Power to the People: Street Art and Literature in London

This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to the diversity of contemporary British culture, focusing primarily on the art and literature produced in the multicultural metropolis, London. By visiting a range of sites, including multiethnic neighborhoods, museums, public squares, and community centers, students will understand the complex interactions of gender, sexuality, race, and class within contemporary London. “Power to the People” will allow students to explore the multiple ways in which communities across London have created their own art in their own spaces and written back to the dominant logic of Empire and Colony. This course will provide a strong grounding in postcolonial and migrant theories of art and culture, while also offering a cross-disciplinary perspective on the intersections between social change, popular resistance, and creative work.

This course is aimed at undergraduate and graduate English and Art History students.

“Power to the People” is structured around three seminar meetings on campus in Saint Paul and seven days of coursework on the ground in London (nine days, including travel time). 

Preliminary dates:

Monday, May 21, 2018: Seminar meeting
Wednesday, May 23, 2018: Seminar meeting
Sunday, May 27 - Monday, June 4, 2018: London
Monday, June 11, 2018: Seminar meeting
Monday, June 25, 2018: Final paper submission   

Yet to be determined



Dr. Kanishka Chowdhury is Professor of English and Director of the Program in American Culture and Difference. He teaches courses in postcolonial literatures, focusing on the complex ways in which politics, history, and aesthetics intersect in these texts. He has written on globalization and its connections to emerging forms of citizenship, and is currently working on a project analyzing the language of human rights. He has traveled widely and spent a semester in Scotland, teaching at the University of Glasgow. He is currently director of the Rome Core program. During the 2017 Rome semester, he will offer an English class on contemporary immigrant and refugee narratives (with a special emphasis on Italian texts).    


Dr. Heather Shirey, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Art History, teaches courses on the visual arts in the African Diaspora. Dr. Shirey has a particular interest in British art from a post-colonial perspective. Her current research projects include a study of art in public spaces (from monumental sculpture to street art) as well as the history of museums, exhibitions, and social power. Dr. Shirey co-taught art history courses in London in 2014, 2015, and 2016.