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MA Regional course content

Americas Module 

This module examines the distinctive arts and cultures of the Americas.  Lectures, discussions, readings, and assignments are to provide an overview of selected indigenous traditions of the New World – both ethnographic and archaeological – with a focus on their remarkable achievements and material things, including architecture, sculpture, ceramics, metalwork, basketry and textiles.  We will examine how scholars have interpreted them as ‘arts,’ using a range of approaches and viewpoints. The SCVA and its assemblage of objects from different parts of the Americas are crucial in the teaching of the module.  There will be special focus on how Amerindian cultures can be studied on the basis of shared dimensions in cosmology, organisation and aesthetics. We will highlight ways that objects inform about the people and societies who produced them, particularly in terms of negotiating identity, ritual practices and socio-political status.  We will also have documentary films to illustrate and analyse the close relations between art, performance and socio-cosmological meanings. 

Africa Module

This module considers the arts and artefacts produced in Africa in the past thousand years or so. As in the rest of the course, we will focus on the methodological and theoretical issues involved in the analysis and display of objects. We will also be using anthropological approaches, historical sources, and theories on the use and disposal of material culture. We aim, through a strong archaeological backbone, to make you reflect on the ‘fourth dimension’, time, in your consideration of objects. By the end of the course, you should be familiar with social and historical developments in sub-Saharan Africa as evidenced by material remains, and be aware of the difficulties (both ethical and practical) in understanding and caring for artefacts.

Oceania Module

Examining ‘art’ in the diversity of its forms (visual, aural, kinetic, tactile) this part of the course will provide a working knowledge of the distinctive cultural traditions and histories of Oceania. Through lectures, discussions, readings, assignments and films, we will address the history of the region, and some of the central conceptual issues that have arisen in the study of Oceanic sensorial ‘things’ (sculptures, architecture, textiles, paintings, ceramics, dance, chants). The aim of this unit is to draw on interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies, particularly from anthropology, archaeology, art history and ethnohistory. After an introduction to the region, we will discuss the historical engagements of Pacific communities with Euro-America.  These encounters will be examined with a particular eye to the various routes by which the ‘arts’ of Pacific communities moved into museums and collections. There will also be intensive surveys of Oceania’s various ‘art’ forms found in Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia, historical and contemporary. These surveys will be supplemented by case studies on West Papua, Fiji and Australia.