Asia and Africa On Display

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Module overview

This module will complement the aims and objectives of the MA Curating Cultures degree by providing teaching which focuses on the physical spaces for works of art/artefacts across cultures. It will also be object based, providing students studying any region with transferable skills. It will further use a wide range of displayed objects, including those in SOAS collections and the Brunei Gallery as the primary teaching resource. It will thus provide students of the MA Curating Cultures programme with direct experience of diverse contemporary and historical display practices in museums, galleries and commercial spaces, as well as digital modes of display.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aims and objectives of this course are as follows

  • To enable students to develop an understanding of the methods, practices and key issues associated with the presentation of objects from outside the European tradition in transcultural museum spaces.
  • To introduce students to critical approaches to object analysis and exhibition development.
  • To provide an environment in which students can consider and evaluate the concepts and language of cultural representation.
  • To enable students to consider the historic reception of non-Western visual culture in Europe.
  • To encourage students to develop their own research and professional interests in the area of Asian and African art/visual culture.

At the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes

  • The development of object analysis and interpretation skills.
  • Acquire knowledge and understanding of critical concepts of reception, presentation and
  • An understanding of issues associated with culturally defined categories of objects.
  • An ability to evaluate critically museum exhibitions and their interpretative frameworks.

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word display report (worth 40%)
  • One 2,000-word research essay (worth 60%)

Suggested reading

The core text for this course will be

  • Karp, Ivan and Steven Lavine (eds.) (1999) Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display . Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Further key readings will include

  • Barringer, Tim and Tom Flynn (1997) Colonialism and the object: empire, material culture and museum . London and New York: Routledge.
  • Coombes, Annie (1994) Reinventing Africa: museums, material culture and popular imagination . New Haven and London, Yale University Press.
  • Harris, Clare (2012) The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet . Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hicks, Dan (2020) The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution. London: Pluto Press.
  • Kreps, Christina (2003) Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums,
    Curation and Heritage Preservation . London: Routledge.
  • Pierson, Stacey (2007) Collectors, Collections and Museums: the Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain, 1560-1960 . Oxford; New York: Peter Lang.
  • Phillips, Barnaby (2021) Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes . Oneworld Publications: London.
  • Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah (eds.) (2021) Returning Southeast Asia's Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution . Singapore: NUS Press.
  • Varutti, Marzia (2014) Museums in China: The Politics of Heritage after Mao . Woodbridge: Boydell Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules