How to come to terms with the mind-boggling diversity of the visual and verbal arts of globalisation? This course invites students to participate – on a professional level – in the passionate but complex academic discourses that address these intriguing arts. Taking six important essays from a leading journal in the field (Third Text) as your point of departure, you will learn to differentiate the varying discourses on six different artistic and literary case studies (ranging from the relation between African traditional art, anthropology and surrealism, to the Buddhist elements in Indian documentaries, and the aesthetics of horror in Palestine art). In the two three-hour seminars that are dedicated to each case study, we will begin by close-reading an essay from Third Text, and confront it with essays that present a radically different approach.
In this way, you will reflect on questions such as: Does Third Text succeed in addressing the complex cultural realities that emerge when different worldviews meet, and the challenge this poses to Euro and ethnocentric aesthetic criteria, as is stated in its Editorial? To what extent is the global debate on art shaped by post structuralism? To what extent may alternative approaches, inspired by local practices, also be productive? Which theoretical discourses respond to the agendas of the artists, writers, thinkers and activists in the less privileged regions of the world?
In addition, we will explore what happens when we read a work of art within a regional, a national, a transnational or a global framework. Why do some critics insist that works of art express a well-defined cultural identity, while others criticize the notion of cultural identity in art theory? How should we understand the tensions between the materialist and -culturalist approaches to the global imagination?
To answer these questions, two teachers (specialized in literature and art, respectively) will offer you the insights and information needed to contextualize the art under discussion, for example by showing landmark films from Africa, or teaching a crash course in contemporary West African visual art. In addition, they will offer historical and theoretical reflections to create an understanding of the issues that are at stake in debates about the arts of globalisation.
We hope to welcome you not as listeners, but as young researchers-to-be. You are expected to participate actively by contributing to the debate, writing short responses to assignments, and by producing a final paper or artistic response to the issues that are explored during the course.
students will have obtained a thorough insight in the contemporary debates on the art produced in the era of globalization;
students will have a sharp insight in the different theoretical approaches that play a role in the contemporary art theory, literary theory, cultural analysis, postcolonial theory, etc. that address the arts of globalization, e.g. psychoanalytical, phenomenological, Deleuzian/new materialist, and Marxist-inspired approaches;
on the one hand, students will have learnt to problematize these approaches; on the other hand, they are able to recognize and produce productive research questions;
students have become acquainted with some important contemporary art works that intervene in the debates on interculturality and globalization;
students are able to initiate and carry out a modest research project on a particular art work, in which they frame their own reading explicitly, and situate themselves critically within the contemporary scholarly and artistic debates.
Check for schedules of courses and exams here
Mode of instruction
3 assignments (30%), 1 final paper (70%)
Blackboard is used to inform students and to post assignments, texts, visual material.
James Elkins (ed.). Is Art History Global? New York: Routledge, 2007. 0415 97785 1 (soft cover)
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply
Contact / information
This is a compulsory Research MA course for the specialization ‘Art of the Contemporary World & World Art Studies’. This course is paramount for the understanding of the complex discourse regarding art and culture in a world of globalization, artistic practices and its discussions.