed research projects from inception to presentation.


  • To gain an understanding of protest art through a survey of history
  • To conduct hands-on making of protest art at the Common Press (Penn Libraries)
  • To develop reading and research strategies in service of academic research and writing
  • To research independent projects related to protest art and social movements
  • To engage students in civic engagement in their own communities
  • To produce engaging presentations of student-directed research projects

Main Activities

Independent Research Projects
Students will research a social or political movement that is relevant to their interests and will present their project on Day 9 of the module. The discussion portion of the seminar will be driven by the topics of the 5-minute presentations.

Reading Notebook

Students will maintain a Reading Notebook to record, analyze, and synthesize their assigned readings and research process. It will serve as a tailored reference handbook for future academic research and scholarly analysis.

Draft Syllabus

1: Intro to Art, Protest, and Politics
Introductions and Module Overview
Review of Guidelines
Research Topics
Reading Notebook
Guidelines for Presentation

2: Protest in Print
From Reformation to Revolution
The Gutenberg Press
British and French Satire; Women’s Rights, French Revolution, Spanish War of Independence, Pre-revolutionary Mexico
Research Topic Selection

3: Printmaking
Virtual Field Trip: Philadelphia Mural Arts

4: 20th Century Political Resistance
Cuban Revolution, South African Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Vietnam War, Pro-Democracy Movements Activity
Guided Research and Writing
Reading Notebook (research and writing)

5: 20th Century Cultural Resistance
Civil Rights, Black Power, Women’s Liberation, Gay Rights, AIDS Crisis, Environmental Movement
Reading Notebook (research and writing)

6: 21st Century Resistance
Umbrella Revolution, Eco-movements, Umbrella Anti-Globalisation, -Capitalism, -Apartheid, and -War on Terror, LGBTQ
Presentation Strategies

7: Recent History
Black Lives Matter, #MeToo
Reading Notebook (presentation outlining)

8: Return to Print
Virtual Field Trip: Common Press (Penn Libraries)

9: Presentations and Farewells