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Censorship and Society: IL018/IL118

Introduction to the module

*Please note that the module is now assessed by an academic essay/vlog/blog (50%)

and a conference presentation (50%)

Student Conference 2018

Student Conference 2019

Special Guest Lectures:


The aim of this module is to provide general knowledge of the breadth and diversity of censorship across a range of disciplines, countries, time periods, and cultures. Learners will use this knowledge to engage in debates exploring the controversy surrounding censorship, and how this has continued to grow in intensity. The module will inspire discussions on why literature is banned or censored. Is censorship ever justified or realisable? Does censorship inhibit and impose a dictatorship? Who defines the moral values that govern society? How do standards of morality and immorality, obscenity and non-obscenity, differ widely from culture to culture? Can a system of censorship be established which will protect the moral values of a community without infringing upon freedom of expression? Can we ever obtain freedom of expression? Learners will use these discussions to facilitate their analysis and understanding of the reading.

Indicative Structure (Subject to change)

Week 1: Sex, Obscenity and Immorality

Introduction to the module - Opening with broad questions to determine initial opinions on “What is censorship?”, which will be reviewed in the final weeks of term. The seminar will outline the themes and continue debating philosophical questions regarding censorship in society. We will then examine literature that has been censored for being sexually explicit, obscene or immoral in nature.

Week 2

Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and the Internet

This seminar introduces the right to freedom of expression, the universality of this right, its scope of protection, and its limits, including the forms of state censorship permitted under Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The seminar examines both the opportunities and challenges to freedom of expression posed by the rise of social media.

Week 3

Sex and Censorship: The Gender Politics of Obscenity.

We will focus on examining two case studies:

The Knowlton Trial of 1877 when feminist Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh deliberately provoked the charge of obscenity by publishing a pamphlet on birth control.The sex wars of the 1980s in Britain and the U.S when feminists debated the pros and cons of banning pornography.

We will discuss whether censorship and obscenity laws have repressed or protected women in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Week 4

‘Death to freedom, death to captivity’

The quest for sexual and political freedom is central to Shahriar Mandanipour’s Censoring an Iranian Love Story (2011). Mandanipour’s text complicates the meaning of freedom and oppression. He blurs the boundaries between what has been freely chosen, coercion and force, to suggest that proposals of freedom and un-freedom are an inherently global problem, and oppression is not exclusive to Islamic societies.

Governing the Learning Environment and Today’s Technology

Week 5

Education and Censorship

This session will explore censorship within the compulsory education sector.

Part of the session will focus on Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 and the new Relationships and Sex Education that became mandatory in September 2020.

Week 6 - Reading Week - There will not be a session this week but you are asked to watch the lecture delivered by Professor Nutt and blog.

Science and Censorship - Professor David Nutt - Imperial College London - Department of Medicine

Title of Public Lecture - Drug Laws: The worst censorship of research since the Catholic church banned the telescope.

Topics to be discussed:

Types of drugs and how they are controlled
History of drug control - political v scientific challenges
Cannabis compared with alcohol
Scientific opportunities lost - consciousness research - brain imaging
Medical and treatments delayed or abandoned by the regulations - cannabis for pain - psychedelics for addiction and depression
A logical approach to drug control
Some more radical options e.g. a safe synthetic alcohol

Political Censorship and Exile

Week 7

Education as a Crucial Site of Struggle

This session will explore the importance of the Internet as a tool for freedom of expression and creativity. Aaron Swartz downloaded millions of articles from JSTOR, an academic database, because he thought information should be freely available for all. Swartz was arrested in January 2011 and he committed suicide 11 January 2013, while waiting federal trail, his charges meant he was facing bankruptcy and a potential jail sentence of 35 years. We will analyse the censorship of the web in relation to education, and whether education in higher educational establishments encourages students to read the world critically, enabling freedom and democracy, or whether institutions use education as an instrument of power.

Week 8

State Censorship

This session will focus on writers and readers whose human rights to freedom of expression are at risk. We will begin by debating the need to align the ethical conscience and the creative imagination, in order to question whether we blind ourselves to the fact that some of the most compelling writing is about the tension between, if not the incompatibility of, these two things.

We will also explore how state censorship forces people into exile and triggers self-censorship. Discussions will then be directed towards political censorship in the U.K. and reviewing initial opinions on “What is censorship?” To consider whether their definitions have changed.

Week 9 -

Digital Censorship

The rapid growth of social media platforms such as Twitter has had a significant impact in the way people can connect and communicate instantaneously with others. The content that users put onto social media platforms can go viral in a matter of minutes and that content, whether text, images or links to other sites, can have profound effects on events as they unfold. This can be both for the good or the bad. In times of disaster, tweeting about events can call people to help from around the globe. But people can also spread dubious and dangerous information, hate speech and rumours, via social media. This type of behaviour has been called “digital wildfires”. The World Economic Forum report indicates two situations in which digital wildfires are most dangerous: in situations of high tension, when false information or inaccurately presented imagery can cause damage before it is possible to correct it. The real-world equivalent is shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre – even if it takes a moment for realisation to spread that there is no fire, in that time people may already have been crushed to death in the scramble for the exit. How people communicate in new digital social spaces is not well understood; users may not fully understand how these spaces ‘work’ as channels of communication and so what constitutes appropriate and responsible behaviour may be unclear. The challenge then is to develop appropriate ways of governing these spaces and how to apply and use them responsibly.

Week 10

Student Conference - Date to be confirmed


Module code:

IL018 - Intermediate years

IL118 - Finalists

Module Convenor

Dr Bibizadeh

Dr Roxanne BibizadehLink opens in a new window

Research Fellow

Department of Computer Science

Roxanne dot Bibizadeh at warwick dot ac dot uk

www.deyp.orgLink opens in a new window

Module not running 2023-24


Office Hours

Tuesdays 16:00 - 17:00



2500 Word Essay or Reflective Blog/Vlog (50%)

Presentation at conference (50%)

Sample Student Video Submissions

Chetna Khandelwal's Censorship of Farm Animals:

Nicole McGrane's Rewriting the Educational Narrative: