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Contemporary Visual Culture


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 the role of iconic images in the construction of social difference and political possibility. The book Seeing Through Race offers an entry—via a focus on photography linked to the American civil rights movement—into this complicated representational 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.


Lectures: Wednesdays 5 September to 28 November 2012, 15-17 h
Location: room 1A22, Pieter de la Court Building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden

  • Weekly AQCI’s due on 12, 19 and 26 September, 10 and 31 October, 21 November

  • Film reviews due on 7 and 28 November

  • Museum assignment due on 21 November

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 one of two related exhibitions at FOAM Amsterdam . The successive special exhibits on design and photography (ends 21 October) and film and photography (begins late October) are part of a series on the interface between photography and other artistic mediums. Obviously, if you choose the exhibit on design and photography then you must visit the show by no later than 21 October. Should you opt instead for photography and film then you will visit the show from late October on.


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 through the Anthropology student organization Itiwana.

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

  • Martin A. Berger. (2011) Seeing Through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

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


  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme.
    Only those exchange students whose admission to this particular course has already been approved, need to register for this course in Usis and on Blackboard.

  • BA studenten CA-OS van Universiteit Leiden:
    Inschrijving geschiedt via Usis, alleen voor “hoorcollege HC” en “tentamen TEN”. Bij problemen met Usis-inschrijving, raadpleeg de Usis-helpdesk van de FSW.
    Bij aanhoudende problemen, stuur een mailtje naar met het verzoek om je op de deelnemerslijst van de themamodule te zetten.

Contact information