Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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This Week's Featured Case

Artist: Aristophanes

Date: c. 448-380 B.C.

Region: Europe, North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion, Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Theater, Performance Art, Literature


Confronting Bodies: Plutarch, United States customs, Nazi occupation authorities, Greek military

Dates of Action: A.D. 66, 1942, 1954, 1967

Location: Greece, United States

Description of Artwork: The Clouds 423 B.C.: Comedy, an attack on the 'modern' education and morals as imported and taught by Sophists. in this play Socrates and his pupils are ridiculed, and at the end of it, their school, the Phrontisterion (thinking school) is burned to the ground. Socrates is pilloried as a typical representative of impious and destructive speculations.

The Birds 414 B.C.: Comedy of fantasy. Some scholars see it as a political satire on the imperialistic dreams that had led the Athenians to undertake their ill-starred expedition of 415 B.C. against Syracuse Sicily.

Lysistrata 411 B.C. Play depicting the seizure of Acropolis and of the treasury of Athens.

The Incident: A.D. 66 His comedies were considered obscene by Plutarch

1930 United States : Customs ban lifted on Lysistrata. During the period of prohibition the book was published and sold for as little as thirty-five cents; and the drama was played in New York and Philadelphia as adapted by Gilbert Seldes.

1942 Athens, Greece : performance of classic Greek plays banned by Nazi occupation authorities.

1954 United States : Post Office officials seized a copy of the 1926 translation of Lysistrata, by Jack Lindsay, addressed by Fanfrolico Press, England, to Harry A. Levinson, Beverly Hills bookseller. The Post Office quickly reversed itself and delivered the book, but only because it was "not for general distribution".

1967 Athens, Greece : The military clique then ruling the country banned a number of classic plays, including those named above, presumably because of their independent and antiwar themes.

Results of Incident: 1955 United States : In a successful challenge of the Comstock Act of 1873 which empowered the Postmaster General to rule on obscenity of literature sent through the mail, Lysistrata was declared mailable.

Source: Banned Books 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D., by Anne Lyon Haight, and Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

For more information about censorship visit our Annotated Bibliography

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