How is the phenomenon that we today refer to as “the city” constituted visually and socially? How are individuals affected by city surroundings and, conversely, how is the urban context affected by the social and visual praxes of the individual? By which methods can we attempt to understand, describe and account for these processes? These are just a few of the theoretical and methodological questions raised on this course.
The course is in the second cycle of studies (Master level) and is the result of a collaboration between the division of Art History and Visual Studies and the division of Social Anthropology. A central component in the course is a group project in which students from Art History and Visual Studies, Architecture, Design, Social Anthropology, Sociology and Human Geography get the opportunity to work across the disciplines on an empirical study of one or more city environments.
The object of study on the course is the city as a visual and social phenomenon. The street spaces and place formations of cities constantly affect the movements and life practices of people, just as people affect the urban space with their practices. Through a combination of visual analyses and ethnographical approaches, students will investigate, on the one hand, how power is manifested in urban planning, signage and surveillance and, on the other, how this discourse of power is reflected, transformed, subverted and transcended by individuals and groups, thereby contributing to the characteristic diversity of living street environments.
The course begins with a series of lectures, seminars and hands-on workshops which introduce different approaches to studying the city. Methods and methodology from Social Anthropology and Art History and Visual Studies will be discussed and students will have the opportunity to combine approaches from different disciplines in a number of practical exercises in preparation for their subsequent field study in Berlin. Additionally, there will be workshops and seminars with external experts on specific themes, such as using the mobile phone as a research tool and the relationship between art and science.
The lectures, seminars and workshops lay the foundation for the latter part of the course which is focused on the students’ group work and independent empirical field study of contemporary street culture in Berlin. In this part of the course, students will work on an independently selected aspect of visual and social street culture, which will be described, analysed and interpreted through individual empirical investigations. The field study is to result in a written paper and a seminar in which students will present their empirical observations and interpretations., as well as their experiences with and reflections on the methodology. In addition to this, each student will write a smaller individual paper on the methodological experiences from the course.
A long-term goal for the course is that the reflections that emerge from the collaboration between students from different disciplines may lead to an improvement of the methodological approaches adopted during the course and, possibly, to new fruitful method combinations. The final project papers are thus intended to make up a stock of knowledge that future students can consult and base their own work on.
Last modified 11 Feb 2013
Division of Art History and Visual Studies