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Contemporary Visual Culture


This course can be followed as part of the BA specialisation “Media and Culture”
(onderdeel BA Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingssociologie)

Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

Please see the registration procedure below.


In the course Contemporary Visual Culture we will explore the myriad ways in which forms of visual culture and visuality influence and shape social and political processes and the construction of knowledge in different societies. While our main concern is contemporary social formations, we will also analyze the visual regimes of colonialism and anthropology’s shifting historical engagements with visual technologies. Among other things, we will focus on diverse ways of seeing and looking, on issues of embodiment and sensory perception, on current critical appropriations of the colonial archive, and on modes of self-fashioning through (primarily) visual media. A privileged object of attention will be on how such appropriations of the archive and self-fashionings potentially challenge Eurocentric understandings of media history, specifically, and historiography, more generally. The book Photography’s Other Histories offers an entry—via a focus on the single medium of photography—into this fraught revisionist terrain. The final section of the course looks at aesthetics and politics and the social and epistemological possibilities of the seemingly “borderless” domain of circulating images, their multiple audiences, and their effects in the world today.


Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures 12 × 2 hours

  • Study of assigned literature

  • Papers / AQCI’s

  • Film viewings

  • Museum visit

Assesment method

Active student participation is expected.
Assignments consist of:

  • weekly AQCIs (6 total, of which one may be missed or a fail, no re-dos permitted) – 50% of the final grade

  • one museum assignment (2-3 pages = 2000 words) – 25% of the final grade

  • two film reviews (2-3 pgs = 2000 words) – 25% of the final grade

Note: you are required to visit the exhibition “One-way trip to Holland” (photos by Leonard Freed, 1958-1962) before October 3, 2010. See: Tropenmuseum Amsterdam


Blackboard module will be active from the 25 August and wil be used for posting assignments and other course related information.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

Students are advised to purchase the following books (copies are available at Atleest bookshop, Kort Rapenburg 12a, Leiden tel.071-5125039):

  • Elizabeth Edwards and Kaushik Bhaumir, eds. (2008) Visual Sense. A cultural reader, Oxford: Berg.

  • Christopher Pinney and Nicholas Peterson, eds. (2003) Photography’s Other Histories. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Select readings are available through the Leiden University e-journals network.


  • Studenten CA-OS: inschrijving mogelijk via het secretariaat CA-OS, kamer 3A19, tel. 5273469, e-mail:, tussen 1 juli en 20 augustus 2010.

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme

Contact information