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Sheffield Hallam University

History of Art and Design, School of Cultural Studies

Case Study Report, September 2003

Rose Cooper:


Case Study Update, Nov 2004
Background Report 1
Background Report 2
Transculturation Course Outline
Transculturation Bibliography
Sample Student Work 1
Sample Student Work 2
Sample Student Evaluation

NB. For pdf versions of the course outline and bibliography please go to the GLAADH Resources section and then choose Initiatives Course Materials or Initiatives Bibliographies and scroll down the index.



The Histories of Art Design and Film (HADAF) is one of a number of theory and practice based degrees offered by the School of Cultural Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. The HADAF degree is an interdisciplinary course that aims to provide students with a critical awareness of both the history and theory of these related fields and their institutional contexts. All HADAF modules are also available to students from other degrees within the School of Cultural Studies including studio based Fine Art and Design students and students from film and media production degrees.

The HADAF degree has an established focus on cultural policy, and arts and visual media management. The subject team offer a 'minor' award in Arts and Media Management and a post graduate MA in Cultural Policy and Management. This provided the basis from which to develop a new module in which to introduce students to the culturally sensitive topics of cultural representation, display and difference perceived to be of importance for careers within museums, galleries, policy making bodies and the cultural industries. A discrete module was designed to highlight this important area of study and to allow students to engage in a study of the reception and representation of 'non western' visual culture in greater depth than had previously been possible.

A good range of resources to support the module were already in place in the Learning Centre in the form of books, journals, slides and films which had used in the teaching of other modules.


GLAADH funding was requested to develop a new module, Transculturation, to be available to students on a range of undergraduate degree routes. Aspects of 'non Western' visual culture had been previously addressed in a number of modules by members of the History of Art and Design subject group. The development of a module focusing on transculturation in the visual arts was a response to student interest, an awareness of an increasingly diverse student population, of changing demographics, and a response to recent changes in the fields.

The title of the module, Transculturation, was intended to place the focus of study on the fluid and dynamic process of cultural change, exchange and resistance. Whilst it was assumed that students would need to be introduced to this concept through consideration of a broad range of cultural practices and products a critical interrogation of specific case studies was seen as a way of avoiding collapsing the process of transculturation into a simplistic notion of the 'fusion' of cultures.

Planning for the new module began in the second semester of 2001/2 with the development and validation of the module Transculturation by Senior lecturer, Rose Cooper. The teaching resources were further developed during the first semester of 2002/3, by Rose Cooper and Associate Lecturer Darcy White. Once staff from the Teaching and Learning Centre was aware of our needs further material was obtained. This mainly took the form of recent publications on aspects of theory, and key texts on Inuit culture. Many of the texts on Inuit culture were out of print and were obtained on inter-library loan.

At this stage we began to explore way to develop a case study drawing upon museum rather than gallery collections. We consulted the Education Officer of the Sheffield Galleries and Museums' Trust, Sally Manuireva who introduced us to Curator of Archaeology, Gill Woolrich with whom we worked closely to identify a collection as a possible case study. Gill suggested that we use the Inuit collection as the focus for our research. I had some initial reservations about the suitability of this collection which consists of a group of small artefacts and items of clothing donated by a Sheffield woman working as a Missionary with the Inuit and Indians of the Mackenzie Delta in the 1920s. I was concerned that this might not excite the interest of students who may assume that our case study would be Inuit 'art'. However the nature of the collection allowed us to engage in very productive discussions about the perception and classification of visual culture and also to consider, briefly, the deliberate fostering of a form of visual production by the Inuit that was classified by Western critics and collectors as 'art' in the period post WWll.

Museum staff anticipated that some of the Inuit artefacts that formed our case study would be displayed in a new gallery, Treasures. The intention of this gallery is to show that objects are held to be 'precious' for a variety of different reasons. It was hoped that the research findings of the students would form the basis of the information available to the public.

The module was delivered as a pilot run throughout the second semester of 2002/3 to a small cohort of students comprising four students from the HADAF degree, who elected to attend the module as part of their accredited study, and two Fine Art students who attended the module in addition to their accredited modules, (these students intend to use this as a grounding for their research for their third year dissertations). Two of the students were non British one being Bangladeshi and the other Swedish.

