The Arts of Politics: Cultural Agency and Social Movements in Contemporary Peru

Lima, Peru

Next Offered
Summer 2015
Approximate Dates of Instruction
Application Deadline
Info session Wednesday, January 14th at 3:30pm in the CHID Lounge (Padelford C101).
This program is co-sponsored by UW Honors.

The intellectual aim of this program is to understand, from various critical and interdisciplinary perspectives, the political, social, and cultural construction of contemporary Peru. By placing art and politics within the same analytic frame, the program draws on a broad range of materials to examine three central themes. First, we explore the forces that have shaped the boundaries of Peruvianness and citizenship. Like many societies, Peru is marked by deep inequalities where some are more equal than others. How can we understand those inequalities and their persistence? Second, we examine the causes and consequences of over two decades of internal war and authoritarianism in Peru. What lessons can be extracted for understanding post-conflict societies? Third, we will learn about the varied responses of civil society to that violent past, and its legacies in the present. In all these questions, the role of art is critical. Peruvian painters, novelists, and filmmakers have kept alive a critical democratic conversation about inequality, violence, and citizenship begun by the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but which received a very cold reception by political leaders. 

Our program provides an intensive introduction to contemporary Peru as understood by political scientists, anthropologists, and cultural studies scholars. With a challenging mix of readings, ethnographic assignments, and independent research, students will be encouraged to see themselves not simply as knowledge consumers, but also knowledge producers. The program will be based in the capital city of Lima, which has been shaped by the forces of migration from the Andean highlands and Amazonian lowlands. As such, the city’s diversity will allow students to appreciate the importance and complexity of Indigenous cultural agency in Peru. 

Our stay in Lima and close collaboration with local artists Jorge MiyaguiMauricio DelgadoAlfredo MarquezNatalia Iguiñiz, and Karen Berneo, as well as leading literary scholar Victor Vich, among others, will allow students to see how art and politics have combined in innovative and consequential ways. Examining the public nature of art in murals, performances, and music, students will be encouraged to see the city as a classroom. Students will also be able to take part in public art projects, like murals and street performance, and have the opportunity to engage in independent and/or collaborative projects that may be traditional research papers, digital projects, or creative artistic endeavors. Students will be able to learn directly from artists, Indigenous activists, and social justice leaders engaged in work around memory, food sovereignty, and anti-mining. We plan to organize a symposium during which students will present the findings of their independent research projects and our Peruvian interlocutors will be invited to serve as discussants and evaluators of student projects.

Ideally, students in the program will have taken a CHID/Honors course in Spring 2015 on “Politics, Struggle and Hope in Latin America.” For those who can’t take this spring course, we will offer an in-depth (1 week) pre-departure seminar in Seattle that offers an introduction to Peruvian politics, society, and art. This 15-credit program will then continue with a 5-week course in Peru. Although this is a CHID/Honors program, we expect and encourage applicants not only from CHID and Honors but from all other majors across campus.

This program requires students to have completed at least one year of college-level Spanish.


Students are encouraged (though not required) to take the following course at UW during Spring 2015:

  • CHID 480 / Honors 394C: Politics, Struggle and Hope in Latin America

Students will receive credit for the following courses as part of the Summer program:

  • CHID 472A / Honors 233A: Peruvian Politics, Culture, and Society (5 credits I&S)
  • CHID 472B / Honors 384B: Art, Politics, and Protest in Peru (5 credits I&S, VLPA)
  • CHID 499 / Honors 384C: Independent Project (5 credits I&S, VLPA)
Fulfills Requirements
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
CHID Ideas in the World
CHID Power & Difference
SSc Credit
A&H Credit
Total Program Fees

*Note that the fees stated above do not include some additional costs, including, but not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance (about $42/month), and personal spending money. Remember that these costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.