SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Diaspora Contexts and Visual Culture

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

The course is designed to complement and extend my other MA course dealing with Diaspora issues, The Arts of the African Diaspora. More specifically, it will question the concept of Diaspora, examining how conditions of mobility, exile and displacement have been experienced and represented in different visual cultures, and considering which functions these representations play in these societies. The course will also explore the relationship between diaspora, migration and travel, looking at the processes of gain and loss which are inherent to all of them. Among the topics discussed will be the role played by memory in the process of interaction between dominant and diasporic cultures and in the selective adoption and/or rejection of new ways of being and new cultural patterns. Notions of acculturation, inculturation, syncretism and cultural resistance will be examined, together with the role played by power, the body, religion and gender in these processes.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This course aims to:
  • Help students acquire the critical tools that will enable them to examine the different ways in which migration and slavery have been understood and represented throughout time and in different cultures.
  • Look at the role and function such representations have had in these societies, considering how the visuality of violence is produced in different media – paintings, film, photography, theatre, poetry, performance.
  • Prepare students to engage with such issues in other contexts as well, not just the academic, by comparing and contrasting historical and present-day forms of migration and encounters address the criticism that art history ought to contribute to such discussions.
  • Help students develop skills in assessing and using various kinds of source material, exposing them to wide range of examples from around the world.
  • Help students explore issues of cultural change and interaction over an extended period.
  • Engage with the multiple cultural and philosophical perspectives that have existed on this issue.
Improve skills of written presentation.
  • Develop an understanding of issues of methodology, especially in relation to the study of a foreign society, and the way in which historians reconstruct Egyptian society and the political implications of different approaches.

By the end of this course students should normally be able to:

  • Derive historical information from a documentary or literary text or a number of such texts.
  • Discuss methodological issues and develop a critical vocabulary concerning both the critical and the visual issues involved in the course.
  • Be able to engage with the contemporary philosophical dialogue about cross-culturalism and conflict.
  • Present in an acceptable way pieces of writing concerning issues of historical and visual interest covered in this course.
  • Deploy critical skills to examine their own social assumptions in the context of historical and art historical writing and research.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 2 500 words essay (worth 70%)
  • One presentation (worth 30%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules