The capital cities of nations function not only as centers for the exercise of power. Those who exercise power of various kinds – legislatures, presidents, judges, wealthy patrons, and even the electorate – also use art, material objects, and the buildings in the capital city to promote their understanding of a nation’s essence. Most capital cities contain big and small sites that reveal conflicting visions rather than one coherent national consensus. When we read monuments, memorials, and museums as texts, we come to understand how the various constituencies of a nation sought to be understood and remembered by the nation collectively. In other words, historical relics and repositories have political purposes. This course is designed to introduce students to the symbols of collective memory in the U.S. capital and asks them to reflect on the political forces and messages embedded in them.
Taught by Professor Sally McKee