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MA in Material and Visual Culture
Introduction | Core | Options | Staff | Application | Contact
Details are provided below on the most relevant options taught within the department. Additional options can be found online under their respective postgraduate programmes, and may also be available in other UCL departments (e.g. Geography, Art History, Archaeology, etc. ) or other schools within the University of London system (e.g. the School of Oriental and African Studies).
The course is aimed at those who wish to deepen their understanding the place of art and design in society. We will identify the performative, textured and material dimensions of artworks and products of design through cross-cultural case studies and explore the role of the material aesthetic in a world dominated increasingly by digital media and modalities of communication.
Alfred Gell 1998, Art
and Agency: An Anthropological Theory
Alison Clark 2010, Design Anthropology
Svasek, M. 2007., Anthropology, Art and Cultural Production, Pluto Press
Morphy, H. and M. Perkins 2005, The Anthropology of Art, Blackwell
Pinney, C. and N. Thomas (eds) 2001, Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technology of Enchantment, Oxford: Berg
Bourdieu, P. 1996, The Rules of Art, Polity
Mason, Peter 2001, The Lives of Images, Reaktion Books
This course has three central purposes: to provide a historical introduction to the way in which anthropologists have used photography, to provide a grounding in photographic theory, and to encourage students to think how they might best use photography in their own anthropological projects. We will explore how photography was used both before and after the systematization of fieldwork as the central anthropological method, explore criticisms of photography's "externality", and look at recent ethnographies of "vernacular" photographic practices. The course is assessed by an essay and a portfolio.
This is a specialist course for postgraduate students only.
The intention of this course is to provide students with an introduction to a relatively new area of study and one that hopefully points some directions towards the future of material culture and anthropological studies. It will not attempt to provide comprehensive and `fair' coverage of the literature in the manner of a second year course. Instead the course will try to bridge the gap between taught courses and academic research work by using the term to pursue certain research ideas and show their value in exploring new areas. The structure of the course follows from this intention. The first part of the term is devoted to different ways we can consider the relationship between media and social relations, this includes an examination of social networking sites, of blogging and of cybersex as well as more traditional forms of media. The final week of this section examines a current research project that tries to assess the impact of new media on long distance parenting by Filipinos. The second part of the term looks at consumption starting with the background literature from various disciplines. It then examines the larger context for modern consumption in the study of capitalism and particular facets of capitalism such as the advertising industry. We then examine consumption in non-capitalist contexts, followed by a study of how people accumulate and divest themselves of goods. A week devoted to a theory of consumption is followed by its application to the study of the home and Christmas as a festival of the home. The course ends with a consideration of theories of value and objectification and the wider poltical and environmental consequences turning to the impact of the internet and mobile phone in the Caribbean.
Buildings are good to think with. This course will explore anthropological approaches to the study of architectural forms. It will focus primarily on the significance of domestic space and public private boundaries, gender and body, the materiality of architectural forms and materials and the study of architectural representations. The course will be structured chronologically beginning with early anthropological encounters with built forms and the philosophical, historical and social context of these approaches up to the present day within anthropology.
The course will present recent ethnographies of emerging digital practices and discuss the social contexts in which they are developing. Some of the areas we will cover are the use of digital channels in migration, the impact of ICT in the workplace, online virtual communities and gaming, new digital property forms and economies, and new processes of digitization. Key questions asked are: what is new and different about our engagement with digital technologies? Do digital technologies and practices alter or perpetuate continuities in social relationships, hierarchies and political structures? What does it mean to be off line in a digital age? What kinds of new subjectivities and publics do digital practices bring into being? All of this will be folded into a wider discussion about developing critical tools and methods to understand emergent digital worlds.
Through the presentation of a range of ethnographic, documentary, fiction and ‘current affairs/news’ films (including historic material) we will explore the ways in which film can frame and convey ethnographic investigation. We will look at the basic possibilities and limitations of film for going beyond traditional written ethnography to communicate the significance, style and substance of other modes of life as well as considering film as a distinct means to explore social interaction through what you might describe as its ‘call to performance.’
Against the grain of current trends, rather than read films ‘intertextually,’ or as part of a closed world of ‘discourse’ we will endeavour, together, to discover the historical and social contexts in which filmic ethics and aesthetics have developed. It has become fashionable to lament a past when ethnographers were ‘orientalists.’ One of the dangers of such interpretive strategies is that they tend to glorify ourselves in a distorted mirror of ‘post modern otherness’. This course will encourage you to question such naïve (and patronising) approaches.
The course will train students in the practical and creative skills of video and digital technology to represent and document social and ethnographic research to a broadcast standard. For anthropology students there will be a requirement to complete a film theory course as well either for grade or as audit (ANTHGS17). Each student will be assessed on the quality of a 10-15 minute short documentary to be devised, shot and edited during the course by each student. This course will entail a lab fee for UCL students of £1,025 on top of any fee for a Masters degree to cover the staff costs of putting on this course. Students will have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual lab with 11 Final Cut Pro enabled Macs as well as cameras for the duration of the course. Students and others from outside UCL may take this course, for an unsubsidised rate of £1,500. Students who bring their own cameras will be reimbursed £180.
This interdisciplinary courses cross-cuts the boundaries of anthropology, archaeology, history and human geography to examine the relationships between landscape and the construction of social identities in the present and the past. Topics include: landscapes, biographies and identities; social values and contested landscapes, concepts of nature and culture, phenomenological approaches to experiencing landscapes, ways of walking, urban landscapes and globalization, landscape gardens and ordinary domestic gardens, the landscapes of Stonehenge. Assessment involves a written project individually chosen by students in consultation with the course tutor. This may involve the use of film and other digital technologies.
This seminar series will approach two interrelated topics: the first is the question of technology within anthropology and other social sciences. The second will consider objects as “processes-made-things”, that is, objects as the coalescence of what we call “practices”, “techniques”. Technology is always about more than material production, but can in fact recruit and produce ontologies and meta-physics. Through this perspective, we hope to investigate how an anthropology of techniques (disentangled from its colonial and determinist past) contributes to our understanding of the relations between material culture, environment and sociality. Our exploration might take us through a series of examples ranging from indigenous gardening systems to modern transport technology, and from carving or cooking to rituals and magical operations, as well as digital technology. Complementing contemporary approaches of material culture, and issues of heritage, environment, development and technical innovation, these anthropological analyses of techniques show how to link body, mind and materiality through the course of choices, strategies, and actions on materials.