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BA3 Seminar: 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 this course some of the most notorious subcultures from the 19th and 20th century will be critically discussed from the concept of style. From the context of subculture, style seems to denote specific appearances resulting from processes like, for instance, distinguishing and appropriation. The ways in which visual arts and different media facilitate such processes will be the topic of this course. Using specific notions of what style is, we will analyse how style transcends visual art, fashion, design and music.
We will analyze how the notion of a style as a construct groups specific and distinguishable expressions to define a (sub)culture. Apparently it is possible to recognize certain art forms, as well as music and fashion as for instance typically ‘punk’. We will analyse this phenomenon from the perspective of the members of a subculture, as well as from scholars who studied those. The central question therefore revolves around what exactly allows one to refer to a specific cultural expression as belonging to a specific subculture. This also touches upon the broader questions of what defines culture and society in the first place. We will approach such questions, however, from critically discussing several distinct case-studies from one of the many subcultures in the recent past.

Obviously, art history is founded on a rich tradition of style analysis. However, for a long time this analysis was mainly a tool to categorize style periods. It was also a framework for a rather linear approach to style development and based on western dominant culture. But in the 19th century art historians like Gottfried Semper and Alois Riegl, appropriated a more anthropological approach to style. In their approaches stylistic development was regarded as a more or less gradual development of artistic motifs. More recently Alfred Gell developed an anthropological approach that allows connecting different cultural traditions not only through studying the evolution of stylistic motifs, but also to analyze how style functions within a social system and how motifs become endowed with the potential to exercise agency.
In the late seventies anthropological notions of style were enriched with sociologist ones, particularly by a group of scholars from the Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham. As a sociologist and media theorist, Dick Hebdige analysed English youth cultures of the seventies, mainly focusing on Rasta and Punk. Hebdige made clear how through visual expression, music, fashion and media, members of subcultures played out class differences or disrupted the idea of class differences by approaching visual items from one class combing them with items from another. Such appropriations were regarded as subversive action; ridiculing, play and irony as their strategies.
From the abovementioned notions of style this course finally aims to look afresh at the history of art and analyse artforms such as graffiti, performance art, videos and games from the perspective of subculture. It will also allow looking afresh at the notion of style from a more general art historical perspective.

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 from the 19th and 20th century.

  • 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 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 timetable is available on the Arts, Media and Society website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

Attendance in seminar sessions is mandatory! In case of no-show, the tutor should be informed about your absence 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.

Course Load

Total course load EC x 28 hours= hours

  • Lectures: 24 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 80 hours

  • Assignment(s): 20 hours

  • Preparation exam: 56 hours

  • Exam(s): 100 hours

280 hours

Assessment method


  • Take home examination (writing a review) (30%)

  • Written exam (70%)

The take home examination must be turned in through Turnitin on Blackboard on time. Assignments that are late will be regarded as a rewrite. Assignments by email are not accepted. The student is responsible for having access to Turnitin and Blackboard.



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 rewrite can be done in case of failing the paper and the take home assignment. In the case of failing 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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • General announcements

  • Discussion board

  • Lecture documentation

  • Reading materials

  • Assignment descriptions

  • Turnin of assignments

Reading list

To be announced


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. A.K.C. Crucq Coordinator of Studies Arts, Media and Society