Issue 87, Fall 2002

Aristophanes’ plays were banned in the 5th century B.C. because of obscenity and anti-war themes; Confucius’s writings were incinerated around 250 B.C. after a change of dynasty made them politically incorrect; in 1933, a New York court declared a set of pictures of The Last Judgment fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel obscene; in 1989, Ayotolah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the life of Salman Rushdie for the publication of the novel Satanic Verses; in 1999, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to cut funds for the Brooklyn Museum because the Museum would not obey his order to remove one work from an exhibit; in 2001 books from the popular Harry Potter series were banned from schools and burned in churchyards in the United States. Manifestations of the control of expression are historically and culturally specific. Nevertheless, close consideration reveals recurring themes and issues.

These and hundreds of censorship incidents are documented in NCAC’s File Room, an interactive web-based archive, now becoming one of the foremost resources on censorship in the world. The project was initiated by artist Antonio Muntadas. Originally produced in 1994 by Chicago’s Randolph Street Gallery, it has been relaunched and is now maintained by the Arts Advocacy Project of NCAC. To submit a case, consult the bibliography on censorship or search the archive, log on to the website at