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Politics and Ethics in the Contemporary Museum


Admission requirements

Students from other programmes are welcome to enroll in this course. Students registered in the (Research) Master Arts and Culture: Museums and Collections, take priority. Students who are not enrolled in the Master Arts and Culture should contact the Coordinator of Studies in order to enroll.


This module is designed to equip you with a range of theoretical and practical approaches to the study of museums and their collections.

We will study the museum in modern times through various themes which are connected to current issues and controversies. We will examine the politics and ethics of collecting in a wide variety of museums and analyze the changing position of the museum in a globalized world. Furthermore, the museum as medium will be studied and the narratives of the collections will be analyzed. What are the strategies by which museums interpret, organise and display their collections? Special attention will be given to representation and canonization in museums.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • gain knowledge of museum theory and practice in modern times;

  • gain insight into current issues and controversies concerning museums;

  • practice their communicative skills in weekly debates and in the presentation of their own research topic;

  • develop their research skills in formulating a relevant research question and writing a paper on this subject of their own choice.

  • Research Master students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (6000 words excluding annotations and bibliography instead of 5000 words).


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

  • Excursion

Attendance is compulsory. Students can miss a maximum of two seminars, provided they present a valid reason beforehand. Students who have missed more than two seminars will have to apply to the Examination Board of the Ma Arts and Culture in order to obtain permission to further follow and complete the course.

Assessment method


  • Active participation and assignments (fail/pass);

  • Research paper (80%)

  • Oral presentation (20%)


The final grade is the average of the two grades (20% and 80%). The participation must have been passed. A student passes the class if the weighted average is a 6.0 or higher (marks under 5.0 are not allowed) and the paper is a 6.0 or higher.


The re-sit consists of two parts:

  • When a student fails their project portfolio, the resit assessment is a paper (80%)

  • When a student fails their oral presentation and/or active participation and assignments, the resit assessment involves alternative assignments (20%)

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Readings will be made available via Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


  • Fieldtrips are an important part of the course. Students will be expected to make frequent visits to museums in order to analyze exhibitions.

  • in the specialisation Museums and Collections of the MA Arts and Culture, this course focuses on contemporary practices of the museum as sites of knowledge production and platform of discussion and debate regarding issues of cultural value, identity and memory. As a free component course it also holds value for the specialisation Art of the Contemporary World and World Art Studies.