Studying Arts & Culture: What is it exactly?

It’s mid-August already and that means that the final year of my bachelor studies is approaching. Rapidly. It’s going to be a life defining year at university, and defining year for my future. I’m excited for the year to come and the process of finishing my degree, so it’s natural for me to share it with others close to me. But I alway stumble upon some puzzled faces when I tell them what I’m currently studying. So, what is Arts & Culture exactly?
I did a history degree before I started this particular degree and I had one particular reason why I chose this curriculum. I thought history was great, but I wanted to know more about the bigger picture. Everything I learnt prior to this study was placing history in a certain context, but I wanted to know more about that particular context. After some research – to be fair, this research was conducted in a few days – I believed this was the right study for me. And that’s the story in short of why I focused on the study of Arts & Culture.
But the question I always get is, what does your study entail? They always seem to think that my study is some crafty art school for people who can’t draw. And admittedly it’s rather creative, it’s not as easy as people like to think. My university describes my degree as follows:

You will learn to understand Western culture by looking at how it shapes and is shaped by art, science, technology, media and politics. You will explore the issues of modern society from a variety of perspectives. This interdisciplinary approach (based on philosophy, literature and art studies, history, and science and technology studies) will teach you to understand and frame complex social issues.

The thing that I think was particularly interesting – and still think is a very strong point – is the interdisciplinary approach. Within Arts & Culture we focus on different aspects of Western culture. One time focussing a bit more on art, the next time a bit more on philosophy and so on. It’s not very specific, but more general and that’s what really appealed to me. One period you’re learning about the ins and outs of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the next period you are learning about technological determinism. I think that variety is amazing and created an understanding of culture in general, rather than just being very specific.
This might still seem very vague and abstract to you. To be honest, it really is. But the way it’s more practical are the casestudies. A short example. We studied the case of the Filipino cleaners in Hong Kong who had a thriving community in the suburbs of Hong Kong. We looked at it from the perspective of science, philosophy and art, where after we tried to find an answer to the question whether it has an influence on the Hong Kong identity. I live for these studies and it makes me really grateful that these kind of studies exist.
I’m interested in almost anything related to culture, which is a lot. So that’s why this study did appeal to me so strongly. I can learn a lot about philosophy, literature, art, history, science and technology without having to do all those studies individually. That makes me incredibly happy and I’m always eager to learn more. Next year will be tough though, with an internship and writing my dissertation, but I’m also really excited. Here’s to a good year!


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