Research Master Humanities, Program Critical Studies in Art and Culture

The Research Master's programme Critical Studies in Art and Culture (formerly known as VAMA), specialization of the Humanities Research Master, focuses on the study of current developments in visual arts, architecture, design and media, from a theoretical and historical perspective. In a globalizing cultural world in which art, architecture, design and media are ever more closely integrated and packaged as “creative industries,” disciplinary boundaries need questioning and challenging, yet a thorough grounding in older and newer disciplines such as art history, architectural history, design culture, and media studies is a prerequisite for doing so.

In your studies, you will focus on the analysis of “visual objects”: of artifacts in various media that function (primarily or in part) as images. This ranges from landscapes, cities and buildings to artworks in various media, as well as film, television, design and games. Notions such as inter-, cross- and transmediality play an important part in the program. Since artifacts, media and forms of intermediality can only exist in specific social, institutional, economical and ideological frameworks and networks, Critical Studies in Art and Culture will equip you with the analytical and critical tools for analyzing these. Each of the four main disciplines that inform the specialization brings specific theories and methods to the table, and the programme seeks to foster a sense of their interconnectedness, highlighting their specific potential as well as possible limitations.

If you are interested in pursuing a PhD after your MA, but also if you generally cherish critical attitude and original lines of questioning based on a profound knowledge of your research subject, and wish to develop your research skills, this programme will be a perfect choice.
The study programme of 120 ECTS (60 ECTS per year) consists of mandatory and elective parts.  

The mandatory package consists of 
a)Two core courses of 2 x 9 ECTS (=18 ECTS):

Imagining the Image 
In this course various theoretical and methodological approaches to the image are traced in close connection with historical and contemporary developments in visual culture. Key texts by modern and contemporary authors on visual culture are critically read and discussed, and applied to cases that are relevant to the students’ budding research agendas. The choice of literature and theoretical focus, meanwhile, is set by the teacher on the basis of his or her current research interests.

Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries 
This course focuses on the role and influence of present-day popular culture, or what in the mid-20th century the philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer referred to as the ‘culture industry’. At the dawn of the 21st century, does the culture of the masses still present a threat to High Art, as Adorno and Horkheimer then feared? Or can we redefine the role of the arts and media in this age of globalization and commercialization in a more nuanced fashion? Since this course is taught by different professors, the issues addressed alternate along with the teacher. Currently the focus lies on issues of space, place, and mobility in different cultural practices. Along with the increasing mobility of goods, money, and people and the interconnectedness of cultures through digital media – known as globalization – issues of space and place have been back on the agenda in various disciplines and cultural practices

b) Three Humanities core modules of 3 x 6 ECTS (=18 ECTS) 
Humanities in Society
Humanities Research Career Preparation
Digital Humanities & Environmental Humanities module

c)Two research seminars of 2 x 9 ECTS (=18 ECTS)  (Students choose two out of four seminars)
Reading Concepts of Intermediality 
Methods of Design Analysis
Seminar Architecture (annually changing topic on the basis of staff members' research)
Seminar Visual Art (annually changing topic on the basis of staff members' research)

Within the research programme, a total of 42 ECTS can be attributed to courses, electives, research seminars and tutorials of your choice (10 ECTS have to be followed with the national research schools). These courses are subject to the programme coordinator's approval, but allow you to co-build your own curriculum and to pursue research projects within one (or several) of the research areas of faculty members. These areas include: 
Intermediality, new media, media theory, and (post-)digital art
Contemporary architecture and urbanism in relation to mobility and globalization
Contemporary art, between criticality and creative industries
Design theory and criticism

The Master’s thesis (30 ECTS) that concludes the programme is a substantial study based on independent academic research, in relation to topical research areas and projects of staff members.

Programme overview

Teaching and Examination Regulations (in Dutch) on VUnet (inlog)


Course name Period Credits Code Pdf
Core Module Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries 9.0 L_KAMPVAM002
Research Master Thesis Humanities, Critical Studies in Art and Culture Ac. Year (September) 30.0 L_AAMPHUASCR
Methods of Design Analysis: The Meanings of Design Period 1+2 9.0 L_ZAMAACW013
Reading Concepts of Intermediality Period 1+2+3 9.0 L_ZAMAACW014
Seminar Architecture Period 1+2+3 9.0 L_KBMAKGS013
Seminar Contemporary Art Period 1+2+3 9.0 L_KAMAKGS027
Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities Period 2 6.0 L_AAMPALG014
Humanities Research Career Preparation Period 2+3 6.0 L_AAMPALG006
Essentials of Humanities Research Period 4 6.0 L_AAMPALG013
Core Module Imagining the Image Period 4+5+6 9.0 L_KAMPVAM003
Name course part Code Pdf
Research Master Humanities, Program Critical Studies in Art and Culture, Electives and/or Tutorial LM_RHUMCS_K
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