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Topical Course: Artivism


Admission requirements

Same as admission requirements for the BA Art History/BA Arts, Media and Society.


This course will consider the ways that artistic practices are employed to activist ends. Many artists are motivated generally by the desire to change mentalities and broaden the imagination of their societies, but some deploy their artistic practice vigorously in the service of social and political change.
We will study theoretical frameworks regarding the role and function of art in society to better understand these special characteristics of “artivism.” We will review significant activist-oriented art movements such as the 1970s feminist art, 1980s Black British art, and a growing range of “art for social change” groups advocating for Indigenous rights, marginalized sexualities, anti-war and globalization, and so on.

These participatory and community-based arts initiatives will be examined to learn how these movements relate to other artistic trends occurring at the time. Furthermore, the course will investigate the on-going and dynamic exchange between artistic practices and contemporary activist tactics including strategic in-person public demonstrations (e.g. women’s march posters) as well as embracing the capacities and opportunities of digital media and of technological and networked infrastructures.

What emerges is a range of strategies for creative dissent and societal action that combine the affordances of (digital) media with the artistic idiom and the activist agenda. The course will examine relevant tools and platforms (e.g. culture jamming and social media), influential ideologies (e.g. the DIY ethic, craft, social justice) and a broad range of strategies for action in online and urban settings, from hacktivism to creative dissent to performative interventions, with examples from a variety of contexts worldwide.
Eventually, students will design, implement and reflect upon their own creative intervention.

Course objectives

  • Students develop a theoretical framework to be able to understand activist-oriented art and its cultural implications and to be able to situate debates about the arts in society within this framework.

  • Students develop the skillset necessary to analyse case studies from a cultural, visual, and (trans)media perspective

  • Students learn to reflect on the social and cultural significance of art making, and protest.

  • Students learn to reflect on the social and cultural significance of artivist practices as part of our mediatised society

  • Students develop the skills to work individually on research and creatively in teams.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation

  • Paper

  • Oral presentation of creative reflection (pass/fail; required to pass the course)


  • Oral presentation (30%)

  • Paper (70%)

The weighted average of the (constituent) examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). The mark for the final examination (or the main assignment) must be at least 6.0 at (= a pass). The mark for all other constituent examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). However, it is possible to compensate for one constituent examination a 5.0 (but not a mark lower than 5.0) with the grade of another constituent examination which has the same weight in the average as the constituent examination it compensates.


A resit/ rewrite can be done for the constituent examination (Paper 70%) which is failed. Students who fail the oral presentation of creative reflection will have to write a larger final paper. As far as applicable all resits/ rewrites take place at the same time, after the final (constituent) examination.

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 be organized.

Reading list

The articles and book chapters assigned will be provided on Brightspace. Weekly reading questions are provided in the course syllabus/weekly program overview.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website


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

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal.