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Reading images transculturally


Admission requirements

Only students who are admitted to the master’s Joint MA pilot programme “Media & Material Culture” can take part in this course.
(Click here for admission requirements)


Is there a universal norm for reading images across cultures? How have visual languages evolved in different cultures? In what ways has transcultural mobility of artists and objects shaped changes in visual practices in cultures? This seminar is designed as an introduction to methods of reading images from different regions of the world using the notion of transculturality as a lens. This means looking at the ways visual cultures in a given region have evolved through encounters with other cultures – and the dynamic between the assimilation of new elements and assertion of cultural uniqueness which such encounters generate.
The seminar will be organized around looking closely at images on particular pictorial genres such as portraits, landscapes, narrative painting, erotica, authorship (artists’ self-images) and material objects – to name some examples. These will be examined for three regional contexts: Western Europe, South Asia and Japan with a view to drawing out both cultural specificities and transcultural intersections.
The programme of the seminar includes one museum visit to be able to engage with the materiality, forms of perception and territorial and cultural relocation of images and objects in a space that canonizes them as art.


Winter Term 2010/2011 (19/10/2010 – 01/02/2011)

Mode of instruction

Lectures and museum visit

Reading list

  • W.J.T. Mitchell, What do pictures want? The Lives and Loves of Images, Chicago 2005
    (German translation: Das Leben der Bilder: eine Theorie der visuellen Kultur, München 2008)

  • Melanie Trede, Loves of the Japanese Picture, in: M. Trede et al (ed.), The Arts of Japan. The John C. Weber Collection, Berlin 2006: 20-27 (ESEM)

  • Jane Turner (ed.) Dictionary of Art, vol. 17, “Japan”, London 1996

  • Monica Juneja, On the Margins of Utopia. One more look at Mughal Paintings, The Medieval History Journal, 4,2, 2001: 203-240 (ESEM)

  • Monica Junejsa, Global Art History as transcultural practice (Text placed on ESEM)

  • Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images, Princeton 1999