The module was delivered through a series of weekly lectures, intended to introduce new concepts and approaches, and seminars focused on key texts, in order to provide students with a forum in which to clarify and discuss concepts and issues. Students were required to undertake preparatory reading and to provide evidence of critical engagement in the form of a journal. The journal also provided a site where students could engage with theory and test this against the Inuit case study. Assessed journals as part of the students' assignments have proved to be a very successful way of ensuring that students critically engage with and reflect upon the content of the module outside of the scheduled teaching time.

Due to the small number of students in the cohort it was relatively easy to ensure they all had access to the key texts and to the artefacts in the case study collection. Gill, the Curator of Archaeology, was very helpful in arranging access to the collection and supportive of the students in their research. She attended the student 'research in progress' seminar presentations and we ensured she was aware of the content of the module and the students learning experience by providing her with copies of all teaching materials and key texts. Due to the small number of students enquiries and information about study visits etc. were are easily managed via e mail or telephone.

The selection and preparation of key texts was time consuming, but made a great deal easier through the participation of an extremely well informed Associate Lecturer. Her involvement and enthusiasm also ensured that the ongoing evaluation of the module and any necessary revisions were productive and easily handled.

The three study visits required preparation but this was relatively easy thanks to the help and support of staff at the galleries. In addition to the support of Sheffield Galleries and Museums' Trust, we were warmly received by Curator Nilesh Mistry who gave generously of his time to show us around the Transculture gallery at Cartwright Hall, Bradford. Staff at the Royal Academy and the British Museum were both supportive and informative during the Aztec study day.

Closure of the Sheffield Museum at Western Park for redevelopment caused difficulties especially at the end of the semester when we had hoped to obtain photographs of the collection that formed the basis of our research. However we are now in the process of arranging for photographs to be taken, to be used by both the University and the Museum.


The development and delivery of the module proved a very positive and productive experience for me, feedback from the students would confirm that the experience was very positive for them also. Working with a very committed and informed Associate Lecturer ensured that we all really engaged with issues and questioned our own assumptions. The majority of the students, in some cases for the first time, really attempted to engage critically with texts, many of which were very challenging. This is borne out by the content of the students' journals which contain evidence of their engagement with new terminology and theory. The issue of the representation of non western artefacts was one the students took very seriously, becoming quite protective of 'their' artefact.

The small student cohort meant that it was inappropriate to deliver material through formal lectures as we had anticipated. The first two weeks therefore were a time when we had to reconsider how best to deliver this material. Once the seminar process was established and individual case study research topics agreed upon the structure of the sessions became more satisfactory and the theory we had wanted to introduce could be integrated into discussion of the case study.

The study visits were a truly enriching part of the course. Access to the artefacts proved a great stimulus and curators of the collections we visited transmitted not only their knowledge of, but also their enthusiasm for, their collections. The classification and representation of visual culture became an important issue for seminar debate. On all the study visits it was very evident that the students were assessing which type of artefact from non Western cultures was displayed and how these were displayed and represented. This concern is evident in the contents of the students' journals. Close analysis of texts and artefacts afforded by the module provided the students with an intense experience that I believe they will wish to continue in subsequent their studies.

The module will continue to be delivered as an Option module for HADAF students but will be delivered in the first semester of the second year to allow Fine Art students to elect it as their Option unit. Five HADAF and eleven Fine Art students have chosen this as their Option for next semester. The module has also become a Mandatory module for the Film and Media Production degree. Some 50+ students from this degree will take the module next semester.

We anticipate that this much larger cohort will engage with a range of case studies with each seminar group electing at least one case study. These could include artefacts from the Sheffield Archaeological collection, non Western film and/or television, artefacts from the Transculture collection in Bradford and the work of contemporary practitioners. The lecture programme will be delivered in a more formal manner. The close textual analysis within the seminars is an aspect of the teaching we would wish to continue, even though this may prove to be challenging with the much larger groups.

Study of non Western visual culture will be further developed in the second semester of next academic year in the newly validated Special Study module. Staff will supervise students in research relating to the research interests of individual members of staff. A Special Study in non Western visual culture will be offered based on the research undertaken in the Transculturation module. Non Western visual culture will also form the focus for final year dissertation research for a number of students.

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