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Thematic Seminar: What's Going On? Analyzing the Conjuncture in Times of Systemic Crisis


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.

Please note that passing a Thematic Seminar (10 EC) in the second year, second semester, is an entry requirement for starting your thesis in academic year 2024-2025. You need to have passed a minimum of 100 EC of year 1 and 2 of the International Studies programme as well in order to start your thesis.


We are living in a time marked by the confluence of multiple crises. None of these crises are simple. The ecological crisis cannot be understood separately from the political, cultural, economic regimes that cause it or exacerbate it; similarly, the political swing to the right and the return of fascism all over the globe requires an analysis of cultural, media technological and economic conditions in order to be understood. But how do we go about doing that? How can we learn to analyze our own time while doing justice to te complexity of it?

In this seminar, we collectively undertake a conjunctural analysis of our own time. The idea of a “conjunctural analysis”- a core idea in cultural studies - is taken from Stuart Hall. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a conjuncture as “the action of joining together; the fact or state of being joined together.” According to Hall, every political situation must be understood as the articulation of several conjoined but distinct elements: political, cultural, economic, technological. If we want to understand our own situation, then we need to analyze how these different elements are joined together and how, together, they articulate the powers and forces that determine our social, political and personal life. In doing so, we can also begin to discern the instabilities and weak points of the conjuncture, envisioning how things could change. We will focus on the analysis of culture and cultural movements, which are often a site for struggle and resistance against the political conjuncture.

This course is set up as a collective research project and as participants we will engage in an open and constructive conversation with each other. Participants need to be willing to collaborate and really listen to each other. We will be dealing with something incredibly complex, and we are all stumbling around in the dark trying to find our way. In this course, we will act as a group, supporting each other and extending a helping hand.

The first few weeks will be spent on familiarizing ourselves with the basic theories of conjunctural analysis (like Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall) and relevant theoretical apparatuses for understanding our own time or positioning ourselves critically vis-à-vis the current conjunction. Subsequently the seminar looks at three elements of the current conjunction: the impact of new digital technologies and communication platforms, ecological crisis and planetary exploitation, and the rise of fascist regimes. For all of these topics, we will look at collectively determined cultural objects of analysis. A recurring thread throughout the course will be: what is the task of cultural criticism in this day and age?

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Attendance and assignments 20%
Oral presentation 30%
Final Research Essay - 5,000 words (between 4,500 and 5,500) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2023 – 2024.

Exam review 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 have to be organised.

Reading list

  • We will read a selection of texts by authors from the field of cultural studies (Gramsci, Hall). The full list will be made available on Brightspace in late December.

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 15 December 2023:

  1. On 15 December 2023 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
  2. Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
  3. Based on preferences indicated by 8 January 2024 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 22 January 2024.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.



The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 7 June 2024.