Arts, Media and Culture

Research programme director: Dr. Aagje Swinnen

Programme profile

The aim of the Arts, Media and Culture (AMC) programme is to analyse the dynamics of cultural transformation by studying how developments in the arts and the media respond to socio-cultural and political changes and how vice versa cultural artifacts and practices can shape social and political culture. AMC researchers study the whole spectrum of high-brow, middle-brow and low-brow culture, ranging from poems to installation artworks, from political essays to public monuments, from social media to performance art and from digital games to Limburg Carnival. What unites these inquiries is a focus on the practices in which cultural artifacts are produced, distributed and received. AMC research continues to analyse and interpret the meaning of cultural objects as ‘texts’, but increasingly this research includes the sites of their production, reception and/or co-creation: the classrooms where children’s literature is taught, the museum storage rooms where installations are stored and conserved, the supermarkets where dialect is spoken, the elderly homes where clowns perform with people with dementia or the virtual communities where game or music enthusiasts share fan productions. This emphasis on situated practices means that we are interested in the social and historical, but also in the material and bodily constituents of culture-in-the-making.

The topics we study and the questions we ask have a strong social dimension. AMC’s concern with theories and methods reflects this emphasis on the social dimension of our research. 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 methodological crossovers with the social sciences.

Research in AMC focuses on three themes:

•    Gender & diversity
•    Media & aesthetics
•    Cultural memory & cultural heritage

Research focusing on gender & diversity analyses the ways in which the crucial social differences of age, religion, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, language and nationality continually redefine each other. 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) media technologies give rise to new aesthetic forms and how digital aesthetics structure the 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, or the use of hackathons for heritage.

Research on cultural memory and cultural heritage investigates both intentional and unintentional forms of remembrance. AMC researchers study 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. Increasingly, we address issues of cultural heritage formation and conservation, which has resulted in the establishment of a new interfacultary research center, MACCH, and the funding of a Marie Curie Innovative Training Network on the conservation of contemporary art, NACCA.

Several research projects, like those on Global Adoption, Hacking Heritage or Language Culture in Limburg, combine two or all of the research themes.

You can access the website of the programme here.