Universiteit Maastricht

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Arts, Media and Culture

The aim of the AMC programme is to study how developments in the arts and in the media relate to socio-cultural and political changes. It is particularly interested in the ways in which cultural artefacts and practices operate as socially and politically shaping forces. We study the whole spectrum of high-brow, middle-brow and low-brow culture, ranging from poems and installation artworks to political essays, monuments and digital games. What unites these inquiries is our interest in the practices in which they are produced, distributed and received. We do not only analyse, for instance, how the content of popular baroque theatre plays reflects the political concerns of their days, but also how their actual performance impacted on their audiences and formed their attitudes. This emphasis on the societal dimension of our objects is reflected in our methodology. The researchers of this programme are united by a firm basis in the hermeneutic tradition, yet seek to enrich it with methods and concepts from reception studies post-phenomenology, on- and offline ethnography and anthropological field work in order to come to terms with readership, spectatorship, and the rise of new types of audiences in contemporary fan practices. The programme is interdisciplinary not only in the sense that we represent and combine various disciplines from within the field of the humanities, but also because we explore possible crossovers with the social sciences.

AMC is clustered around three research lines:

  • Cultural memory studies
  • Gender & diversity studies
  • Media & aesthetics

The line Cultural memory studies deals with cultural memory in its intentional and unintentional forms. It  studies the history of commemorations of war; contemporary processes of questioning the truth about painful episodes in the past; the many ways in which truth finding and memorial practices take place and to what effect; and the complex ways in which monuments and buildings are used in memorial practice. It also investigates how cultural change is shaped by the continued effects, by rediscovery or re-introduction, of cultural repertoires from the past (such as those of Romanticism or the Baroque) and how cultural dynamics often evolve around the return of the repressed or forgotten.

Gender & diversity studies analyzes the ways in which the crucial social differences of  age, religion, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, and nationality continually re-define each other, focusing on the arts. We study art forms from high culture and popular culture, i.e. fiction, poetry, film, photography, life writing, the performing arts, and children’s media.

Research in the context of Media and aesthetics studies how digital technologies give rise to new aesthetic forms, and how digital aesthetics structures social and cultural participation of media audiences. As such, it investigates how the dynamics of cultural memory formation is currently being redefined in the context of new media, for instance through new mechanisms of bottom-up canon formation through contemporary fan practices.