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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Postgraduate Course: The Aesthetics of Difference: Post-Colonial Perspectives from the 19th to the 21st century (HIAR11095)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores visual representations of otherness, ranging from European Orientalist traditions in the nineteenth century to modern and contemporary responses to cultures in the Middle East and Africa. It examines the relations between historical Orientalist narratives and new constructs of difference in the arts today. The course provides students with a critical understanding of post-colonial theory and the debates around aesthetic representations of difference in the colonial and post-colonial period. The course will not only interrogate Western representations but also consider ways in which non-Western artists and curators have responded to cultural stereotypes.
Course description This course is concerned with the poetics and politics of representing otherness in art and visual culture. It takes as its point of departure the Orientalist traditions in nineteenth-century representations of people, places and objects of the Middle East and the Maghreb, and then widens the scope to examine modern and contemporary responses to the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. What are the relations between historical Orientalist narratives and new discourses of racial and cultural difference today? Course discussion will be informed by post-colonial theory and key thinkers (Fanon, Césaire, Said, Bhabha, etc.) and concepts, which will be introduced in the first part of the course. Said suggested that the Muslim East is understood by the West in an essentialist manner, and that the very act of describing the 'other' justified and perpetuated European power in the Middle East, a theory that has been applied to other cases of regions colonised by the West. Yet, such assumptions have been queried over the last decades, and it has been argued that representations of difference could also be shaped by concerns and impulses that have little or nothing to do with (colonial) politics. Adopting a flexible historical and geographical framework, and using specific case studies, students will trace the translational processes that are at work when artists, architects, curators, and film-makers transform the foreign into terms and idioms that can be understood by their target audiences. Case studies will vary from year to year but are likely to include key events, architectural projects and artists (such as Jean-Leon Gerome), as well as potentially a visit to the National Library of Scotland, to introduce students to key fine art publications, such as Owen Jones's 'Grammar of Ornament'. The course also will open post-colonial perspectives on less familiar cases, foregrounding examples that unsettle the notion of a hegemonic Western Orientalist discourse as understood by Said. For instance, nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Turkish or Maghreb artists, who were at once object and subject of the oriental gaze, reveal some of the paradoxes within Orientalism. The discussion will lead on to modern and contemporary constructs of otherness. Case studies will cover colonial representations at world fairs and exhibitions, including resistance to such displays (such as the exhibition 'The Truth about the Colonies', 1931, or Chris Marker's film, 'Les Statues meurent aussi', 1954). In the post-colonial period, what are the curatorial issues when representing artists and objects from former colonies? Why did the exhibition 'Les Magiciens de la Terre' (1989) provoke controversy? How does post-colonialism inform the work of contemporary artists, such as the Lebanese-born Mona Hatoum, or the Beninese artist Georges Adeagbo? How do non-Western artists negotiate their position in a global art scene without being marketed in terms of the exotic? These are some of the questions that will be dealt with in this course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1.5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4000-word essay (100%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on an essay plan, to be submitted Weeks 5-6.

In addition, students will receive written feedback on their essays.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a specialist and integrated knowledge of post-colonial theory and visual representations of otherness, from nineteenth-century Orientalist traditions to visual responses to racial and cultural difference in the modern and contemporary period.
  2. Demonstrate skills in visual and theoretical analysis in relation to key works and visual displays that deal in cultural translation between the nineteenth and the twenty-first century
  3. More effectively structure arguments which synthesise a range of complex theoretical positions and, in some cases, present original research and arguments
Reading List
Chrisman, Laura, and Patrick Williams.¿Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory : A Reader. Harlow, England: Longman, an Imprint of Pearson Education, 1993.

Cohen, Warren.¿East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International Relations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Hopkirk, Peter.¿Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Liu, Zuozhen.¿The Case for Repatriating China¿s Cultural Objects. 1st Ed. 2016.. ed. Singapore: Springer Singapore : Imprint: Springer, 2016.

Yoshihara, Mari.¿Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Many of the skills you will develop will be transferrable. These include:
- Independent research (locate, access and interpret information)
- Critical analysis of visual and textual material
- Presentation (oral and written)
- Communication
- Organisation (the ability to plan workloads and meet deadlines)
KeywordsArt,Visual Culture,Orientalism,Neo-Orientalism,Post-Colonial theory,Cultural Translation
Course organiserDr Claudia Hopkins
Course secretary Yijia Chen
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