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Seminar BA3: Sensing Style: from Subcultures to Digital Bubbles


Admission requirements

The following courses need to be passed:

  • All first-year courses of the BA Art History or the BA Arts, Media and Society

  • Two BA2 Seminars


In thirteen seminar meetings, we will travel through some of the most notorious (global) subcultures from the late 1800s to the present day. We will discuss these subcultures by critically questioning the concept of style. Within the study of subcultures, style seems to indicate the specific expressive characteristics that are made manifest in, for example, visual art, clothing and behavior. This manifestation arises from the need of specific groups in society to distinguish themselves from mainstream culture through the appropriation and subsequent subversion of visual, social and moral codes. From a subcultural perspective, style must therefore be regarded as highly performative.

The role of the visual arts in the formation of subcultures will be the main topic of this course. We will discuss a number of subcultures to analyze style as a concept that allows us to understand formal resemblances between, for instance, the visual arts, fashion and design. Conversely, we will also analyze how the concept of style has been used to categorize specific cultural expressions as belonging to, and defining for, specific subcultures. Apparently in different forms of visual art, but also in fashion, design and even architecture, it is possible to recognize specific elements that can be classified as typically "beatnik", "punk" or "hip hop". We analyze this phenomenon from the perspective of the subcultural sphere itself, but also from the perspective of art movements that have been a source of inspiration for many subcultures, such as Dada, Fluxus and Situationism. Moreover, we will discuss artists for whom a subculture was their work terrain such as, for instance, Jean Michel Basquiat; artists with migrant and culturally diverse backgrounds who profoundly shaped the urban visual culture of cities in Europe and North America in the 20th and 21st century. In relation to that, we will discuss the impact subcultures had around the world, for instance in Indonesia, where artists are involved in developing unique local forms of subcultures containing elements from traditional culture as well as from globalized, digitized and mediatised mainstream (pop) cultures. Throughout the entire course we will analyze how subcultures have been studied in recent decades by scholars from the humanities.

This course aims to revisit the history of the relationship between subcultures and visual arts and analyze art forms such as graffiti, performance art, film, video art and games from the perspective of their emergence within specific subcultures. Furthermore, the aim is to investigate to what extent the study of subcultures will enable us to reconsider the meaning of the concept of style and whether and to what extent this concept can still be productive for art history in the 21st century.

Course objectives

  • Students learn to approach the concept of style from at least three theoretical frameworks.

  • Students learn to critically assess the concept of subculture from the broader framework of what constitutes dominant culture.

  • Students acquire knowledge about the visual arts and media that were important to subcultures.

  • Students learn to analyze how subcultures react to dominant culture and how they should be situated within cultural history and the history of art.

  • Students learn how to describe a contemporary artefact in terms of style.

  • Students learn to apply the theoretical frameworks and knowledge about subcultures from the past, to identify comparable present-day cultural developments as a form of subculture.

  • Students learn to give a group presentation on a visual object and learn to connect this to subcultures.

  • Students learn to connect a visual object to the scholarly literature on style and subculture and learn to choose an appropriate article to be submitted to the other students as preparatory reading material for their group presentation.

  • Students learn to combine their academic skills, theoretical insight and their visual literacy to write a critical essay on subcultures, to analyze artworks and to present this in ways that connect to a specific visual style.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Important: attendance in seminar sessions and excursions is mandatory! In case of no-show, the tutor should be informed by e-mail about your absence and the reason prior to the actual seminar session. Moreover, this course cannot be successfully completed by students that were absent more than twice. Only in exceptional cases, the Examination Committee may consider the possibility of an additional or substitute assignment. See also the Course and Examination Regulations.

Assessment method


  • Group-presentation (mandatory practical assignment)

  • Midterm paper (writing a review)

  • Final paper


  • Group-presentation (20%)

  • Midterm paper (writing a review) (30%)

  • Final paper (50%)

The weighted average of the (constituent) examinations must be a passing grade. The mark for the final paper and the midterm paper must be at least 6.0 (= a pass).


A rewrite can be done in case of failing the midterm paper and/ or the final paper. In the case of failing or missing out on the group assignment, an alternative assignment should be requested at the Board of Examiners. As far as applicable all rewrite examinations 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 have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Miguel Escobar Varela. "Wayang Hip Hop: Java's Oldest Performance Tradition Meets Global Youth Culture", Asian Theatre Journal 31, 2 (2014):481-504.

  • Dick Hebdige. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London and New York; Routledge, 1979.

  • Adam de Paor-Evans. "The Intertextuality and Translations of Fine Art and Class in Hip-Hop Culture" Arts 7, 80 (2018):1-14.

  • Andrea Pinotti. ‘Formalism and the History of Style.’ in: Matthew Rampley et al. (eds.), Art History and Visual Studies in Europe. Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks. Leiden/ Boston: Brill 2012, pp. 75-90.

  • Eric D. Weitz. 'Culture and Mass Society.' in: Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy, Weimar Centennial Edition, 251-296. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

  • More literature will be announced weekly on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.
For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


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

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


Not applicable.