Theories and Theologies of Liberation

Wadada Leo Smith, Credit: Tom Beetz

Theories and Theologies of Liberation

Professor Maryam Kashani

Are we free? How is being free different from being liberated, whether corporeally, sexually, spiritually, or nationally? Who or what is the subject of liberation and can there be individual liberation without collective liberation? What is the relationship between aesthetics and politics in liberatory thought and praxis? How are freedom and constraint, discipline and desire, description and opacity, quiet and voice, composition and improvisation related modalities for creative expression and struggles for freedom? What do aesthetic forms and genres like neorealism, science fiction, and surrealism offer in the way of getting us to think and feel differently? This course considers such questions by examining theories and theologies of liberation from the Islamic tradition (with some ventures into the Christian tradition) with a focus on aesthetics in writing, sound, and image. We will focus on theories, theologies, and aesthetics through the themes of poetics, aesthetics, rhythm, improvisation, quiet, discipline, loops, repetition, and the interval. Taught as a workshop, this course will encourage students to engage in creative practice as they think through the questions of liberation and freedom on multiple scales.

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Class Playlist

Student Projects


Marvelous Domain

This short film, titled Marvelous Domain, was an exercise in surrealist filmmaking in which I attempted to maintain a collaborative, flexible environment that allowed for spontaneous production and for curiosity to dominate, to liberate and elevate the filmmaking process as inspired by surrealist thinkers of the early twentieth century who used art to envision a […]

Liberation Poetry Workshops

In spring 2022, I put on a series of three “liberation poetry workshops,” open to the public. They explored the themes of “feeling,” “sex and desire,” and “freedom.” I designed them to be reflective, vulnerable, cathartic, fully-felt sessions, exercises in using language to understand ourselves and our experiences and spaces for community-building. These workshops can […]