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
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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