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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF2057 Racist Pasts/Radical Futures

20 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Catherine Karkov

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module takes a critical look at the history of art history and/or its related disciplines (cultural history, cultural critique, area studies). It is designed to be open to reflecting on the past and future of different fields or periods within fields, medieval art or the art of Africa, for example. It explores the way in which the field and its methods developed in the context of 18th- and 19th -century attitudes to race, colonialism, empire, gender, and religion, and addresses the questions ‘why is my curriculum so white,’ ‘why is that a problem’, and ‘what are we going to do about it’? It asks students to consider the way art has been defined, studied, displayed, and used within different social or cultural contexts. How do we overcome the elitism and exclusion perceived as inherent in both the subject and the modern university. What are the current questions and issues? What should a field and a university education be? And, most importantly, how can we decolonise both?


This module asks students to think critically about the history of art and the way it has traditionally been studied. Students will acquire a knowledge of the history and development of specific areas or periods of cultural production, situating them within the larger development of art history (and/or other arts & humanities disciplines where relevant) as an academic discipline. They will use this knowledge to consider the key questions: Why is my curriculum so white? How can we change this, and why is it important that we do so? What are the current conversations? What changes have taken place in the purpose of the university? What could or should a university be? The module also develops a knowledge of and skills in working with local primary resources, archives and objects.

Learning outcomes
1. Develop students’ historical knowledge by introducing them to the history of the discipline they are studying and its impact on what on and how they study at university.
2. Develop students’ critical thinking by asking them to reflect on the development of their field and to develop suggestions for its future direction.
3. Develop recognition of the racial, ethnic, and gender assumptions that underlie the display of material from the past and recognise ways in which displays can work differently.
4. Develop an understanding of how conflicting ideas can be represented within texts and exhibitions.

Skills outcomes
The module introduces students to critical analysis of the history of the history of art and related disciplines, the political contexts in which the field(s) developed, the political and social purposes to which art/history has been put, and thinking critically about how the field is constituted today and where it is going.


Indicative syllabus:
Phase 1: the history of the discipline and defining the problems that have historically been part of it.
Phase 2: exploring the history of the display of material culture in different contexts (museums, special exhibitions, archives, heritage sites).
Phase 3: what is the future of the field in the context of both the neoliberal university and the problems and debates of today. How do we decolonise the field and the curriculum.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Weekly readings (50 hours); research for essay 1 (60 hours); research for essay 2 (70 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative feedback will be offered on the first essay and during development of the group presentations.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1000-2000 word essay40.00
Essay2000-2500 word essay60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 16:04:48


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